Twelve Things That Would Make Ghosts ‘N Goblins Worse (Guest Article)
By Good-Evil Contributor Tuesday, 8 Apr 2008

Contributed by Daniel Brown. His website is here which showcases his excellent piano music. He also has an album for sale of arrangements of Final Fantasy VI music.

Ghosts ‘N Goblins for the NES gets a lot of bad press – reviewers trash it, and it is commonly cited as a game made far too difficult to be enjoyable. As this is one my favorite games of all time, and one I have spend hours upon hours getting to know better, I feel it is my responsibility to defend its honor the best I can.

Yes, it’s got issues. The framerate is pretty choppy, you can’t change the direction of your jump mid-air, and you can’t shoot very many of your weapon at a time. Beating this game is very rewarding – it really gives you a sense of accomplishment. But, in order to do that, you’ve got to put up with many hours of pain. My feelings on it are best summed up: it’s my favorite abusive girlfriend. And I’m sick of people talking smack about her.

So before you make a Youtube “wtf I am dead! this sux” video, stop whining long enough to read these.

Twelve Things That Would Make Ghosts ‘N Goblins Worse

1. More levels.

There are only 6 stages in the game. Even though you need to go through them all twice to rescue the princess, the level layouts are unchanged. Six is the least number of levels in any game in this series. Three of the levels are pretty consistently beatable with a little practice – levels 1, 3, and 5 don’t usually cause problems if you know where you’re going. That only leaves 3 difficult levels, though it’s true when this game does difficult, it fucking means it.

2. No checkpoints.

Levels 5 and 6 have no checkpoints, and they can be maddening. But levels 1-4 all have checkpoints where you can start from if you die – they’re a great help. If I managed to reach the end of the blue cave of level 3 and die, then have to start over in the yellow cave each time, I probably never would have continued my relationship with this game.

3. Auto-scrolling.

You have control of the screen scrolling from beginning to end. This means you can take your time watching out for spawning enemies and plan your next move. I dare you to enjoy the nervousness of horribly long auto-scrolling levels of Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts. This is what that game says to me in those levels: “I love seeing you fail. I’m going this slow because you spend more time failing this level that way, and that’s great for your self-esteem.”

4. Armor upgrades.

“What,” you say? “Wouldn’t that help?” To this I respond, have you played Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts lately? You’ll get to a boss and say “Wow, I’m getting owned. If only I had the golden armor!” (stares off wistfully.) So you spend an hour trying to get the golden armor in the level and not die getting up to the boss to find out, he’s still owning you because he’s hit you once and you’ve lost your Golden Armor. That’s a soul-crushing feeling. At least in Ghosts ‘N Goblins you know that the armor you start off with is the best chance you’ll have, so you don’t waste time wishing you had something better.

5. More fireballs.

No, I’m serious. GnG is light on fireballs flying at you. The eyeball plants, red devils, cyclopses all shoot fireball-ish projectiles at you, but virtually any time you see one coming at you you can dodge it or jump over it. They move pretty slowly, too, so you can jump over them if they’re at a good angle. There are never more than 2 on screen at one time – and there are no spots in the game where you can’t kill the maker of the fireballs. Once you kill said enemy, they are dead and thus can’t shoot fireballs anymore.

6. Worse music.

This game would be unforgivable to the casual NES gamer if the first level theme wasn’t so memorable. That tune keeps the game alive in people’s minds even if they can’t stand to actually play it – so it’s got that going for it.

7. Difficult final bosses.

I didn’t say “more difficult.” The end-of-stage bosses of levels 5 and 6 are significantly easier than the levels they are bossing over. They fly slow, they’re easy to hit, they can’t hit you if you’re ducking, and their fireballs are easy to dodge – following the examples of their minions. The final boss is a pushover – you might think he changes form and becomes harder a la Castlevania, but no. He just dies.

8. More random enemy behavior.

The zombies don’t change direction. The eyeball plants have a fixed rhythm to their shots. No walking enemies can jump. The red devils swoop based on timing that’s tied to how you’re moving – this is a little tricky, sure, but you can get used to it if you’re paying attention each time. The dragon bosses all move in fixed patterns. The blue devils swoop and ascend in regular rhythm. The ogres won’t be able to attack if you are hitting them with a constant rhythm. The birds wave up and down a little as they fly across the screen, but always at the same height depending on where your character is when it generates. Appreciate those facts.

9. Not be able to turn around while jumping.

In GnG, you can always turn your character to face the other way in the middle of any jump. This is very useful when you’re attacking flying enemies or trying to get some hits on a boss while also backing away from it. Not being able to do this would mean you have to run away, turn to shoot, then run away some more – you’d only get half the opportunity to attempt shots. This would effectively double the difficulty of the game overall.

10. No replacement armor.

They’re hard to find, but there are 5 replacement armor spots throughout the game. Once you know where they are, they really help out. They increase the number of survivable hits you can take from 1 to 2, so lacking those in addition to #8 above would make the game four times harder.

11. One-hit kills.

Hold it! Don’t even start the “you can only get hit twice!” argument! Be thankful Sir Arthur didn’t follow the lead of Donkey Kong, Silver Surfer, Jaws, whose main characters all die in one hit. Be thankful there are no smashing things, flames, or spikes that kill in one hit no matter what – which you experience often enough in the Super Mario games, Castlevanias, and Mega Mans. I don’t want to hear it.

12. Limited continues.

The first time I beat both rounds of this game, my NES was on for three days without being turned off. You’ll never have to start back at level 1 of the first round once you beat it, thanks to the unlimited continues – provided your NES is reliable and your patience and persistence are also unlimited.

Now go play this game like a man.

3 Responses to “Twelve Things That Would Make Ghosts ‘N Goblins Worse (Guest Article)”

  1. Andrew Raub Says:

    Excellent read! I suck at this game, but I respect it like mother nature. And I have mad respect for you for being able to crush it so easily.

  2. Zach Patterson Says:

    frankly, this makes me want to play ghosts n goblins…lulling me into a false sense of confidence about it.

    you won’t fool me mr. brown! i’ll stick to super ghouls n ghosts, where i feel more comfortable and safe.

  3. Charlie Goodrich Says:

    I agree with Zach. While I commend your efforts to master this game, I enjoy the Super version better. Unlike its NES predecessor, I am capable of completing Super Ghouls and Ghosts without cheating.

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