Ghosts ‘N Goblins pioneered the idea of armor that shattered at the slightest touch, leaving you clad only in your underwear, facing down zombies, ghosts, demons with heads in their crotches, and other associated monsters. The goal? Rescue a princess, of course. It wasn’t long before several sequels followed. One, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, is best known on the Genesis. The second, which we’ll talk about today, was a Super Nintendo exclusive.
Released in 1991 by Capcom, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts once again tells the story of Arthur, who’s getting ready to cuddle with his Princess (Called Guinevere in the manual, but called “Princess Prin Prin” in-game) in the castle. Arthur has learned from the original Ghosts ‘N Goblins, in which he was ready to try and get it on with the Princess in a graveyard (Yes, really), but alas, it isn’t enough to keep the Princess from being kidnapped again, this time by the evil Sardius. Arthur sets off to save her.
As Arthur, you’ll fight your away through graveyards, ghost ships, underground caves, and snow-covered mountains, to name but a few of the environments you traverse. Along the way, you’ll fight zombies, ghosts, fire-breathing bears, dragons, hydras, and the most dangerous foe, the Red Arremer, now upgraded to the Red Arremer Ace.
To aid your quest, Arthur has acquired a double-jump. Be careful though, as once you jump, until you jump again, you’re committed to your trajectory, although you can change the way you’re facing in mid-air. Further assistance comes in the form of several suits of armor. You start in your basic Steel Armor. By uncovering hidden treasure chests, you can find a suit of Bronze Armor, which will upgrade your weapon in some fashion. Uncover more chests, and you’ll unlock the Golden Armor, which adds a magic spell to your arsenal depending on your weapon. Using the magic also makes you briefly invincible, which can help you stay alive.
And you’ll need all the help you can get to stay alive. The game has four difficulty levels, ranging from Beginner (AKA “Hard”) to Professional (AKA “Throw Your SNES Out the Window”), which mostly affect how fast enemies and projectiles move. You can also change the number of lives you start with from 1 to 9 (The default is 3). No matter how many lives you begin with, though, you’ll be in for a rough time. I played this game for the first two installments of Suffering Saturday, and with good reason. No matter which armor you’re wearing, getting hit a single time will reduce you to running around in your boxer-briefs. Getting hit in this state will reduce you to a pile of bones, forcing you to start from the last checkpoint. By the way, each of the first five levels have a single checkpoint each…and the levels after that have none at all. The game technically has limited credits, but allows you to obtain more by acquiring money bags, and these are enough to give you effectively unlimited continues (Especially if you change the number of lives to anything above 5 or so). Despite this, though, this is one of the toughest games on the SNES, between the few checkpoints, a low number of hits killing you, and the most diabolical trick of all…game padding!
You see, a Ghosts ‘n Goblins series tradition is that you have to go through the game twice to beat it and get a true ending. And sure enough, when you beat the second-to-last level for the first time, the Princess telepathically communicates with you. It turns out that her bracelet is the Goddess’ Bracelet, the only weapon that can defeat Sardius. To get the Bracelet, you have to go through the entire game again. Knowing about this Bracelet would have been very helpful the first time you traveled the world! As for the Bracelet itself, it’s great at point blank range, but much less so from any distance. It can also only fire a single projectile at a time, and it has no magic, even with the Golden Armor. Only by overcoming these weaknesses and beating the seventh level with the Bracelet as your weapon can you move on to the final boss, Sardius. The game is frustrating enough the first time around, and trying to beat level 7 with the Bracelet is nearly toss-your-controller unfair, particularly regarding the bosses.
I first got this game for Christmas in the early 90s, and didn’t beat it until earlier this week. Granted, I had only gotten near the end one time in that span, and that was on Beginner Mode with 9 lives per credit. When I finally took it down, it was on the default settings (Normal [The second of the four] difficulty, 3 lives/credit), and it took me about 7 hours between my unsuccessful attempt for the first Suffering Saturday and my success on the second time. Once you get good at the game, it’ll still take a good couple hours to get through it all, although if you really dedicate yourself to the task, you can beat it in under 40 minutes…on the hardest difficulty.
One other note on this game is that, much like Super Castlevania IV, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts helps disprove the assertion that games focusing on graphics or technology are a new development. There are points that the game is pretty much Mode 7: The Game (For younger people/non-gamers, Mode 7 was one of the SNES’s hardware modes that made it much easier than before to do scaling and rotation effects), especially the intro, the level 3 boss, and level 4.
In all, despite the whole two-loop concept, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts manages to be a fun game overall, and if you’re looking for an old-school style challenge, you’ll get it in spades here. The game was re-released numerous times, but to name just a few besides its initial SNES release, you can find it on the Wii and WiiU Virtual Consoles, as well as on Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1 for the Playstation 2. It’s worth playing if you’re a fan of action platformers that are unforgiving as all get out.