(Sega AM1's universe)
It feeds on your fear. Don't go into the house... Alone!Marquee
The House of the Dead (ザ・ハウス・オブ・ザ・デッド Za Hausu obu za Deddo ) is a horror-themed rail shooting game developed by Sega AM1 and released by Sega to arcades in 1996. It is the first installment in the main House of the Dead series.
Set in December 1998, The House of the Dead follows AMS agents Thomas Rogan and G, who investigate the mansion of genetic engineer Dr. Curien. In a fit of insanity, Curien has produced hostile creatures which threaten mankind.
The game was developed in just over a year. Sega AM1 wanted The House of the Dead to emulate horror films, appeal to adult audiences, and differentiate itself from Sega AM2's 1994 rail shooter Virtua Cop. The team faced time constraints, hardware limitations, and controversy over the game's violence.
The House of the Dead was well-received and became a popular franchise, with a sequel, The House of the Dead 2, being released in 1998. Although series director Takashi Oda does not consider the enemies zombies, the game nonetheless has been credited for popularizing zombies in the media.
The game was ported to the Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows with downgraded graphics. It also received two mobile adaptations with altered gameplay, The House of the Dead Mobile and The House of the Dead: Nightmare. A remake of the game, developed by MegaPixel Studio, TA Publishing, and Forever Entertainment under license from Sega, will be released in late 2021.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Gameplay
- 3 Development
- 4 Release
- 5 Reception
- 6 Controversy
- 7 Remake
- 8 Trivia
- 9 Gallery
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
In his pursuit of controlling life and death, DBR Corporation research director Dr. Curien descends into insanity. On December 18th, 1998, he unleashes biologically-engineered creatures upon his staff at the Curien Mansion in Europe.
Two days later, after receiving a distressed phone call from his fiancée, DBR researcher Sophie Richards, AMS agent Thomas Rogan and his partner G arrive at the creature-infested mansion. Rogan and G reunite with Sophie, who is then kidnapped by the bat-human hybrid known as Hangedman. The agents find Sophie inside the mansion, but the armored behemoth Chariot seemingly kills her.
Rogan and G kill Hangedman in a rooftop fight. They find Curien, who escapes. After defeating the spider-like Hermit and a revived Chariot and Hangedman, the agents confront Curien in an underground DBR research center located in a cavern system underneath the estate.
Curien awakes Magician, an armored creature with mastery of fire. However, Magician refuses to recognize Curien as his master and kills him. Rogan and G defeat the creature, who, before exploding, warns that the ordeal is not over. As they leave the mansion, the agents bid Sophie and Curien farewell.[note 1]
After the credits, the camera pans back to the mansion; depending on the player's performance, two extra scenes may play out:
|Score under 62,000 points with a ones digit of any number except 0.||The mansion is shown in the distance.|
|Score under 62,000 points with a ones digit of 0.||The mansion doors open, revealing Sophie to be a creature.|
|Score over 62,000 points.||The canon ending. The mansion doors open, revealing Sophie to be alive. She runs at the camera and exclaims "Thank you!"|
Players use a light gun (or mouse, in the PC version) to aim and shoot at approaching enemies. Both characters' pistols hold 6 rounds in a magazine; to reload, the players must shoot outside the screen. Levels, or chapters, consist of fighting creatures, rescuing DBR researchers, and shooting destructible objects for bonus items. Each chapter ends with a boss battle.
The players' lives are represented by flaming torches; one torch is removed with every enemy attack and hostage shot. Losing all lives kills the player and triggers a "Continue?" screen, followed by a game over if one elects not to continue. Rescuing researchers and collecting first-aid kits hidden in the environment yields extra lives. Other items include coins and hopping golden frogs, which award points. Rescuing every researcher encountered unlocks a secret room filled with bonus items in the final chapter.
Chapters 1 through 3 are nonlinear, with branching paths taken based on the player's decisions. For example, in the first chapter, a researcher is about to be thrown from the Curien Mansion's bridge to his death; rescuing him takes players through the Curien Mansion's front door, while failure redirects them to the sewers. Other paths are taken by shooting objects in the environment or being attacked by certain creatures. The paths vary in locations, difficulty, and enemies encountered, but do not otherwise change the story.
- See also: The House of Dead (prototype)
- See also: The House of the Dead (prototype)
- See also: List of unused content in The House of the Dead
After arcade development division Sega AM2 released Virtua Cop in 1994, Sega AM1 sought making their own light gun game. The project began development in December 1995 and took a year and three months to complete.
To distinguish their game from Virtua Cop, AM1 chose a horror theme. They initially considered using the paranormal, but ultimately chose zombies because they were "real" and appealed to the game's target audience: adult horror fans aged 20 to 30. According to director and planner Takashi Oda, AM1 knew "[they] didn’t want children playing this game".
AM1 wanted the game's tone and atmosphere to emulate horror films. Influences included the science fiction television series The X-Files, the 1995 crime thriller film Seven, and the 1997 science fiction horror film DNA. They also watched other unspecified zombie films. In addition, Oda wanted morally grey characters like those from Osamu Tezuka's manga Black Jack.
When brainstorming game titles, AM1 used horror-themed Japanese phrases that looked "[cool]" when translated to English; The House of the Dead is a simple translation of the Japanese phrase shi no ie ("house of dead"). Other titles that were considered include The Horror Show, Zombie, and The Deadly Dead. Because none of its staff could speak English, AM1 was not concerned about what native English speakers thought about the titles.
According to AM1 staff, the idea of The House of the Dead was conceived before Capcom's survival horror game Resident Evil, which was revealed four or five months into The House of the Dead's development. While impressed by Resident Evil, AM1 chose not to "care" about it in order to focus on making The House of the Dead more original.
Characters and setting
Although Sega AM1 was influenced by zombie media, Takashi Oda finds the word zombie "trite"; he prefers calling the enemies creatures instead. This is because they are "copied and created", rather than undead.
Design was prioritized on the creatures and bosses, while the human characters were made more generic to maintain realism. The creature designs evolved heavily throughout production, with AM1 even removing one creature because it resembled a human elderly woman.
The idea for Magician was conceived after two days of brainstorming. The team wanted a final boss that was "really strong and really cool". They designed him to be more "handsome" in order to contrast with the other enemies of the game.
According to designer Hiroyuki Taguchi, once AM1 began detailing the Curien Mansion, "[they] didn't want to stop—[they] wanted to craft every detail, right down to the trim on the doorways".
A major challenge for Sega AM1 was tailoring game difficulty around enemies that approach the player without firearms, gradually becoming larger targets. Test players were confused by the creatures being resilient and requiring multiple shots to kill. The solution was letting creatures move fast and erratically, but also die faster if certain body parts are shot.
The branching paths were designed to add replay value and encourage players to discover their preferred routes. Sega AM1 drew rough sketches to plan the level layouts. The paths were originally complex, selectable at the start of the game, and influential on the plot. Hardware limitations forced Sega AM1 to simplify the routes.
In an early cabinet design, players stood between two monitors and shot enemies as they approached from multiple directions. Sega AM4 designed the final version of the cabinet, with AM1 providing artwork. On location test cabinets, the light guns used air compressors to simulate blowback. This feature was removed from production cabinets due to constant breakdowns.
Sega Saturn port
Sega approached Tantalus Media, a small Melbourne-based developer, to port The House of the Dead to the Sega Saturn after their successful port of Sega's 1995 racing game Manx TT. Overall, The House of the Dead's port had a short development time and required more staff due to the game's large scale.
Tantalus received character rigs in a Softimage format and a back-up drive containing the game's art assets, including some for unused enemies. The team had few complete rigs, forcing them to work with assets on a piece-by-piece basis while using the arcade version for reference. Unable to tint the grayscale textures with code, like the arcade version, Tantalus instead colored and tinted each texture by hand. The Saturn's limited 3D capabilities required several graphical downgrades: textures were cut down to 4-bit palettes, while effects like explosions and blood splatters became sprites.
In retrospect, ex-Tantalus graphic artist Warren Hawkes has debunked speculation that the port was unfinished: "Corners had to be cut perhaps with quality in the sense we had little time for polish, but that's different from calling it unfinished."
Initially released to arcades, The House of the Dead was ported to the PC and Sega Saturn with downgraded graphics.
The arcade version of The House of the Dead was generally well received. However, the PC and Saturn releases were both met with mixed reviews. The game received a percentage score of 70.54% by GameRankings. The arcade version received 4.5 out of 5 stars, while both the Saturn and Windows port were rated 4 stars by Allgame.
The Sega Saturn port was released in the final days of the console's lifespan. Despite its high market value, it is generally considered a poor port due to its lower frame rate and graphical resolution compared to the arcade version.
Anticipating that foreign markets would require the violence to be censored, Sega AM1 allowed arcade operators to change The House of the Dead's blood color. The game was nonetheless controversial.
Following the brutal 1997 murders of two children in Kobe, Japan, Sega ordered The House of the Dead and other arcade games in the country to change their blood color from red to green. This is also why the Sega Saturn port features green blood by default.
In 2000, the city of Indianapolis, Indiana attempted to ban violent video games, enacting an ordinance which penalized arcades for letting minors play violent games without parental supervision. Indianapolis argued that The House of the Dead was obscene, thus making it unprotected by the First Amendment. U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner found the ban to be unconstitutional, describing The House of the Dead's violence as so "stylized" and "cartoon-like" that it would not be deemed as "obscene" as a photograph of a person being decapitated.
- Main article: The House of the Dead: Remake
Remakes of The House of the Dead and The House of the Dead 2 were reported to exist in late September 2019, following a contract signing between Polish developer Forever Entertainment and SEGA Holding Co., Ltd. The following month, Forever Entertainment confirmed the news. The first remake, titled The House of the Dead: Remake, was officially revealed on April 14th, 2021 as a Nintendo Switch title. It is slated to be released later this year.
- Although the game takes place in an unknown country in Europe, it is implied that the setting is in either England or Scotland in the United Kingdom, due to the agents' car being a right-hand drive type (driver on the right), which is a characteristic of British cars. Dr. Curien's notable British accent also serves as an indicator.
- Despite that the game's intro shows the date December 18th, 1998, the game actually takes place on December 20th. The game's Sega Saturn manual revealed that December 18th was when Curien unleashed his undead experiments and Rogan received Sophie's message.
- In single player, only Rogan (player 1) or G (player 2) will appear, and some dialogue is altered or removed. Because the lore has both agents being involved, multiplayer is assumed to have the canon version of the story.
- Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, pages 58-63.
- Kori (September 7, 2012). "Website of the Dead’s Exclusive Interview with Takashi Oda" (English). The Website of the Dead. Archived from the original on April 19, 2020.
- Weedon, Paul (July 17, 2017). George A. Romeo (interview). Paul Weedon. Archived from the original on December 30, 2019. “I think the zombie became popular because of Resident Evil and because of House of the Dead and because of video games more than anything else.”
- "代表作：『ザ・ハウス・オブ・ザ・デッド』シリーズ ディレクター" (Japanese) pp. 1-2. SEGA Interactive Inc.. Archived from the original on October 10th, 2019.
- "The House of the Dead – 1997 Developer Interview" (English). Shmuplations. Archived from the original on January 22, 2016. Retrieved on May 28, 2020.
- The House of the Dead 3 (Behind the Scenes)
- "Urgent planning SPECIAL! The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, August 1997, page 194.
- "The House of the Dead", Retro Gamer Magazine, issue 160, 2006, page 63.
- Matthew House (1996). "The House of the Dead Review". allgame.com. Archived from the original on November 13th, 2014.
- Ohbuchi, "Yutaka Kori (April 26, 2000). "House of the Dead Progresses" (English). GameSppt.
- American Amusement Machine Ass'n v. Kendrick, 244 F.3d 572 (7th Cir. 2001)
- Michał Król (September 25th, 2019). "Polacy stworzą remake dwóch części The House of the Dead" (Polish). Gramposolita.pl. “The House of the Dead: Remake i The House of the Dead 2: Remake będą mieć nową, dostosowaną do współczesnych standardów grafikę oraz lekko zmodyfikowaną rozgrywkę, ale w pełni zachowają oryginalny scenariusz. Spółka zapowiedziała, że materiały z pierwszej z gier zostaną zaprezentowane w najbliższych miesiącach.”
- Forever Entertainment [@ForeverEntert] (October 3, 2020). Forever Entertainment on Twitter: "Hi Guys! We confirm the signing of the agreement regarding remakes of the games "The House of the Dead" and "The House of the Dead 2". No platforms or release dates have been confirmed, and unfortunately we can’t say anything more for now. Please keep fingers crossed for us and.." / Twitter. Twitter. Archived from the original on February 10, 2020.
- Wales, Matt (October 3, 2019). "Rumoured House of the Dead 1 & 2 remakes officially confirmed". Eurogamer.net. Retrieved on July 21, 2020.
- Wen, Alan (April 14, 2021). "‘The House of the Dead: Remake’ announced for Nintendo Switch" (English). MNE.
- "THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Game Details" (English). Nintendo.