Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    SNES
    • JP 10/04/1991
    • US 11/28/1991
    • UK 12/10/1992
    GBA
    • JP 07/19/2002
    • US 09/23/2002
    • UK 09/27/2002
Score: 85%

This review was published on 06/06/2017.

Known in Japan as Chomakaimura, which roughly translates to Ultra Demon World Village, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Capcom. It was originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom in Japan on October 4, 1991, North America on November 28, 1991, and Europe on December 10, 1992. The game was later ported to the Game Boy Advance in Japan on July 19, 2002, North America on September 23, 2002, and Europe on September 29, 20002. This is the sequel to Ghouls 'n Ghosts and the third game in the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. The previous two games initially released for the arcades and later got ported to various home platforms, but Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is the first game in the series that originated on home consoles. All these games are known for their sadistically high level of challenge and impeccable design, and the best of the bunch is Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.

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The protagonist of the Ghosts 'n Goblins series is Sir Arthur, a courageous knight whose armor looks much more durable than it actually is. In the first game, Princess Prin Prin, known in some localized versions of the game as Guinevere, was kidnapped by demons, but Arthur promptly rescued her. Three years later, during the events of the second game, the Princess was killed by Lucifer, again known in some localized versions as Loki, and Arthur journeyed to the Ghoul Realm to bring her back from the dead. After having saved the Princess twice in a row, Arthur departs on a journey around the world. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts begins with a short scene showing Arthur returning to the kingdom of his fair Princess, where a fireworks celebration is being held. However, the ceremony was rudely interrupted by a winged crimson demon, which kidnapped the Princess and flew away. Behind this dreaded deed is Samael, localized outside of Japan as the Emperor of Evil, Sardius. It's now up to Arthur to save the Princess once again.

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Arthur is back under your control for another ghoulish adventure. The not-so-sturdy knight is able to run, jump, crouch, climb ladders, and attack like before. In a series tradition that began with the first game, Arthur is capable of taking two hits from most enemies and hazards, the first of which will strip him down to his boxers, and the second peels away his skin to reveal a dead pile of bones. For the most part, everything controls just as well as it did in the previous game, which controlled pretty well. However, unlike Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Arthur is no longer able to attack upwards or downwards. This might seem like a bad change at first, but it has the benefit of improving weapon balance even further, as some of them can make up for Arthur's aiming deficiency. It also further simplifies the control scheme. Still, you're definitely going to miss the multidirectional attacks if you just came off of playing the previous title.

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To make up for his lack of multidirectional aiming, Arthur is now capable of performing a double jump. His jumps still travel a fixed length like in the last two games, but he can now do a second one in a row. This is a fairly big deal, because in addition to allowing him to jump farther and higher, he's now able to change directions while in the air. That makes jumping around a tad easier in this game, as a singular jump requires less commitment. You also have far more control over your aerial mobility, because the second jump can be activated any time between when the first jump is initiated and when Arthur lands on the ground. Additionally, attacks done immediately following a double jump do more damage. That might seem like an insignificant detail, but in a game this hard, every little bit helps.

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As with the previous games, Arthur is able to swap his currently equipped weapon with whatever he finds on his journey, be it from pots or treasure chests. Every weapon Arthur uses is a projectile that he can throw or shoot an unlimited number of, and they all have advantages and disadvantages. Many of the series mainstays are still here, like the lance, dagger, axe, and torch. Both the lance and dagger only fire straight, but the dagger can be thrown more rapidly, whilst the lance does more damage per hit. Meanwhile, the axe travels in a circular pattern when thrown, and the torch is tossed towards the ground like a grenade. Some of the weapons that were first introduced in the second game have been replaced with different ones here. These new weapons include the crossbow, which fires arrows in two directions at once, a bladed object that returns to Arthur after it's thrown like a boomerang, and a scythe that can be thrown downwards. The weapons are even more balanced now, resulting in more strategic game play.

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The armor upgrade system from the previous game is back, but it's received some minor modifications. When Arthur inevitably loses his armor, he can obtain another one in select treasure chests throughout the game. However, if he obtains an additional suit of armor while he's already armored, his armor will change to a green sheen. While wearing the green armor, any weapon Arthur has or obtains will be upgraded. When upgraded, the lance and dagger leave a magical trail behind them, the bow fires three arrows that home in on enemies, the axe increases in size, the torch creates larger flames, and so on. However, Arthur's weapon will return to its non-upgraded state if he loses his green armor, so this is a temporary luxury. Given how difficult this game is, you may never even get the opportunity to obtain better armor. On the bright side, you're less likely to get hit when you've got better weapons.

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If Arthur acquires another suit of armor when he's green, he'll turn gold, which not only gives him all the same benefits as the green armor, but also grants him the use of magic. Magic is used by holding down the attack button to charge the meter, then releasing it when the bar has been fully charged. Each weapon has a different spell attached to it; the lance shoots three lightning bolts, the dagger summons a fiery dragon, the bow reveals hidden treasure chests, etc. The golden armor also comes equipped with a shield, which can protect Arthur from a single projectile before crumbling to pieces. Arthur can acquire other shields to replace his broken one, but only if he's still wearing the golden armor. He can also get a better shield that is capable of sustaining multiple projectile hits, provided he can find one. Sadly, none of the armor upgrades allow Arthur to take any more than the standard two hits.

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As always, Arthur begins in a creepy graveyard infested with zombies, this time breaking out of their coffins in dramatic fashion. However, this stage has a new, interesting twist in that the ground shifts, creating hills where none previously existed, and changing the incline on others to cause flaming skeletal carriages to roll towards Arthur. That's not all; just when you think the first stage is over, there's another creative bit where Arthur must stand on special rocks to prevent himself from being washed away by the massive tidal waves. Another neat section appears in stage two, where you steer across stormy waters aboard a tiny raft. Arthur also ventures into many other varied locales, like a wrecked ship haunted by ghosts, a demonic furnace, a steel tower, an icy forest, the stomach of a large ghoul, and other terrifying territories. The stage design in the last game was good, but it's even better in this game.

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Of all the games in the series, this is the fairest one of all. There are fewer cheap deaths and the element of luck is kept to a minimum. On top of that, the game will sometimes slow down when there are too many objects on the screen. While a technical blemish to be sure, this proves helpful during the game's more intense moments. That doesn't mean this is an easy game, though. Far from it; you likely won't get past the first stage on your first few dozen attempts. However, the insane challenge is the result of excellent design, so it's rarely frustrating. Unfortunately, this game does still inherit one problem from its predecessors. That is, you must effectively beat the game two times in a row in order to face the true final boss and obtain the real ending. Not only that, but you must have the special weapon, which is hidden in a random treasure chest, before reaching the final area on the second play through. That's just too much.

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Ghouls 'n Ghosts was a colossal improvement on Ghosts 'n Goblins, and Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts refines the formula even further. Splendid graphics, decent music, tight controls, amazing stages, and awesome mechanics; this game is good. It is, however, very hard, which will be the biggest barrier preventing most people from enjoying it. As far as actual negatives are concerned, beating the game twice in a row to get the real ending is stupid. Also, there's some slowdown, but that's really a blessing in disguise. Besides those wrinkles, this game rocks and is the best in the series by far.

Word Count: 1,582

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