maanantai 31. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (1991)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1991
Available on: GBA, SNES, Wii Virtual Console
Developer(s): Capcom
Publisher(s): Capcom
Players: 1

When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was launched, Capcom was working on the early drafts of a new game in the dreaded Ghosts 'n Goblins series. Two direct sequels to Game Boy's spin-off hit Gargoyle's Quest were already at some level of planning, but since the last game in the main series, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, effectively skipped Nintendo's consoles altogether, it was time for retribution. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts was announced in early 1991 and released in the end of the year to an overwhelming, but kind of confused critical response - it was hailed from the very beginning as the most difficult video game of all time. And that's exactly what it is.

It's insane. Like Charles Manson-insane.

A self-proclaimed emperor by the name of Sardius kidnaps Princess Prin-Prin in order to obtain a royal heirloom, the Goddess' Bracelet, which put to proper use, is the only weapon in the world capable of destroying him. He is well aware of Sir Arthur's reputation and his desire to rescue his loved one, so he forces the brave knight to face his toughest challenge yet.

I feel... ravaged. Like my rear's been shred to pieces. Like every bit of my soul, dignity and masculinity has been destroyed, in a matter of hours. You'd probably like to think in your sick, little twisted mind that I've just had a bad night at the Blue Oyster bar, but that's not it - I played a little Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. You know, I played Ghosts 'n Goblins and I told you it was the most difficult game I ever played. Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Sega Genesis was hard, extremely hard, but manageable, almost, compared to the first game. It had helpful features, such as power-up generosity and the ability to aim your weapons in four different directions, which made it a little, not much, but a little easier. I went into Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts thinking that whatever's been said about it, I think it's going to be the easiest game of them all. I mean, it's been three years since the release of Ghouls 'n Ghosts. There's got to be some new features that make progress even easier than before. Oh, there are new features all right... but make no mistake, they are here to make your life a living hell.

I ain't going down there. I ain't.
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts will drive you insane for the exact same reasons as the first two games in the main series. You will find yourself seeing colours you never thought existed, hearing voices, and reflecting on irrelevancies such as what exactly does Prin-Prin see in our hero? He looks like Robinson Crusoe and he's been wearing that same armour, not to mention the underwear, for six years. And vice versa: why in the hell are we still destroying our lives playing these games? Because they're good. Unluckily so. We can come up with a thousand excuses to rip the cartridge out of our holy apparatus and throw it to the crows to feed on, and every single one of those thousand excuses is related to the game's difficulty - the true, mortally devastating challenge it provides even the most, most, most etc. seasoned player. Still, we can't quit. We simply cannot stop trying. And remember, switching the power off or ripping the cartridge out of the SNES will do you no good. There's no password, no save feature at all... you just gotta keep playing 'til you beat it. TWICE. ...Oh yeah, this time there's a twist. LIMITED CONTINUES... as well as some other just dandy shite I'll sink my teeth on in just a minute.

The graphics are good, but at first, it's a bit of a letdown since Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Genesis was released three years prior and it had much clearer, larger sprites. However, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a longer game, and it has dynamic, multi-dimensional level design to compensate for the fuzzy sprite work, and a better frame rate. The classic music has gone through some massive remastering, and it sounds awesome.

This time, there are four difficulty levels for you to choose from, and you can also choose the amount of lives you begin the game with. Before, it wouldn't have made any stinking difference, but like I said, there are limited continues - how much the limit is depends directly on the difficulty level. "Practice" has been shoved off, but in my mind, in order for a casual player to have the slightest hope of beating the game, Beginner is the way to go and it's almost just as insulting. Normal is of course the default level, though once again, it's far from normal. Expert is a pure nightmare, and to top it all off, we have Professional - even trying the game on that level with hopes to beat it is like playing Russian roulette, ALONE.

OK, so the first thing patient players of Ghouls 'n Ghosts will probably notice is that Arthur can no longer throw weapons in more than two directions, left and right. In terms of gameplay, what we have here is an updated version of Ghosts 'n Goblins, with level design from Ghouls 'n Ghosts. A lot worse, though. There are enemies that might spawn right in your spot, either by complete surprise or in situations in which you simply cannot move. Jumping over an obstacle might land you straight on an enemy, and vice versa. You have a double jump ability, but using it removes all adjustment control from you. You cannot control the direction, or distance of the double jump once you've executed the move. Like always, enemies and obstacles are everywhere. Even the levels are built to kill you! It's sincerely hard to make precise jumps in a place that changes its shape on the go, or has a large obstacle in the middle of the chasm, with some sort of vehicle on the other side, just waiting for the right moment to mow you over. There's simply no rest. You cannot stop for one second to plan your next move. It's trial and error all the way - mostly error. Oh, and checkpoints? Well, there aren't too many of them this time around. Just one per stage, the halfway mark. Good luck.

These ghosts are some of the best examples of
enemies who come and go as they please.
I simply don't know what more to say about the game to those people that have already lived and died playing the first two games, except that it's more difficult than either one of them. I was passing judgement way too quickly when I said Ghosts 'n Goblins was the most difficult game ever. It's still one of them, no doubt about it, but Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts takes violent challenge to a whole new level. It can kill you. And it will. If you don't believe me, just fucking try it.

The thing about the whole series is that they're not bad games at all. What makes Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts sincerely a bit weaker than its Genesis counterpart, is the double jump and the subsequent ousting of Arthur's more practical abilities. Besides, I think intentionally making each game more ridiculously difficult than the last was not a very good selling point to begin with for Capcom. However, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is still one of Capcom's best-selling games even after the rise and steady growth of the Resident Evil series, so I guess there are people out there to whom challenge means everything when it comes to good games. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts certainly has that.

Graphics : 8.7
Sound : 8.9
Playability : 7.8
Challenge : 10
Overall : 8.0


a.k.a. Cho Makaimura (JAP)

GameRankings: 80.57% (GBA)

Nintendo Power ranks Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts #144 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

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