The main focus of the game is pretty much the same as in the sequels. Princess Prin-Prin has been kidnapped by demons and Arthur, the one-man army, sets out to rescue her. He's armed with only a lance and dies in two hits; this will happen. A lot.
Many elements from the sequels are not present here, though. Arthur can't double jump like he can in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, he cannot fire upwards/downwards like in Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and there are no armour/shield upgrades (and thus no magic attacks), though there were in both sequels. There are almost no weapons besides your starting lance, though a few others, such as the awful Torch or Axe, show up very rarely. There is, however, the standard "super weapon" that you have to find when playing through a second time, which in this game, strangely enough, is a throwable shield. It was actually a crucifix, originally, but Nintendo and its strict censoring made Capcom change that for the European and American versions. If you get hit and lose your armour, meanwhile, you'll find it almost impossible to get it back; if you're extremely lucky an enemy might drop a new set. One or two stages also have one extra set of armour lying in a hard to reach spot.
There are only six levels, followed by the final boss, but you'll probably come to hate each and every one of them. Red Arremers, which are annoying flying red devils also present in the sequels, appear in even larger quantities here, and there's even a stage where you fight almost nothing but them. Thankfully, they move somewhat slowly, giving you plenty of time to score a few direct hits and take them out. The final stage is filled with rematches with every single boss plus another batch of Red Arremers, and it will likely make you want to pull your hair out.
What might even be more annoying, though, is the platforming. There are a number of moving platforms in a few stages, with only a split second to jump on them when they've reached a certain spot before they turn back. Time it wrong and you're dead. Thankfully, the original game is also easier than its successors in some departments; for starters, the "bosses" are pretty much normal enemies with a high HP count (and later you meet two of them at a time) that guard the exit door. They have no hard-to-dodge special attacks, and rapidly hitting them with your lance should defeat them without much trouble.
Another thing that makes this one easier is that you have infinite continues, much like in Ghouls 'n Ghosts (Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts has a limited amount), and there are continue points halfway through the stages where you will restart each time you die or get a game over.
Ghosts 'n Goblins is very similar to the other games in the series, so will have appeal and enjoyment for fans, though it's less fun than its contemporaries. It should be pretty obvious why they decided to release this game on VC last.