Review: Ghosts 'n Goblins (VC Arcade)

The original quarter-eating monster returns

Over two years ago, before Nintendo introduced the Virtual Console Arcade, Capcom released the NES port of Ghosts 'n Goblins on Virtual Console. Arguably the most well-known version of the game out there, it's infamous for being an incredibly challenging and, frequently, totally unfair game. While it would go on to get a bunch of great sequels, the original game was really fairly average in terms of quality. Is the original arcade version of this relentlessly difficult game any better?

If you're looking for gameplay changes, you're not gonna find many here. Arthur must still plow his way through six increasingly difficult stages, using five different weapons, to eventually take down his nemesis Astaroth and rescue the princess. The stages are exactly the same in layout as in all later ports the game would get, so the only real differences you'll notice are, naturally, the superior graphics and sound.

Arthur is of course as fragile as ever. Although he's wearing a full suit of armour with every new life, it'll fly off if anything so much as brushes past him, leaving him in just his boxers and giving him just one more hit before turning into a pile of bones. In the original Ghosts 'n Goblins, it's still possible to find a replacement suit of armour, but it only appears if you're in your boxers once you get to the very specific spot where it appears in each level.

If you're in your armour when you go past an armour spot, then lose it later and try to return to get it anyway, you're out of luck. There are also no higher suits of armour than your standard set, so your weapons will not eventually grow stronger and get special attacks. Believe us when we say you'll lose your armour a whole lot more than in other games in the series — the Red Arremers, those erratic flying devils, appear in all but one stage, and they seem especially unpredictable in this first game compared to the other titles. Most of your deaths will probably be at their hands!

Arthur starts out with his all-time favourite lance, but unlike the rest of the games in the series you're not gonna find much better equipment. There's only one which is ever so slightly better, the dagger, but all it does is offer a small increase in your throwing speed. However, like the NES game, you're forced to use what is arguably the worst weapon — the shield — to beat the final stage, otherwise you'll simply get sent back to level 4 and be forced to get it if you want to progress. Only if you beat level 5 with the shield will you reach the final boss.

Should you beat him, which is honestly pretty easy compared to, oh, everything else in the game, you'll be greeted by the trademark of the series and perhaps the biggest trolling in videogame history: you'll get sent back to stage 1 and will have to beat the whole game a second time if you want to see the "true" ending. The second time around, enemies are much faster, so you'll have an even harder time doing it all again.

Although this arcade version costs 800 points compared to the NES version's 500, there are some incentives which might warrant the extra cost. Like most of the available arcade games, there are some options to fiddle around with, although they're mostly limited to lowering or increasing the difficulty and changing the score totals at which you get extra lives. The NES version only has one difficulty level, so this may be a blessing for those not good enough to beat the game on its default difficulty. You can also change around the button configuration, which is always handy.

Conclusion

The arcade version of Ghosts 'n Goblins is almost identical to the NES game, offering little more than better graphics and sound. Everything else, from level design to enemy placement, is exactly the same, so if you've already played the more well-known version of the title, there won't be much here for you other than the satisfaction of your curiosity. The configurable settings offer a tiny bit of extra value, but there's really no reason to pick this up unless you're a big fan of the series.