(NES)

Game Review

Ghosts 'n Goblins Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

Lots of pain for little gain

From Software’s Demon's Souls and Dark Souls titles have been hailed as two of the most engaging games of this current hardware generation, praised by critics and gamers alike for their intense difficulty and complete lack of hand-holding. Set against other modern titles — which seem to fall over themselves to make the experience as frustration-free as possible — these two pieces of software are focused on rewarding the player for their dogged perseverance and guile.

The thing is, From Software’s ball-busting duo aren’t unique in their approach; just ask anyone old enough to have experienced Capcom’s sadistic conversion of Ghosts ‘n Goblins for the NES. The first in a lineage of titles which seemingly delights in kicking sand in the player’s face, this 2D platformer is totally and utterly unforgiving — and just as is the case in Dark Souls, every death is part of a tortuously steep learning curve.

Ghosts 'n Goblins' storyline is virtually identical to its sequels; plucky hero Arthur must rescue his beloved bride from the clutches of an evil demon — in this case, the main man himself, Satan. Six levels stand between our armour-clad protagonist and his goal, and upon reaching the end Arthur is forced to replay the entire game in one of the cruellest — and most infamous — twists in video game history.

The armoured skin which Arthur wears protects him from a single blow — losing it forces our hero to soldier on in naught but his underwear. You’d better get used to seeing the lead character’s pants, because Ghosts ‘n Goblins boasts a devilish catalogue of ways in which to perish. Respawning enemies ramp up the already unfair challenge, and projectile attacks have an uncanny habit of hitting you when you’re in the middle of a jump — which, of course, you can’t steer once Arthur is airborne.

The passage of time hasn’t been kind to Ghosts ‘n Goblins, despite its uniquely spooky visuals. This was an early title in the NES library, and it shows. Compared to the coin-op original, this port looks blocky and primitive, and there’s a lot of sprite flicker to tarnish the aesthetics. The audio fares slightly better, thanks largely to that downright iconic first level theme tune. Even so, in terms of pure presentation, this is the runt of the litter; the sequel Ghouls ‘n Ghosts represents a quantum leap in terms of graphics and the excellent Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts improves on that, too.

As a result, when taken out of context and played in 2013, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is very much like the weaker game of the series. While its gameplay is pure and refined, it feels overly simplistic when placed alongside its successors. The punishing challenge makes it stand apart from other NES classics, although the introduction of save states means that even the most cack-handed individual can complete the game if they throw enough time at it.

Conclusion

Although it will hold a place in the heart of many a NES gamer, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is clearly the least appealing game in Capcom’s taxing series. Visually it’s rough around the edges, and Arthur’s movement and weapons feel limited when compared to what came afterwards in the celebrated sequels. If you adored the game when you played it on your NES back in the ‘80s then it’s worth another look, although you may be disappointed at how badly it has stood the test of time.

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User Comments (29)

Whopper744

#1

Whopper744 said:

No thanks. Isn't there a ton of other great games they could be releasing for the Wii U VC??.....why do I even bother saying that. :P

antonvaltaz

#3

antonvaltaz said:

Harsh. I notice it got 7 the last two times it was reviewed on NL, which seems fairer to me...

Moose_4

#5

Moose_4 said:

Got SNES Version, then picked this up for £1.75.
Cant complain for that price. Especially since the restore points make it bearable.

Midnight3DS

#6

Midnight3DS said:

I leave this one in the museum. Dark Souls satisfies my frustration desires. More rewarding, and prettier to look at while I pull my hair out.

LDXD

#7

LDXD said:

@Midnight3DS aw come on now lets not pull our hair out
This game is hard and makes dark souls feel like a walk in the park
I have no idea how I beat this game as a kid, I recently tried to play this and couldn't get past the first level after playing for hrs so either I'm not as good at games anymore or I had to much to drink that day, I think it may be a combination of both

Tasuki

#8

Tasuki said:

I just watched AVGN episode on this last night. Lol Get the knife.

Sjoerd

#11

Sjoerd said:

I bought this one because I had Super Ghouls 'n Ghots as well, so this one was 50% off. I have to say this misses most of the charm Ghouls 'n Ghosts had, and instead of that charm it just has extra difficulty.

Birthday_Boy

#12

Birthday_Boy said:

I completely love the Ghosts series. I already have this one on 3DS, but I can't beat it without restore points.

Blue_Yoshi

#15

Blue_Yoshi said:

I bought this to get half price off of Mega Man X and I gotta say after one quick playthrough I'm not disappointed it's not as difficult as I perceived it but I think that's a good thing along with the save states I'll be able to actually complete this game and have enough confidence to try the sequel.

DarkEdi

#16

DarkEdi said:

I better downloaded the VCA version yesterday instead of this NES version. I preffer the arcade version for 3 dlls more. It is a shame the Wii U doesn´t has VCA but the Wii mode has it, so go for it now!

bassoongoon

#18

bassoongoon said:

It seems like reviews of NES, SNES games have been pretty low lately. Although I have never payed Ghosts 'n Goblins before so I would not know how it stacks up.

RetrogamerFan

#21

RetrogamerFan said:

Good review, not that bothered about the difference between 6 or 7, i suppose it depends on your levels of patience, all of the reviews largely agree on the game's flaws.
I also got this becasue of the discount for buying Super G'n'G, I'm enjoying this in short sessions, save states help greatly. I just don't have the patience, or skill, to get through all of this in one sitting. On the original verison i probably would never have completed level 4 onwards.
Soundtrack (as with other games in this series) is brilliant.
This is the only VC game so far i haven't enjoyed playing on the game-pad, the controls are a little finnicky at times so i didn't find it comfortable using the large d-pad. I got on a lot better with the the Classic controller.
I note this review is labelled as Pal version, i take it this just refers to the region where it was played for the review, as everyone has got the American version (on Wii U & 3DS).

unrandomsam

#23

unrandomsam said:

This game is great in its arcade version (Available in wii VC Arcade). There is no reason for this version to be released at all again.

The enemies have much more life in the Arcade version it is hard but every second of it is great fun.

They should put the arcade version as a 3D classic move the arcade version to Wii U eshop and forget this ever existed. (Along with the Genesis version of Ghouls and Ghosts just release the arcade version. The PC Engine version is probably the next best).

(Along with actually fixing the bugs in Super Ghouls and Ghosts by whatever means - they did it for the Saturn / PS / PS2).

They should put some effort into stuff if they want to be paid for and don't insult people by releasing inferior versions and then expecting to be paid again.

unrandomsam

#24

unrandomsam said:

@RetrogamerFan - It is not the real game. Play the VC Arcade one.

It is hard but you will love every second of it.

(Only 60hz Neo Geo and PC Engine stuff even approximates what arcade games are like played old ports is not worth it).

Apparantly NEC got a reputation for being hard to work with by insisting that arcade ports actually played the same as what they were copying.

UnseatingKDawg

#25

UnseatingKDawg said:

I got this for my 3DS shortly after Christmas last year (had a splurge on NES titles). Still haven't completed it yet - I only got to the first checkpoint. And I thought Kid Icarus was hard...

RetrogamerFan

#26

RetrogamerFan said:

@unrandomsam I've got Capcom Classics Collection Vol 1 for PS2, which includes Ghosts 'n' Goblins & Ghouls 'n' Ghosts. Both are classics, but very tough.
As an arcade conversion I think the NES maintains the challenge and is fairly faithful in terms of layout, the music is good too so i'm enjoying it.
I do agree that the VC arcade games that are on Wii should get on Wii U VC, and then hope new titles are added as well.

tddct89

#27

tddct89 said:

I don't understand what's wrong with gamers these days. I'm only 24 so I basically started with the SNES, my NES days consisted mostly of anything Mario and duck hunt. But as soon as I heard this game was really hard I didn't need a review to convince me to buy it. Although Spelunker is so unfair it's the first NES game on the Wii U I truly regret buying.

atariman

#28

atariman said:

I might have to agree with a 6/10. however. the game is pretty fun but the downside is the lasting appeal :P

sleepinglion

#29

sleepinglion said:

The only reason I nabbed this one was the buy one get one half off Capcom promo =) I bought an NES title and got an SNES classic half off, effectively making Ghosts'n Goblins about a dollar. It's still quite brutal, even with save points. I enjoyed the Arcade section on the Wii's VC even though it was abandoned early on in what seemed to be a move to draw attention to WiiWare. Sigh.

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