Ghouls 'n Ghosts
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Capcom (ARC/GEN/SMS/X68)
    • Software Creations (Amiga/C64/CPC/ST/ZX)
    • Alfa System (SuperGrafx)
  • Publishers:
    • Capcom (ARC/X68)
    • U.S. Gold (Amiga/C64/CPC/ST/ZX)
    • JP US UK Sega (GEN/SMS)
    • Brazil Tec Toy (GEN/SMS)
    • NEC Interchannel (SuperGrafx)
  • Released:
    ARC
    • December 1988
    Amiga
    • US July 1989
    • UK 08/19/1990
    GEN
    • JP 08/03/1989
    • US September 1989
    • UK 11/30/1990
    • Brazil 1990
    C64
    • US UK 1989

    CPC/ST/ZX
    • UK 1989
    SMS
    • US March 1990
    • UK Brazil 1990
    SuperGrafx
    • JP 07/27/1990
    X68
    • JP 04/22/1994
Score: 85%

This review was published on 06/04/2017.

Ghouls 'n Ghosts, known in Japan as Daimakaimura, which roughly translates to Great Demon World Village, is a side-scrolling platform video game originally developed and published by Capcom for arcades in December 1988. It's the second game in the Ghosts 'n Goblins series, being a direct sequel to the original Ghosts 'n Goblins, which was released for the arcades in 1985 and got ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System and various other home platforms in 1986. Like the first game, Ghouls 'n Ghosts was ported to countless other home platforms after its arcade release, like the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, and ZX Spectrum in 1989. It also got ported to the Commodore Amiga in North America in July 1989 and Europe on August 19, 1990. However, the most popular port is the Sega Genesis one, which came out in Japan on August 3, 1989, North America in September 1989, Europe on November 30, 1990, and Brazil in 1990. There was also a Sega Master System version released in 1990, a port to the Japan exclusive SuperGrafx on July 27, 1990, and one final port released for the Sharp X68000 on April 22, 1994.

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While Capcom developed the arcade, Genesis, Master System, and X68 versions, different companies took care of the other ports. Software Creations created the Amiga, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, and ZX Spectrum ports, while Alfa System did the SuperGrafx port. On the publishing side, Capcom published the arcade and X68 versions, whereas U.S. Gold handled the publishing duties for the Amiga, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, and ZX Spectrum. Sega published the Genesis and Master System versions in most parts of the world, but as was usually the case back then, Tec Toy published them in South America. Finally, NEC Interchannel published the SuperGrafx version. Despite being on nearly as many platforms as the first game, Ghouls 'n Ghosts wasn't quite as successful or popular as its predecessor. However, Ghouls 'n Ghosts is the better game by a considerable margin, so that hardly matters. This quality certainly didn't go unrecognized, though, because the game got high scores from many review publications at the time.

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In the first Ghosts 'n Goblins, Princess Prin Prin was kidnapped by an evil demon, but the literal knight in shining armor, Sir Arthur, saved her. After the daring rescue mission came to a successful conclusion, Arthur set out on another adventure, leaving the Princess safely at the castle. The events of Ghouls 'n Ghosts are set three years later, where the castle and its town got attacked by demons. Arthur rode his great white stallion to the castle in an attempt to rescue the Princess once again, only to find that everyone had been murdered by Lucifer, known in some versions of the game released outside of Japan as Loki. Sadly, he did not make it in time to save the Princess, instead watching her die right before his eyes. Vowing revenge, Arthur elects to go on another quest, this time to defeat Lucifer and revive all the dead townspeople, and his one true love, the Princess.

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Arthur is yet again the sole character you control in this game. As before, he's able to run, jump, crouch, and climb ladders. His jumps still only go a fixed distance, making it prudent to carefully plan out all your leaps. Like the last game, Arthur can take up to two hits, with the first one stripping him of his armor, and the second one stripping him down to his bones. Humans sort of need skin to live, so that obviously kills him. If Arthur finds himself with nothing but a pair of boxers on, fret not, because it's still possible to find another suit of armor to restore his protection. Unlike the last game, Arthur is now capable of attacking upwards and downwards with all his weapons, though attacking downwards can only be done while in the air. It goes without saying that this is exceptionally useful, as this finally gives Arthur the means to defend himself against aerial foes. In addition to that, the controls are far more precise than the previous title.

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Like the first game, Arthur can swap his currently equipped weapon by obtaining another one. Most weapons are projectile based, allowing Arthur to throw an unlimited number of them. Almost all of the weapons from the previous game are here, such as the lance, axe, dagger, and a firebomb that replicates the functionality of the torch. However, this game has a couple of new weapons, like the sword, which is the only short ranged weapon in the game, and a discus that can travel along the ground. The weapons are far more balanced this time around, so every weapon has its pros and cons. For instance, the dagger can be thrown more rapidly than any other weapon, but it can't penetrate through multiple enemies, whereas the axe can. Likewise, the sword makes up for its lack of range by doing more damage. Even the torch-like firebomb, which was completely useless in the first game, has some practical uses in this one. The better weapon balance makes the game better.

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Not only are there new weapons, but there's also a new mechanic in the form of magic. If Arthur picks up another suit of armor when he's already armored, he'll be upgraded to the golden armor, granting him the magical ability to use magic. To cast a spell, the attack button must be held down until the meter at the bottom of the screen is fully charged, then released. What spell Arthur casts is dependent on what weapon he's currently equipped with. For example, the lance launches lightning in three simultaneous directions, the sword summons electrical dragons, the dagger creates a doppelganger that fights alongside Arthur, the discus temporarily erects a mirror shield, the axe causes a fiery blast, and the firebomb shoots out fireballs everywhere. Sometimes an unwanted weapon may have a wanted spell attached to it, forcing you to put a little more thought into what to go for. Magic is insanely useful and adds an extra layer of strategy to the game, so it's a welcome mechanic.

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Many horrifying environments await Arthur, like a graveyard filled with guillotines and crucified skeletons, a demolished town in the desert, a village set ablaze, a tall tower, a massive mountain, and a crystalline cavern. Arthur will meet many terrifying foes along the way, like grim reaper lookalikes, puking pigs, bouncing turtles, and more. Some of the enemies are also quite impressive, like tentacles with pulsating segments that, when destroyed, will remove a portion of the tentacle. There's also a wizard who'll occasionally appear out of treasure chests to cast a silly spell on Arthur, temporarily transforming him into a harmless duck, or a sluggish old man. Every stage ends with a delightfully cruel boss encounter, like a giant demon that wields its own decapitated head as a weapon, a fiery hound, a giant undulating worm, and so on. While the stage design still primarily focuses on enemies, there's far more platforming now, which makes the action more varied.

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It may not be as hard as its predecessor, but the difficulty in Ghouls 'n Ghosts is still off the charts. Enemies keep spawning from every which way, never relenting. There are a lot of surprise deaths, too, like collapsing bridges that drop you into deadly quicksand, or certain enemies that don't appear until you're right next to them. The only way to get around these deaths is raw memorization, which involves quite a bit of trial and error. However, unlike Ghosts 'n Goblins, this game's unrelenting difficulty doesn't rely on luck, so practice and perseverance will always be enough to overcome any challenge, no matter how tough. One unfortunate thing this game still kept from its predecessor is the ludicrous requirements to see the true ending. In order to face the true final boss, you must beat the game twice in a row, making sure to have the special weapon by the end of the second play through. That's really the only blemish this game has.

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The original arcade version of the game is indisputably superior to all the others, being that it has the best graphics and sound of the bunch. However, out of all the ports, the X68 one is a nearly perfect conversion, keeping almost everything intact. The Genesis port is a more than adequate substitute, though, as it's only minimally worse than the original. The SuperGrafx version is also not bad, though the music is inferior to the Genesis port, plus the colors are off. While the Master System version is a considerable downgrade in graphics and sound, it's the most unique in that it actually adds some lightweight RPG mechanics. In this version, some treasure chests contain doors that lead to areas where Arthur can upgrade his breastplate to increase his defense, boots to enhance his agility, and helmet to gain spells that cost MP to use. It's for this reason that the Master System version is still worth checking out even if you've already played the arcade original or one of its better ports. All the other ports suck, though.

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Everything about this game is better than the original. It has better graphics, music, controls, mechanics, balance, and doesn't require as much luck. It does, however, require plenty of skill, strategy, and a little bit of memorization. Other than the sadistic requirement to get the true ending, there's nothing this game gets wrong. This is easily one of the best arcade games out there, and the Genesis version is one of the best games on the system.

Word Count: 1,655

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