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The House of the Dead Walkthrough and Review (Arcade, Sega Model 2) by@stefanopavone
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The House of the Dead Walkthrough and Review (Arcade, Sega Model 2)

by Stefano PavoneJanuary 9th, 2022
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The House of the Dead is a long-running horror-themed franchise from arcade giant **Sega. The original arcade version was released in Japan in 1996 followed by its Western *début* a year later in 1997. This game has not received a home release outside of a port to the ill-fated Sega Saturn in a desperate attempt to keep it alive in the West. This is one of the first arcade games to be aimed at a more mature audience, hence the splattering of blood and gore, and arcade owners can change the blood colour to suit their tastes.
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The House of the Dead is a long-running horror-themed franchise from arcade giant Sega, drawing inspiration from classic Italian gore films such as 1979’s Zombie by Lucio Fulci (1927-1996) and the Dead movies by the late great George A Romero (1940-2017), with a little Hammer Horror touch thrown in. The premise for each game is vaguely similar in nature:


  • Zombies are unleashed on a certain location in the world
  • The main antagonist of each game prophesies an imminent end of the world for mankind
  • A pair of sharp-dressed government agents (who look like discount Men In Black) are dispatched to eliminate the threat


I have very fond memories of playing these games during my formative years despite their rock-hard difficulty and their high asking price (£1 per credit). Over the years, though, as I memorized the routes and enemy placements and got to know how each game worked, I gradually mastered the series as a whole.


While many people tend to think of the sequels (particularly the second game, which is known for its infamously abominable voice acting), I will take a look at the forgotten first chapter - namely, the original arcade version, which runs on Sega’s Model 2 hardware.


Originally released in Japan in 1996 followed by its Western début a year later in 1997, this game has not received a home release outside of a port to the ill-fated Sega Saturn in a desperate attempt to keep it alive in the West and subsequent conversion to Windows PCs.


According to Sega, the source code no longer exists, along with master copies for some of their other games, including the classic Saturn RPG Panzer Dragoon Saga. This game is built on the same engine as Sega’s other light gun classic Virtua Cop, itself a spiritual successor to Konami’s glorified shooting gallery Lethal Enforcers.


This is one of the first arcade games to be aimed at a more mature audience, hence the splattering of blood and gore, and arcade owners can change the colour of the blood to suit their tastes and/or cultural sensitivities, from a choice of red, blue, yellow, green and purple (red is default in most countries).

Premise

On 18 December 1998, strange events are reported at the Curien Mansion, home of esteemed scientist Doctor Roy Curien - strange creatures are roaming the grounds, killing his employees consisting of researchers from the DBR Corporation (keep these names in mind for when I review the sequels). One member of Doctor Curien’s staff - chief scientist Sophie Richards - is able to elude apprehension and contact the AMS, who dispatches a pair of their best agents to investigate and eliminate the threat. What follows is a night of what could very well be Hell on Earth for our heroes, as Doctor Curien’s true nature is revealed…

Cast of Characters

This game has a minimal cast of characters due to its nature as an arcade coin-guzzler, so story and characterisation are secondary to the gameplay. However, due to the semi-competent voice acting, we actually get some personality from our heroes (and villains).


  • Thomas Rogan - the Player 1 character, he is known to be hotheaded and impulsive, and a pathological workaholic. He is Sophie’s fiancée and has met Doctor Curien personally on several occasions, making this mission a deeply personal case for him.
  • Agent “G” - the Player 2 character, he is Rogan’s polar opposite - calm, rational, and tranquil under pressure. His true identity is a mystery (the instruction manual for the Sega Saturn version implied he was a cyborg, but this has since been retconned out in the sequels), and is committed to his job, accompanying Thomas on his mission to save Sophie.
  • Sophie Richards - the damsel in distress, it is she who alerted the AMS to the events at the Curien Mansion. Her ultimate fate is determined by which ending the player (or players, in a 2-player game) gets upon completing the game.
  • Doctor Roy Curien - the main antagonist of the game, he is known to be eccentric and reclusive by his employees. He is responsible for the outbreak at the mansion, having unleashed zombies (really bioengineered creatures, more accurately described as mutants) for no apparent reason.

The Game

Everyone, say with me now: THE HOUSE... OF THE DEAD.

When the game boots up, you are greeted by an introduction, a short trailer if you will, telling you about the game’s premise complete with instructions.


The game itself is played with a light gun, and since CRT monitors are virtually extinct, there is no way to play this game the way it was intended without the use of a controller to emulate it such as a combination of a Wiimote and a Dolphin Bar (which allows Wiimotes to be used on PCs), or an Aimtrak light gun, which acts like a mouse.


The game’s rules are simple:


  • Shoot the zombies attacking you and/or scientists in peril (the scientists take priority)
  • Shooting a scientist will cost you a life (you can have a maximum of 5 lives)
  • Taking damage from a zombie or a projectile yields the same result
  • The game ends when the player runs out of lives (although they may continue if they wish)
  • Shooting off-screen will reload the player’s gun (their weapon holds 6 bullets)


One trivial complaint I have about this game is that the main characters’ presence depends on the number of active players. In other words, if only a single player is active, then only their respective avatar is shown on-screen (either Thomas Rogan or G), with slight differences in dialogue. If two (2) players are playing the game, then both protagonists will be visible complete with the correct dialogue.


This may have been done to save memory (and is likely a holdover from Virtua Cop along with the 6-bullet limit, since the weapon in that game was a double-action revolver as opposed to a semiautomatic pistol) but it makes no sense and feels like a waste of code. I am playing this game by dual-wielding mice, one in each hand and using a Sega Model 2 emulator for Windows, in order to get the maximum amount of dialogue, story, and challenge out of the experience (that, and I have nobody willing to join me in this arcade crusade).


The House of the Dead Walkthrough

Chapter 1: Tragedy

Yes, it's a tragedy that this game isn't as widely-known as its successors.

Each stage begins with its own title card made to look like an old scratched-up film projection. This is the Japanese version, hence the Kanji beneath the English title at the bottom.


Why doesn't the scientist just run instead of standing there?

This mission briefing is unique to the Japanese version and consists of the AMS Commander giving Thomas Rogan and G their orders to investigate the Curien Mansion and to bring Doctor Curien to justice. The mortally wounded scientist warns our heroes that others are still inside the mansion and pleads with them to rescue his colleagues before expiring.


As luck would have it, the agents find Sophie unconscious outside the mansion, by a fountain.


Congratulations, Rogan! You've saved your fianceé!


Oh, no! According to this winged creature, nobody leaves the Curien Mansion alive.


Here's some of that blood and gore in action, which, for 1996, was quite shocking, especially in Japan.


We soon come to our first crossroads in the game - unlike its spiritual predecessor Virtua Cop, The House of the Dead is nonlinear - the route the players take depends on varying criteria, but the most popular ones are:


  • Whether or not a certain scientist is rescued
  • Whether or not a certain switch is shot (to raise a bridge, call an elevator, etc.)
  • Whether or not a piece of furniture or background scenery is shot and destroyed
  • How long the player takes in clearing the current area
  • Which zombie (sorry, mutant) gets shot first

Will you cross the bridge or enter the sewers? Depends on whether or not you save his life.


Saving the scientist in the screenshot above will grant you an extra life (depending on the receiving player, the “Life Up!” text will be in either red or blue) and allow you to enter the mansion via the front doors. Fail and you will make your way into the eponymous manor of the nonliving via an underground waterway, which is much harder. For the record, I have saved every single scientist, which grants the players access to a hidden bonus room near the climax of the last level, and I have taken the shortest possible route.


"Let's go in!" "Sure, why not?" Why not? Because otherwise it's a waste of bloody time, now get in there and rescue Sophie!

Once inside the mansion, the players are greeted by a pair of mutant monkeys, but only one of them can be shot. The other will escape to safety, leaving our heroes to face off against some very hungry creatures.


Shoot the one on the left to go straight ahead or the one on the right to go upstairs.

Making your way into the mansion itself, you will soon come across a rare type of hazard in this game in the form of a collapsing floor - if a creature attacks you while you are at this area, then you will be pushed down into a lower level of the mansion, and both players will each lose a life.


One of only two collapsing floors in the game, the other is in Stage 2.

Having evaded the collapsing floor, you will now find yourself in what appears to be an armoury or a billiard room with a cage at the end (this room can also be accessed from the underground waterway if you save the right scientist).


Shoot the red switch to open the door to the cage (and then kill the mutant!) - you'll get an extra life if you save them both.

After saving the scientists, you will be attacked from above and then you will meet a familiar stereotype in horror.


Seriously - what is it with guys in overalls wielding chainsaws?

From this point on, the rest of the stage is linear. No matter what route you take in this level, you will always end up in the room in the screenshot below.


Get away from her, you dead bastard! Go back in your grave!

This will then lead into an adjoining corridor where you will hear Sophie’s cries for help - can you save her in time?


Don't celebrate just yet, Rogan.


But ho! The first boss is upon you! Now you must fight him to the death (and he struck Sophie - he's no gentleman!)!


Boss: Chariot

Weapon: Halberd

Weakness: Exposed armour revealing his heart


This boss can be quite challenging, although he shouldn’t be too hard to beat once you have his pattern down. As he approaches you, keep shooting him in the heart, which is exposed by a visible dent in his armour. When he has taken enough damage, he will begin approaching you at a faster pace and will act more aggressively - repeat the process until he shakes off his armour, revealing his messy flesh.


Trivia: All the bosses in this series are named after Tarot cards from the Major Arcana except for the console-exclusive prequel/spin-off The House of the Dead: Overkill for the Nintendo Wii and its PS3-exclusive Extended Cut, along with The Typing of the Dead: Overkill for the PC.


Watch where you're bleeding! That's genuine soft Corinthian leather you're spilling your guts over!


I know I'm feeling peckish but I'm not THAT desperate!


Don't worry, you'll get another chance - I'll see you in The House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn!


After killing the Chariot, our heroes rush over to Sophie’s aid - she warns both agents that they must stop Doctor Curien, or else something terrible will happen - the mutants must not be allowed to leave the mansion grounds and escape.


Sophie's fate is in your hands - your performance in the game determines whether she lives, dies or comes back as a zombie.

Thomas mourns Sophie’s apparent death while G vows to make Doctor Curien pay for his crimes, and the first stage comes to a close.


My results for Stage 1 - not as good as if I had played solo, but that odd "absent players on screen" quirk really irritates me.


At the end of each level, you get to see your score based on your performance - this includes shooting and destroying seemingly innocuous background objects which may contain items such as golden coins (500 points), golden frogs (1,000 points) and in some rare cases, first-aid kits which grant the receiving player an extra life (5 maximum - any additional lives will be added to their score). Shoot a mutant in the head to score 120 points (cumulative, so 2 headshots = 240 points), while shooting a mutant in the body scores 80 points (which are not cumulative, regardless of how many body shots they take to go down).


You will also receive a single point if you choose to continue the game should you run out of lives (1 point per continuing player). If you successfully rescue every scientist in the current level regardless of your route, then you will receive an extra life (both players get one each). If you rescue more than 5 scientists, then you will receive two (2) extra lives (again, this applies to both players).

Chapter 2: Revenge

Revenge is a dish best served cold with the blood of your enemy after he's been devoured by hungry mutants...

The second stage opens with our heroes facing a new threat consisting of an overweight mutant holding a very heavy (and very shootable) red barrel. Shoot down the barrel multiple times to destroy it and disarm him quickly, before he has a chance to throw it.


Talk about a barrel of fun!

This is the largest level in the game, offering at least THREE (3) different diversions at various points. For the sake of this article, however, I am taking the shortest possible route, just as I did with the first level. After taking out the barrel-loving mutant and his axe-wielding buddy, you will face a trapdoor - you can either shoot it to pieces (3 shots - long route) to jump down into the mansion’s catacombs or ignore it to proceed straight ahead (short route) - you only have a second or two to decide.


Are you a bad enough dude to shoot open the trapdoor and jump into the abyss? I'm not.

If you choose to go straight ahead, then you will head outside into an open area with a bridge only to be ambushed by a pair of discount Freddy Krueger wannabes - be careful, these guys are agile and throw knives at you (and can claw your face off), so aim for their heads if you can.


Shoot the switch on the right to signal the bridge (really an elevator) to go down, otherwise you will go straight ahead.

Going down will take the players through a harder route, so I opted to remain on the easier path by not shooting the switch. Going straight ahead, you will encounter some bats emerging from a precious painting - shoot them down and you will head left into what appears to be a loft or an attic, where you will be attacked by green mutants that look like discount Swamp Things (usually found in aquatic areas such as the underground passage in the first stage).


Didn't I already take care of you?

More discount Freddy Krueger knockoffs will burst in - gun them down and leave, where you will encounter a scientist being hounded by an axe-wielder and a muscleman mutant. Take them out to save him (no extra life, though - ungrateful bastard). Watch out, though, because you’re entering a room with a collapsing floor (the last one in the game, I promise).


This house is in serious need of some repairs!

Once leaving this room, you are no longer in danger of being pushed off down to a lower level - you will, however, encounter yet another pair of discount Freddy Krueger clones - you know what you have to do by this point (I hope).


All roads end here and it's mostly linear from this point on in this stage.

No matter which route you took (bridge/elevator straight ahead, bridge/elevator down or catacombs), you will always end up in this room (perspective may very depending on the route taken).


After taking out the creatures here (there are some harmless ones who wander around and do nothing - you can ignore them if you like but shooting them scores you additional points, and they go down with a single shot), you will enter the first of two bedrooms, both occupied by mutant killer condoms (at least, that’s what they look like to me). Put them out of their misery. Just before exiting the first bedroom, shoot apart the bookcase (2 shots) to reveal a hidden scientist (who will give you an extra life).


Probably the most intelligent character in the whole game, but also the most cryptic one to rescue.

In the second bedroom, instead of a scientist behind the bookcase, you get a muscular mutant who is more than content to beat you to death for disturbing his beauty sleep.


Disarmed but very pissed off nonetheless.

Once outside, you will encounter a chainsaw-wielding mutant trying to saw a poor scientist’s back open. Kill him IMMEDIATELY - even if you disarm him, he can still kill the poor researcher with physical contact alone, so act fast. Another discount Freddy Krueger will appear (or two) - take them out and you will enter a laboratory of sorts.


Going down or straight ahead? Act fast, you've only got a second to decide.

Shoot the switch to change the down arrow to an up arrow in order to raise a connecting bridge, otherwise you will jump down into the laboratory. If you raised the bridge, then a pair of silver mutants will jump out of their tubes when you reach the door to the next area and attack you. If you jumped down into the laboratory, then you will ascend the nearby staircase after killing the attacking creatures, and the silver mutants will remain dormant.


Either way, you will be greeted by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. You know what you have to do, so do it fast. It’s all linear from this point onwards, and you will eventually reach a high-tech-looking zone where you will have to eventually save two (2) scientists back-to-back (be careful - the axe-wielding mutants will throw their axes at you if they can’t reach you, so shoot quickly).


Why the hell don't these guys ever consider just running instead of letting the mutants kill them? It defies logic.

Ascending to the rooftop of the mansion, you will now encounter the second boss, who gladly drops a pair of hapless researchers to their deaths - what a psycho.


Looks like this guy is all too happy to be a videogame villain... and I'm all too happy to put him down.


OK, discount evil Batman - let's dance!


Boss: Hanged Man

Weapon: Swarm of Bats, Claws

Weakness: Upper body (extra points if you go for the head)


His first phase will involve him commanding his bats to attack you - shoot his body when you can but be sure to focus on the bats as soon as you see them coming. This fight is actually easier with two players, as it allows one player to focus on the boss while the other guns down the incoming bats.


So that's where the virus that shall not be named came from!

When his health is about halfway gone, he will initiate his second phase as his bats all drop dead at the same time. He will periodically close in for the kill but will spend several seconds beforehand flying around the players - it is best to shoot him a few times in this state and then finish him off when he comes closer.


Not such a big man, now, are you, without your bats to help you out?

When his health is down to a little under a quarter (closer to a fifth), he will then disappear for a while… and reappear just in time to knock our heroes off the rooftop! What a dirty trick!


Hang on... wait, I'm not ready!


OK... now I'm ready (and dangling off the edge of a VERY high ledge - thanks, you cheating bastard).

This third and final phase is not too difficult if you remember the pattern from the previous one - it helps that this time, he moves more slowly and doesn’t evade your shots as much. Keep shooting him (he takes around 9 or 10 shots to stun) and when he recovers, finish him off.


You'll get another chance in The House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn... now, why don't you and the Chariot go home?

He will eventually fall to his death - a cutscene will then play with our heroes getting back on their feet, and the level then ends.


"We won't let you have it your way, Curien!" - What does that even mean? It makes no sense, and there's no context.


Everyone's been rescued and I get an extra life per player for my efforts - but is it enough to save Sophie?

Chapter 3: Truth

Yes, maybe I'll find out the truth as to how and why the source code for this game has been lost.

The third stage begins quite dramatically, with Thomas and G bursting through a glass window and entering a hidden laboratory, only to be greeted by a trio of creatures who are all too willing to tear them limb from limb for trespassing.


I don't think this was such a good idea... oh, well - might as well put the dead back in their graves while we're at it.


Mutants with wrecking balls? Damn!

In this room, you will encounter a new type of mutant with a new type of ranged attack in the form of a handheld wrecking ball. Once the glass shatters, shoot the creatures down. The AMS agents will attempt to open the door on the right but it’s locked, meaning you will have to double back into the room where the mutants were previously.


The Cybermonkeys' first appearance was met with lukewarm reception.

New to this level are Cybermonkey mutants (my nickname for them) which function like a deadlier version of the discount Freddy Krueger wannabes. They are capable of firing out their claws at short range in addition to being highly agile, although it’s nice to see their heads getting shot off (seriously, the blood and gore in this game is still impressive even for 2022).


Once inside the room where the wrecking ball-wielding creatures stood (you will face them here if you didn’t take them down to begin with), there are a few more mutants to take care of, then the security card is yours.


But ho! Swamp Thing's siblings have cleaned up their act!

Take out the cleaned-up Swamp Thing clones and you will enter the laboratory which occupies the bulk of this stage. Shoot the attacking enemies and in the corner of the room, there will be a pair of shootable boxes - the one on the left is empty, while the one on the right contains a rare on-site extra life. Eventually, our heroes will come across a trapped scientist inside a cage, just like in the first stage. You know what you have to do to save her life.


Shoot the switch on the right to open the cage door and release the trapped researcher.

After killing all the mutants in this room, it’s time to move on. This level is much more linear than the previous one, as there is only a single detour, which we are coming up to.


I'm amazed these guys can still see where they're going despite having their faces shot off.

You’ll be fighting the Cybermonkeys a lot during this stage, so try not to panic and aim for their heads (they usually go down with a single headshot). Following this room, you will meet for the one and only time in the game… demonic spiders.


They look more like radioactive facehuggers to me.

After this room is the stage’s sole major detour, consisting of a pair of down-pointing arrows, prompting the player which elevator to take (the one on the left is the easy route, while the one on the right is the hard route). I am taking the easy route for the sake of this review.


Want the easy way out? Go left. Want to rack up points and have a challenge? Go right.

Regardless of which route you choose, you will be greeted by a pair of mutants ready to tear you apart before you can enter the waiting elevator, and both routes take the form of a mini-gauntlet which our heroes are forced to run, integrating all the hardest and most annoying elements of the game so far (enemies throwing axes and barrels, hidden powerups behind hard-to-reach places, surprise attacks, and each route has a single scientist to rescue, which is the easiest part of this level).


The last scientist in the mansion - aim VERY carefully if you are to save his life.

Returning to the main route, you will come across the final researcher in the manor - shoot the creature attacking him quickly and accurately (don’t worry about headshots, just unload your gun into his torso). If you save him and have rescued all the other scientists in the house, then you will gain access to a hidden bonus room near the end of the last level. Entering the last laboratory, you will come across the Cybermonkeys and some musclebound mutants, along with one last, final surprise.


Blue Monkeys!

These creatures, which I affectionately call the Blue Monkeys, can throw darts at you with a spin-kick as well as attack you with a bite at close range. Not as deadly as the Cybermonkeys but a step up from the discount Freddy Krueger wannabes. Once all the enemies in this room are dead (again), it’s time for one last, final detour (although this one’s really more of a shortcut).


Shoot the door on the left until a crashing sound is heard to go that way, or do nothing to go to the right.

Regardless of which route you take, it’s time for another mini-gauntlet - you should be able to take out most enemies without taking too much damage if you’ve made it this far. Once this room is clear, it’s time for the boss fight.


Doctor Roy Curien in the flesh... or rather, in the 3D polygons.

After Doctor Curien compliments and then taunts you, he will then escape, leaving our heroes to fend off the boss of this penultimate (second-to-last) level (the room in which this fight takes place would not look out of place in the original Resident Evil by Capcom, which also took place in a mansion in the year 1998 and followed a group of tactically-dressed cops as opposed to our sharp-dressed men from this game).


Now that's a face only a mother could love... or Doctor Curien.

Boss: Hermit

Weapon: Faecal Spider Web Balls, Claws

Weakness: Head


This fight is composed of two (2) phases. His first phase will simply involve him approaching the players and scratching them when he gets close enough. When his health is approximately down by a third (he will have two-thirds left), he will retreat and the second phase begins, taking place in what looks like a psychedelic tunnel.


Closing in for the kill... and trying not to get mutant spider shit in my face.

In this second phase, the Hermit will alternate between guarding his face and approaching the players, occasionally mooning them to launch a projectile attack in the form of large white spherical webs (basically, mutant spider shit).


Shoot the shit (literally) to disarm the projectiles and time your attacks carefully, because he will expose his face when approaching you (he will cover his face while stationary). Repeat this process until he dies, and, for an extra added bonus, keep shooting his head during his death animation until he collapses in order to rack up some much-needed points. Once he’s dead, a cutscene will play and the stage ends.


"I'll get you, Curien!" - OK, at least THAT makes sense and is in context.


Stage 3 results - I don't think we're going to save Sophie (the players' scores are not combined together).

Chapter 4 (Final Chapter): The House of the Dead

Title drop!

This is it - the last level. I’m surprised at this game’s brevity (it can be completed in approximately 20 minutes if you’re playing well enough).


This is it, boys - the final push. Don't let me down.

The final stage starts off with Thomas and G jumping into an underground cavern. This stage is completely linear and gameplay elements are reduced to the bare minimum - there are no detours, no scientists to rescue, and in true arcade coin-guzzler fashion, you will have to refight the first two bosses (Chariot and Hanged Man) before going through one last gauntlet to face the final boss. It is also the shortest level in the game.


This control panel unlocks and opens a gate leading to the heart of Doctor Curien's sick project.

Take out the first few creatures you encounter and then you will activate a control panel as seen in the screenshot above - this disables an electronic barrier, which somehow opens the door to the rest of the level. Upon entering a rather compact arena, you will face off against the Chariot (Stage 1 boss) in a rematch - he’s easier to handle this time around and he’s also weaker.


Surprise, surprise... oh, for God's sake, you should really cover up that exposed dent with something.


You are not seeing things, he really is being pushed out of the arena.

Interesting to note is that in the original arcade version of the game, the Chariot can be “pushed” out of the arena if he is constantly hit in his weakness, thereby “stunlocking” him. He can also be pushed out of the boundaries of the map and become invisible, although he can still be damaged in this state. This glitch was fixed in the PC and Sega Saturn ports. Once he’s dead, it’s time to move on.


No bats to help you out this time, Bats! Ha ha!

In this second arena, our heroes will refight the Hanged Man (Stage 2 boss) - his third phase is now missing and he’s much weaker this time around, and he has fewer bats to help him out. Remember the strategy from his first boss fight and use it here, and he will eventually fall to his death… again.


What lies beyond this door? Open Sesame!

If you rescued everyone, and I mean EVERYONE - every single scientist - in this game, then you will access a hidden bonus room consisting of two (2) aisles’ worth of goodies. Each aisle contains at least 2 extra lives, 2 golden frogs (1,000 points each) and 2 gold coins (500 points each). Collect as many goodies as you can, because you only have about 5 seconds to amass as high a score as possible (I recommend stocking up on extra lives first and then focusing on the frogs, as they’re rarer and more valuable than the coins).


What is this place? I don't know but it's freaking me out and I want to get out ASAP.

This is the last room of the game before entering the final arena. Shoot the creatures and fight your way through - at the end of the hallway is a short tunnel with a pair of wrecking ball-wielding mutants guarding the exit. Gun them down and enter the final chamber, where you will meet a strange creature, and come face to face with Doctor Curien - now it’s showtime!


"There's no way out, Curien!" - Damn straight, Rogan. Time to make this bitch pay - for Sophie!

However, this confrontation is short-lived, as Doctor Curien compliments our heroes before refusing to surrender and asking us to say hello to his masterpiece, which he proudly unleashes.


Hello, Masterpiece! We're going to have a long rivalry across multiple games.

The masterpiece, however, refuses to take orders from his creator and promptly executes him with a string of fireballs before escaping into a subterranean balcony outside, with our heroic AMS agents giving chase - now the real fun begins.


"Unknown", my shiny round bald head - look closer and you'll find out.

Boss: Magician

Weapon: Fireballs

Weakness: Exposed red glowing muscles (left forearm, right arm, left thigh and right lower leg)


This is the final boss of the game, and boy, did Sega save the best (and toughest) for last. The Magician has two phases (each phase is repeated once) and one final phase, and it’s not uncommon to see even the most skilled of players lose all their lives to this pixelated pyromaniac. In his first phase, he will conjure fireballs and throw them at the players - shoot him in his weaknesses until he throws out the fireballs, then focus on the glowing sphere of fiery red-hot pain (shoot them down, in other words).


I don't think mutants feel anything down there, guys.

When his energy is down by approximately a quarter, he will enter his second phase, which consists of him rapidly circling around the players and often attacking them from behind with a supercharged fireball (this attack will damage both players, so shoot him a few times QUICKLY to stun him).


SUCKERS!!

When his health is depleted approximately halfway, he will alternate between his first and second attacks until he is down to approximately a third of his vitality, and then the Magician will unleash his final and deadliest attack by conjuring a dozen or so fireballs, which he then launches into the sky. You MUST shoot them ALL down (both players will each lose a life otherwise).


I'll see you in Hell, dogs of the AMS! (Evil laugh)

Keep shooting him in his weaknesses (no, NOT the gonads, Rogan!) until his vitality is completely drained. Congratulations! You’ve won! Now sit back and enjoy the ending.


"You haven't seen anything yet!" - I'll see you in House of the Dead 2 and House of the Dead 4 Special, Magician.

Ending

After speaking his last (for now) words, the Magician explodes, and our two heroes are left to ponder their recently completed mission for a while before deciding to get the hell out of there, although it is a hollow victory for Thomas, as he bids goodbye to Doctor Curien and a sad farewell to Sophie. The credits consist of a lengthy first-person view of the two brave agents leaving the mansion set to some rather solemn yet uplifting music. As a new day dawns and the peerless pair look back at the haunted house one last time, the players will receive one of three possible endings depending on the following criteria:


  • Good Ending: Sophie Lives (canon ending) - rescue everyone and have a final score of at least 62,000 points (in a 2-player game, the players’ scores are not combined together, making this virtually impossible).
  • Bad Ending: Sophie is a Zombie - have a final score of less than 62,000 points and the last digit must be a 0.
  • Neutral Ending: Leaving the Mansion - have a final score of less than 62,000 points and the last digit must be from 1 to 9 (the only way to get this is to continue after death, since each continue used gives the player a single point and all normal score-based values in this game are multiples of 10).


My final score - disappointing, Thomas Rogan. You, too, G - you can do better, boys!

House of the Dead Review

Presentation

Being an arcade game, it pulls no punches and leaves no stone unturned in showing off the latest and greatest (at the time) technology with Sega’s Model 2 arcade board, which was already replaced at the time of the game’s release by its successor, the Sega Model 3.


The original arcade version may be lacking in content when compared to the home ports, but it is the most complete version of the game, especially when you consider the additional touches unique to the Japanese release, such as the mission briefing at the beginning of the game and some extra dialogue absent from the Western version.


Watching the demo and attract mode/trailer tells the player everything they need to know in the space of just under a minute. The enemy types are varied in both appearance and behaviour (and I also like how some enemy types are unique to certain environments), and players are encouraged to get to know them and exploit their weaknesses in order to succeed at their goal.

Graphics (Detail, Colour)

The game’s visuals still look impressive even now, a quarter of a century later, and the blood and gore effects still have the power to shock even today.


The character models are detailed fairly well and I am convinced that the PC version may have looked just as good, if not better, if the developers handling the conversion had not been forced to rush the game out in an incomplete state - the same goes for the Sega Saturn version, which just looks unfinished (because it is).


While the detail shines, the colour palette does not - nearly every single environment is painted in the same putrid shades of grey and brown with a little bit of blue and green to spice things up, making the few-and-far-between sections where we actually get some more vivid colours like red and yellow a relief for the eyes.

Sound (SFX, Music)

Sonically, the game offers nothing short of a delightful experience - both players’ gunshots have distinct sound effects (again, like the game engine, carried over from Virtua Cop) and the mutants’ moans and groans are crude but effective.


Environmental sound effects are acceptable and they do the job fairly well, but the real highlight of all this acoustic apoplexy is the voice acting. Now, being an arcade game, one cannot expect professional quality, but considering the dialogue and the effort the voice actors (who remain uncredited to this day) put into their performances, it’s actually passable and could work if this game were a motion picture (no, I don’t mean the 2003 “adaptation” from Uwe Boll).


I hope the remake improves the voice acting while retaining an option to hear the original performers’ voices. The game’s musical soundtrack is surprisingly catchy and memorable, and despite the limited sound chip of the Sega Model 2 arcade machine, it works (the PC and Sega Saturn ports feature a far superior remixed soundtrack with CD-quality audio instead of the arcade machine’s mix of MIDI and samples). Hearing the "stage clear” jingle upon completing each level is always a welcome relief, and the high score theme is actually a little bit disconcerting.

Controls

Controls are as simple as a light gun game can get. Point at the screen, pull the trigger to shoot and to reload, shoot off-screen. It couldn’t be simpler, and it works - I experienced no lag in this playthrough (although using a mouse, I could just left-click to shoot and right-click to reload, giving me the unfair advantage of remaining on-target - arcade players could simulate this by covering the infrared sensor of the light gun with their finger to reload, removing it to resume firing).

Gameplay

The gameplay is the game’s greatest strength - the nonlinear level design and interactive (and, in some cases, destructible) environments both ensure a high degree of replay value and players will be more often than not surprised at new twists, turns and even brand new routes that they can discover.


It encourages players to familiarise themselves with how the game works, and savvy players can find a route they prefer and mastering it before moving onto a new path.


The difficulty is firm but fair - this is not an easy game, as it expects a certain degree of competence from players, but it is not sadistic either. There are more than a few grace periods where one can briefly catch their breath before the action resumes, striking the right balance between frustrating and fun.

The House of the Dead Overall Verdict

The House of the Dead, the game which started a saga composed of cheesy B-movie plots and less-than-stellar voice acting, is a classic which sadly has been overlooked in favour of its successors (mainly the second and third games) due to its lack of accessibility and relative rarity (as previously mentioned, Sega lost the source code to this game along with the master copies of other games such as Panzer Dragoon Saga), although there is hope that an impending remake for the Nintendo Switch can help revive interest in this forgotten first chapter.


It’s not too easy, not too tough, and it’s not overly complicated like later installments (the later games would judge the players based on their accuracy, reflexes and critical shots and then grade them based on their overall performance as well as their level of cooperation).


It may be a short game, being only four (4) levels long, but I say for a game of its type, an arcade rail shooter, it’s just right. You can play this game via the Sega Model 2 emulator for Windows (which supports dual mice via RawInput). Recommended with a Capital R.


Goodbye, Curien - farewell, Sophie...


Final Score: 5 out of 5.