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- Ghouls'n'Ghosts -




Ghouls'n'Ghosts by Mr. Morden

Revenge, a dish best served cold apparently, ...but not when it's directed at your girlfriend! After only three years of happiness, the time has come again, to grab your best boxer shorts, your best suit of armour, and kick undead butt for a second time. (And Bruce Willis thought he had it bad in the Die Hard films!!!?)
Ghouls 'n' Ghosts picks up from where it's predecessor left off, with Sir Arthur Knight finally reunited with his loved one, hugging each other close, little hearts of love floating to the heavens... ahh. (Phooey! Give me True Romance any day!) For those who never got the chance to see the prequel, we are treated to a short, yet cute animated intro detailing the events that took place to lead to where we are now... back amongst the undead. So, you insert your money, (or press F3!), and watch, as the scene is set before your eyes... Arthur's loved one runs on screen stage right, only to be cast down by some evil magical lightning... Arthur appears atop his steed, stage left, and is also cast down, (but, the horse gets it, which I suppose is good, otherwise, you'd be playing the game with... a horse... and it would just be a bit silly really wouldn't it? I mean, how many horses do you know that wear boxer shorts and armour, chase purple haired girls, cast magic and use all different types of weaponry in an effort to cast Lucifer and his minions back to the bowels of hell from whence they came? Yep, I thought so! See... a silly idea), where was I? Oh, yeah... Arthur is cast down only to gather his senses after his fall, and find his beloved has been turned to stone, along with the rest of the people of the town. An evil face rises in the sky, and Arthur looks up, anger and hatred raging within him. 'Why the hell is it always me...? Why can't it be someone else for a change?' he probably thinks, but then decides, 'to hell with it,' and goes forth once again, to save the world, village, town... oh you get the picture.
If you've indulged yourself and read through my review of Ghosts 'n' Goblins, then you'll already get the idea as to how the game works... if you haven't, here's a brief overview. Arthur, he's a Knight, he wears boxer shorts under his armour, he jumps around a lot, he runs and throws weapons around in a casual manner, well, if casual means taking someone's head off, slicing them in two and making a kebab out of them, then that's as casual as Arthur is. And that's about it, and so my review ends... 'but wait, that can't be right, a review from Mr.Morden that's under 1,000,000 words long? There must be something wrong!?' And indeed there is... I'm just teasing... this review is far from over!!!
Looking back at the original game, the first thing you can say about this sequel is that it is the big daddy version, the grown up version, the 'you don't wanna meet me down a dark alley with no friends to help ya' version; it is, to put it simply, what a sequel SHOULD BE! 'You better explain yourself, hyping this game up the way you are,' I hear someone say... well, read on my friend, read on.
Starting off in the Graveyard/Town stage for a second time, (though it makes you think, doesn't Arthur learn? Graveyards in his area are a bit more, dangerous than your average down in the ground motel), it's just you and your trusty lance to take on the legions of the undead. But, ooh, how glorious is this to behold. Far flung from the original, the sprites are now exquisitely detailed and animated, and even more colourful than before. These characters just wanna jump out of the screen and dance on your desktop, they are that cool. Arthur is now bigger and bolder, but then, so are his enemies and the stages within which the world of Ghouls 'n' Ghosts exists. Graphically, this is an absolute dream, a tour de force, putting the graphically superb 'Willow' in the shade to hide and cry for it's mummy. Attention to detail is amazing... something that you'll notice when you meet your first enemy, the 'Little Reapers' as I call them. Not content with just rising out of the ground, zombie style, they can also be seen to peek out from behind trees, grass clumps and walls, ready to pounce as you run past. It's a neat touch that gives these mere sprites a more believable presence and character within the game. But, then this holds true with all the characters in the game, like for example the Flying Imps of the forest stage, who look like nothing more than spinning leaves in the wind, until they're past you that is and reveal their true selves. Or the Turtles who bounce onto the screen, sometimes atop each other! (Turtles that bounce, see for yourself, it's true.) Or the Baby Gargoyles that have nothing better to do than drop down from the sky attacking you Galaxian style, and drop rocks on your head. There's a huge variety of enemies all of which complement their individual stages amazingly well. Wait till you see the Vultures burst into a flurry of feathers that gently drift to earth after coming face to face with the medieval death machine known as Arthur.
But enough of all this raving about the game's graphical glory, what is it like to play? Well, the good news is that the game is fundamentally the same as it's predecessor, a top notch platform game... but Capcom managed to pull off a work of genius in capturing the whole essence and feel that made the original so much fun, and bettered it to such an extreme, that, it laid the milestone by which other platform sequels would be judged. (Of course, this is just my opinion, readers comments are welcome!) So, just how did they manage to pull this so called, 'work of genius' off? Well, let's see... First of all, Arthur has become more adept at using his weaponry. (Insert tedious innuendo here.) Rather than just throwing weapons left and right, he can now fire up, and when jumping throw weapons down too, (useful for those little sods sneaking up from below!), so already you see he's a bit more versatile. But, it doesn't stop there. Arthur's range of weaponry has also increased. The obligatory lance, dagger and axe are still in there, along with the new improved flame bomb, but also we now have a sword, (strong but massively limited range), a throwing shield, (which follows the path of terrain), and finally Magic, something that is only granted to you much later on. 'Yeah, yeah, a few extra weapons.. so what?' Well, don't go yet... there's more to this story than just throwing things about. Let me explain...
Along your travels, like the original, enemies can be seen carrying those goodie holding pots again. Shoot the pot, get the goodie! (Points and weapons, standard stuff!) But, new to this world are the treasure chests. These appear out of the ground at varying points of the game, but there are also many hidden ones which can only be triggered to appear by jumping at a specific point in the stage. (For example, on the opening level, if you run back to the left of the screen and jump, a hidden chest will appear to your right! Get the idea! Good!) Open these up by shooting them, and one of three things will appear...
  1. Hello Mr. Evil Magician Dude: These guys will usually appear in the first chest of every stage, (and usually every third or fourth), so it's probably best not to open the chest that I revealed in the tip above. Why are they evil? Well, when revealed they fire a ring of magic stars in your direction, which can cause one of two funny things to happen. Ever wondered what it's like to be a duck? Nah, thought not, but get hit by those stars and you'll soon find yourself transformed, leaving you waddling around the screen totally vulnerable and useless for a few seconds. Or then again, you may be unlucky enough to be turned into an old man, complete with old boxer shorts, crooked walking stick, and a walking pace that would have snails laughing at you. Thankfully though, in this form you can still retaliate against your enemies, albeit in a painfully slow manner. These effects only last for about 10 - 15 seconds, but it's still enough to get you killed in a hectic situation. (Especially when you're a duck, wearing a bow tie!) You can of course, kill the magician, but you have to be damn quick to get him, before he gets you.
  2. Hello weapons: Yep, treasure chests hold all the weapons detailed above. So, become a true death machine and let your weapons do all the talking...
  3. Hello GOLDEN ARMOUR: Now we're talkin', (heh heh heh!) Wearing this lovely designer suit of armour, (with splendid flowing cape coming as standard), you are able to unleash the hidden powers of Sir Arthur Knight. The only time that you can acquire this is when you have opened the third successive Treasure Chest (usually), and are already armoured; collecting it wearing just your boxer shorts, results in the armour returning to it's default state. Like the standard armour, it can only take one hit before it leaps off you like... er.. something that leaps off things... a lot... yeah... anyway... But, possessing this golden wonder, (ahem), grants you some new magical powers, with each power being unique to each weapon available in the game. Use of these powers is simple, just press and hold the fire button to charge the meter at the bottom of the screen. Once released, Arthur stands with fist to the sky, and the power is unleashed. So, I guess you want to know what these powers are eh? Well , here goes...
  1. Lance = Lightning Spell: Using this unleashes a lovely effect of lightning striking Arthur and then dispersing left and right, usually frying anything that happens to get in the way. Very effective as it works on enemies on all sides, except for those below you.
  2. Axe = Fire Bomb Spell: This creates a mini mushroom cloud explosion around Arthur, destroying anything nearby, it's range is very limited, but useful if you're being heavily outnumbered.
  3. Dagger = Mirror Image Spell: Probably the most useful spell, (along with, in my opinion, the best weapon!), it does exactly what it says on the label, creates another Arthur, who mimics your moves and basically doubles your potential firepower. VERY useful on end of level bosses and those annoying Flying Harpies!
  4. FlameBomb = Blue Electric Death? Spell: A semi smart-bomb spell that sends out arcing blue flames of death around the screen. Pretty, and fairly effective too.
  5. Shield = Mirror Spell: A strange one this, it causes a mirror to appear from nowhere, which blocks enemies projectile attacks. This comes in useful on only a few rare occasions, one of those being the point where you are trapped between two Cyclops heads spitting fireballs at you!
  6. Sword = Golden Electric Dragons? Spell: Another semi smart-bomb spell that sends out, what look like, two dragons that swirl around the upper part of the screen, wiping everything out, only to return to you after a few seconds.
  7. Magic = none: This weapon requires no magic spell assistance as it is already deemed powerful enough!
So, already you can see that Capcom managed to add a whole new element to the gameplay and were also probably the first to introduce such a vast, and useful, array of weapons and ideas to the platform genre, unlike in other similar platformers, where the 'so called' special weapons or magic powers all do the exact same thing, as in Golden Axe. (Great game, great effects, but all magic effectively the same thing, just with a few different spot effects.) 'But... what's the deal with this Magic weapon..?' Aha, thought you'd never ask...
Magic, it's great isn't it. Well, it is if you're a fan of The Craft or Dungeons and Dragons but not if you're poor old Arthur. You see, fate is just a little bit unfair to our dear hero. Because Capcom, never one to let slip an idea once used, have again used that trick from the original game wherein once completed, you must go back to the beginning of the game and fight your way through to the end, (and find the Magic weapon), though this time against much greater odds. Absolute bummer huh? But, if these all seeing gods who preside over all are so intent on everything being returned to the balance in favour of good, why the hell didn't they tell Arthur about this magic power before he set off on his quest?! Give the guy a break! How much trouble would it save Arthur and YOU the player!? Omnipotent beings eh?! Pah!! Anyway, as for the actual Magic weapon, there is only one way to acquire it; you must be in possession of the gold armour and then opening up another chest will reveal a goddess, or is it your loved one? Either way, from then on you own that weapon and what a great weapon it is. (Hint here: if you use the chest trick detailed above straight away, you can acquire this weapon from the third chest along, thus making the journey a lot easier!) Ever wanted to bestow blue electric fireball death on someone who really, REALLY annoys you? Well, now's your chance if you get hold of this. Without it, you can't complete the game 'proper' and thus will be sent back to do it all again. So make sure you acquire it! I know it can seem like a severe cop out, with you having to repeat everything again to see the real ending, but this game is just so damn good, (and not as damn difficult as the original!), that I think most of you will not mind at all, that is if you have a love for platformers.
And if you do, you'll love this game... it just has so much to offer. From the variety of enemies, weapons and locations, (ranging from a Forest, a Dead Village, a Burning Town, Underground Caverns and a huge Tower with rising floor, which in effect creates a sort of vertical shoot-em up section!), to the glorious graphics and also the absolutely superb soundtrack, this game has it all and more! (Make sure to give a good listen to the first stage music! It's just too damn catchy for it's own good, surpassing even the original!) Control of the game is superb and has translated amazingly well, still giving that all important feeling of 'feedback.' Trust me on this, this is one of the finest moments of platform action that you will ever find, apart from of course, my fave Strider. But if I were asked to make a choice between the two...? Er... I'll come back to you on that... in a long time!
So, what else can I say before I finish writing what is fast becoming close to a novella? Two words... try it. If you've never heard of it, seen it, or just for some reason have managed to miss it or pass it by, then find anyway you can of getting hold of it and playing it. It's another all time classic that has stood well against the test of time. It may not possess the glory or 3D pazazz of platformers today, but if you can look at Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, and play it for what it really is, a marvel of the late 80's two-dimensional arcade gaming era, then I think you will come away from this, wishing maybe you'd been around to experience it's pleasures surrounded by the atmosphere only conceived within those places known as Arcades. Try it... You may think I'm wrong, biased in some way because I grew up with this and the other games of my reviews, but then again, just maybe... I might be right.

Reviewed and Captured on P166 under Callus V0.42 (Perfect!)
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