Insert Disk collects Henry Explorers for the Sega Saturn.
Today’s retro game review is Henry Explorers for the Sega Saturn. This retro gaming classic is a rather horrible looking horror themed light gun game. However, delve a little deeper and you might just find that the game play is enough to keep you coming back for more. Known as Crypt Killer outside of Japan, this horror shooter is one worth playing if you’re having a spooky night in or a Halloween party with friends.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Now, who doesn’t enjoy the thrill of a light gun game. Especially if it’s a horror based light gun game?
Well, that’s what we have today in what I can only describe as a bit of a mess of a game in Konami’s 1995 arcade release of Crypt Killer. However, I’ll be using the even scarier Japanese Sega Saturn title, Henry Explorers! Yes, for some reason the 1997 Sega Saturn release was regionalised as Henry Explorers. A decision that still baffles me to this day. So, Henry Explorers. My oh my. Where to begin with this one? I’ll say straight out of the gate that this is one hot mess of a game. The sound design is questionable. The game play throws in some very cheap hits and the graphics… Yikes. You’ll question if this is running on a Sega Saturn or a Sega Master System at times.
But I’m not here to hate on video games by any means. That’s just not what the channel is all about. Instead, I’d invite you to join me as I look at some of the more charming aspects of the game. Henry Explorers is best described as an on rails shooter, much like the perhaps better known genre king that is Sega’s House of the Dead. The first piece of good news here is that you can use a standard pad, the 3D pad, shuttle mouse and of course the light gun, making this quite a versatile game to set up. Of course if you have a CRT the light gun is the obvious way to go. To not give you all seizures from the screen refreshes I’m recording this footage using a standard pad so please excuse the less than perfect game play.
Secondly, the game has a really decent horror theme. Expect, bats, mummies, creatures of the deep and all sorts of miscellaneous nonsense to shoot. So, really we’re off to a winner here if you’re in to horror shooters. Your game does also gave a purpose. See yourself as a sort of very polygonal Indiana Jones in search of the game’s treasure, the Eyes of Guidance. Your crypt guide Galazon will be ever present to impart his knowledge and generally give the game some context. He will tend to pop up at the start of the levels and also at the mid point. Out of the gate you’ll be able to select from any of the six crypts. These each have a different main theme but they do also cross over due to a branching path system.
Expect stages with an aquatic feel, classic tomb raiding, caves and creepy towers. In terms of range, what’s on offer here is rather good. Once you’ve chosen your path it’s time to blast those monsters. It’s all very much shoot ’em up goodness that you would expect from the genre. Along the way you are able to pick up bonus weapons including an automatic gun, gatling gun, shot gun and even a grenade launcher. Good stuff.
Each crypt will have a half way point. Here you must choose wisely as the decision will have more consequences than you might initially think. You see Henry Explorers pulls a bit of a multiple ending trick. Remember those Eyes Of Guidance stones we were after? Well, you’ll have to collect them in the right order to get see the better endings. If you choose correctly you’ll receive the Legendary Sword ending. You’ll need to find the red stone followed by the blue to see this ending. This is seems as the games best outcome. Although, there is also a good standard ending in which you find the treasure. Or how about a bad ending in the way of a fake treasure chest and the level bosses teaming up on you? There’s some decent replay value here and worth finding all of the endings.
But how about those bosses. Well, all good shooting games need them. You’ll be treated to a Hindu God, a Pharoh’s head, a rock monster thing, a Medusa.
A Hydra and a Sphinx.
It’s time to get trigger happy at this point as you’ll need to sink a serious amount of shots in to some of these enemies to take them down. I found that saving up a stash of bombs helped get their initial health bars down before finishing them off. On the surface Henry Explorer’s is actually a very fun experience. But there are a heard of elephants in the room. Yes, you’ve all noticed it by now. The game looks absolutely shocking in graphical quality. If you like pixilation. Well, have all the pixel in the world! There’s just no getting away from it. It looks bad on the Sega Saturn and equally bad on the PlayStation but in other respects. Where sprites have been rotoscoped in they can display some horrendous pixilation as they scale and advance. Some of the sprites also seem to have not been clipped properly leading to jagged edges or in some cases dark outlines. In other cases the colour pallet also sticks out like a sore thumb due to the way the game is lit. There’s no two ways about this, Henry Explorers is an ugly looking game.
The second issue is perhaps the sound. Get used to hearing you player scream and shoot their mouth off reasonably frequently. There’s also an element of cheap hits due do some of the stage designs. On the whole things work quite well. When they don’t, well they just don’t. It’s perhaps worth us also taking a look at the physical piece at this moment. I have here the Japanese Sega Saturn edition of the game. It’s well, yeah. It is what it is. Looking at this on the shelf would you know that it’s a horror shooter? It seems to have a mix of styles here. Some super friendly wavey text next to some rather haphazardly placed stock art from the game. Also, I actually questioned whether this was a genuine copy due to the print copy. This wont be easy to demonstrate on camera but there were clearly design issues here.
The Konami logo, text and skeletons are all fine and dandy but the print on the pharaoh is actually blurred. No really. It has that awkward aliasing effect when you scale an image. It’s just gives it that slightly out of focus look. Either way, the manual is all rather standard and the case itself is really just a standard jewel case. I cant help thinking though that outside of Japan we got a better deal in terms of artwork.
The US packaging. Not bad, it’s a similar idea but just seems to stand the test of time a little better. The move to a darker background and removal of the pharaoh really helped here. It might just be me but I’ve never really cared for the white borders on the US Sega Saturn cases though. Somehow they seem to cheapen the feel of the product. This is just an opinion though. Contrast this of the European version. Really it’s the same idea. I just feel that the darker background helps ground the image a little better. We’re now full frame much as a movie poster might be. As an alternate, I have seen this design kicking around here in the UK. A simpler skull motif. It works well in my opinion. There’s no doubt that this game is intended to be horror themed. Either way, compared to the Japanese release they all compare rather favourably. It would be interesting to hear which design other collectors prefer.
So, it’s at this point that you’re wondering. Why am I bothering to show you this rather broken down mess of a game. It looks pretty bad, the sound isn’t great and generally it’s quite a short game. It also gets some shocking reviews from reviewers. But, I think that people have missed a trick with this one. Quite a lot of the reviews I’ve seen focus in so much on the graphics that gamers have for gotten the most important element of any game. How much can I sell this for on eBay? No, no, the most important thing to ask yourself. Is it fun to play? And, surprisingly the answer is… yes. Others may disagree with me and that’s ok but I genuinely had fun with this one.
Go in to this one expecting a fun B-Horror movie style experience and just go along for the ride. Skeletons pop out at you. There’s decent boss fights and some really well executed set pieces. Yes, it looks like somebody has thrown House Of The Dead in to a blender and then magnified it but if you can get past the very obvious flaws there is still a lot of fun to be had here. It definitely falls in to that, “It’s so bad it’s good” category for me. Don’t get me wrong. I’d clearly choose House Of The Dead over Henry Explorers any day but that’s not to say that you can’t enjoy both. This one tends to be reasonably priced these days so I would say, give it a go if you like what you see here. For a party game at Halloween I can see this one going down rather well.
Until next time, happy gaming.