With Halloween just around the corner, what better time to look back at this classic zombie shooter? Did it make Awinnerwasyou suffer like G did?
Year of Release- 1998
I don’t know about you, but I do love a good gun game. From the Virtua Cop and Time Crisis series, the likes of Gunblade NY and its sequel LA Machineguns, and sillier fare like Point Blank, the genre has given me many hours of blasting fun throughout the years. SEGA made plenty of them, and even teamed up with Namco to make one in the past. (That would be Vampire Night- also a good game.) But if there’s one series of gun games that I’ll remember the most, it’s TheHouse of the Dead. Possibly SEGA’s most popular gun game series, and certainly the longest lasting, The House of the Dead was a series I fell in love with from the moment I first saw screenshots of it back in an issue of CVG magazine. Zombie games were a little bit of an obsession at the time for me, thanks to Resident Evil, and this game looked so cool at the time. However, that won’t be the game I’ll be focusing on today. Nope, in this edition of Memories ofSEGA, we’re looking back at both the arcade and Dreamcast versions of its 1998 sequel, imaginatively titled The House of the Dead 2.
Every shot blows a chunk out a zombie, so there's plenty of gore here.
I first heard of this game in an issue of Sega Saturn Magazine (The very last issue, in fact!). That particular magazine did more than any other (except maybe CVG) to hype up the original game. They made quite a few features about it in previous issues, and its Saturn port- which ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Dodgy home port aside, SSM were huge fans of the first game, so it was only natural they’d be excited about the sequel- and they were! There wasn’t a huge amount of information about it, and only a couple of screenshots, but it was enough to make me look forward to it as well. It wouldn’t be too long before I had the chance to play it, when I came across a HotD 2 machine in my local SEGA Park. The attract mode was very cool, showing an entire city full of the undead as opposed to just the mansion in the original game, and certainly got my attention. Actually, I lie. It didn’t get my attention at all because the fact it was a sequel to the original House of the Dead alone was more than enough to make me want to play it. But that intro didn’t hurt, either…
The game takes place two years after the events of the first game, which saw government agent Thomas Rogan and his enigmatic partner G blasting their way through the mansion of mad scientist Dr Curien. The good doctor had created a horde of undead monsters in the hopes of world domination, and to make things worse, Rogan’s fiancée Sophie had also gotten herself involved in the whole mess. Eventually, Curien was killed by his ultimate creation, the Magician, which was in turn destroyed by Rogan and G. With Sophie also safe and sound, it seemed like the case was closed for good. But, naturally, it wasn’t. Two years later, a Venice like city is now overrun by monsters very similar to ones in the Curien Mansion incident, and chaos is very much running rampant again. Enter two new agents, James Taylor and Gary Stewart, as they fight through the city in the hope of finding out what’s going on. It isn’t long before they discover a link between this case, the Curien Mansion case, and a mysterious man named Goldman. Gosh, you don’t suppose he has anything to do with this outbreak, do you? Me neither.
The first thing I noticed new about the game was the way reloading worked. Rather than shooting outside of the screen, you just need to point the gun away from the screen, no pulling the trigger needed. While not the first game I played that did this- SEGA’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park arcade game also had the same system- I always felt it made the game more fun and a little less clunky to me. But despite this slightly newer system, my first play didn’t go massively well. To be honest, this was what I expected. I was never any good at the first game either. With so many zombies to blast, and every one of them needing many shots to bring down, things got pretty intense pretty quickly. I think I got fairly far into the first chapter, but didn’t make it to the boss. In subsequent plays, I certainly got better at it, and managed to make it as far as the end of Chapter 2. However, I could never beat the boss- an amphibious monster named Hierophant. That would actually be the most I would ever see of the arcade version, but certainly not the last I’d see of the game.
Zombies come in all shapes and sizes, and there are even zombie animals too.
A few months later, the game was ported over to the Dreamcast. One of SEGA’s first big arcade games to get released on the console, and it was definitely a game I wanted. Thankfully, the reviews were good, meaning it wasn’t a repeat of the poor Saturn port of the original. There were two editions of the game- one that came packaged with the new Dreamcast light gun, and the game on its own. Unfortunately, I was never able to find a copy that came packaged with the gun- nor was I able to ever find the gun in the few years the console was on sale. This meant I could only ever play The House of the Dead 2 and any subsequent Dreamcast light gun game with the controller. How would I fare with such a disadvantage?
Not too badly, surprisingly. Obviously, it was no substitute for a proper light gun, but I took to it quite well. The game itself was more or less a spot on recreation of the arcade game, which made me quite happy. Also, playing the game in my room as opposed to a noisy arcade meant I could appreciate the sound a lot more. Given the quality of the soundtrack, this was a very good thing. The music, however, paled in comparison to the voice acting. Oh my word, the voice acting. Again, I could never really appreciate it when I could barely hear it in the arcade, but now… I quickly realised just how hilariously awful it was. Seriously, this is one of those games that has to be heard to be believed. Also, far from detracting from the experience, it gave the game an unintentional B-movie feel, which was perfect. So if you’ve never listened to any of it, watch the video in this article and be amazed.
Protip- Never get this close to a Zombie. Ever.
The other thing I could appreciate now I could play the game in the luxury of my own home was the chance to get better at it without constantly shovelling money into it. And I certainly did get better, after a little practice (and extending my lives and continues!) I was able to get through to the end of the game. Out of all the games six chapters, it was Chapter five that stood out the most to me. Here, we see James and Gary drive to Goldman’s headquarters for the final showdown. Naturally, it’s not that simple. Not only are those zombies still coming after you, but you also have to face the first two bosses again! Get through all that, and you have to face another familiar foe, this time from the first game… It all makes for exciting chapter, but what I remember more than anything was the fact that some of the zombies are driving cars! I always found this very amusing, as being able to drive is one of the last things you’d ever expect a walking corpse to do.
In addition to the main Arcade mode, there’s also the Original mode, which is just like Arcade mode only you can pick up special items as you progress through the game. Then, when you play the mode again, you can select up to two of them to give you a boost in your next game. These range from items that give you more lives and credits- unlike Arcade mode, increasing them via the Options screen won’t work in this mode- to score multipliers, alternate skins for the player character, and some very bizarre items, like one that changes your shots into a fishing lure! This mode is harder than the standard Arcade due to the fact you can only increase your lives and credits by equipping certain items, but I nonetheless enjoyed playing it a lot, and even managed to get the best ending a few times thanks to the score multiplier. There’s also a Boss mode, where you can fight previously defeated bosses without playing through the main levels, and a Training mode where you can play a few mini games to improve your skill at the game.
The bosses are both big and challenging. Luckily, the game tells you where to shoot!
Whether it was in the arcades or on console, The House of the Dead 2 is a game I am very fond of. The intense gameplay was a lot of fun, the boss battles were impressive and it had plenty of replay value thanks to the alternate routes. The terrible voice acting only made it even better. The franchise would continue to be a favourite of mine throughout the years, with THotD 4 and Overkill proving the most memorable in my eyes. THotD 2 was my first experience playing the series away from the arcades though, so it perhaps is the one I have the most memories for. And with so many ports available- It’s also out on the Wii and PC, and was included as an unlockable bonus in the Xbox port of The House of the Dead 3- it’s easy to see for yourself what a cracking game it was, and still is.
Next time on Memories of SEGA, we reach episode fifteen, which means another special! What do I have planned? You’ll just have to wait and see…