Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts - GBA - Review
Any Capcom 2D side scrolling fan will probably agree with me on this statement … Gn’G (Ghosts n’ Goblins, Ghouls n’ Ghosts) is the most difficult 2D series to come out in gaming history … period. The mixture of continuous random enemy onslaughts, the patience of a saint, and the precision timing of a master all make for one furiously challenging and hard gaming experience, which oddly enough does the exact opposite of what games like that would normally do. Rather than put it down, it causes you to pick it up and give it another go around, over and over again. I still to this day have yet to meet someone who has beaten either game without the help of a cheat code, but I also have not found anyone who didn’t LOVE the series after playing it. That being said …
Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts is a perfect port of the original 16 bit SNES game of the same title. The story takes place four years after the conclusion of the original Ghosts n’ Goblins and Arthur’s heroic rescue of the Princess Guinevere. Arthur has returned home after questing for the legendary weapons of white magic, and vows to stay with his true love for good this time. Suddenly, the kingdom falls under attack by the dark minions of the Ghoul Realm once more. The demon Sardius swoops in and kidnaps Guinevere, and Arthur once again takes up his lance and goes after the princess on another perilous journey into the Ghoul Realm to end it once and for all. The original level setup is there from back in the day, as well as the addition of an Arrange Mode which allows you to select the next level to play color coded as blue for normal, yellow for difficult, and red for VERY difficult, which includes some stages not found in the original game.
At it’s core, the gameplay of Super Gn’G is that of a typical 2D side scroller. The control pad makes Arthur run around the screen left or right, the A button jumps, and the B button throws one of the various weapons that Arthur can collect on his journey. After playing for while, the variations of this game vs. another 2D adventure begin to show themselves, as does the reason why this game is so difficult. The ground beneath Arthur’s feet will sometimes swell or collapse and various hazards (not including the nasty creatures) will appear … such as rolling battering rams or a sudden sinking of the ghost ship’s mast that you happen to be standing on.
The main difference in Super Gn’G that causes the super difficulty is that the monsters themselves have a random appearance and movement pattern that makes it near impossible to determine when and where some will strike. Coffins will blast out of the ground in front or behind you, and some will float in the air as you try to jump over them. Some treasure chests (also random) contain a dark magician who will turn you into a baby and make attacking impossible for a few seconds. Ghosts materialize right below you, demons fly out of unnoticed windows … the list goes on and on. Each stage has it’s unique monsters, each one out to turn Arthur into a pile of bones.
Arthur starts out with his trusty but slow lance and a set of steel armor. One hit, and the armor comes off, leaving him in the trademark undergarments which most recently were found in Maximo. Scattered throughout the stages are weapons and such to help him achieve his quest, each one with varying strengths and weaknesses. For example, the lance Arthur starts with is slow, but will kill enemies in less hits while the crossbow fires in two directions, but both are upwards and it’s hard to hit lower dwelling creatures or items from a distance. Arthur can also find two different sets of armor here and there, each adding a new strength. The bronze armor adds a magic touch to the various weapons, like light beams or homing abilities … and the ultimate gold armor adds white magic to the arsenal after a “charge period” has been satisfied. A full magic meter will add offense, defense, or just assistance when the attack button is held down depending on the weapon, and such things like a magic shield or summoned tornadoes can be a necessity to living or dying. Regardless of the armor type, the same “Two hits and you’re out” rule applies, which can leave you powerful and destructive one minute, but frail and defenseless the next.
Graphically, Super Gn’G looks just like it’s fantastic 16 bit counterpart. The game is brightly colored, cartoony, and eerily dark throughout each of the eight stages that you must go through in order to once again save the day. Arthur looks fantastic, as do the details in the levels, backgrounds, and the multiple foes as well. Graveyards show their age with cracked headstones and dead trees scattered around. The skies are dark and scary looking, with lightning flashing periodically in some places to add to the whole sense of the nightmare you’ve just walked into. Ghosts materialize out of the thick swirling fog and float after you with teeth bared. These examples are only the beginning of a great looking title, and just in time for Halloween!
Overall, any of you who have played the Gn’G series from back in the day know exactly what I am talking about in the review above. Nintendo has brought out Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts for the GBA crowd out there, and I had just as much fun playing it today as I did 10 years ago. Overall, I definitely applaud Capcom for the great resurrection of a difficult but addictive and enjoyable classic, with the extra “Arrange Mode” included to broaden the enjoyment and add some new stages and things here and there. Well, hopefully I will one day be able to add my name to the list of people who beat the game without a cheat code … maybe look me up in about 20 years.
The game is simple to operate and hop right into, with left and right movement, a jump button, and an attack button. Each level is different from the last, and is divided into two “sections”, each one similar but unique in it’s own way. They were also nice enough to add a save feature so you won’t have to start at square one each time you want to play.
Everything from the opening cinematics to the in game areas and characters was done with a lot of care and attention. Everything is brightly colored, moves fluidly, and looks great. There were a few moments of split second slowdown when a lot of things were going on, but nothing which caused problems or took away from the game overall.
The background music, while done on a computer, has a beautifully orchestrated and eerie sound to it which fits the mood for the stage you are in at the time ... and many of these tracks were re-done for Maximo when it came out. The foreground noises are the usual whooshes, clanks, and weird splat sounds of an action game from the late 80’s / early 90’s.
That’s an understatement. The game has four difficulty settings ranging from easy to expert, which mostly determines how fast the enemies will move or fire projectiles. If you can get anywhere in the easy mode, you’ll be able to do it in the expert mode too since it’s super hard no matter what.
Speaking from a standpoint of “Ghosts n’ Goblins” to “Ghouls n’ Ghosts” there were a lot of improvements graphically, weapon wise, and in stage layout. Even today, this game could be a new release and stand out on it’s own as original amongst the other 2D games out there.
Let me put it this way … if you are a Gn’G fan of old like me who loved and played the heck out of this series on Nintendo, SNES, and the Sega Genesis, why are you still reading this review? You should be at your nearest retailer buying it! If you’ve never played a Gn’G game before, this is one of the best side scollers out there and has survived the test of time. Be warned … this game is EXTREMELY fun, but EXTREMELY challenging at the same time, so be prepared for lots of do overs while playing. Super Gn’G is a good addition for just about any GBA library, so suit up and head out to once again save your true love and defeat the darkness once and for all!