Review- Ghosts ‘N Goblins (NES)

Recently I completed and posted a review for the PS3-exclusive horror RPG Demon’s Souls. It was, as many players can attest, a difficult game. In fact, Demon’s Souls is fast becoming somewhat legendary for it`s brutal difficulty curve, and it deserves the reputation it has gained.

Regardless, a few weeks after completing Demon’s Souls (and still feeling rather pleased with myself for having done so), I found myself in the local video game store, and tucked safely in the glass case that held the NES games I spotted what I assumed would be my next conquest- Ghosts ‘N Goblins.

The observant reader will, at this point, stop a moment and recollect the old colloquialism about ‘what happens when you assume.’

The game cartridge itself was in rather poor condition, I noticed, with part of the shelf label torn off. Nevertheless, I purchased the game, and while I wish that I could recount some creepy story about how the cashier was an old gentleman who crossed himself silently and held his hand forth in the charm against the evil eye while he removed the game from the display case and rang up my purchase, I’m afraid nothing quite so dramatic happened; the cashier was in fact just a bored-looking college student, and I don’t think he even noticed what game I was buying.

Some of my readers who are unfamiliar with the game may be curious as to why I would be surprised at the lack of reverence on the part of the cashier for the game. I can only assure them that, were they familiar with the reputation of Ghosts ‘N Goblins, they would not feel so surprised. It is known as the most difficult game ever made.

As I said though, I had just beaten Demon’s Souls and was full of bluster, and as I rode the bus back home I chuckled and mused idly to myself “Ah, how hard can it really be?”

The game opens with a short cutscene showing Sir Arthur, the protagonist, sitting down to have a picnic with his girlfriend, the princess. Unfortunately for our heroes, before they can pop the champagne and open their tuna sandwiches, a demon suddenly materializes out of thin air and, in fine NES tradition, abducts the princess and teleports away. Sir Arthur, of course, immediately grabs his lance and gives chase. Why did the demon abduct the princess? Why did Sir Arthur bring his lance to a picnic? Why did the couple decide to have their picnic next to a cemetery in the shadow of a demon-haunted castle? It`s an NES game, nobody cares.

The game allows you two hit points. That`s it. One hit from an enemy and Sir Arthur loses his suit of armor and gets to spend the rest of the game running around in his boxer shorts. A second hit and he collapses into a pile of bones.

None of this would be so bad, of course, if Sir Arthur had any offensive capability whatsoever. Unfortunately for him, he’s a rather inept knight. You start off the game with a lance as your primary weapon and you DAMN WELL BETTER APPRECIATE IT LOLZ, because it’s probably the best weapon you’re going to see for a long time. Some enemies, the ones that look like they’ve decided to carry a potato sack into battle, drop upgrades when killed, but the upgrades are almost entirely useless. There`s a suit of armor that, so far as I can tell, does nothing. It does give you points when you pick it up, but this is an NES game and not an old arcade classic, so the points are completely meaningless. There`s a fire bomb that works a great deal like the Holy Water subweapon in Castlevania, except that in Ghosts ‘N Goblins, it isn’t a subweapon: it actually replaces your main weapon when you pick it up, and unlike the lance you start the game with, it dosen’t fly straight across the length of the screen- it goes up in a small arc and drops straight down. It does cause a little pillar of flame to erupt on the ground for a moment where it lands, but this only works if you throw it on the ground with nothing around it. If it actually manages to hit an enemy rather than the dirt, it simply registers for one point of damage and vanishes. The best weapon in the game is the dagger- it flies straight across the whole screen and has a faster firing rate than the lance. Guess which weapon you`ll almost never get?

The game is broken into stages, but the stages are meaningless- there are checkpoints in the middle. The first area is the cemetery where Sir Arthur and the Princess where having their picnic, and the game throws endlessly respawning zombies at you here, along with crows that hone in on you, flytrap plants that shoot projectiles, a demon that you WILL take damage from before he dies, and a cyclops for the end boss. In an odd averting of the theme of the game, the cyclops goes down very easily, taking just ten hits before he dies and you get the key to the next area.

The next area of the game consists of a row of…apartments. Because I guess someone on the design team thought apartments were scary enough thematically that they were an appropriate environment to follow a cemetery. Well, at least they`re decrepit apartments that look kind of run-down. Regardless, the apartments are full of monsters- initially ghosts that fly out of the windows and knock you into a tiny pool of water which, of course, is an insta-kill. The next bloc of apartments contains a cadre of guys that look sort of like sumo wrestlers, and it`s the area where all hell breaks loose.

The sumo wrestlers patrol every level of this four-level apartment complex. They can shoot projectiles front, back, and downward. If you touch them, you take damage, and they will run directly toward you when they spot you and stand directly over you so you take damage repeatedly. Oh, remember how the cyclops, the level boss of the last stage, took ten hits to beat? These guys take ten hits as well. Each.

Getting through the apartment building requires going up all four floors and then traversing down all four floors again, while the sumo wrestlers patrol the levels both ways. On one particularly memorable occasion, one of the sumo guys saw me descending the ladder down to his floor, so he ran directly under the ladder, squatted at the bottom, and refused to move. Meanwhile, a crow lazily floated past and dropped a ‘power-up’ right at the bottom of the ladder- the useless fire bomb. Thus, descending the ladder would not only have killed Sir Arthur, it would have caused him to lose the coveted dagger weapon for the rest of the playthrough. But there was no other way out of the apartments.

It was at this point that, with a sudden flash of insight, I came to understand why the end of the game’s label was torn off when I purchased it- clearly the damage was done by the grubby but sharp nails of some child as he or she, mad from frustration, frantically attempted to claw the cartridge out of his or her NES. And I must confess I would have done the same, had the flooding memories of years with Super Mario Bros, Metroid, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda not stayed my hand from harming my own console.

And the game? Much like the dwarves in the mines of Moira in Tolkien’s classic fantasy who wrote “We cannot get out”, I can go no further. Hours spent grinding on the split-level home of the sumo guys were for naught. I simply cannot get past it.

My apologies to Sir Arthur.

~ by Redgoateerob on January 23, 2012.

4 Responses to “Review- Ghosts ‘N Goblins (NES)”

  1. Nice review! I especially like that you didn’t finish the game, because I think that’s a large part of summarizing this game 🙂 plain and simple, you won’t beat it, you don’t stand a chance… and that’s what makes it so great!

  2. […] game was to score as many points as possible before one’s demise; but as I pointed out in my review of Ghosts ‘N Goblins, the collection of meaningless points seems vapid in the modern era of plot-oriented […]

  3. […] on January 23′rd of last year I made an attempt to review Ghosts ‘N Goblins for NES. It turned into less a review and more a diary of rage as wherein I discovered the most difficult […]

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