Armagideon Time

As I mentioned in my last post before settling back into hiatus, one of my joys of the pandemic era experience was discovering the Model 2 emulator, coded to run games made for Sega’s (surprise, surprise) Model 2 hardware.

While I game had originally wanted to play — Virtual On — was tangled up in an still-unresolved control mapping bug, the thrill of exploring the rest of the platform’s library quickly eclipsed any disappointment I might have had on that front. Even better, the emulator itself went above and beyond in trying to adapt the assortment of funky control schemes used by the various arcade cabinets into something that felt fluid and intuitive via mouse, keyboard, and USB joypad.

Lightgun games in particular did well by this, with default mouse mapping and a visible cross hair to assist with aiming. After a little fiddling in the test menu’s calibration mode, and I was good to go — and I go I did to…


The game is basically Virtua Cop, but with zombies and some so-bad-it’s-amazing voice acting. The switch to textured polygon models allowed for ragdoll effects and target damage deformation. There are branching paths based on shooting/missing less-than-obvious targets over the course of the game, tricky boss battles, cheap jump scares, and plenty of squicky gore. It, alongside Resident Evil, was a major factor in the resurgence of popcult zombie-mania which persists through the present day.

I had/have the North American version of the Sega Saturn port of the game, released in limited quantities during the console’s final days and now worth a frankly embarrassing amount of cash. I wasn’t much of an arcade rat during the Model 2’s heyday, so the blurry textures, polygon clipping, and inconsistent frame rates of the Saturn’s Model 2 ports shaded my memories of the games in general. Consequently, I was thrown for a loop when I witnessed just how slickly polished and smooth the associated titles were on simulated original arcade hardware.

The real reason House of the Dead and other Model 2 suite titles became staples of COVID era existence, though, is that there were designed to be short dose experiences, played out a couple of quarters and a few minutes at a time. It made them ideal for breaking up the monotony of lockdown routines, especially as a moment when I’d just quit Destiny 2‘s live-service hamster wheel cold turkey.

Got five minutes before switching the loads in the washer and dryer? Roll the mouse around a little and blast some zombies.

Need to clear my thoughts after finishing an intensive work project? Roll the mouse around a little and blast some zombies.

Just knocked off four chapters in a book I’ve been reading, and am feeling a little restless? Roll the mouse around a little and blast some zombies.

The same could also be applied to Last Bronx, Sega Rally Championship, Top Skater, and Sega Water Ski, but House of the Dead had a slight advantage in that it didn’t require the same level of concentration to enjoy — even by arcade game standards — and it could be played without having to hook up a joypad. That’s almost certainly why it still gets frequent play from me while other Model 2 faves have become more infrequent events on my schedule.

It’s also probably why I started referring to my cat Mister Gray the Winter King as “G.”

Recommended listening: When you’re in Curien Mansion and see the screen turn red, when you run out all out of tokens…

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