Splatterhouse: The Terror Mask
Now, we all know WHAT the Terror Mask (the Mask) is, and what it does for our hero (?), Rick. However, do we REALLY know what its purpose is? Do we REALLY know why it is here? The purpose of this paper is to study, in depth, the Neo-Legendary Mask, and perhaps to learn something new about an ancient artifact.
Now, then, let us begin a case-by-case study, beginning with an overview of the entire series, and moving on to the games in order, from the first to the third, which is currently the final installation. I warn you, this may contain some spoilers, so read at your own risk.
Splatterhouse is a video game series by Namco. In it, you play as Rick, a college parapsychology major. Upon taking a "field trip" to the mansion of the (in)famous Dr. West with your girlfriend Jennifer, you are attacked in the dark and rendered unconscious. You awaken with the Mask on your face, and must fight your way through the Splatterhouse to save Jennifer. There have been five games thus far. First, the original Arcade Game. This version was also ported to NEC's TurboGrafx-16. The sequel, Splatterhouse 2 was released on Sega's Genesis system. The final installment, Splatterhouse 3, was released on the Sega Genesis, as well. There was a version, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti, for Nintendo's Famicom system, and it was never released in America. Wanpaku Graffiti does not fit into the overall Splatterhouse storyline very well, and it seems to be more of a gag-game than anything else. Also released was an LCD portable game, which we will not discuss here, as those games rarely have any discernible plot.
Splatterhouse 1: The Arcade Game
In the original Splatterhouse, Rick is said to have died and been revived by the mysterious Mask. It closely resembles a hockey mask, and is never explained in-depth. However, in other series, an ancient Aztec ritual mask of a very similar appearance makes an appearance, leading one to believe that the Mask is an ancient Aztec ritual mask.
Now, the mask obviously has the power to influence one's mind, as a parapsychology student would not be prone to assaulting the living dead with a 2x4. Also, keep in mind that Rick is a parapsychology major, not a professional bodybuilder. It is possible that he was a physically fit individual; however it is more likely that the Mask is also capable of altering the wearer's physical characteristics.
After the player guides Rick through the mansion and reaches the final boss, you see the Mask emit a light of some form. This indicates that the mask has some magical power, and possibly a mind of its own, as Rick would most likely not know how to control the magical powers of this ancient artifact. Upon defeating the final boss, the mask appears to be destroyed, and a final scene shows the mansion ablaze. We do not know if Rick saved Jennifer, or if he even escaped himself.
Splatterhouse 1: The TG-16 Game
In the Turbo-Grafx version of Splatterhouse, the instruction booklet lays out a very similar plotline, except for one detail: Rick is not killed at the beginning, only knocked unconscious. Also, the mask is colored red and does not resemble a hockey mask. I think that this is merely an attempt to escape the thought that it was a hockey mask and the association with Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies. However, in the Japanese release, the mask remained the same. I am not sure why, perhaps the Japanese liked it more loyal to the arcade, perhaps they aren't as familiar with Jason Voorhees, or maybe they knew more about ancient Aztec artifacts. Whatever the reason, the mask was only changed for the American TG-16 release.
Splatterhouse 2: The Sequel
In the introductory sequence of Splatterhouse 2, it is explained that Rick did escape from the West Mansion, but that Jennifer did not. Not much else is explained, however, and we are left to assume quite a bit about the past six months. There are two very important details, however. One, the Mask speaks to Rick. Two, it has changed form, from a hockey-like mask to a skull mask. At the end of the first game, the mask appeared to be destroyed. This seems to lead to the conclusion that there is a life force or a power to this artifact, and that it may be able to possess a different mask. Or, once again, it could be an attempt to distance Splatterhouse from Friday the 13th. Whatever the reason, it is established that the mask does have a mind of its own.
Another point worth mentioning is that Dr. West is not involved in this game. In fact, the instruction booklet refers to a Dr. Mueller, and his studies of a similar nature to Dr. West. It would seem that neither doctor was anywhere to be found within his own mansion. I believe that they may have been researching similar artifacts and powers, and stumbled upon a Gate to Hell, if you'll forgive the cliché. It would explain how Rick could fight through a second mansion when we see the West mansion in flames, and how Jennifer could be in two mansions. It leads me to believe that, perhaps, the Mask is involved in some form of a battle, a war against these hellish forces. It would explain why it helps Rick the first time around, although its appearance is still a mystery.
Splatterhouse 3: The Finale
As of now, Splatterhouse 3 is the final game in the series. It would seem that after rescuing Jennifer from the clutches of Hell, they settle down and begin a family. However, their bliss is rather short-lived. Their mansion is invaded by monsters, and Rick is forced to don the cursed Mask once again, in order to save his wife and son, David. The Mask comes to him, once more, rather than him having to hunt down the Mask, which again points to the thought of the Mask as a sentient being.
Again, no Dr. West. However, the Mask constantly refers to "The Evil One" and his plan to use David's psychic powers for a Satanic ritual. We are only left to assume as to the identity of this "Evil One." However, this does bring up the point: the Mask seems to be against this "Evil One." Perhaps the Mask is not an evil force, or perhaps the Mask is merely out to stop anybody from gaining more power than it. Whatever the reason, the Mask makes a final comeback to fight the hell-spawn that simply won't leave Rick alone.
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti
This Splatterhouse game was made for the Japanese version of the NES, the Famicom. It seems to begin where the first game leaves off, with Jennifer mourning at Rick's grave. Lightning strikes, and Rick rises from his grave, still wearing the Mask. Along with Rick, however, rises a giant, flying Jack-o-Lantern (the Pumpkin King), which kidnaps Jennifer and flies away. Rick then sets off through a series of comical zombies, vampires, giant rats, and other odd beasts and whatnot.
In the ending of this game, it is revealed to be nothing more than a movie. A director yells, "Cut!" and Rick removes the mask. They all leave the stage, but then the mask begins to fly around the screen of its own accord. As I said before, this game seems to not fit into the overall story line, however it is once more hinting towards the fact that the Mask is more than just a mask.
And in conclusion...
I have, from the facts presented, come to the conclsion that the Mask is a fully self-aware force. It may battle for the forces of good, or it may fight for evil, but most likely, it fights for its own demented purpose. What that may be, we can only guess. I suppose we shall have to wait for Namco to yet again decide to quench our bloodlust...