Review by Mainland Marauder
"You face SATAN in this game....and he's just the Level 4 boss!"
Anytime you are pitted against SATAN in a game and even after you vanquish him you still have two more levels of HELL to endure, you know you are in the middle of the torture that is Ghouls 'N Ghosts.
The year was 1986. Before there was DVD-quality video and sound in games, designers seemed to equate quality with being so difficult that it is almost unbeatable without cheating. And my friend, even if you DO cheat; if you do plug in that Game Genie and give yourself infinite lives, you will spend hours upon hours of being turned into enough countless piles of bones to fill a Cambodian mass grave before you beat this thing. And even though you will have cheated to beat this game, you'll still feel the game had the upper hand against you. You will feel like you are the MAN, and because of the sheer impossibility of this game you will be the MAN.
The only thing that is hardly impossible in this game is the plot. Guess what? The princess has been nabbed and it's up to you, Sir Arthur, to save her! Never mind that SATAN whisks her away from you while you were sitting in a field in your underwear (now why she is fully clothed at the same time, you explain that to me)...couldn't you have just thrust a javelin into SATAN'S cranium before he touches your girl, thereby avoiding this harrowing quest? NO SIR, AND BECAUSE OF THAT YOU WILL PAY IN COUNTLESS LIVES - or more appropriately, DEATHS!!! MUAHAHAHAHA!!!
Credit the game designers with sparing Arthur the classic NES rule of Get-Hit-Once-And-You're-Dead-Meat (TM) rule. Here, it's get hit twice and you're worm fodder. Arthur is a knight in shining armor until he gets hit, then he is reduced to his underwear. Without his armor, a hit turns him into a pile of bones. You will see this sequence more often than any other, so get used to it.
Your pathetic excuses for defense against the forces of all that is wicked and evil include your javelin, with which you will start the game most of the time (but not all of the time; this appears to be a randomly-decided thing in the game); a dagger, which is smaller and faster than the javelin and can be fired more rapidly so that it's possible to dispatch the dreaded Red Demon which sits midway through the first level. This vile thing swoops down at you, just high enough that you can barely jump over it yet can't crouch it, and takes four hits to kill. Remember that you can only take two hits, and if you don't have your armor before facing this thing you might as well start over. The other weapons include a torch, which is practically useless and an axe, which you won't see until the third level and isn't very good either. Stick with the knife or javelin if you want to live...not that it's guaranteed that you will regardless.
Shall we rate this sadistic game now?
Graphics: 9. Good for a 1986 NES game. Dark tones set the mood of the game well. Arthur's facial characteristics are perhaps more discernible than those of any other game character of this day. The zombies look listless, but they're ZOMBIES! They're not going to look like the Olsen Twins! (who, incidentally, are probably younger than this game.)
Sound: 10. It's great sound for its time. While not realistic by today's standards, the music and effects effectively communicate the sheer horror that this game is. The sound you hear when Sir Arthur gets reduced to nothing but bone matter is the most prevalent sound in this game, along with the droning noise the zombies make.
Control: 8. The weak point of this game and part of what makes the game challenging. Jumping takes a while to grasp; you can't control your jump after you take off and if you jump too soon you'll fall right into whatever abyss or vile creature you are trying to clear. Your weapon is responsive, though, and that's a good thing because your weapon is your only friend in this game. Unless, of course, you're counting your Game Genie.
The bottom line: A classic, any way you look at it, and playing this game will put hair on your chest. This isn't a game where you search every corner of the Mushroom Kingdom looking for secrets and coins; the one object of this game is simply survival. It's worth doing all over again, if there's any hint of masochism in you.
Are you afraid of things that go bump in the night? It's just SATAN. And that's not all.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/25/04
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