Super Ghouls 'N GhostsEverybody should know Ghosts And Goblins by now. It’s one of the hardest games to be released that’s beatable without cheats, but it’s still a hell of a struggle. Moving over to the 16-bit era, there have been two sequels – one for the Genesis, and one for the Super Nintendo. This review will focus on the Super Nintendo version, and I’ll tell you why it’s the sort of game you should get your hands on! It may sport some really tough difficulty, but when you have some tight controls and engaging gameplay mixed with beautiful graphics and a hell of a soundtrack, you can’t say no either way.
King Arthur heads to his castle for a celebration and the princess then gets kidnapped by Satan, so now it’s up to Arthur to save her and the kingdom from the forces of hell. There was an opportunity for some religious commentary, but without any gods or forces of heaven to help stop Satan, nor were there really any crosses or religious figures aside from Satan himself, they missed the opportunity. But for a SNES platformer story, it still works the way you want it – short and sweet in the game, and explained a bit in the manual.
Anybody remember the NES version? Because this game plays roughly like it. You have to get from start to finish while killing enemies, which consist of anything than can go bump in the night. The basics work out fine, being like many other platformers. The one thing that might get you a little tangled up is the jumping. Since Arthur can’t change his momentum or direction in mid jump, you need to plan your jumps out – where to go from, and what direction. The sweet thing is that you get a double jump, so if you bugger up a bit, you can jump back to your platform by holding the d-pad towards that direction, and jump there. Still have to deal with the rigidness, but believe me, you’ll learn to get used to the way you jump... well, really, the game will force you via many, many deaths.
Arthur defends himself with a seemingly infinite amount of lances to throw at the undead, though he can find some weapons in chests he finds along the way, like axes, daggers, scythes, and a few others. Now, if you think they’re just cosmetically different, you’re wrong. Some move in different patterns (some rotate 360 degrees vertically, and some straight forward), and some fire faster and in more numbers than others, and ultimately, some are just more powerful. That said, you’ll probably find the daggers and lances most useful, since you can fire more than one at a time and they aren’t sluggish. The other weapons... I don’t know, they just don’t seem as good, even if the arrows fire in two different directions. The one thing I didn’t care for was the inability to switch weapons – it really would’ve worked wonders, instead of accidently treading over a crap weapon and getting rid of the trusty lances. But oh well, you can find a better weapon elsewhere.
Of course, the main attraction of the game is the difficulty level. This little series has a knack for challenging the hell out of gamers. Tricky platform sections, rough as guts enemies placed strategically, and other elements made to piss you off... just enough to make you want to go at it harder. These games always manage to push the line between fun and annoying, always creating a happy medium by being annoying yet damn fan. The image that everybody who has played this will have in their mind is Arthur in his boxers, since you’ll be getting hit often, you’ll probably play it safe in your boxers, and suits of armors don’t exactly grow on trees or anything, making it very hard to replenish your health until you finish the level. Now, I did say it’s very hard to patch up, not impossible. You can find suits of armor in chests, and you can even upgrade the armor to make your weapons stronger, though one hit will reduce you to boxers no matter what stage, and considering all that I just said... yeah, get used to seeing our hero in his underwear.
Level designs are pretty damn impressive. They manage to throw elements that will test your platforming skills with some rather stiff jumping controls, or they’ll manage to show off the Super Nintendo’s graphical capabilities, like in level 3 how you’re going around the tower – for the time, it was an impressive feat, if only brief. Either way, they’ll challenge you and make sure that it’s not just the enemies that will give you a hard time.
As I said before, the game tries to show off just how well the SNES can go graphically, and though it’s all brief, the pseudo-3D stuff looks impressive. It definitely makes the levels seem more intuitive than your average level. As for the look, it looks like a dark game... no, really, it looks dark. It’s not “it’s dark but colorful at the same time”, but just... dark. Yeah, there are a fair amount of colors used, but there’s also a degree of atmosphere in the graphics. From the creepy backgrounds, to the enemies that will be in your nightmares for years to come, Capcom really knows how to provide darkness in a typically colorful system.
The soundtrack is, for a lack of a better description, kickass with a side ordering of excellence. It definitely draws you further in the game due to the atmosphere it produces. No, it’s not like ambient music. It’s more like Beethoven and Chopin if their music was more gothic-oriented. The music is still upbeat to a point, but it’s more like Casltevania 4 or Actraiser than Super Mario World. The music suits the monster slaying gameplay quite well, to say the least.
Let’s end the detailed portion of the review with a short comparison. I mentioned there was a port of the other sequel to Ghosts And Goblins called Ghouls And Ghosts on the Genesis. The Genesis version allowed you to aim up and down as well as side to side, while the Super Nintendo version doesn’t allow up and down shooting. That’s the only thing that the Super Nintendo version is missing. Everything else about it is well up to snuff, and gives the Genesis version a run for its money through better level designs. The Genesis version is worth trying out as well, but only really for the better aiming, and the sword (yes, it has a sword), plus maybe you might prefer the Genesis version’s level designs over the Super Nintendo version’s (not likely, but still worth a shot).
Gameplay: 4 Some old school platforming action with some monster slaughtering, which is always fun. Technically speaking, it all works out. I just wish you could select which weapon you want, though.
Controls: 4.5 Although I miss the up and down shooting from the Genesis version, the game controls very well. They respond to your every command and is all mapped for convenience. Jumping may take a bit to get used to, since you can’t change direction in the middle of a jump, though you can change with a double jump.
Story: 4 The usual tale of princess getting nabbed by Satan and Arthur has to save her, which by this time has started to get a bit old. Regardless, it does its job by giving you an excuse to kill enemies.
Graphics: 5 Top of the line stuff, with some detailed settings and excellent color usage.
Sound: 5 Sound effects are rudimentary, but what hooks you in is the soundtrack. Taking cues from the darker sorts of classical music, it proves to be some real epic shit to get you into the spirit of throwing lances at legions of monsters, all the while bringing a dark atmosphere to the mix.
Lastability: 4 Should take at least an hour or two to beat the game... twice (yes, what an evil trick). This would technically last you quite some time, but without the ability to save (unless you emulate)... yeah, it just seems like something you’d play if you want to challenge yourself and see how far you get, rather than finish 100%. Not that that’s bad, because it keeps you coming back for more!
Funfactor: 4 If you’re not a fan of devious level designs and enemy placement, you might not have much fun with this game. However, if you’re up for a challenge, this is the most fun you’ll have for a long while. I know I had lots of fun.
Bottom line: Super Ghouls And Ghosts is the sort of game that comes along every now and again to find players strong enough to rise to the challenge. Do you think you’re good enough? Well, go get this game right now! It’s kind of annoying you need to beat this game twice to actually finish it, and a lack of an actual weapon selection menu is a bit inconvenient, but with some slick controls among badass gameplay and some nice, dark graphics and soundtrack, you can’t really say no to this.