Ghosts ‘N Goblins is the newest release from Capcom for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This adventure-filled action game is sure to peak the interest of fans of the horror genre. You may have seen this game at your local arcade in the last year, but this was my first experience with it. This title is quite unique from the other available choices on the NES, and because of that I would anticipate it being extremely popular in the coming months. After putting countless hours into Ghosts ‘N Goblins in the last few weeks, I have a lot of feelings, both good and mixed about the game.
The game puts you in the role of the hero, simply called Knight, and his princess girlfriend enjoying a picnic in the middle of the night, in a cemetery (as one tends to do). From the get-go it’s already quite a drastic change from the family-friendly games found on the Nintendo. In fact, in Japan the game is titled Demon World Village, but that wouldn’t fly in America and thus it was rebranded to Ghosts ‘N Goblins for its U.S. release.
Of course, a flying creature, simply called Devil, soon kidnaps the princess. Your quest to save the princess kicks off the start of the game. Princess rescuing seems to be a recurring theme in Nintendo games, which might not be too surprising as it’s a trope used in fairy tales and children’s books for years. You travel across the screen from left to right through an area filled with monsters and demons. There are a large variety of these creatures that you must destroy or avoid, and they have many different methods of attacking you. Some of them are extremely aggressive.
The Knight starts off with a suit of armor. If you get hit once, it disappears, and you’ll be stuck battling demons in nothing but your underwear. How humiliating! If you are hit again, your skin slides off until nothing is left but your skeleton. Now, that’s one heck of a way to lose a life. At the end of each area is a gate that is protected by a demon that must be defeated to progress to the next level. There are a total of seven gates to clear.
There are several weapons that you will be able to use on your quest. You start the game armed with a javelin, which you can throw across the screen to dispatch enemies. There are other weapons that you can collect throughout the game to deal more damage. Axes and torches are thrown in an arc pattern, so aiming can be more difficult. I found the torch to be the most difficult and worst weapon to use. This is because only two can be on the screen at once and I often found myself waiting for the fires to burn out to use another attack. This game is often too fast-paced and difficult to wait for that to occur. The knife is like a powered-up javelin. It moves faster across the screen and is the most practical choice when hordes of enemies are coming your way. The cross is the only weapon that can stop projectiles thrown by the monsters. You are able to jump and throw your weapon at the same time and duck and throw, but you can’t throw it directly above or below you.
The enemies start of relatively simple, but there are a lot of them and they pop up from all directions. Things get difficult pretty quickly with stronger and cleverer attackers. Some creatures take multiple hits to defeat and several of the demons, such as the Unicorn and Big Man, take ten hits to vanquish! Some monsters will require you to find their weak point on the body to cause damage. Petite Devils hide in abandoned buildings and fly out the window at you, often making your life miserable. Also, the demons at the end of each gate reappear in later levels as regular enemies, further hampering your efforts to save the princess. You’ll also encounter magicians, which can cast spells turning you into a frog for several seconds, hindering your chance of survival.
To make matters worse, there is a time limit for each stage, so you have to keep moving. I guess no sightseeing is allowed in the land of Hades. Just when you think the game can’t be any crueler, you’ll discover that there are some negative power-up items, such as one that decreases your total time. So be mindful of what you pick up. Some of the levels it is easy to get lost or run out of time going up and down ladders and running into dead ends. You’ll also have to avoid bodies of water and bottomless pits by jumping over them, often onto moving platforms. This wouldn’t normally be terribly difficult, but attempting this while monsters are flying at you from all directions just increases the challenge of the game.
As hard as the game can be, Capcom does make a few things easier for the player. For one, there is a checkpoint in each stage. If you die, you get to start over at this point. You also restart with the weapon you had when you passed away. While you do begin with a set number of extra lives, you also get an infinite amount of continues, so after a game over you still can pick up where you left off. All you lose is your point total and points don’t do much unless you love high scores. Items such as bags of money appear throughout the game for points, and each enemy defeated you are awarded a number of points. Extra lives don’t mean much either with the unlimited continues. It would be an incredible gaming achievement to defeat this game at all, much less without using a continue. Even with these helpful gameplay rules in place, it is likely you’ll get stuck at certain points. After so many defeats, you may just want to walk away from the game for a while. The game is 2 players, but like most games like this, you just take turns after a death. It wouldn’t really be practical or make sense to both be playing at the same time.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Ghosts ‘N Goblins is the gorgeous box art. It is very colorful and shows the Knight surrounded by an entourage of demons. This really stands out from many of the blander pixelated boxes of other Nintendo titles. The artist did a marvelous job on this, and I have no doubt many people will purchase this game for the box and title alone.
The graphics for Ghosts ‘N Goblins are very nice. I love the variety of monsters; zombies, bats, devils, dragons, and even Satan appear. The entire game takes place in the dark, so there is lots of black, and it is pretty dreary, but of course it fits the game’s aesthetic well. Each gate is different from last with lots of unique environments. There are four songs that span the seven levels, but they are short and loop continuously. A huge issue with the game is the flicker and slowdown effect it has. When there is too much happening on the screen, the game can slowdown at times and certain enemies or visuals can flicker in and out. However the most annoying part of the game is the map screen. When you start the game, you are shown a map of the world and where you currently are located. Every single time you lose a life (even if you died 50 plus times in the same spot), it brings you back to this map. Sure, this only takes about six seconds, but it gets old very fast.
Ghosts ‘N Goblins is a very enjoyable and creative game. I did love a lot of about it, and being a huge horror-fan, it thrilled me to have a game like this released on the Nintendo. However, I’ve never played a game even a fraction as difficult as this one. In fact, Capcom even mentions that this game is part of its “Challenge Series”, and they’re not kidding. I want challenge in a game, but I can only take so much of dying dozens of times at the same spot before I reach for the Power button. I would have liked to see Capcom do away with the unlimited continue system in favor of toned down difficulty, or possibly different levels of difficulty to choose from. The repetitive music and technical graphical issues don’t help things either. However, the gameplay is great, and it is packed with exciting stages and cool monsters. This game does offer a tremendous challenge, and it would be so rewarding to successfully defeat this game.
Ghosts 'N Goblins Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
You’re not going to beat this game right away, or possibly ever. If you can deal with this forewarned challenge and you love action games, or the horror genre, I would recommend purchasing. If you are easily frustrated, stay far, far away! Capcom is proving to be an important game developer with three solid titles releasing in the same month for the Nintendo and a healthy arcade history. I look forward to see what they have planned for 1987.
User Review( vote)
SECOND ACT – OTHER REVIEWS
Taken from the December 1986 issue:
Computer Entertainer awarded Ghosts ‘N Goblins 4 out 4 for graphics and 4 out of 4 for quality of game play and entertainment value. It received a Recommended rating.
Computer Entertainer Review Guidelines:
THE RATING SYSTEM:
4 SYMBOLS = EXCELLENT
3 SYMBOLS = GOOD
2 SYMBOLS = FAIR
1 SYMBOL = POOR
♦ = ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMS (1st set of diamonds = quality of graphics; 2nd set = quality of game play and entertainment value)
Any program for a given system is compared only to other programs for the same system. In other words, all C64-compatibles are judged separately from Apple. Some programs, which are virtually identical for multiple systems, will be so noted. When we review software for more than one system, we will note differences and which system we reviewed.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.