torstai 27. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Ghosts 'n Goblins (1985)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1985
Available on: Amiga, ARC, Atari ST, C64, GB, GBA, NES, PC, Wii Virtual Console, ZX
Developer(s): Capcom, Micronics
Publisher(s): Capcom
Players: 1-2

Feeling somewhat depressed? Like the whole world is against you, or like it's crumbling at your feet? Yeah, I totally know what you're going through. I have just the game for you... anything other than Ghosts 'n Goblins. This game was Capcom's commercial breakthrough and it is still considered one of their best titles even though it came long before long-standing franchises like Mega Man, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry and of course, Capcom's commercially renowned Disney games such as DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale - Rescue Rangers. It was released in the arcades in 1985, and it is considered the most difficult arcade game to beat, ever. Well, the NES version that came around a year later, not until 1989 in Europe though, is just as hard. It has had grown men resorting to near-suicide. It is difficult beyond belief... but that doesn't make it a bad game. In fact, the relationship between the simplicity and intensity of Ghosts 'n Goblins is, should I say, pretty damn awesome.

Satan's being an asshole

A knight in royal service sets out to save his beloved Princess Prin-Prin from a world of demons ruled by Satan himself. The brave knight's path is blocked by a terrifying horde of zombies, dragons and other minions of the devil.

I have a confession to make. Even though Ghosts 'n Goblins, all of its sequels and spin-offs are cult, and not just any cult, but parts of a franchise created by one of the biggest game developers in the world, I was not that familiar with any of the games before starting this sub-marathon - if at all. I've always confused Ghosts 'n Goblins with Wizards & Warriors, for some reason, and I've also come a long way to stop calling the game Ghouls 'n Ghosts, which of course, is the name of the sequel. One thing I always knew about the game was that it's regarded one of the most difficult games of all time, along with the SNES installment Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, one of my classmates had the game. I didn't get along with him very well - he was an annoying prick and his family was deeply religious - but I remember us having some civil conversations from time to time, and almost every time he mentioned his always brand new NES controller. In my later years, I've figured that he had broken about a dozen controllers because of this one game, since he didn't have that many games on his NES. It makes perfect sense... in turn, why his dad (a priest) would allow him to have a game that makes direct notions to Satan, doesn't make any sense at all. But enough of the off-topic rant: welcome to hell.

Where did you die for the first time in Ghosts 'n
Goblins? This is my answer. And it's, like, the
second screen of the game. Imagine that.
The graphics are, well, the best graphics you can expect from a game that was released on this particular platform in 1986. It's surprisingly detailed and colourful, and it looks appealing in every way. Pixelphobes beware, though. Ain't much to talk about when it comes to the music - the same tune keeps repeating over and over again (it's classic, though), and the sound effects are horrid. The sound you'll be hearing for most of the time you are willing to sacrifice to the game, is the sound of death. You know how the death tune in Castlevania has become somewhat of a staple to indicate a game's difficulty level, just because you died and had to hear that sound a million times in Castlevania? Scratch that, we have a winner here - at least Castlevania had a health bar.

You know, considering my attitude with deeply frustrating games, I'd love to say Ghosts 'n Goblins sucks, but I simply don't think that. I don't know what it is about the game, perhaps that it's very old, and extremely simple in nature, and that it has fair controls, are good excuses for it being above all the similar, "difficult", but also extremely mediocre games that came after it. It's a platformer. It might not seem that way at first, since there are not much platforms in the first stage (luckily so), you're just going forward and trying your best to kill each enemy that comes your way - they come from everywhere. Left, right, up, down. EVERYWHERE. Large, marine enemies that take a million hits from any weapon such as demon pigs (or whatever they are) do not respawn, but flying bastards do. So Castlevania wasn't the first game to have them. Neither was it the first game in which your character takes a huge leap backwards whenever he's hit, and yes, water's fatal. Everything that moves in this game is fatal. You have two points of health. You start off with armour and regain it after beating each stage. You can also find armour on the field, but it's extremely rare. The armour is kind of like your health bar. One hit and you lose the armour, and are forced to struggle in your underwear for the rest of the way. One more hit, and you're dead. How much do you think our dear sir really loves his princess? ...'Cause I'm in the third stage, I have the heartburn of a lifetime, and if I don't stop now, I think I'm going to have a deadly ulcer.

Who am I kidding? I can't quit the game! I simply can't do it! Look at that one spot, it looks so easy. Why couldn't I get past that if I really try? Come on, gotta do it! On the mark, get set, go! Yes! ...What's that bleeping sound? Oh well, I'll just carry on... I just died. What the hell? There's no enemy in sight. Oh well, it was probably just a one-off glitch or something, I'll forgive that. Remember the timing... yes, made it again, and this time I even have my armour intact. But there's the bleeping sound again, what the hell is that? I died again?! With the armour still in place? What the hell is this? ...Oh. There's a time limit. A little past two minutes, in each stage. Makes me wonder how in the hell I got past the tower of pigs in the second stage so quickly that I hadn't heard that bleeping sound before. And it makes me a bit depressed, maybe... woozy, even. Well, the game might be unfair, but at least there are features that are missing from a million games that came out years later: checkpoints, and an infinite chance to continue from them, so the number of lives doesn't really amount to anything. Capcom knew they were making one difficult game, and if you got past just one single stage, they considered it an accomplishment and rewarded you for it. However...

Trapped naked in the tower of pigs. OK, OK,
they're some sort of big demons, but as kids, we
called each enemy whatever came to our minds
first when we saw them. And they sure as hell
act like pigs.
...If and when you finally think you've beaten the game, it throws you on the floor, pulls your pants down and drives a sweaty schlong right up your anus, calls you Mary and forces you to call it "uncle". You have to beat the whole game TWICE, plus the final boss, to be qualified to brag to all your Internet associates on the boards how you beat Ghosts 'n Goblins on the NES. You guessed it, the mandatory second round is a "Hard Mode". This is where I draw the white flag - I give up. Congratulations - I have never given a challenge rating of 10, now I will, and I think I'll take another swing at Battletoads, Castlevania III, or the yet to be reviewed Journey to Silius, or another infamously difficult game that is child's play compared to Ghosts 'n Goblins. The game is seriously the most difficult video game I've ever played, and in the correct sense; it's frustrating, sure, but addictively so since it has good, simple gameplay, you certainly see everything that is hazardous to you and you don't have to see an irreversible "Game Over" (read "Fuck You and Have a Nice Day") screen after every single death - just a sort of loading screen with the map and your current location, as if you didn't know where you were already. It's the kind of game in which beating one stage is a perfect cause for celebration. Don't take the beers out just yet.

Ghosts 'n Goblins, although I gave up on it out of desperation, frustration and depression, was addictive, fun to play and a great break from what I will certainly remember forever as my worst 8-bit week ever. Now that I've broken the ice, I'll gladly take on the rest of the franchise... after a little, healthy rest, 'cause I sincerely believe there's going to be more infernal torment coming my way.

Graphics : 7.5
Sound : 5.0
Playability : 7.0
Challenge : 10
Overall : 7.3


a.k.a. Makaimura (JAP)

GameRankings: 75.69% (GB)

Nintendo Power ranks Ghosts 'n Goblins #129 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

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