Monday, October 28, 2019

Ghosts n' Goblins (NES, 1986)

 Oh God, why? Why? For a game that's only about 20 minutes long straight through, this is the most difficult game I've ever played.


 The game begins with the hero and his main squeeze (let's call them Higgins and Tina) having sex in a graveyard. What is this, Season 6 of Buffy?

 Suddenly, a red demon descends from the sky and kidnaps Tina!

 Our hero puts his pants on (literally) and the adventure begins.

 Almost immediately upon spawning, you get run over by zombies. You pretty much immediately have to start firing the second you spawn. This game makes Dark Souls look like Kirby's Dream Land.

 The starting weapon is the lance, which fires forward like a laser. It's actually pretty solid. The knife is better and is the weapon you want to look for right away. New weapons randomly drop from enemies...incredibly rarely. Once you pick up a new weapon, that's your weapon until you pick up something else. You keep your weapons through death, luckily. There's also a torch and an axe that aren't as useful as the knife so I avoided them. Not sure if there's anything else because NOTHING EVER DROPPED.

Towards the end of the game there's a final weapon that's pretty bad too, but I'll get to that.

 In stage 1, we encounter the Red Arremer for the first time. This wee jackass eventually became Firebrand, the hero of Gargoyle's Quest. These things... are the most obnoxious enemies I've ever encountered in any game. And there are a bunch of them.


There's gotta be a science to taking these guys down. The best I could figure out was that running away from them usually caused them to land on the ground and chase after on foot for some reason, a good time to turn around and fire off as many attacks as possible.

 And that's only the halfway point of the level. Next we have flying knights with shields who can't be damaged and like to fly right into you.

 At the end of Stage 1 is the Unicorn, which sure is a weird name for a big ogre. This guy can be pummeled easily. Weird how the Red Arremer is way worse than the boss.

 The map screen shows you your destiny, a nearby fortress. I liked how Super Ghouls n' Ghosts did this too. Matter of fact, that game had the same map music as this one, only remixed. And in-between those two games is Ghouls n' Ghosts, a relatively forgotten mid-quel for the Genesis, Arcade, and Turbografx-16. I'll be covering that one this week too.

 Stage 2 gets vertical quickly, with flying enemies ambushing you while you try to climb towers. Drink it in, because very few people even got to see Stage 2 back in the day. This must have been like reaching Shangri-La.

 After narrowly making a few jumps, I finally get away from the towers of doom.

 Only to be faced with a new nightmare: Trying to climb ladders that are blocked by these musclebound doofuses. This foe moves around randomly, attacking you when you try to climb up. It's especially obnoxious because there's a tight time limit on these stages, and situations like this can burn through your time if you're unlucky.

 Stage 2 boss: TWO Unicorns. The key here is to only engage one of them at a time, since their spawn points are spaced out just enough to get away with that.

 At the beginning of the next stage, a horde of bats ambush you the MOMENT you spawn. The only way to not immediately die is to be holding left on the D-Pad beforehand so you get out of their way fast enough. While also rapid-firing to take out the zombie on the left and the bats themselves once they reach the ground and start chasing. This game is so hard, it makes Ninja Gaiden on the NES look like World of Warcraft.

 FINALLY. Almost halfway through the game and I finally got a weapon drop. Once you have the knife, you're playing with power. It can fire a lot more than twice at a time, fires fast, and does only slightly less damage than the lance. This basically turns your hero into Mega Man and makes the game vastly more manageable.

 Red Arremer is still a tremendous pain, though.

 NOW THERE IS TWO OF HIM. WHY, GOD? It looks like the one that just killed me is jumping in the air and tapping his feet.

 Next boss! Some kind of flying serpent. This one isn't too bad either, and it's a cool fight because you can defeat it segment by segment with your attacks.

After you defeat bosses, keys fall from the sky. I usually try to catch them, like they're a Super Mario Bros 3 wand. However, in this game you can't catch them in midair.

 This guy again. His appearances should be accompanied by him making farting noises and flipping off the player. He's like the Goro Majima of this game, if that makes sense. Anyway...

 Fourth boss! ...the flying serpent again! At least there aren't two of them. This game is from the Super Mario Bros 2 school of design where every boss has to appear 2-3 times.

 That shield is actually the final weapon in the game, weirdly enough. You need it to reach the final boss. It isn't good to pick it up here in Stage 5 though, because you get another chance midway through Stage 6. For now the knife is a superior weapon, as it reaches all the way across the screen while the shield only reaches about 30% of the screen diameter. At least it can be fired fast. That's right, you fire shields.

 Stages 5 and 6 are absolutely crawling with Red Arremers. Most of them you can avoid aggroing by keeping a distance. Take one step to the right of the ladder here and he's awake, and once that happens... you have to fight.

 At the top is the beefy red devil that kidnapped Tina. You bastard! Interestingly enough, he's easier to defeat than your typical Red Arremer. Just takes a lot of hits.

 In the 6th, final stage, we have to fight all of the bosses again in a gauntlet of sorts. Also, lots and lots of ladder climbing, which means being blocked while the timer ticks down. This 6th stage might be the most brutal stage on the NES, and the 5th stage was already bad enough.

 Serpent fight 2.0! Winning this gets you another shield, and this is the one to pick up. The only problem is, you pretty much have to get to the end of the stage on this go now. If you die you have to repeat all of Stage 6 with the shield instead of the knife, making it much tougher.


 I'm going over here to try and lure the guy away from the ladder, while avoiding aggroing any Red Arremers, and being careful to not pick up that torch weapon. This screen is the worst in the game.

 The boss here? Two beefy red devils. You need to have the shield for this fight in order to progress past it. The key here is to only aggro one of them at a time, something the player likely picked up on by now from having to tiptoe around Red Arremers. From there, it's a basic fight, basically the same as the previous stage boss except with twice the health. Still, this is probably the hardest fight in the game because it follows such a difficult stage and by now the player might be exhausted. Lose and you're back at the bottom of the tower, too.

 Win with the shield, and you're whisked off to the secret final boss, the Red Emperor. This guy is the real big bad of the game. It's crazy that you can miss this fight entirely if you don't get the shield. Since he surprisingly doesn't have a 7th stage leading up to him, the fight is basically a foregone conclusion at this point. It's easier than the twin demons from the previous stage, and for the first time in the game losing doesn't actually set you back in any way. You can lose here unlimited times and still be at this fight.

Here's the actual battle. It's surprisingly short. No Sardius in this one, either.

 Win, and...nope, no credits. As is tradition, the game tells you to go back and do the whole thing a second time to see the real ending. To that I have only one thing to say:

Not today Satan!

 Finish the game a second time and you get a new ending screen. The game is basically the same with a bit more difficulty. No new final boss, nothing.

I may have strongth and be couragedour, but I'm good with "this story is happy end" and I'm gonna have to decline the invitation to challenge again. How many times did they want people to replay this!

And all of that said...the game is pretty cool for its time. Man is it rough, though.

1 comment:

  1. That Buffy reference, oof.

    Yeah, get the knife.

    Firebrand is dancing in the air there, what a jerk.