The ghost of a samurai? Surely this must be awesome! Unfortunately, the truth is far from it. You play the ghost of a samurai who has returned to avenge himself. Thankfully the game information tells us this, as the main character looks nothing like a samurai. Your job is to hack and slash your way through a load of multi-part levels in order to reach and defeat an evil emperor.
So, why is this game so bad? Doesn't it look fun to run through those levels and slash up everything? The platforming parts and enemies don't look too hard! Yeah, because they aren't. Your main enemy in this game isn't the legion of enemies or deadly jumps, but your own weapon. Your character moves like a ragdoll, his limbs twisting all around his body, making it extremely hard to time hits. Your sword has a pathetically small hit range, so couple that with the odd swinging and you'll find it hard to cut down even the simplest of foes. Your best bet is to swing like a madman. Fortunately, you do have a downwards stabbing move and you can move your sword around slightly (hold it over your head, hold it in front of you, etc.), but this won't help much.
The levels are really simple. Pretty much all of them are just straight paths with a couple of bumps in the road and maybe some platforming, the enemies being the only obstacles. There are a few slightly different stages, like one where a wall of fire is following you and another with quicksand, but overall, besides graphical changes, the levels are all similar. And man, there are loads of levels.
Speaking of graphics, they're not very good. As I said, your character looks nothing like a samurai. The enemies are all quite bland and lack detail. The bosses are somewhat more interesting, ranging from giant metal men and skeletons, to monsters from Japanese folklore. These look quite a bit better, but it hardly matters - underneath the graphics they're all practically the same, with the same strategies. You needn’t bother developing your strategy because most bosses just throw barrages of attacks at you which are near impossible to fully dodge; just slash away.
The levels have some variation in look,- including a swamp, a volcanic region, the inside of a pagoda and an ice zone --but the graphics are still poor, with repetetive, bland backgrounds (or no background at all in some stages) and no variation in the landscape. It's weird to imagine that a TurboGrafx game can look this generic, especially when the system was lauded for its great graphics at the time.
The game is also really hard. The controls work so much against you that you'll constantly be battered with attacks and can't even retaliate. On top of that, there is no "invincibility time" after being hit, unlike most games, so if you're knocked into something dangerous, you'll keep taking damage until you get away from it. There are some upgrades to make things easier, like a life extension or an attack upgrade, but these disappear when you reach the next level, so what's the point? Your life is refilled after every section of a stage, thankfully, making the game slightly easier.
Sadly, the music is awful too. For such a long game (it will likely take over 35 minutes to beat even if you just keep running forward) you would expect lots of songs, instead of four or five that are repeated a lot. One of the songs is better than the rest, but wouldn't fall in the "good" category. The sound effects are also poor. Between stages, there's an old woman with a laugh that sounds so bad, you want to stop playing immediately after hearing it.
Samurai Ghost has a few interesting elements, like your character's "unique" controls. Unfortunately, none of them are executed very well. It's hard to believe that a title like this came from Namco! If you want an action platformer, just ignore this game. The VC already has a lot of titles, and there are much better picks in the bunch than this.