I have personally never liked scrolling fighting games such as Golden Axe or Bare Knuckle. The short life-span of such titles and the repetitive gameplay meant that I'd sooner spend my money on the next Street Fighter game. A few years ago, Core made a game called Fighting Force for the Playstation promising solid 3D graphics to revive the scrolling beat 'em up genre.
It failed miserably and the scrolling fighting game seemed like it would die despite Sega's commendable effort, Spikeout. However Zombie Revenge helped revive interest in what seemed like a dying genre. Intended as a side-story for House of the Dead, it arrived in the arcades resulting in a big hit for Sega.
Zombie Revenge is best described as Bio Hazard crossed with House of the Dead. The plot is very similar to that of Bio Hazard's with similar enemies but with a larger amount of zombies and no scary parts. A crazed guy called Zed (who has a very sad past) has used a virus that turns an entire town into mindless zombies. The dialogue is what we've come to expect from Sega: pretty awful and very cheesy. You can chose from three different characters and they all play slightly differently to each other.
As Zombie Revenge was originally released on Sega's Naomi board, the conversion to Dreamcast is perfect. The zombies are very well animated (and parts of their body are separated depending on where they are hit), the environments look incredible and the lighting is used to great effect. I don't see how anyone could complain about the visuals. The bosses are especially well designed.
The in-game music however is dreadful. It tries to create a good atmosphere but it just gets on my nerves as it works too hard to be like something out of a bad B-movie. The music in the Bio Hazard series of games was excellent and helped to scare the hell out of me on more than one occasion (remember in the first Bio Hazard game the music you get in the room with all the paintings that had levers underneath them from birth to death? Once the lever is pulled at the end of the room and the ravens attack you get the scariest music I have ever heard). Sound effects are good though (the sound of the power drill digging into a zombie is especially satisfying) and make up for the bad music.
There is a huge array of weaponry available to the player to eliminate zombies with, including an excellent power drill, flame-thrower, dual hand guns and a laser gun. All of the above are very satisfying to use on hapless groups of zombies. You start the game off with just a hand gun and a few clips. Should you run out of ammo or are feeling insane, you can duke it out with the zombies with your bare fists (combos are possible as well). Be warned though, if you are hit by a zombie you'll become infected. The only way to remedy this is by collecting antidotes left by dead enemies. When using the hand gun it is not advisable to hammer away at the joypad once your character has locked onto a zombie however- the longer you wait, the more powerful the shot (the crosshair goes from green to red to indicate this).
Although Sega have tried to include some extra modes for this home conversion, they are ultimately substandard and do little to increase the game's life span. It is possible for the player to fight a friend or the CPU, 1 on 1 in true fighting game style. However matches are far too short, with whichever player managing to get a weapon first or get the first combo in usually ends up winning very quickly. Skill need not apply here: it's just luck. Like with House of the Dead 2 there is a VS Boss mode, which enables the player to fight any boss but this time trying to kill him as quickly as possible. There are also two modes that vary your weaponry considerably. Gun Mode involves going through the game with a huge arsenal for destroying the zombie threat, whilst Bare Knuckle mode makes hand to hand combat more effective with ammo levels suitably low (ideal for those that liked Dynamite Deka 2 due to the emphasis on hand to hand combat).
Some VMS games have also been included, but are not in the same league as Power Stone's and are very odd. Zombie Fishing? A Tamagotchi style zombie raising game? What mind altering brew have the programmers been drinking?! They're good fun though and ironically last longer than the main game itself.
The game should take some time to finish and comprises of seven levels (one of which is set in the house of the dead itself). They are all surprisingly long. Completing the game is no mean feat (so long as Free Play is not on) and provides a decent challenge. All the levels look very impressive and feature some of the best graphics seen on the Dreamcast. Slime oozes, lighting splits trees in half and textures are well detailed.
However, the game is unfortunately very repetitive. If you still love scrolling beat 'em ups despite the effrontery that was Dynamite Deka 2, then Zombie Revenge is a worthwhile purchase. If you want a good zombie game that may actually scare you, then wait for Bio Hazard: Code Veronica. Zombie Revenge is by no means a bad game, it's just that the gameplay is too limited and linear. I personally feel that the scrolling beat 'em up is best forgotten until some much needed inspiration and originality is injected into the genre.
A review by Adrian Walker