Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is the third game in the Ghosts 'n' Goblins series (but the only one I've played) created by Capcom. It's a platformer, was released in 1991, and has remakes and re-releases on Saturn, PSX, PS2, Xbox, GBA, PSP, Wii VC and PS3, which I guess really speaks to how well crafted this game actually is.
Aurthur (a knight) sets out to rescue the princess (Guinevere), who has been kidnapped by Emperor Sardius and his demons in an attempt to find the Goddess' Bracelet, Sardius's kryptonite. After battling his way through Sardius' demon horde he discovers he must start again to find the hiding place of the bracelet as the princess has hidden it.... somewhere.
My early memories of Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts were of a game that seemed to take forever to get anywhere, and was dramatically hard. Now that i have revisited the game as an adult the first thing i noticed is that it is a legitimately challenging game, but secondly that as a youngster I had never seen past the second level. Determined to conquer this old foe and spurred on by the knowledge that even the internet considers this classic difficult, i got stuck in to see just how far i could get.
The game begins in a graveyard that (like every other location you will adventure through) has been overrun by the demon horde. As you slay your first few undead and discover your first treasure chest there is slight feeling of confusion over which items you do and don't want. Money bags (when theres no cash counter), 'busts' for lack of a better term, and alternate weapons that are no more or less powerful than each other, all give you that anxious feeling that you need to collect everything or else you may miss something pivotal to the game.
After the initial anxiety attack that, lets face it, comes with getting used to every new game, you settle in the navigating your way through a land overrun by creatures from hell of all shapes and sizes and all intent on turning you into a pile of lifeless bones. Some enemies are essentially mindless hurdles 'on rails' while others raise the difficulty bar in leaps and bounds, making you dread what might come next. I personally found the ghosts to be a bit of a hassle and the red demons (Sons of Satan) harder than the majority of level bosses, but thankfully there's less than a handful of them throughout the game.
A great characteristic of this game is the level design, with each level being unique and challenging, without getting repetitive or stringing out for too long so that you feel like it's taking forever just to move on to a new area. Other superb features of this amazing game include the weapon selection, the armor and magic system work well, and you really only need the d-pad (or arcade stick in my case) and 2 buttons!
The bosses are quite easy and pose no real threat until you get up to the last few, but this is compensated for in the level difficulty and the fact that you need to run the game twice to beat it. So if you have to really work at one particular area to move on, it's going to pay off when you're on the second pass. That being said, if you fluke it through a particularly hard part you're going to be ripping your hair out when you come through for the encore and realize how many lives it's going to take you to do what you breezed through before.
Towards the end of the game is where the really cool stuff happened for me. By this stage I knew what needed to be done and I knew the mechanics of the treasure and items to get myself ready for the final fight, but it still took me at least 10 lives (closer to 30 the first time around) to be able to get there. The final few bosses are quite powerful in the amount of damage they can withstand, and Emperor Sardius himself had me completely bamboozled the first time I got to him, taking my remaining 6 lives without breaking a sweat and left my head spinning. With a bit of practice and paying attention to what is happening rather than the fact there's a 20 story demon barn dancing behind you, you're able to pick a pattern and dole out a sound punishment to the lord of the underworld. Just make sure you are armed with the Goddess' Bracelet before you reach the 3rd last boss, or you'll be heading back around the track for lap number 3 ;)
Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts has simplistic but super-well crafted mechanics. I personally adore the double-jump feature in any game, and the weapon/armour rotation makes sense once you figure it out along with adding an understandable layer of complexity to the overall experience. This game is all about patterns, and while it takes some dedication to learn then, once you're in a groove its just fun and rewarding to make it through each level and on to the next.
Gameplay / Fun
Besides a couple of sections that took me life after life to 'master', this game was very rewarding and very fun to play. It seems so simplistic yet so challenging it almost feels like you're continually solving puzzles as you go and it leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling of self satisfaction. Finishing the game leave you with your chest out flexing your mental muscles, and ready to dive back in and do it again, just because you can!
Pros / Cons
This game has a LOT going for it, good movement mechanics, amazing sound track, simple story (no time wasted fluffing about, just bam! Straight into the gameplay after a fast, button-skipable abduction), high difficulty without being impossible, and highly possible but requiring legwork! If you invest some time to pick up power ups and money bags etc, then you can extended your continues to keep playing long enough to keep practicing to get through, but it's a tight balance.
Even the best games have cons, and even though this game has now shot into my top 10 of all time, I would be regretful as a reviewer if I didn't pick out just a couple. The level bosses are too easy, and really should up the difficulty rather than be a relief to see. Besides that the only con I have is the 2nd run through is supposed to be more difficult, but both times I ran it I only saw a change in level 1, with all the rest being the same. There is an advanced mode but as yet I'm too scared to even attempt it!
Basic and fit for purpose in a time where nothing was particularly pretty! 8/10
10/10 the music in this game is amazing! I whistle it weeks after completing the game, I look up metal covers on youtube, I want an OST to buy and cherish! This beautiful score is right up there with the likes of Legend of Zelda and 'The Moon' score from Ducktales on NES.
Ill go with 7/10 for this, I have the urge to play it over and over because of the gratification of finishing it, but the enemy patterns are learnable and always the same, it will get old.... Eventually ;)
9.5/10 from me, because nothing's perfect, but this game is pretty damn close!
The Awesomeness Available
Here's a couple of links to some awesomeness found on the Internet relating to Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts.