Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts – Super Nintendo
Platform: Super Nintendo
Release Date (NA): November 28, 1991
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
My balls hurt from how much this game has busted them.
Alright, class. Today, we are going to discuss the dangers of playing Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. I hope you all brought a notebook and writing utensil, as I expect you’ll be taking copious notes.
This game is hard. So hard. So hard it’s not even funny. And if you think this is a joke go play it for yourself. Just don’t come crying to me when you’ve gone through 10,000 continues and haven’t made a lick of progress.
Let me put it into perspective for you: When I played the game, I played it on the easy setting.
Yeah, you heard me right.
And I’m not ashamed to admit it either because it’s still fucking impossible.
Even on easy I struggled to surpass the first level. I eventually did, of course, but only after tallying a death count you wouldn’t believe even if I told you. And still, the furthest I got was the third stage. In theory, I could have gone longer, but I honestly don’t think there are enough remaining days in my life to play all the way to the last level, so I figured I’d stop there.
Sure, I’m not the best gamer in the world – although old-school platformers tend to be my strong suit. Even so, the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series is renowned for its cruel difficulty.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a classic example of those old-school video games people my age are always talking about that mercilessly kicked our asses. This is the one – the one we refer to when we tell you “today’s video games are too easy.”
That was exhausting.
Much like how I felt by the time I set the controller down and turned the system off.
Alright, enough bullshitting. Let’s get down to business.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a solid game. It’s a Capcom release, how can it be bad?
It’s not the greatest game ever. It doesn’t stand terribly high above the crowd, but it definitely has merits. And for what it is, it’s very solid; a perfect example of what a run-and-gun game should be. It just doesn’t really bring anything groundbreaking to the table, other than excellent level design.
This is a very early SNES game, and as such the character sprites are not amazing. The backgrounds, however, are gorgeous and highly atmospheric, setting the mood for a game where you’re combating the undead and other evil spirits.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts successfully achieves a dark, spooky, and gothic feel.
Level design is the best aspect of this game. You have an endless barrage of clever traps and obstacles bending to complicate your progress. The courses often interact with you in such a way as to make platforming even more difficult (pshhh, like it needed to be harder). Your success will depend on precise execution of very particular controls.
By the way, the controls are worth noting. This is the part anyone who has played Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, or any other game from the series, was probably waiting for.
Yes, the jumping.
It’s similar to the Castlevania series.
It’s not easy.
And, it’s an integral part of what makes the game so dynamic.
When you’re airborne you have no control over your aerial arc. If you leap straight up in the air, you will fall straight down. If you lunge forward, there’s no turning back or adjusting the arc. There is, however, a second jump, which is unique to this entry in the series and gives you a chance to change your direction. It adds a new dimension of strategy to a game with intentionally unintuitive controls. This is also where timing factors in, as successfully landing on a platform depends entirely on the exact moment you hit the jump button the first time and when you hit it the second time. And if you happen to leap the wrong way, you’re shit out of luck. The game can be very unforgiving in this regard.
Let’s talk about that for a second, shall we?
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts actually punishes you for struggling. If you manage to hang onto your armor, opening a chest can earn you a more powerful suit. If you’re without armor and need it desperately to avoid certain death, what do you get? Oh, why isn’t that nice…a different weapon. Or an evil wizard who turns you into a baby.
Oh yeah. Two hits and you’re dead. How do you like them apples?
Sure, some games only give you one hit, like the first Bionic Commando. But hey, when you’re dealing with something this extreme, an extra hit is necessary.
What’s that? Two units of health not bad enough, you say? How about a timer. Still not evil enough for you? Limited Continues! But it seems as though you earn more of them rather effortlessly. Maybe this is a factor in easy mode, as I never actually ran out.
Honestly, I have no idea where the hell all these continues are coming from. It has something to do with the sacks of gold you collect, but even still, isn’t that number supposed to go down? I mean, I’m not complaining. Trust me, the fact that these developers had the gall to put a number next to your continues is insulting enough.
Your attack is very basic, and – for someone like me who overanalyzes everything – kind of ludicrous. I know the vast majority will not be bothered, but allow me to indulge…
You hurl an endless supply of lances, knives, axes…whatever your current weapon may be. You can only throw in one direction, and that’s fine. It contributes more to a frustratingly unreasonable difficulty setting, but I’m okay with this.
The thing I’m bothered by is how lazy this weapon system feels as a concept. Where the hell is this endless supply of lances coming from? Who just chucks lances like that? Anyway, there’s nothing really wrong with it, I just can’t help but be slightly bothered.
As I stated above, you can swap out weapons and obtain upgraded armor. The turquoise (bronze, according to the manual) and gold suits both change the nature and strength of your attack, so knowing the effects will aid you in your decision to pick up or avoid a power-up. And unlike the developers’ miserly attitude toward armor, you will see an ample supply of weaponry.
So now we’ve reached that point once again for the music segment of our review. It’s a Capcom game. Capcom has given us some of the best video game soundtracks, from the Mega Man series to Street Fighter II, to Captain Commando. Yes, the music is good. Of course it is. Is it the best? Well…not really. Not by Capcom standards anyway. But it is very good. It’s catchy, classic, memorable, and instills you with a notion of larger-than-life derring-do, much like the knightly protagonist himself, Arthur, with his chest that juts out into eternity. Honestly, it reminds me of a 1980s Steven Spielberg movie with tracks reminiscent of a preposterous fantasy/adventure, á la the Goonies. It’s also comic book creepy, fitting the look of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts perfectly.
Yeah, this game is an incredible ball buster, but it is satisfying – not to mention a great barometer of your ability as a gamer. Believe me, you will find every bit of progress to be a proud accomplishment. While it may not be a game changer, it is without a doubt a perfect example of the genre and its conventions.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is incredibly frustrating, however, it relies heavily on complex level structure and skill-testing controls to put you through the ringer. It may at times seem unfair, but it really isn’t. It forces you to learn the patterns and jump mechanics. You’ll have to take your time and be patient; eventually you will get it down and move on. The question is, of course, how much time can you really dedicate to Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts?
Bottom line – it’s definitely worth having in your collection. Just don’t buy it with the intention of beating it. Seriously.
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