Discussion Review: The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return

HouseOfTheDead2&3Return.jpg Light gun games (and ports of old light gun games) are becoming more and more abundant on the Wii, and it makes sense because the Wii Remote interface is a perfect match for the genre, especially when paired up with Nintendo’s Wii Zapper peripheral. But the results so far have been pretty mixed. What about The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return, though? Does Sega’s two-game, Zombie-blasting compilation hit its target to a satisfying explosion of body parts and blood or miss the mark and fail to live up to the franchise’s history of success? Read along as Zach and I examine just that.

Matt: Hey Zach. So I remember you saying a couple weeks back in an email conversation we had about upcoming review plans that you were thinking of reviewing House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return if you could get around to it, stating that you thought it “sucked” before signing off. Well, I recently got a copy in from Sega to work on and have thus far found myself loving it to death, and since you never got around to a solo critique I thought this would be a perfect title for us to do another co-op review on.

So let me start things off with a simple question: what are you finding so sucky about HotD2&3R (man, that’s one hell of an acronym…)?

Zach: Hm….Well first let me start by saying that I was a big fan of these games back when they were in the arcade and when I purchased House of the Dead 2 and 3 individually on the Dreamcast and Xbox respectively. That being said, I expected to see these titles updated somewhat from their original counterparts. Instead, when I popped the game in after purchasing it, I found the dated old graphics and dialogue from earlier this decade. Granted, House of the Dead 3 was better than 2, but still, if I had wanted to play the originals again I could have gone down and played them the first time I bought them.

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I was also somewhat disappointed in the Wii remote to be honest. In my thinking at the store, I was like “wow, I can purchase the $15 add-on to turn my remote into a pistol and not use the clunky looking gun adapter from Nintendo.” However, when I played the game I realized that the Wii remote will never take the place of an old-fashioned light-gun. Basically you’re moving a cursor around the screen as fast as you can, and let’s face it, the Wii remote isn’t the most accurate pointing device ever created. Often in either HotD2 or 3, there would be a time where I would accidentally hit a survivor that was under attack due to the cursor being so jittery.

My biggest complaint would be the fact that I don’t have infinite continues. I paid for this game which is a rehash of two games made ten and six years ago and I only have a limited number of tries. The only reason I picked it up in the first place was to relive the fun I had spending $5 at the arcade to beat the games.

I guess I was a little harsh though in my first response to you. That was when I thought I had paid $30 for the game when I actually only paid $20. It’s not that terrible for $20, actually.

Matt: OK, now I see where you’re coming from, and I can fully understand your subdued enthusiasm with this title. But you see, I’m coming at it from a completely different perspective. For one, I’ve only ever played the House of the Dead games in the arcades, and I don’t think I’ve ever even played House of the Dead 3 before now, so these games are almost like brand new to me in a way. I’m also just a really big fan of light gun games in general, so that’s a definite factor in my thorough enjoyment of this compilation.

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I will agree to an extent about the dated presentation, especially in regards to House of the Dead 2. But I actually think House of the Dead 3 holds up pretty well and looks comparable to many modern-day Wii games. With compilation games like this, I also find it hard to get overly picky about graphics and stuff like that. While it would’ve been nice to see Sega put effort into actually remaking both titles with updated assets, I can just as well appreciate the games being left in their original forms. The nostalgia factor is definitely higher this way at least.

Oh, and as for the dialogue, it is what it is, man. Yes, it’s extremely cheesy and poorly acted, but that’s why I love it. It’s a big part of the game’s charm for me.

I have to disagree with you vehemently on the controls. It seems like I’m the only gamer out there who enjoys the Wii Zapper. Equipped with the Zapper, I’ve found the cursor accuracy to be rock-steady. Not as pinpoint as a true light gun, for sure, but it certainly hasn’t caused any problems for me in terms of missing targets or hitting civilians.

I’m with you on the continue system, though. At least in part. While I don’t think having infinite credits right off the bat would’ve been the best idea — that’d make it way too easy for newcomers — the way the games’ start you off with so few lives and credits is absolutely ridiculous. The option to increase the number of lives and credits actually has to be earned by repeated play. So basically, you have to play and fail numerous times within each game before you can even think about successfully beating either of them. It really is a counterproductive setup, especially when you consider how difficult both of these games are. Seriously, the House of the Dead series doesn’t pull any punches in the difficulty department, and I appreciate that in today’s age of too-easy games. If only it wasn’t such a pain in the ass to work up to where you actually have a fair chance at surviving.

Zach: I can see where you’re coming from, Matt. If you’ve never played these games at home before, or couldn’t find them in the arcade when these machines were more prevalent, sinking $20 for these games might not be a bad idea. However if you’re already familiar with House of the Dead 2 and 3, then I would say skipping these titles is the best course of action.

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Matt: Personally, I have a hard time finding anything significantly wrong with House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return (other than the silly credit earning system). But again, these ports are fresher to me since it’s been so long since I last played a House of the Dead game. For me, both included games are pure, bloody gaming fun offering solid shooting accuracy and ample challenge and replay value. At such a cheap price, I see no reason not to pick a copy up, especially if you’re new to the franchise.

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Pros:
+ Fun light gun-style action packing old-school difficulty and satisfying gore; one of the best reasons to get a Wii Zapper yet
+ Voice acting is so terrible it’s charming
+ Branching paths and numerous modes provide a fair amount of replay value
+ Cheap $20 price is easy on the wallet

Cons:
– Not enough new content to keep veterans of the series interested for any length of time
– Must play and fail multiple times in order to obtain enough lives and continues to beat the game
– Lack of updated presentation may be a disappointment to some

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Release Date: 3/11/08
Genre: Shooter
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher. Second copy purchased by reviewer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!