Review by Martacus

"The original survival horror game!"

Having played Super Ghouls N' Ghosts, I just had to get my hands on the original game. And here's what I have to say about it.


The noble knight Arthur and his princess playmate are doing, well, questionable things, from the look of it, in a graveyard of all places. This being a video game, it certainly doesn't seem like a smart place to be doing that, does it? Naturally, the princess gets kidnapped by a nasty-looking demon, so our hero jumps back into his armor and goes on his way. Your typical ''rescue the princess'' story, but with a bit of a satirical twist. I like it.


Well, it's a 2D platformer, like so many games of that day, and you can only expect so much originality in terms of gameplay. You have Arthur, in his armor, and he throws projectiles such as a lance, a dagger, and the notorious torch at his enemies, which range from zombies to crows and red devils. Most enemies go down in one hit, but some nasty buggers take more. Arthur can jump, too. But in outright defiance of Nintendo logic, Arthur can only jump about his own height, and that isn't terribly high. Nor can you control his trajectory once his feet leave the ground. The heresy of it all! Arthur himself is fairly weak: one hit smashes his armor to bits, leaving him in his red underwear; the next hit kills him. Al this may make the game seem fairly typical, but there is a little catch. All these things combine in such a way as to make the game notoriously difficult. I will point out just a few ways. First, the aforementioned red devils. They take four hits to kill, yet you can at most get two hits in before they swoop up far out of your reach. Then, they come charging down at you in just such a way as to hit you nearly every time, unless you can get those last two hits in as it comes down; a task much easier said than done, given Arthur's pitiful (for a video game) jumping ability. These red devils are frequent visitors to the screen; levels 3 and 6 are filled with them. Next item: the weapons. They all do the same damage. However, this doesn't stop some from being better than others. The torch is just pitiful. It can only travel so far, then flares up on the ground, and you can't throw another until the flames die down. This, when enemies are coming at you left and right. And naturally, it is the weapon you will come across most frequently; sometimes you cannot avoid picking it up. And there are Arthur's personal shortcomings as well. As I said, for a video game character he can't jump very well, and it is a very serious shortcoming. Most of the problems you will encounter in the game boil down to his lack of jumping ability. Don't expect to be able to dodge an enemy by jumping over it. He also falls straight down when he falls off a platform or ledge; while realistic enough it can be a liability. And then there is the fact that he can only take two hits before dying. It is fairly typical for a hero to be fragile, but with his other shortcomings it seems unfair.

All these factors combine to make this game notoriously difficult. It is possible to beat; checkpoints and infinite continues enable this, but just being able to get to the end the first time (to truly win you will have to beat it twice) is simply out of the reach of the average gamer. Often getting past is more a matter of luck than skill, and your best bet usually is to try to avoid as many enemies as you can. Hence the reason I dubbed this the original survival horror game.


The NES never was much of a powerhouse in either area, particularly so early in its life, so one can't expect much in this area. Both areas are quite primitive, but visually you can tell what's what, and aurally there isn't much to hear but a few different beeps. The music in the first two levels is quite memorable and catchy, however.


This game is one of the hardest games out there; age hasn't dulled its edge any. Yet the fact that its challenge stems mostly from its limitations keeps it from being really great. What it is nowadays is a game unremarkable in any respect except for its considerable difficulty, which is enough to bump it up a notch.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 09/02/02, Updated 09/02/02

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