It’s common knowledge that Namco’s representation in Smash 4 is [mostly] one huge throwback to their golden years in 80s arcades, with titles popular and obscure being represented in some form, such as music tracks, a part of Pac-Man’s moveset and/or roulette taunt, or Mii costumes. Namco-savvy onlookers, however, can spot that there is one other notable title that failed to make it into Namco’s representation in Smash 3DS/Wii U. A title that is somehow both lost to history and ingrained in it simultaneously. Join me today as we look at an overlooked Namco arcade title: Splatterhouse.
For those of you in the dark (and it’s a safe assumption many of you are), Splatterhouse is a 1988 arcade release from Namco notorious (at the time) for being a pioneer of ultra-violent video games. Nowadays, when you look at the numerous titles that revel in blood and gore, Splatterhouse looks somewhat tame by comparison. But this was the 80s, and during Namco’s streak of family friendly titles…the poor kids who played this were probably left with nightmares.
The most basic summary one can give of the game: a couple, Rick and Jennifer, seek refuge inside the mansion of a (conveniently missing) scientist known as Dr. Henry West who studies the paranormal, because that was evidently a good idea. Soon afterwards, Jennifer is kidnapped by monsters, and Rick is left for dead, that is until an artifact known as the Terror Mask (which isn’t Jason Vorhees’ mask at all) attaches itself to his face. Empowered, Rick rampages through 7 levels to find his girlfriend and escape the hell house.
Splatterhouse is as basic as arcade games from then get. Get from point A to point B, fight a boss, move on. In spite of this simplicity, the aforementioned horror elements made the game infamous quickly. And yet despite that, the game got two sequels, a Japan-only spinoff, and a reboot decades later, which you probably never knew existed. But I’m not here to go in-depth with the games; if you’re interested in that, comprehensive videos covering all five games can be found on Stop Skeletons From Fighting, formerly known as the Happy Video Game Nerd.
What I’m here to talk about now is the obvious reason Splatterhouse was excluded…and if it could have possibly snuck in a cameo. Short to the point for the former, just look at it. The game just revels in gore like its God of War and disturbing imagery like it’s Silent Hill. You can argue that Solid Snake and Bayonetta mess with the idea of M-rated franchises not getting into Smash, but comparing Splatterhouse to both makes it clear that it’s on a much more sensitive level. Metal Gear and Bayonetta both have numerous moments of frivolity despite being M-rated titles, which the original three games can’t claim(with the exception of Wanpaku Graffiti, which was entirely a parody of horror anyway and never left Japan).
As for the second point, arguments can be made, but it’s unlikely a cameo could have been sneaked in. As a series, Splatterhouse was practically dead after the third game; the aforementioned remake never made it to Japan, which is likely due to the fact that the Japanese branch of Namco Bandai seldom if ever acknowledges the franchise. Taking into account that the Japanese-made games (the original four) were a product of their era(an era that also had titles such as the Capcom-developed Famicom-exclusive, Sweet Home, which incidentally was the inspiration behind the Resident Evil franchise), along with many social shifts towards perception of violence between the U.S. and Japan, it’s understandable why the Japanese branch doesn’t want to have any relation with the series anymore. While a cameo, even if it were only the Terror Mask in Pac-Man’s roulette taunt, would have completed Namco’s arcade rep from back then, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the Japanese might have found it in poor taste.
As it stands, Splatterhouse is a game and series that will forever remain a cult classic, albeit one the parent company won’t acknowledge in any way, even in an inclusive crossover series like Super Smash Bros. If there’s any silver lining to this, the Hockey Mask for Miis combined with something like Heihachi’s Outfit can allow one to maybe pretend they’re playing as a Mask-possessed Rick in Smash. It helps that the original design for the Mask was so obviously Jason Voorhees.