Splatterhouse 2, known as Splatterhouse Part 2 in Japan, was a good game, a serious improvement over Wanpaku Graffiti if you even consider the games comparable. I would definitely consider it to be among the all time greats of the Sega Genesis, and would strongly recommend it to those whom are fans of Genesis library given that it is often overshadowed by… just about every Sega published title on the system. Whether I would consider it a better game than the first Splatterhouse though, I am undecided on.
I have praised the original Splatterhouse for being one of the few 2D action games I have seen to invoke such a compelling atmosphere and emotion without the use of dialogue or cutscenes. It was far from the only good thing about the game, but it was one thing that made it particularly noteworthy. In comparison, the atmosphere and story of Splatterhouse 2 was underwhelming to say the least. Normally, I am not one to go into the storyline of retro action games with little emphasis on them, but when the first game did this so well, it is disappointing to see the sequel miss the mark.
The story of Splatterhouse 2 takes place 3 months after the events of the first game, where Rick is hearing the terror mask tell him he can bring back Jennifer if he dons the mask again and finds the “Hidden House.” Note that the North American version did not mention a hidden house or bringing Jennifer back from the land of the dead, which causes natural confusion among those that have not played the Japanese version. Additionally, the only way most players experienced the first Splatterhouse at the time of this game’s release, was through the TurboGrafx 16 port, which did not have the stinger in the arcade version revealing that the terror mask was still alive.
Even if one does understand the plot though, the fact that Jennifer can now be brought back to life causes her death in the first game to lose all meaning. There is a reason that it is a running joke in the Dragon Ball Z fandom about how many times Krillin is brought back to life. What makes this even worse is that it doesn’t just taint the first Splatterhouse, but it also makes it far less significant if you fail to save Jennifer and she has her brain eaten by boreworms in Splatterhouse 3 because she already died once! Yes, the hidden house DOES sink into the ocean at the end of Splatterhouse 2, which seals off the possibility of bringing back Jennifer again… as long as another new ass pull isn’t introduced that provides the possibility. The fact that something has a plausible explanation within the game does not excuse it if it still lessens the quality of the overall experience; there was a reason that everyone hated Hope from Final Fantasy XIII despite him having plot mandated justification for being an ass. Note that I am NOT saying that you can never bring back a character from the dead, I’m just saying that if you do so, DON’T try to pull off a Disney death sequence just so that you can later undermine it!
Otherwise, there was little that captured the same ominous atmosphere as the first game, and there is little that stuck out in comparison. Supposedly, Splatterhouse 2 is gorier than the first, but I never noticed it since it does not carry the same atmospheric tension. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of gore present, which itself is notable for a 16-bit game. I will give the game credit in that the art direction and music are still as great as always. Unfortunately, the shift from the Arcade to the Genesis meant that the sound effects and animation were not as good in the original. Nonetheless, Splatterhouse 2 did the best it could at getting to their standard.
I do feel that it is worth mentioning that, despite dropping the ball in comparison to the first game, Splatterhouse 2 does still have a unique sense of atmosphere compared to most side scrolling action games, and that on its own merit it is pretty good. The music especially deserves mention with how each track sets up an ominous tone while still being catchy. Splatterhouse 2 also follows the first game in its use of multiple boss themes, although some of them are reused since there are more levels. I specifically thought it was a nice choice to use the same music for both the first and the final boss in an “its come full circle” way.
So yeah the story isn’t that great, but the gameplay is an improvement over the first game. The main style of gameplay is identical to the first, and I’d suggest reading that since I don’t want to repeat myself. The short version is “it’s a side scrolling beat ‘em up in the vein of Kung Fu.” There isn’t much in terms of what’s different other than new mechanics, new enemies and new bosses. It’s what a sequel should be; improve on the shit that wasn’t good and add more of what was.
The only issue is that some of the later levels rely too much on memorization, but I am unsure whether that is even a bad thing. There are infinite continues and a password system, so you don’t need to beat it all in one sitting like the first. Bosses in particular are hard at first, but you git gud by practicing them and figuring out where to stand or attack, and when you should do it. Thankfully, levels are short so even if you get a game over on the boss, it won’t take time to get back to them.
I can also say that the difficulty curve is a definite improvement over the first game. The first level and boss is easy, second level is slightly tricky, third level is a bit tough, and so on. What I specifically like about the boss fights is how it makes the player learn how to get into a rhythm and observe the patterns rather than rushing right on in. You only have 4 hits (even less on higher difficulties) and it is very easy to lose them.
So, at the time of writing this, I have come to the conclusion that I like the original Splatterhouse much more than Splatterhouse 2. While Splatterhouse 2 is fun in its own right, this seems to be a classic case of sequelitus (which doesn’t even make sense since “itus” means inflammation, it doesn’t mean disease). Nonetheless, I would still recommend it for fans of side scrolling action games or for anyone interested. There is not much I can really find myself saying about Splatterhouse 2, but it is good. Will I say the same thing about Splatterhouse 3? You will need to tune in next time to find out.