Ghosts 'n Goblins
Review by bruplex
"Your One-Way Ticket to Hell"
*Released: 1986 by Capcom (North America)
*Original Retail Price (US dollars): $29.99
*Considered to be part of the NES canon for unique game play and difficulty.
Storyline: 9.0/10 (High score for unintentionally funny translations)
Back in the days before we called NES games "8-bit", Ghosts 'N Goblins was considered one of the unbeatables. As one of the first games Capcom released for the brand new system, GNG was a port of the arcade original that featured colorful stages and large, animated enemies. The home release was scaled down to fit the technology but maintained all the challenge of its predecessor.
In GNG you assume the role of the knight and your mission is to rescue your blue-haired girlfriend, who has unfortunately found her way into Satan's clutches. Your journey begins in a graveyard, progresses through a ghost town, and eventually brings you through the tunnels of the underworld to arrive at the very gates of Hell. Along the way you have a choice of five weapons to fend off fiends.
The game's stiff play control and aggressive enemies make Ghosts N Goblins a challenging game. Many players have been discouraged by the fact the first level throws you immediately into the fray without any sort of formal warm-up. This was nothing new in 1986, but modern day players consider this one of many faults of GNG. Breaking down the game point-by-point shows GNG to be a stronger title than many believe, worthy of being considered a classic.
GNG lacks the fluidity of other early NES titles such as Kung-Fu and Super Mario Bros. so the movement of the hero comes across a little jerky and unsophisticated. While the knight is perfectly responsive, jumping can be awkward and the scrolling of the game becomes choppy at times. GNG benefits from very good stage design and the movements that hinder the knight are kept to a minimum within the layout of the given stages. For example, when you reach an area that is very jump intensive, there are less enemies to mess you up. As players improve, they will find the weapons to their liking and get comfortable in their skin (armor?).
Music in GNG is often eerie and fittingly spooky. The first stage features a memorable and catchy tune that is slightly upbeat. As you progress, the music gets more chilling as you approach the gates of Hell. While simple in structure, the music does well to capture the mood of the game (the panic-dream music that triggers when your countdown timer reaches 15 seconds is a great example of this). Sound effects are adequate for the time, though the screeching of forest ghosts can really grate on your auditory nerves after a while.
Hard but not impossible, GNG has come to symbolize everything tough about old school gaming. Solid strategies are required to clear stages and a good memory will help players remember enemy trigger points. Luck plays a part as well, especially when it comes to dealing with red demons. If gamers take the time to break down the various stage sections and approach them intelligibly, GNG becomes a puzzle-like game in the guise of a side-scroller. While it's true you are limited to two hits before you die, every level except stage 4 has hidden armor to cloth your naked knight. Boss characters are vulnerable to certain tactics that make them easy to destroy once you figure them out. GNG will challenge experienced gamers and decimate casual ones! There are ways to progress through this game with enough patience and observation. A final last (painful) aspect to GNG's complexity is the fact you need to play through the whole game two times to get the real endinga real heartbreaker for those frustrated getting through the first time!
If you can excuse the erratic animation, GNG presents a colorful world of detailed characters. Boss villains are large and intimidating. Most enemies have facial features and distinct personalities. The stages themselves are well drawn and the backgrounds offer a visual complexity not seen in many early games. From the mossy graveyard to the ghostly stillness of the blue brick passage in level 3-2, Capcom's designers did a good job creating an environment that was both colorful and dreary at the same time. The stage progress map is also neatly rendered, with miniature previews of the upcoming levels featured as you progress.
What appears to be a fairly generic tale of the hero rescuing a princess gains big story points when placed into the hands of inexperienced translators. With grammar and spelling mistakes galore, GNG is worth playing through just to read the awful English towards the end of the games. I don't know what strongth is or how can well-up in one's body, but apparently it is one of the motivating forces for our hero! Go forth dauntlessly!
The careless translations prove this game was rushed to American shores but the solid game dynamics programmed into the Japanese original make this game a winner. A creepy and challenging delight, there is a feel to GNG that grows on you. The characters are memorable and quirky and the primitive play control stays just accurate enough to make the action enjoyable. Unlike many modern games, you'll feel a genuine sense of accomplishment if you are good enough to beat this game with no cheats!
Bru's Must-Get-O-Meter: 10/10
One of the great NES classics, it's worth getting if only to see what all the fuss is about. Any NES collector would be proud to have GNG! A fun play in itself, it also is a good benchmark to see how far NES games came by the time Mega Man 6, Dragon Warrior 4, Super Mario 3, and Wario's Woods were released.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/00, Updated 06/24/05
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