Halloween season is here and nothing hits the spot like a good ol' session on House of the Dead 2. Only, like a drooling ghoul you scrapped your CRT for a shiny LCD and now your light gun doesn’t work. So, in these dark times what else is there to load up but a copy of Sega’s Zombie Revenge.
The Jp and EU versions share the same artwork, the US version again botches things up!
Originally titled Blood Bullet: The House of the Dead Side Story, the game was renamed Zombie’s Nightmare and even Zombie Zone, before Sega finally plumped for the rather original title of Zombie Revenge, and released it in Japanese arcades in 1999. Zombie Revenge was ported over to the Dreamcast by Japanese developer Data East, known for pretty much every average Japanese title ever, later that same year.
I love the fact that one of the protagonists, Busujima speaks only Japanese throughout
Set in the same universe as Sega’s successful light gun series House of the Dead, the plot is the typical Sega cheese. A military scientist by the name of Professor Breitling tested a secret formula on a couple of unfortunate souls who were very much alive, and these guinea pigs went on to have a child of their own- a yellow-eyed psychopath named Zed, who wants to take his revenge on the world by erm…. spreading the ghastly disease even further. It is your job, as AMS special agents normal bloke, fast bloke, and big boobs, to foil that old goldeneye and save the world from flesh eating zombies.
Sadly attention to detail in packaging is no longer the norm
A fast-paced action game in the vein of old school beat-em ups like Streets of Rage or Dynamite Dekka, Zombie Revenge gives you a whole arsenal of weapons to mess up the hordes of zombies intent on sampling your brain tissue. Bored with the handgun? why not smash a pipe into their heads. Too much like work? Then a good flambé with the Flamethrower will spice things up. Of course there is the zombie game stalwart, the shotgun, but our favourite is definitely the drill. Nothing quite matches the sick anticipation brought on by a group of the undead coming shuffling towards you ready to be impaled on the end of your massive rotary tool.
Sega also decided to add a strategic element to the gunplay mechanics in the form of tactical shooting. While the gun is automatically locked-on to the nearest enemy, a Virtua-Cop style targeting reticle appears, which changes colour depending on how close you are and how long you keep the shot charged for. It adds an element of risk and reward as you ponder whether to rattle off a ton of weak shots or charge it for that gratifying cannon blast, all the while hoping the nearest zombie doesn’t rip your nads off. Of course, not everyone is addicted to firearms and so you can just pummel the undead to erm…death... with your fists. There is a repertoire of physical moves tucked away behind various hidden-in-the-manual button combinations, but ultimately they suffer from input lag, feeling sluggish and lukewarm when compared to the total recall methodology of cranial discombobulation.
You will need all of your wits about you when traversing Zombie Revenge’s 7 stages, titled Episodes in-game. The sheer number of enemies is relentless, and they seem to absorb bullets like six month old dish sponges. If avoiding a zombie gangbang wasn’t enough, being bitten by one means you become infected and lose health until you find an antidote (it’s kind of funny that gaming has taken to signify the cure for a zombie bite as a bit of mint. Halitosis kills!). Adding in the fact that areas are timed, and you clearly see the game’s money guzzling arcade roots. It’s strange then, ignoring the final boss, that the boss fights in Zombie Revenge are all rather easy; a stark comparison to the stress of actually making it through the main stages. Variety is somewhat lacking too, and it’s pretty much a case of hit the boss, run away, repeat add-nauseum, and none of the fights are that taxing. Special mention has to go to art style with typical Sega odd-jobs like monsters with acid shooting foetus growing out of their midriffs.
The stages are all well designed and offer variations typical of the genre. The moving train level is a lot of fun, but perhaps the coolest part of the game is reaching the penultimate level, which is actually the titular...house...from the opening stage of House of the Dead. It is cool to see the mansion from a third person perspective and acknowledging the previous games gives a welcome link in a game that actually shares very little story-wise with its parent series. Not that House of the Dead had THAT amazing a story anyway.
No further plot necessary
Graphically, the game more than holds its own against other games of the same ilk. There are some cool lighting effects, notably the flashlight found early in the game. The zombies and other undead beasts look great with chunks of flesh flying off and green gore dripping from their wounds and the game buzzes along in high resolution at 60fps (something console games still seem to struggle with even now!).
The game’s soundtrack is filled with solid creepy little tunes and that pick up when you get to bosses, and the sound effects, such as the hatchet-wielding zombie monkey screams, will haunt your dreams. But don’t worry, its not all serious, as in a non-deliberate nod to previous House of the Dead games (and pretty much every Sega arcade title ever), Sega have kept the same classy approach to the dialogue we all love. A special mention should also go to the game’s announcer who could literally make the most mundane of objects the most exciting thing ever and you will never ever get bored of hearing "Boo-litz … Boo-litz … Boo-litz" over and over. And over. Bullets are important.
Interesting to note that all of the zombie models actually come from HOTD2
Typical of Sega arcade conversions of the time, Zombie Revenge features a couple of additional modes tacked on for *COUGH/ah-hem* “longevity”. Its doubtful whether modern gamers will feel the need to delve into the game’s 1 on 1 fighting mode, boss rush or the various VMU games, but the options are there should you feel like the main game wasn’t blister inducing enough. It’s interesting to note that the Japanese version of the game, has the option for Free Play mode open from the start while the Western release had you faffing around zombie fishing to unlock it. Given the option, gamers could probably sit and spend the same amount of time actually getting good at the damn game, but what do I know?
Overall, it would take a lot to make a game that offers up psychotic, hatchet-wielding zombie monkeys, a bad game and Zombie Revenge is far from that. It is hugely-challenging and at times the controls do seem to fight against you, but the game manages to retain that old-school gaming charm and feels like a great Friday night multiplayer experience. So, this Halloween draw the curtains, get in the pizza, ignore the trick and treaters, and enjoy one of the most gibberish plots ever committed to video game history. BOOOOOLET!