tiistai 1. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Gargoyle's Quest - Ghosts 'n Goblins (1990)

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Platform
Released: 1990
Available on: GB
Developer(s): Capcom
Publisher(s): Capcom
Players: 1

By 1990, almost every classic video game franchise that ever was had had its Game Boy iteration; one exception to that rule was Ghosts 'n Goblins, which actually never was carried over to the original Game Boy. Instead, Game Boy got the exclusive rights for the first game in a spin-off franchise called Gargoyle's Quest, which somewhat awkwardly starred Red Arremer, a.k.a. Firebrand, a standard recurring enemy from the main series, on a quest to save his dark world from an even darker overlord. The game is considered somewhat of a classic, but as the case tends to be with many early Game Boy titles, very little of its original appeal remains. It's not one of the worst early games on Nintendo's classic handheld, but it is typically clumsy, and boring to boot.

Shout at the devil

After a truce of hundreds of years, the Ghoul Realm is attacked by the Destroyers, a malevolent force from the neighboring realm, led by the King of Destruction, King Breager. Firebrand, who has been foretold to become the Red Blaze - the only force strong enough to stand against the Destroyers - sets out on a quest to put an end to Breager's revolution.

The first and foremost thing you have to know about Gargoyle's Quest that it's nothing like Ghosts 'n Goblins. You wouldn't even know it was a part of the series if it wasn't called "Gargoyle's Quest - Ghosts 'n Goblins" in the title screen. The front of the box makes no notion to it - and ironically, our red lead character is actually coloured green - and even Capcom's logo isn't visible. It starts out as a very mild, generic RPG, which somehow brings images of the first two Final Fantasy games into my mind, but mostly plays out like any action-oriented platform game. It's kind of like a perverse hybrid of Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man, still infused with elements from RPG and adventure games such as Zelda II, such as being able to make progress only after acquiring a certain type of ability.

God damn it, I caught a fireball
in my eye!
The graphics are pretty good, although the frame rate pisses and bad once there are two or more large enemies on the screen. Thankfully it's a handheld game, since it would surely have been panned by epileptics worldwide thanks to the amazing twitch. The music is decent by Game Boy standards, but it still was to take a while from game developers to realize that the scrolling of dialogue should not, under any circumstances, be accompanied by a sound effect.

You start off from a traditional RPG setting in your home village. Everything in this sort of setting is managed via your menu, which is opened with the A button. All your commands are in this menu: Talk, Level, Use and Check, of which I get only Level. I don't get why you couldn't just do everything else by simply pressing the button. Check is used to see if there are any collectable items and grab them, which is totally useless since all the collectables are already visible. It is also used to examine points of interest, which is equally useless; for example, a certain ghoul gives you a clue where to find a special item on the overhead map, and there's only one place you can get to which fits that description. Once again, you should be able to get by at just the press of a button, but no, you need to select Check from the tedious menu. Talk... well, even the first Final Fantasy game, as generic as it was, allowed you to talk to people with just one simple press of a button. Level is used to check on your inventory and your current vitals, but I don't understand why they couldn't utilize the useless Select button for this.

Hey asshole, in case you
haven't noticed, I work for
the devil.
Use is a bit of a mystery, which unfolds after the second mission in the game, which is to retrieve a village leader's cane and return it to him so he could be of any help to you. Well, I returned the cane... or so I thought. He just said how happy he is, or that I've brought happiness to him, or something of the sort. Great, so...? Nothing. Everyone in the village kept asking for his or her cane. Uh, I was asked to get the leader's cane, not everyone's walking stick. Assholes. Well, then I realized that the game's dialogue just sucks and everyone suddenly claims the leader's cane to be theirs for no apparent reason. This is all great, lacking retro game design, but WHAT THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO HERE? I returned the fucking cane, right? So, will someone please tell me how to get to the next level?! Well, after seething in anger for about ten minutes, I got it. I was not supposed to talk to the guy after getting his stupid oak branch like in any other game, I was supposed to "Use" it in his presence. Voila, case closed. Without the awkward menu's existence, this game would be a lot easier to comprehend... and more fun to play.

Yeah, I know the feeling. I'm
a video game critic.
The world map's a chore. It's so big, but empty. You'd like to think that random encounters like in any RPG make it interesting and rewarding to navigate, but no. First of all, there are just a few different random fights against very few different enemies, depending on how far you've gotten. It's the same battles, over and over again. Also, one thing that Capcom missed about the purpose of random encounters in RPG's is that they're supposed to result in the player getting experience points or something equivalent to them. Well, here they just result in the player getting some vials that are scattered all over, and can be used to buy extra lives in most villages. More maximum health, flight time and weapons are gained via the story only.

I saved the biggest part of the game for last, the platform setting. The wall jump comes from Ninja Gaiden, although this version does not allow you to move. The weapon-swapping system is pure Mega Man. Everything else is very much like Zelda II, without the ability to duck and with the ability to fly for a period of time that is determined by your wing level. Manouvering your flight is stiff. The wall jump's a little TOO precise, Firebrand easily sticks his claws into the tiniest pixel of a wall texture, once again leaving you prone to danger since you can't move by any other method than scaling the wall by jumping on it again and again. He won't let go too easily, either. And, lastly, in the vein of Castlevania: The Adventure and its first sequel, a usually simple execution like getting your character to turn around can prove to be pretty damn hard.

You can let go now. Danger
ahead. Let go! ...Crap.
Firebrand starts out developing so slow that the game feels it's going to be quite lengthy at first, and I guess it is, by Game Boy standards, but it ain't hard, not of the usual Ghosts 'n Goblins variety of hard at least. Unlike that of the main series, Gargoyle's Quest's difficulty is mostly based on the lacking physical engine of its platform - which serves as a pretty damn good reason to me, as to why the main series was never expanded to the first handhelds. Just think about a faithful port of Ghosts 'n Goblins with Game Boy's physics... my God, who in the right mind would voluntarily play that game?

Gargoyle's Quest is a decent way to kill some extra time. The switching between an action-oriented RPG and a platformer makes it a quite diverse game, especially considering its small platform, but it's not a very essential gameplay experience either way, not as a platformer (mediocre controls) and definitely not as an RPG (the awkward interface).

Graphics : 7.7
Sound : 7.9
Playability : 6.5
Challenge : 6.3
Overall : 6.5


a.k.a. Red Arremer: Makaimura Gaiden (JAP)

GameRankings: 74.17%

Barone Jark's appearance is very similar to Satan's in Ghosts 'n Goblins. The boss Rushifell (intentionally mistranslated from Lucifer) is the same character as the main antagonist in Ghouls 'n Ghosts, who was renamed Loki in the Sega Genesis version.

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