Tuesday, June 23, 2009

AdVantage Point: Splatterhouse (1990)

Give an idiot a scanner and a comic book and let him to pick out all the advertisements for video games. This is AdVantage Point -- a chance to document the winding timeline of comics/gaming history as it was canonized by the adverts. Musings, rantings, observations, stream of consciousness.

Noting that this was my 100th 1up blog post, I considered some sort of elaborate existential journey of self-discovery through the blogging fourth wall. Then, however, it was announced that Namco's beleaguered Splatterhouse revival was undergoing further delays, and it became instantly apparent that this was the far more special occasion to speak in regards to.

Over the past -- two years, is it? -- I've been quietly simmering with anticipation for what was, at the time, one of the exciting and fresh retro revival announcements. Since it's announcement and many delays, the game has become slightly passé, hardly the title the world was clamouring for with so many other classic revisions now available. Punch Out!!, Splatterhouse, is not.

Still, with a healthy dose of self-awareness (sans meta-existentialism), I eagerly await the results of the much-delayed series revamp. I hope, against all odds, that the game can now live up to the promise of the 16-bit era, and deliver the next level of what was, in it's time, an incredibly effective horror-themed fight game.

When I started doing this series of ad-themed posts, I had a few things in the back of my mind.
I hoped my gallery could eventually be a resource for anyone interested in the games advertised, particularly "retro" adverts like the one featured today.

I'm not sure I can think of a more memorable and well conceived gaming advert than this one.
If you were reading comics in 1990, you must remember this advert. I don't think any advertisement has ever had as much of an effect on me, even in my youth, as this one. It's almost certainly a direct contributor toward my interest toward the 2010 revamp. This is a damned good advert.

I imagine you'll have to [click to] enlarge the scans above to fully appreciate the details.
This was still around the height of popularity for character slasher flicks, and this simple two-page comic strip captured all the referential imagination and atmosphere of the games. Sure, it features the weird and discarded port version of the (red) Terror Mask, but with a ratings-defying pool of blood around Rick's body when he regains consciousness, that symmetry provides some sort of spooktacular additional level of excitement. He doesn't know where the blood or mask came from -- COULD THEY BE CONNECTED?!

Those kinds of dot connectings were half the fun of the era, when technology bound the lengths to which storytelling and concept could travel. Ironically, in this modern age of motion controls,  emotive character builds, and vast disc space, many developers seem to have been creatively crippled by the freedom of their liberation. When was the last time a new game really captured your imagination like this?

Hopefully 2010's Splatterhouse will remember this energy and deliver accordingly.
Admittedly, the games are remembered as much for their weapon-based beat 'em up action as any conceptual or aesthetic flair, but there is more to it. Skipping ahead to Splatterhouse 3, you can almost see the underpinnings of a vague survival horror concept. Time-based cut scenes apply the pressure as you navigate your way through an evil spook mansion in the hopes of protecting your loved ones -- assuming of course YOU survive!

That kind of progress in the 16-bit era implies something spectacular of a more developed sequel in this era of hi-tech freedom. If Namco-Bandai can strive for anything in their shuffling of teams, it should be the realisation of multi-path optional navigation of environments that threaten and motivate. I almost want to see a super-developed Silent Hill style of game, albeit with a character whose powers would make encounters with Pyramid Head more gladiatorial, than pants wetting.

In the mean time, I've got one of the most spectacular comics-game adverts in the history of such, to do me.

Original Post: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8995902

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