Review by LycanPyre
"Its not difficult...its UNFAIR, here's why."
When speaking about the NES classic Ghosts N Goblins, its impossible to discuss the game without first considering its difficulty. However, Ghosts N Goblins is something more than difficult...its UNFAIR. Before continuing to my review of other aspects of the game, I want to first go over some of the unfair disadvantages that I feel completely ruins another wise great early NES game.
-First and foremost, the Armor to Skin to Bones death procedure that results after only two hits on our seemingly robust and immodest hero. There are power ups in the game in which you get more armor, but they are very rare and hard to find.
-Poor play control - Arthur can duck, he can jump straight up in the air, do a moving jump in which you have no control. You can't dodge in the air, you really can't dodge ever. Your only hope is to possibly jump over a charging enemy or kill them as they approach. Otherwise, you're down to your skivvies or even to your skeletal frame. There are numerous places in the game where you are required to jump gaps. Your jump must be perfect to keep from falling to your death...a perfect jump placed with poor jumping controls.
-Advantages enemies have - Unlike Arthur, who can only attack in a horizontal line, from where he's standing or jumping, enemies in this game can move in all directions, some, such as the infamous Red Devils can fire projectiles while homing in on your position at lightening speed. Often you'll be facing attacks from all directions while firing only on a horizontal line. A few enemies in the game, such as the blue-turd dropping red-eyed midgets and the Red Devils require multiple hits to kill while rushing your position. Additionally, many enemies spawn only INCHES from your position, immediately killing or damaging you. The only way to combat this is to have died a few times and know where they are at, otherwise you have very little chance against them.
-The Red Devils - I've read FAQs, I've fought a jillion of them...there doesn't seem to be any solid strategy for defeating these guys. The Red Devils are placed a lot of areas in the game where its difficult to fight, they swoop directly on your position, the only way to avoid them is to fake them out and jump before they swoop so they will fly over your head, or to jump over them precisely as they swoop on you. While doing all of this a green projectile may also be headed your way, which further complicates things. They take 4 hits, and generally you can get one hit, sometimes two, before they get off the ground, but after that you have to have lots of luck and reflexes to beat them. To top it off, they have this evil smirk on their face because they know Capcom has so poorly outfited the player with the means to destroy them.
-Sadistic Game Planning- Everyone knows that once you finally manage to make it through Ghosts N Goblins once, you are forced to go back to the beginning and repeat the procedure again, that is if you haven't smashed your NES to pieces by this point. This alone is bad enough, but one element of the game particularly drove me just insane. Level 5, without a doubt the hardest level of the game (which is saying a lot) requires you to have a particular item, the Blue Cross Shield, before advancing to the final boss. The first time I beat level 5, I did so using the dagger and advanced to the boss fight. However, a screen popped up explaining I would have to repeat level 5 because the only weapon effective against the final boss, Satan, was the Blue Cross Shield. Thus, you begin again at level 5 again. I'm sorry, but that's just not even funny, seriously. That's pure sadism. Perhaps the only redeeming quality about the planning of this game is that its actually pretty short, 7 or 8 different levels of about 3 minutes each. In THEORY this game can be beaten once through in less than 24 minutes, although doing that will undoubtably make you one of the best gamers ever.
-The ONLY advantage given to Arthur- Unlimited Continues. Without the unlimited continues option, this game would go from sadistic to outright suicide-provoking.
This is just some of the major gripes about this game that makes it to be, what I consider, completely unfair. Difficulty is one thing...Battletoads is difficult, but you at least have the play control and can take multiple hits, as well as attack in most directions. If you give Arthur the ability to take at LEAST 4 hits before dying, attack directly above and below himself and give better jumping abilities, such as control in the air, Ghosts N Goblins goes from a nearly impossible and frustrating game to what would be a GREAT early NES game.
If you can beat Ghosts N Goblins without using emulator save-states, I applaud you. I have only had the patience to beat the game once through, using save states...I'm still practicing though because despite the torment, I do believe its doable for myself, and I would like to add a fair completion of Ghosts N Goblins to my video game resume. Anyway, on to other aspects of the game.
Graphics/Sound - 7/10
This game is relatively colorful, the music is appropriate and I actually like the sound of the flying, burrito-like ghosts that appear in the most inconvenient places throughout the game. The sound of weapons impacting on enemies has a nostalgic ping-like sound that I like.
Many of the enemies are well detailed for the time. You have to keep in mind this is a class of 86 NES game and things were still a lot rougher as opposed to smoother later period NES games.
Some people seem to hate the music in this game, I like it ok, I think it adds to the somewhat gothic atmosphere.
One the things about the graphics that bothers me is the apparent hole in Arthur's head when he's not wearing his armor. When Arthur is wearing the armor, he has a solid black eye, without the armor, you can see directly through his eye socket into whatever background is behind him. A minor gripe, but one I always notice.
Storyline - 8/10
The storyline for this game is very stereotypical. A knight named Arthur fights evil creatures to save the princess, dying a billion times in the process. Granted, this game may have been one of the first games to utilize this storyline, because its an early NES title, so I'll give it some props for that, and thus the higher rating.
Gameplay - 2/10
As mentioned before, poor play control combined with enemies in all directions and two hit deaths makes for a very annoying game to play.
Replayability - 7/10
If you are an easily frustrated gamer, then this game's playability is 0/10. However, if you're one of those people who want to seek one of the Holy Grails of NES accomplishments...simply beating Ghosts N Goblins without cheating, you'll have to play this game over and over...and over.
Ghosts and Goblins could have been a great early NES game. The above mentioned disadvantages brings this game down considerably. The interesting thing is...without the extreme difficulty of this game, it would probably be largely forgotten now. There is really nothing that stands out about Ghosts N Goblins except how hard it is, and thats why this game continues to be played by gamers today. The difficulty that has driven countless gamers away from this title has also managed to keep this game relevant, and even turn it into a classic, yet infamous, NES title.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 09/12/05
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