maanantai 31. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Ghouls 'n Ghosts (1988)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1988
Available on: Amiga, ARC, Atari ST, C64, GEN, PC, SMS, Wii Virtual Console, ZX
Developer(s): Capcom, U.S. Gold, Software Creations
Publisher(s): Capcom, U.S. Gold, Sega
Players: 1-2

People were hardly over the shock of the first game, when already Capcom was working on a sequel to the infamous Ghosts 'n Goblins. In 1988, it hit the arcades and frustrated the hell out of everyone that had already been driven to a nervous breakdown by its predecessor. Still, they couldn't get enough of it and Ghouls 'n Ghosts became a hit. The home port of the game landed on every home computer available at the time, but Nintendo missed out on the fun when it came to video game consoles, as Sega's new 16-bit Genesis console allowed Capcom to make a game that was visually downgraded from the original arcade title as little as possible. The result was a critically acclaimed 16-bit game, that just didn't sell that well due to Nintendo's huge popularity over Sega's in some parts of the world... and perhaps due to the fact that one hardly pays for a mental suicide. The game is very good, but it ain't easy.


Sir Arthur is a man that does not rest when the soul of his significant other is in question. The Prince of Darkness has risen and reaped the souls of half the land, including that of Princess Prin-Prin. Donning his favourite armour, Arthur sets out on another quest through the monster-infested lands to slay the greatest of demons.

That's it, I've burnt out. Too early to say that before even getting to the likely main feature that is the SNES game? Maybe. That's why I'm trying my best to keep a level head. When I first started this game, it didn't feel nearly as difficult as Ghosts 'n Goblins on the NES. The controls - keep in mind what I've said about my personal opinion on the Genesis' controller before - are great, very smooth and of course, very simple. A and C are both used for jumping, while B is used for attacking. You can also attack upwards and downwards, which is the most advanced part of the basic gameplay - very simple, which is just what we all liked about Ghosts 'n Goblins, the simplicity when it came to gameplay. When it came to general difficulty, the game was everything but simple, but at least that difficulty wasn't brought on by technical issues - it was just made to be hellish. The first stage of Ghouls 'n Ghosts was quite a breeze. I had some trouble with the boss, but the pattern of his attacks was easy to work out. In the second level, I had some more trouble with several issues. In the third level, all hell broke loose. Yep, this is definitely an apple from the same tree as the '85 classic.

Spikes, assholes and auto-scroll from
below. Welcome to hell.
The graphics of the game are absolutely great, so great that it feels like Sega put a little too much effort into drawing the line between the technical differences of 8- and 16-bit technology. It was only the late 80's and in that sense, they perhaps set the bar a little too high. The music's much better and more diverse than before. The theme song from the first game is still intact as a slight remix, as well as the death chime which hasn't changed at all - and yes, you'll still be hearing it on a steady interval. You see, in case you haven't figured it out yet, Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a son of a bitch.

From the beginning, it very much seems like Capcom is straight on fucking with us. Most games have difficulty levels to choose from. Ghosts 'n Goblins didn't, although the first round could be interpreted as being "normal", though it was far from it. Ghouls 'n Ghosts does let you choose the difficulty level, between Professional and... Medium? Normal? No, PRACTICE. I probably don't have to tell you that the "Practice" mode is way more difficult than any average game in itself. Not only is playing on something called "Practice" and getting the assrape of a lifetime insulting, but what's even more insulting is that there's a reminder of your chosen difficulty level in the bottom corner of the screen, all the fucking time. Yeah, you got enemies on that side, you got enemies on this side, you got enemies all over the God damn screen! There's no escape! ...But remember, it's just "practice"! Capcom did pretty much the same thing years later with Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, in which the "Normal" game mode was dubbed "Easy" mode for some reason... almost as insulting as "Practice" in my opinion. But not quite.

Oh, and one should not forget the tongues.
Well, as tradition goes - even the second time can be seen as following tradition - you have to beat Ghouls 'n Ghosts twice to see the true ending. Easier said than done. If you do the first time in Norm... I mean, PRACTICE, it will automatically switch to Professional on the second round. Playing on Pro from the beginning simply means that you have to do Pro mode twice, and that my friends, is something I will never be able to do. It's hard to admit, but that's just how it is. Like I said, the beginning of the game feels a lot easier and smoother than the whole game of Ghosts 'n Goblins, but before you can spell out "horse shit", the game's difficulty turns upside down. The third stage is the proverbial watershed; it's perfectly possible to survive it, but it shows you the game's true face in various ways. The first half of it has an automatic scroll, which is never a comfortable element in a platformer. The second half is full of death, literally. You need to jump across tongues - these tongues belong to stone statues that kill you on impact. That's not all, each solid platform out there kills you on impact. That's still not all, there are enemies everywhere, and not just any enemies, but flying bastards. Oh, and then there are these wizards that look like Dracula, and hide themselves in seemingly normal treasure chests, waiting for you to release them so that they can change you into an old geezer or a helpless duck. You're gonna need a fine heap of good luck here.

"I'm ready, so where's the boss?" "Dude... you're
standing on him."
Well, at least the bosses aren't nearly as bad as the stages needed to be beaten to be able to reach them, and like in the first game, lives are completely irrelevant. You have infinite continues - no save or password feature, however - and even if the screen says "Game Over", you will still start from the last checkpoint. If you didn't, I'd have given up on this game a lot longer before I finally did. If I have to name something else that's fair about the game, it's that at least on... *sigh*... Practice mode, it's quite generous with extra armor, which used to be such a rarity in the first game. Don't you go thinking it would give you any extra health, though - just a little more physical power, which can be helpful, but it's all gone once you hit something. You'll still be spending most of the game in your underwear. I actually played the game wearing only my heart-studded boxers just to get the right vibe. And now I'm going to murder myself after admitting that.

Considering my usual discomfort with the Sega Genesis it's not saying much, but Ghouls 'n Ghosts is one of my favourite games on the platform. Perhaps it doesn't sound that rational after everything I've laid down here, but something about its ridiculous difficulty makes it so addictive; once again, there's nothing wrong with the gameplay. OK, the third stage is nothing but frustratingly difficult, but everything else offers up true challenge that only the most dedicated players can ever hope to conquer. The first game was good, but Ghouls 'n Ghosts goes way beyond looking better.

Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 8.5
Playability : 8.0
Challenge : 9.8
Overall : 8.2


a.k.a. Dai Makaimura (JAP)

GameRankings: 90.00%

Although the game was never meant to be released on an 8-bit console, Sega released a Master System port of Ghouls 'n Ghosts in 1990.

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