I love Splatterhouse. I've loved the series ever since I played the TurboGrafx-16 game, back in 1990. I love the series so much that I started a website devoted to it - West Mansion: The Splatterhouse Homepage. I've gotten every Splatterhouse I could get my hands on - and one day I snagged a copy of the little known Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti for the Famicom off of eBay. It comes in a hard plastic case, which it seemed that only Namco used for their Famicom games. It also includes a set of stickers as a bonus.
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti bears more than a passing resemblance to the other games in the series, but this time around the game's been done in a super deformed style, much like Mighty Final Fight (NES). This, of course, makes it a lot cuter and somewhat more lighthearted than the other games in the series. Don't get me wrong, as cute as the game may be there's still a fair amount of gore present. All that aside, one thing's for certain - it's one hell of a fun game!
The game starts off in a graveyard. Jennifer is there mourning Rick, who somehow ended up dead. Since this game doesn't fit into the "true" Splatterhouse continuity, there's no telling exactly how it happened. Suddenly the wind starts blowing, lightning flashes, and a bolt of lightning strikes Rick's grave! The grave bursts open and Rick sits up (at this point he is wearing the Mask). He looks at Jennifer, who starts jumping for joy. Suddenly a bolt of lightning strikes the grave to the left of Rick's and a giant jack-o-lantern comes out of the ground! This jack-o-lantern, the Pumpkin King, takes Jennifer and flies off with her. Rick jumps out of his grave, and takes off in pursuit of the Pumpkin King. You have to travel through seven levels of cute, strange little monsters to get her back.
Once again, you control Rick as you hunt the Pumpkin King. The game plays quite a bit differently any of the other Splatterhouse games. You have a life bar to the left of the screen, and a level meter on the top of the screen. Believe it or not, you gain levels in Splatterhouse: WG, and the more levels you gain, the longer your life bar gets. That's a good thing, as you only start with four bars. You carry an axe throughout the game, but can get a shotgun in certain areas.
The graphics are excellent. Despite being super deformed, a lot of gore is still present (gotta love the headless chickens and especially the hanging zombies - their bodies drop off and chase you while their heads shoot at you), and the backgrounds are very well done. The background even scrolls independently on several of the boards, which was almost unheard of on the NES. Rick is presented in SD form perfectly, although I think they used a little too much orange on him. The bosses are extremely well done too. One of my favorites is the evil priest that attacks you in the church on level three, Devil Town. He summons cool looking little dragons to attack you, then he turns into a goat and tries to beat the crap out of you. I also like the "disco vampire" that's the first level miniboss - he summons zombies that dance around on his disco stage with him, and then they attack when the dance is over. The Pumpkin King himself is also extremely well done... for a giant flying jack-o-lantern, anyway.
Rick controls beautifully. He responds perfectly to your commands. I'd have to recommended that you use a turbo controller, though, as it's quite helpful. The way Rick controls and the overall feel of the game reminds me a lot of Monster Party, one of my all time favorite NES games. You only have one life to go through the game with, but you do have continues. There's only four continues, unfortunately, but they're more than enough as the game is pretty easy. There is a password feature as well. At the beginning of each level, you're given a four digit password. If you run out of continues and put your password in to start the level that you were last on, all of your continues are restored, but your levels that you've built up are gone - to a point. You won't start on level 8 with the same measly four life bars you started the game with... you will have more, just not as many as you had before you reentered the password. This is the only drawback to the password system that I can see.
As far as music and sound effects are concerned, the different stage themes are done very well. In fact, this game probably has some of the best music I've heard come out of the NES. There's some slight repetition, but the quality of the music is so good that it never becomes annoying. The sound effects are pretty good too - there's some good splat sounds whenever you whack a monster.
One of the most interesting (and funniest) things about Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti is all of the movie parodies that are sprinkled throughout the game. The game parodies Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, The Fly, Alien, The Exorcist, Jaws, and Friday The 13th. The Friday The 13th parody isn't just because of the character design (for the uninitiated, Rick has always resembled Jason Voorhees, the killer from the Friday The 13th film series). One of the levels is called "Diamond Lake", and the one after that is called "Diamond Camp"... hmmmm. What do you think? The Alien parody is interesting - a girl's chest bursts open and all of these little spider/facehugger things come swarming out (interestingly enough, when you kill them all, her chest seals up and she walks away. Weird.). There's a laughing deer head trophy in Stage 7 that's a parody/reference to Evil Dead 2. Of course, the "disco vampire" bit in the first level is obviously a parody of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. The other parodies are sprinkled throughout the game. In fact, the slogan for the game is "In the haunted mansion, no one can hear you scream!", which is another reference to Alien.
The movie parodies make sense, though, when you reach the end of the game and you're reunited with Jennifer. As Rick and Jennifer are hugging each other (and little hearts are floating to the top of the screen), the lights suddenly come up, and you see a film crew filming the whole thing! The director shouts "Cut!", and the ending goes from there. Rick walks up to the director, who proceeds to congratulate Rick, saying "That was some damn fine acting! This'll be a great movie! Nice job!" Rick jumps up and down, and the director leaves the room. Rick tosses off the mask and walks out, then the mask starts floating in the air, laughing and tossing chairs and lights around. Hmmm... it appears that there was more to this than meets the eye.
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti is definitely one of the best Famicom games I've ever played. If you ever find a copy and are able to get it, congratulate yourself, as it's a fairly hard game to find.
For more info on Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Grafitti, head over to my Splatterhouse website, West Mansion