A House of the Dead retrospective: Part 1 – House of the Dead

Alright, you guys want to know what I’m going to do over the next 6 weeks? A House of the Dead Retrospective! Not a complete one, unfortunately, since I lack Typing of the Dead and several other Spin-off titles, but I’ll cover House of the Dead 1 to 3 and Overkill. As an added bonus, I will even watch the two movies this videogame franchise has spawned.

So, if you want to know, what I thought of House of the Dead 1 after all these years, then hit the jump!

My first experience with House of the Dead actually reaches back to the late 90’s. For a whole 6 months or something, there actually was an arcade in Luxembourg. It’s funny that I remember it, because I only was in there once. There, I had my first glimpse at the arcade machine of House of the Dead. Unfortunately, I did not have any money to play it, and I never have been to the place again.

A year or so later, a cinema complex opened and it too had for some years a small Arcade in it (which today is even smaller, with only six machines or so). Unfortunately, there was no House of the Dead machine in there, but every time I saw light-gun shooters like Time Crisis in there, I was kind of thinking back at House of the Dead…

Then, lucky me got the PC version of the first game via a friend. I needed to apply some voodoo magic to get it to work again on my current Windows 7 PC, but then it was finally back: House of the Dead 1, in all it’s Sega Saturn graphic brilliance. I played this game for hours and hours together with a friend back in the days. I had the mouse, and my friend used the keyboard. It was far from being the authentic experience, but we enjoyed it. With these fond memories, I readied my mouse in order to kill some zombies!

Playing it now again, I kind of understand why I have so many memories of it. It still is, to this day, a very solid Light-gun shooter! The action is fast and varied, which is mostly due to the fact that there is quite some enemy variety to be found here. You have your normal zombies, chainsaw zombies, zombies that throw axes and barrels, ape zombies, those little winged jumpy creatures, bats and more. Compare this to Time Crisis, where you have the same enemies over and over again, only with changing uniform colors.

There is another trade-mark element, that began with the first House of the Dead. No, it’s not the awful dialogue, which isn’t as bad as the one that can be found in later games of the franchise. I’m talking about branching paths. Depending on who you save and how you interact with your environment, you will take different paths through the mansion. They aren’t as varied as the ones that can be found later in the series, but at the time, that kinda was a big deal and added greatly to the replay value of the title.

I still enjoy some boss battles in this game: Especially that flying monster at the end of the second stage has a place in my memory. The battle is quite impressive, since you’re hanging off a ledge by the end of it, while still shooting at this beast. However, this game commits the sin of recycling some of it’s Bosses, but I’ll let it slip for this game, because of it’s age. Also, let’s not forget that this game was designed to eat away your change!

The graphics haven’t aged well. Not at all! This, of course, can be said for almost every game from that specific period of time. Playstation 1 and Sega Saturn games just look terrible nowadays, with very few exceptions. Texture are blurry, the polygon count abysmally low and animations laughable.

If you can look past that and the very short length of this game, I’d recommend playing it. The PC version is vastly superior, since it got a PC mode where you can choose different characters with unique strengths and weaknesses. This gives the game some nice replay value, which is quite important when it comes to light-gun shooters. Despite the age, it’s still a classic, and if you have 20 minutes, you can just blast your way through this one!

Images are taken from gamespot and other sources!

Readers Comments (3)

  1. Great read, Sven. I know the feeling of seeing a great arcade game but not getting the chance to play it, and then never getting that chance again.

    For me, that game was Planet Harriers at the Redondo Beach Funhouse arcade.

    But I’m glad you were able to experience some House of the Dead on various ports. From what I remember, the Saturn version reviews stated it was a pretty poor port, though I’ve never actually played it. The PC version probably is the best way to go as you mentioned. 🙂

    About Typing of the Dead, I bet you could score a copy from one of the Addicts, I have 2 myself and HIGHLY recommend you play it. There’s also a free demo for the PC version you can find online, like here


    Seriously, such a fun take on HotD2.

  2. Good read! I always liked the setting and layout of 1 over 2; there’s something frightening about those barren areas in front of the mansion where there really does look like there’s no escape from the zombies. The cruder graphics also have a quality missing in the other games.

    I used to play this in the arcade, but now my memories of it are largely contained in the Saturn port. It’s pretty hard to track down, being one of the last games released on the system. The gameplay is still solid, but it’s a bare bones game and the graphics are really a regression compared to the arcade. And this was on a system that gave us a hires and almost flawless port of Virtua Fighter 2. SEGA just shat this one out, and it really is an ugly game. Big, muddy textures abound and green blood. It’s like Linda Blair from The Exorcist vomited pea soup on every frame.

    I’d imagine HotD2 is the game everyone remembers, but I’d posit that this one might actually be the gem of the series. SEGA sure nailed it by melding the Virtua Cop formula with Resident Evil.

  3. Hey Sven, just so you know, the “PC Mode” in this game is also in the Saturn version under the name “Saturn Mode”, same thing. I’d say the PC version is superior because it has a higher resolution and better anti-aliasing, but the Saturn version still definitely holds up. The graphics may not be the best, but it plays so fast that you’ll hardly notice a difference. Personally, I like playing it on the Saturn with a light gun, so that wins out for me. The Stunner was a badass piece of machinery.

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