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Interview: Namco Bandai (Splatterhouse)

We’ve waited many long years for Namco to revisit the Splatterhouse franchise, and they’ve finally heard our prayers! Finally, a new game in the series is on its way, and while Namco has been tight-lipped with the details, they’re finally beginning to drip through. EGM was first, scoring a major exclusive with its inside information about the new game coming next year, and many a jubilant fan was smiling at all the great details that were shared. Now, Sega-16 has gone a step further, taking our quest for all things Splatterhouse directly to the producers themselves!

Namco graciously hooked us up with producers Dan Tovar and Mark W. Brown, who gave us the rundown on this gory new take on Rick’s adventures in Dr. West’s mansion.


Sega-16: How did the decision come about to revisit the Splatterhouse franchise? It’s been fifteen long years!

Namco Bandai: Namco Bandai was looking to add some more mature-themed games to their upcoming games roster. Mark and I have been huge fans of the Splatterhouse series since back in the ’80s. It made sense to explore the back catalogue of games and see what could be viable for a new take on the current generation of consoles. Rick Taylor was such a strong character and the series has some serious potential to come back in a big way.

Sega-16: Why the decision to reboot the franchise and not just make a new sequel?

Namco Bandai: The Splatterhouse series has been dormant for a long time. There is a rabid fan base out there that still loves the series. We wanted to make sure that not only the old school fans could get into the game but new gamers as well. That is why we decided to start fresh and explore the whole origin of Rick and his tangled relationship with the terror mask. We also wanted to get more into Dr. West and his creepy mansion of horrors. With today’s technology we can really get into the nitty-gritty of where we feel the series would have been going.

Sega-16: How hard did you find it to translate the traditional Splatterhouse 2D gameplay into a modern 3D environment? Many franchises haven’t been successful, and the past two generations of hardware are littered with their attempts (Bubsy, Earthworm Jim).

Namco Bandai: At its heart, Splatterhouse is a brawler – an ultra-violent, gory brawler – but still a brawler. It made it somewhat easier to decide on what the gameplay and features would be when you know what you need to focus on. So the whole design revolves around the combat and the gore. We want to make fighting these horrific monsters as fun as possible while at the same time making sure there are fluids flying everywhere, and not just blood. We are really going from some grossness with our splatter. We are playing with all kinds of colors and consistencies. We are aiming for people to almost smell how disgusting things look on screen. That’s how engrossed they should feel.

Sega-16: The first two Splatterhouse games featured a human Rick wearing the mask. In part three, he could morph into a hulking beast similar to what he looks like in this newest chapter. He appears to be huge the entire time now. Does regular old Rick ever play a part in the gameplay, or is he going to be pummeling the undead in his Hulk-like form only?

Namco Bandai: In game, Rick has always been a big guy. Look at his arms! When he’s wearing the Mask, Rick can make monsters explode when he hits them, and that’s something we really wanted to put some focus on…and not only in his physical appearance. When BottleRocket’s art team was designing Rick’s new look, they took a lot of inspiration from the work of artist Simon Bisley. Biz draws characters that really look like they could take someone’s head off in one punch. There’s this undeniable sense of power. That really resonated with the team and it will show in the gameplay, too.

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Sega-16: What gameplay elements beside the berserker mode from the Genesis versions did you feel were worth including and expanding for this new game?

Namco Bandai: SplatterKills!!! To us some of the most satisfying gameplay for the original games was picking up a 2×4 and smacking something until it burst into tiny little pieces of indefinable gunk. With today’s technology being what it is, we feel we can really take this to a fun and exciting new level. There will be many new ways for the player to exploit this part of the game now. Inherent to that idea is the weapons. While we wanted Rick to be very, and we do mean very, hands-on with the enemies, he is also going to be able to grab weapons from around the environment. These will be instrumental to the combat. But again we wanted to do something new with the idea. That’s where we got the idea to use pieces of the enemies as weapons. Now Rick will be able to rip off a monster’s arm and swing like a baseball bat or rip off a head and throw it at an enemy across the room.

Sega-16: There are a lot of references to the older games, like the 2x4s and many classic enemies returning, which should make fans of the series very happy. What about the level design? Will we see any homage to past Splatterhouse installments there?

Namco Bandai: The Mansion is obviously as big a part of the series as Rick and the Mask are, so that’s a given. We don’t want to spoil our surprises, but let’s just say that you will see some familiar things and some references to the older games in our levels, but seeing as how those games are fifteen-plus years-old now; the difference from 2D to 3D is pretty stark.

Sega-16: Speaking of the levels, the use of the Havok physics engine suggests that you can really go off on your enemies and really use the environments against them. Just how much potential for destruction is there? I want to tear the place apart!

Namco Bandai: You will absolutely be able to tear the environments apart. You will be able to throw enemies into destructible objects and watch them fall apart. You will be able to smash things into varying degrees of rubble. There will also be weapons that will form out of the destroyed environment.

Click for a larger image!

Sega-16: The new regenerating health system is really interesting, and seems like a refreshing change from the tired old life bar we’re used to. Will it have any bearing on the gameplay? For instance, will Rick’s lacking an arm affect the platforming parts of the game in any way, or is the body damage only cosmetic?

Namco Bandai: There will be some consequences to deal with if Rick loses an arm. His abilities will be more limited until he can heal. If he is missing both his arms, his options will be severely limited and it’s probably a good idea to back off and regenerate a bit. We are really excited about this system as well. Seeing Rick’s arm growing back in real time while you are running around the level really is cool to watch.

Sega-16: As the series progresses, the mask seems to look less and less like a hockey mask, and now it resembles a skull more than ever. However, no one has ever really explained where it came from. Are we going to see its origin finally revealed this time around?

Namco Bandai: Fictionally speaking, when the mask was created, Hockey hadn’t been invented yet. There’s also the issue of looking a little too much like another character out there. As for the origin, we spent a lot of time discussing the origins of all the different things that make up Splatterhouse with our writer, Gordon Rennie. We are not ignoring the existing mythos whatsoever, but Gordon is an extremely talented writer, and he’s cooked up a lot of surprises for the new game. Which, of course, we would not dream of spoiling here!

Sega-16: Just a long shot: any chance we’ll see a new Rolling Thunder?

Namco Bandai: Anything is possible. Only time will tell!


Our thanks to Mr. Tovar and Mr. Brown for chatting with us, and many thanks to Kit Ellis of Namco for making this interview possible. Sega-16 will be all over this new Splatterhouse game, with both a preview and a full-hands on at release.

Welcome back Rick!

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