Tuesday 18 October 2016

Ghosts 'n Goblins (NES review)

Developer: Micronics
Publisher: Capcom
Released: 1986

Ghosts 'n Goblins is a side-scrolling action game that was first released in the Arcades in 1985.

It supports 1-2 players (in turns) and your mission as a Knight is to defeat the Devil and rescue the Princess. Your main weapon is a Javelin but jars can be broken to upgrade to either a Torch, Sword, Axe or Cross. There's seven levels and at the end of each you battle a demon in an attempt to obtain a key to open the gate. The levels involve battling enemies, climbing ladders and jumping across moving platforms, and all are well designed with a nice mix of vertically and horizontally scrolling areas; there's also multiple platform levels for choosing your preferred path. Each weapon has its own characteristics (e.g. some arc when thrown, while others have greater speed) which encourages you to work out the best strategy. However, the controls are stiff and the inability to fine-tune when leaping in the air leads to no end of problems, especially when you're expected to make tricky jumps and an enemy suddenly appears from off screen. Not only does your Knight frequently get stuck in a ducking position, you'll also experience cheap hits due to enemies that rise from the ground directly below your sprite. While there's a good range of enemies, the Red Devils are much faster than you and their relentless attacks cause much frustration. The Ghosts also have an ear-piercing sound effect that slowly drives you insane! Absurdly, if you beat Level 6 without the Cross weapon you're penalised and thrown back to Level 5! The bosses aren't very interesting but I do like the swooping Dragon that requires eight head shots to kill. Music-wise, the tracks are atrocious and sound out-of-tune.
I really like the concept and theme behind Ghosts 'n Goblins but the implementation is lousy. It reminds me of Kid Icarus (1987, NES) in that the core ideas are fun but the control issues and enemy placement result in some brutally hard (and unfair) gameplay that's not very appealing in the long run.
Random trivia: The game has to be beaten twice in a row to see the real ending.

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