While it may seem quaint now Splatterhouse was a significant landmark in the arcades. Its gore and Friday the 13th inspired protagonist were unheard of at the time and ensured that it would not soon be forgotten. Its horror theme was also new for the beat em up genre. Who knew beating up something other than street punks could be exciting? Behind the blood and guts however was an average brawler but we wouldn’t find that out until later. While most are familiar with the Turbo Grafx-16 port the first home release in the series was a Famicom exclusive. Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti is the complete opposite of its arcade counterpart, trading horror for comedy. And it actually works!
While Splatterhouse may seem like a strange choice for a Famicom game given its tone it makes sense. If you only know Splatterhouse as a gory kill fest check your expectations at the door. Namco wisely knew that straight port would never work; if they tried it would have been sad. So they took a page from Konami and instead created a parody. Wanpaku Graffiti parodies Hollywood cinema effectively and is genuinely funny. It’s also a pretty damn good platformer as well.
During a stormy night Jennifer mourns beside Rick’s grave. Suddenly a bolt of lightning strikes and brings Rick back to life. It’s a bit strange that he was buried in full psycho gear and mask but I digress. Jennifer’s moment of joy is cut short when another lightning bolt reanimates the pumpkin king, who steals her away. Rick now begins his quest.
This is not a brawler and is a pure platformer instead. Rick ditches the fisticuffs and is always armed with a cleaver. It seems a bit violent for a game that aims to be funny but whatever. All enemies die in a single hit making this a faster paced game than its counterparts. You won’t find a suite of weapons either; only the shotgun made the cut. It also doesn’t show up until the game’s second half.
While it may seem simple there is a level up system in play. There is a counter that keeps track of enemies killed, like an experience system. At set points your life bar will increase by one point. It gives incentives to kill enemies at all times and is overpowered. You can cheese this system by killing respawning enemies as long as you like. The first boss battle is a prime spot for this. There may be a maximum but even at the end of the game my life bar still grew.
Those that are familiar with the other games in the series will remember how brutal they are. Health power-ups drop like candy (literal candy). Hamburgers and soda almost completely refill health and are plentiful. The game is incredibly easy to the point where I almost never died. It’s a far cry from the rough times of part 2 and 3 but I’ll take this any day.
Wanpaku Graffiti takes its comedic theme seriously. Each level is patterned after a specific Hollywood movie and doesn’t hide it. Stage 1 is a parody of Thriller, complete with vampire boss that does the Thriller dance before engaging in battle. Lesser known films like Evil Dead get a nod but the game has bigger targets. One “boss” battle features a chest burster erupting from a young girl’s chest. Take a guess where that is from? They don’t shy away from their obvious inspiration either with two levels based around Friday the 13th.
Parodies can only take you so far. Like Parodius outside of its comedy the game is also a pretty accomplished platformer. The level design is generally excellent and cover a lot of ground. Even within the same stage there are multiple changes of scenery. Most levels feature alternate paths in lieu of bottomless pits and is well paced. Thanks to its theme the variety for a platformer is huge. It all ends in an Egyptian pyramid which is….weird. But trust me it all makes sense within the context of the game. Sadly it all ends too soon due to its easy difficulty and passwords but it’s a hell of a ride.
In creating Wanpaku Graffiti Namco chose to go with a super deformed style. It’s a smart choice and gives the game a unique style while still being Splatterhouse. The sprites are large and detailed and feature great animation. Most stages feature a layer or two of scrolling which for a game in 1989 is incredible. There’s still a decent amount of gore although its tame compared to the rest of the series. This is Splatterhouse after all.
I did not know what to expect going in but came away surprised. Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti is a fantastic game and an excellent choice for importers. I would even say it’s the second best in the series behind part 3. Don’t pass this up.