Perfekt Past: Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins

Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins: Capcom hate us all.

Mark

When I wrote a feature about The Immortal a few weeks ago the most common response I heard from people was “Yeah, I had that game. It was too hard.” Well all I can say to that is, if you think that was hard then get yourself some Anusol because this week it’s all about pure 8-bit balls to the wall difficulty and unforgiving gameplay. This week I give you Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins.

Released in 1985 in Japan as “Demon World Village” and then worldwide as “Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins” (Very strange as I’ve yet to find either in the game) it reached great acclaim commercially by piggybacking on a fashionable wave of ghoulish macabre thanks to Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, was featured on a top rated soap opera (more on that later) and was converted to pretty much every home system available at the time and even some much later like the Amiga port that was released as late as 1990.

It's so difficult even the flying monkeys have shields

‘abduction you have to watch’

The storyline (stop me if this sounds familiar) has the brave knight Arthur battling through six stages to reach the kidnapped princess whose abduction you have to watch at the start of every new game along with a large map screen showing you how far through the game you are and a rough idea of what each levels theme is be it a graveyard, town, caves, castle etc.

Arthur himself is a strapping young knight complete with a shiny set of full-plate armour and bushy beard and a small but varied range of weaponry that can be collected from pots dropped by vanquished enemies. Starting out with a standard lance that he can throw across the screen with fast daggers, arching axes, flaming torches and the all powerful shield (a cross in Demon World Village) collectable, although be warned as Arthur is  only able to use the last weapon he collected. He’ll need them too as every level is filled with near constantly spawning enemies all intent on striping Arthur down to his boxer shorts! Ahem … maybe I should explain…

Piggy in the middle

Once Arthur takes damage for the first time his armour falls away and leaves him in just a pair of natty boxer shorts to protect him from further attacks and they won’t, he only get two hits per life before he perishes unless you’re extremely lucky to find a new set of armour to wear. You might think Capcom would make for this lack of fortitude by making Arthur spry and nimble… Nope. Despite looking all buff in his undercrackers Arthur has the speed and jumping power of an arthritic tortoise. This is further compounded by the fact that it is impossible to jump over an object if Arthur is in contact with it.

‘vertically but only diagonally’

In most (well pretty much all) action platformers if you run into something small that stops you, you just tap the jump button and then ‘push’ your way past it in mid-air then carry on your way. In Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins you can jump vertically but only diagonally if you’re running at the time, are you with me? Ok the best example is n stage one the graveyard. Let me set the scene zombies are coming up through the ground constantly and trying to eat you, you start running and throwing lances trying to stay alive.

Available in any colour, as long as it's blue

Concentrating on zombies you run into a gravestone and stop dead, you hit jump but Arthur refuses to traverse the obstacle so you back track a way, run towards the gravestone again and then hit jump at the last moment to perform a running jump to clear one of dozens of such obstacles in the stage all the while zombies are respawning everywhere with plants shoot bullets at you and birds flying across the screen at you and remember two hits and its back to one of the two checkpoints per stage.

‘cured in the end by Paul’

I don’t want you to think I don’t like this game because I do, sure it’s hard and the controls are clunky but what 8-bit game doesn’t have such problems when compared to today’s hints and tips loading screens and in-game tutorial bullshit. I mean what other game can say it was so addictive it got Todd Landers hooked on it? For those who don’t know this is Todd Landers:

Todd Landers

He was a character in Neighbours an Australian soap opera in the late 80’s and early 90’s and for a four episode arc became addicted to videogames and would sneak out at night to play in his local arcade and try to get to the top of the high score board of his favourite game that is… that’s right Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. It wasn’t said what the game was but even as a canny eleven year old I recognised that graveyard and even the town on stage two. He was cured in the end by his uncle Paul Robinson who kept giving him money until he beat the score and put his demons to rest. God, what I would have given as a kid to have a kindly uncle who would keep giving me money until I beat Prehistoric Isle or even Smash TV.

‘a ridiculous game’

As a piece of drama it was laughable as even then I knew the idea of becoming “addicted” to a game was ridiculous but some of my friends at school would warn me when I told them I was of to the arcade after school to play Narc (oh god Narc now there’s a ridiculous game that needs a PP doing on it) or Robocop not to get addicted. I laughed at them then and I still laugh at them now every time they visit and beg to have a play on my Wii whileI warn them not to become addicted. Right anyway, back to the game…

Arthur the knight, yesterday

Well there’s not much more to tell really. It’s hellishly difficult even when you’re used to the jumping and often unfair forcing you pump credits to progress (it was an arcade game after all) and see the next stage or beat the cheating bosses. There is a semi-sequel/remake on the PSP (don’t bother) as well as a proper sequel Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts which is a far better game overall especially in the audio department (bless you Tim Follin) along with other games that it directly or indirectly spawned liked Maximo or Demon’s Crest.

‘you’re a masochist and want to play’

If you’re a masochist and want to play Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins today your best bet is either the NES version on the Wii Virtual Console that has a good amount of speed added to the gameplay or by getting one of the many Capcom retro collections that has it included on the disc. There we go, watch the video clip and you’re done (do you think there was too much bracketed talking going on?).

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