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nsflyer

I came across Night Slashers as a young man at a local amusement parks arcade. I was immediately captivated by the amazing horror atmosphere and game play. Night Slashers is a 1993 Arcade release from Date East which has as far as I can tell no ports to any other system. The game is your basic beat-em-up where you scroll from left to right beating the hell out of everything in your path. What sets Night Slashers apart from other games is its excellently executed horror theme featuring various monsters such as zombies, werewolves and vampires. The game also has a pretty high gore level for the time as well as a pretty excellent sound track. There are two versions of this game, one released in Japan and then an oversees version with the various censoring that I’ll get into.

The plot of the game is pretty sparse as to be expected from a arcade game and especially a beat-em-up. The world has been overrun by the undead. Zombies, mutants and monsters of all sorts have overrun the earths armies and mankind is being slowly eradicated with only a few remaining outposts.

First lets take A look at our three intrepid hero’s which are all selectable playable characters. The “Night Slashers”, yea, sounds more like a trio of serial killers then monster slaying hero’s.

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Christopher is a Billy Ray Cyrus look alike vampire hunter, hes the most balanced character.

Jake is a reject from a failed 80’s hair band that happened to have giant cyborg arms. hes the slow powerful one of the three.

Hong-Hua is the fast and agile female character that every beat-em-up of the era required.

The version I’ll be reviewing here is the Japanese version since I feel it is the superior of the two as far as atmosphere goes. Mostly they are identical games besides some superficial censoring. The oversees version had the gore turned down and most of the blood was colored from red to green. It doesn’t really effect much as far as game play goes but the over the top horror atmosphere takes a hit from it. other changes include missing between level cut screens and the censoring of the character Christopher’s move. In the Japanese version when he ends his attack he flashes a cross but in the oversees version the cross is changed to a blue gem. A lot of Japanese companies were concerned with offending anyone in America back then so this kind of censorship was very common.

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Another change involves when the game prompts you to continue moving to the right to progress through the stage. In the oversees version its just a “GO” arrow but in the Japanese version the arrow flips over and reveals “TO HELL”, pretty clever.

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The game itself has a good variety of creatures pulled from the stock of usual suspects. Zombies, werewolves, vampires giant executioners, mad scientists, golems, elementals. Everything is nicely animated with werewolves starting out as normal looking young guys standing around in jackets before transforming into leaping werewolves and vampires looking appropriately vampireish. The highlight though is the horde of zombies. we have regular guy zombies, fat man zombies, armless zombies and my favorite the decomposing skeletal zombies that heavily remind me of “Tar Man” from Return of the Living Dead.

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Blood is everywhere, intestines hanging out, bones poking through its just very nicely done overall.

Theres also these guys that I guess are psycho’s with knives and hockey masks. They move around swiftly and do these sliding kick moves. I guess their undead though since if you look when they move their arms you can see ribs showing.

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Dispatching any of these creatures results in lots of gore and bloody piles of body parts. Here is just a sampling of the death animations.

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Bucking the trend of many games of this genre at the time there is an almost complete lack of any weaponry laying around to be used which is a shame because the nature of the game could of really benefited from it. From time to time you get knives, swords, fireball globes and brief cases to throw but its mostly a one time use weapon and is never very interesting overall.

So the game starts out with a brief summery about how the world has been overrun by monsters and the undead. At least in the English version. Since I’m playing the Japanese version I can just assume the text is basically saying the same things.

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Japanese for “BRAINS!”?

The game starts out with your group assaulting an undead overrun hospital that apparently has been taken over by a mad scientist as a base for his inhuman experiments. This stage is possibly my favorite and really sets the tone for the game. The stage starts with you driving a kick ass 80’s style van straight through the front gate, over a horde of zombies and into the side wall. The hospital itself is nicely done and full of nice disturbing backgrounds like a caged area with humans crowded in and trapped presumably awaiting to be experimented on by the mad scientist. You have elevators that bring more zombies down and body bags that roll off the morgue shelves releasing even more undead.

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I should also add that the stages to this game are in general pretty short but most do involve a sub boss fight sometimes right before the main boss battle. After a brief tour through the hospital you come across the very mad scientist. He always looked like Egon to me from Ghostbusters. I guess he took the breach of the containment unit pretty hard this time.

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He first shows up riding in on a gurney slashing a zombie to bits with a knife/scalpel before a brief exchange of words and then a battle. Most boss and sub boss battles end with a particularly gory finish for the defeated monster and I’ve attempted to get screen shots of boss and said death together. You should be able to click on any of the images for an enlarged image. Directly following the death of the doctor you are greeted by the stage boss, a somewhat appropriate Frankenstein’s monster. The monster is well done and busts from his gurney in order to kill you. His death animation is particularly well done with a melting off the flesh to a skeleton that collapses to a pile.

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The second stage is a creepy fog filled forest. This stage keeps up the atmosphere of dread as your assaulted by continuous hordes of foes.

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After battling your way through the forest you come across a stage coach and a vampire who you suspect may be behind the recent apocalypse. Before taking off in his ghostly carriage though he tells his weird ass hunch back and Satan possessed Pinocchio puppet to murder you. The way the hunch back skips across the screen as well as the puppet is just genuinely creepy. You know when you see a doll and your thinking “that’s one creepy ass doll”. That’s this doll.

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This fight is followed by a chase where your running to catch up to the carriage while werewolves are attempting to stop you. Apparently its common for monster hunters to be able to run at the same speed as a horse. Very handy indeed. Finally after NOT catching up to the carriage you come to a graveyard. The graveyard is pretty small and just has a handful of oversize generic R.I.P gravestones that fade away and turn into zombies if you touch them. It just feels like a wasted opportunity here as a great place for more atmosphere. The boss of this level is a golem. Hes actually pretty plain and boring.

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I do have to say though that with his one eye kind of bulging out like it does he always reminded me of a rock golem version of Popeye.

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Two things I need to point out at this point. One is the two mini games that you get as the game goes on in between stages. The first involves stepping on zombie heads as they emerge from the ground and the second is a zombie toss / zombie bowling where you try and toss a zombie into other zombies lined up like pins at a bowling alley. The highlight of these games is the zombie crowd watching in the background. Theres even a lady who has torn her head off. Their all in various states of decay. Along with the zombies there’s also bizarre adds plastered up like one for “Doctor Rippers hospital” who is the mad scientist of the hospital you just razed.

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Next are the well done cut screen between stages that attempt to move the plot forward.

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I love his vaguely disinterested pose and smug look here. I attempt to duplicate this look every time I drink a glass of red wine.

Anyways stage three is the head vampires castle and is filled with elevators, guillotine traps, hooded giant executioners and of course more zombies.

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The mini boss is a ghostly knight and that smirking sword in a room with a few destructible Greek busts followed immediately by a battle with the head vampire. When you kill him he turns to stone and then to a pile of goo before the sun rises.

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So with the vampire lord dead the world is saved and all is well……or not. You learn that the main menace is far more powerful so its off to South America. This stage is extremely short and takes place amid some Aztec themed ruins. There is no mini boss just a short stroll to the stage boss which is actually a pair of predators dressed as Mexican wrestlers? I dunno, its probably supposed to be demon Aztec shamans or something.

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Stage 5 takes place aboard a large transport aircraft. You have discovered the source of the worlds evil and attempt to reach it but on the way your plane is assaulted by undead, or perhaps you stowed away on a plane of undead going to the island since your plane is stocked to the brim with monsters?

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The fighting eventually leads to the roof of the plane where regardless of massive wind sheer and low oxygen you battle it out with a palette swapped undead knight just like the one you faced at the vampires castle as well as another aircraft that drops off mutants before you board it.

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On board the second aircraft you meet the stage boss. A mummy. It was inevitable, you cant have werewolves, vampires and Frankenstein’s monster and not have a mummy. Though two things always came to mind with this boss. One is that he moves and fights like some professional MMA champion fighter with his fists up and his sidestep moments. Second is he always felt so misplaced to me here on a plane. It just feels like despite the cliche of it he would of been better faced in a tomb or a destroyed museum level or  something and that’s were I find one minor fault with this game. It seems after the first few stages it just kinda drops the ball on the overall horror atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong its still really good but I always wanted more and felt they could of pulled off so much more in that specific department.

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The next and final stage takes place on a secret military base on a remote island. This is where whatever is causing this is based. Military experiment gone wrong is also cliche but in this case I like it.

When you crash land on the island base your faced with a sort of initial mini boss in the form of a Vietnam era ghost helicopter. Its somewhat transparent and you can see the dead and rotting corpses of the pilot through the cockpit and another dead soldier in the cabin. It fires at you with a nose cannon while creatures continuously attack from the sides. How to kill a ghost helicopter? punch it of course, that technique seems to work for a lot of things…..ghost helicopters, evil arch mages. When I was a kid playing this game this boss always stood out to me. I loved it and I don’t know why its not the most amazing boss in the game but it defiantly helped me remember this game as a kid.

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After this fight we enter the base proper and are faced with a sort of boss rush, or a part of a game where you have to face previous bosses one after another. Now if we follow the code of classic horror video games we can easily reach a logical conclusion of whose next. We’ve faces zombies, mad scientists, werewolves, vampires, golems, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy…whose left? Medusa…well that’s a good guess but no. DEATH of course.

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Death tells Christopher to “talk to the hand”

Also following the nature of horror video games (I’m looking at you Castlvania) we realize that Death himself is NOT behind the undead hordes and he is just playing second fiddle to a even more powerful entity…..the cyber devil! I don’t think that’s the main villains name, its actually King Zarutz. So after Death in the form of the Grim Reaper (what other form would he take) reveals his place in the scheme of things you release him from his shame by…punching and kicking him to….DEATH. He likes to hold his scythe out and spin around like a bozo. Its a little silly but hard to avoid.

Shortly after this fight we finally meet the dreaded cyber devil, err King Zarutz. Well technically he is a cyber devil I really don’t know since its not clearly explained. I always just assumed he was a military experiment of some sort..sort of like DOOM where hell was accidentally accessed…I don’t know

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He’s not really all that impressive or gory. To be honest he was kind of a anti climatic moment. He does employ this shield that surrounds him and hurts you a lot which is really really annoying but then I’m sure he was designed to eat quarters.

Once you defeat him the base begins to self destruct and as you run to escape the flaming ruins the remains of king Z float at you. At least there’s no timer here forcing you to escape or defeat him in a specified time, I usually hate those.

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That’s pretty much It. You escape the base, It explodes and you go home. All the undead go back to being dead and everyone is happy.

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Each character has their own ending showing what they end up doing after saving the world but none of it is anything spectacular.

So overall what do I think of this game? Does it hold up from my childhood memories? well, yes. The game is just good. Even with my trivial gripes the atmosphere is pretty unique and done well. The characters all play well and have a variety of moves. I personally would of liked to see more. I wanted more levels like the first one depicting a ruined civilization overrun by monsters. I wanted usable weapons and monster placement that made more sense and just a longer overall experience would be nice as this game can be finished quite quickly. Despite that its still a great early 90’s beat-em-up and if your a fan of that kind of genre you need to check this game out.

Now normally things would end here but it seems someone was standing over my shoulder as a youngster reading my thoughts as I played this game because some years ago someone created a homebrew mod of this game that other then being unpolished and unfinished made Night Slashers everything it could of and should of been. That game is Night Slashers X

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Night Slashers X is a homebrew remake of the original Night Slashers by BonusJZ for openBOR. openBOR is an open source game engine. Its free to download and its kind of like a program that people can write games for and then play them with the program. There’s versions of it for many consoles and computer types. I actually had somewhat of a hard time finding a version and then the files for NSX itself that worked and even then I think my version may be a Beta since it crashes/ends on stage 3’s ending. I don’t know if this game was ever finished but I can say that what has been done turns Night Slashers into everything I ever wanted the game to be. There are now usable weapons, more enemy’s, a combo system, level rearrangement to make more sense, branching levels and all the stages have been touched up giving an even greater horror feel. Also bodies of enemies you kill do not flicker and fade away so at times you end up with piles of dead around you. The game does “barrow” spites from other games but for the most part its done well and only clashes with the art style of the main game rarely.

The first change you will likely notice is a bit of fan service as the conservatively dressed Hong-Hua has been replaced by the busty blond Jasmine. If your wondering her sprite is taken from the Japanese game Kurokishi from Guardians: Denjin Makai II.

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Asia’s most revered martial artist huh? I can probably think of two more reasons shes revered in Asia…….the fact shes the youngest graduating student of Tokyo University and her great contributions to preventing the spread of the Asian bird flu in China.

No, its her boobs.

NightSlashersX (XBOX & PC) - BOOBS

Another funny thing is that in all the between stage cut screens we still see Hong-Hua.

The touched up levels are really well done and add a lot from the original. More blood has been added. The numbers on the elevator in the hospital level light up as the elevator changes floors. Crows peck at the flesh of lying corpses and In certain areas you get lighting effects such as In the fight with Frankenstein’s monster.

Images from original on left and remake on right.

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There’s also a great variety of weapons added that can be found in random barrels. Grenades, chainsaws, shotguns, assault rifles and battle axes. Its really adds a layer of fun that was missing in the original. Another great aspect is branching levels such as In the hospital stage (now stage 2) where you can enter the elevator to reach the mad scientists secret laboratory complete with giant computer terminal and a new battle where he uses a potion to transform into a monster. One highlight is the return of that kick ass 80’s van and a drive through a ruined city. If this game was finished and polished and the sprites taken from other games done with original art this game would be beyond a doubt the definitive version of Night Slashers. Here’s some images of the game showcasing some new levels, monsters and weapons.

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(The above monster really clashes with the games art style and that’s one problem you encounter time to time with this homebrew. The creature is a boss from Kishin Douji Zenki FX: Vajra Fight on the PC-FX)

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One Comment

  1. Actually this game for OpenBoR is finished but some script makes that game crashes in third level. I found and removed that broken script and game works fine. It looks almost like original game with exception that instead of Hong-Hua is Kurokishi (in japanese Black Knight) from Guardians. This OpenBoR mod is very good but incredible hard, fortunately I know how to modify OpenBoR mods (I’m making custom characters for OpenBoR mods).


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