Friday 29 November 2013

Ghouls'n Ghosts - Sega Mega Drive - 1989

It may have had mostly monochromatic graphics and farty sound effects but I used to love Ghosts 'n Goblins on the Sinclair Spectrum.  Until now I had never really tried its sequel, Ghouls'n Ghosts.  All I knew is that it has basically the same gameplay and a reputation for being as hard as nails.  I have already excluded several games from the blog for being too difficult but I’ll let this one pass as it is so damn addictive.

The conversions I tried from my shortlist were for the Commodore Amiga and Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis if you prefer) from 1989.  From 1990 I sampled the PC Engine and Sega Master System adaptations.  

  • First to get cut was the Master System.  Ghouls'n Ghosts was on my shortlist as one of the best games for that particular console.  In this company it is understandably out of its depth. 
  • You’d think a scrolling platform/shooter game would be something the Amiga would be perfect for.  Apparently the developers at Software Creations must have thought differently.  I’ll be generous and simply say it wasn’t very good. 
  • On the PC Engine the game was called Daimakaimura and was released only in Japan.  This could go some way to explain the difficulty level.  It’s harder than the professional level on the Mega Drive and is much more frustrating than fun.  A paucity of credits doesn’t help its cause.  It has nice graphics though.
Ghouls'n Ghosts on the Amiga (left) did not use the machines potential. Daimakaimura (right) has the best graphics but is too hard.

This just leaves the Mega Drive conversion of Ghouls'n Ghosts.  It came early in the life of the console and is often cited as being one of its best games - something I find hard to disagree with.

Once again you are cast in the role of Sir Arthur the knight.  This time his quest is to restore souls, including that of his beloved Princess Prin Prin, that were stolen by Loki (or Lucifer on the non-Sega versions).  To this end you must make your way through 5 levels of nasties including zombies, buzzards, fiery bats and other demonic monsters.  Each level ends in a boss fight.

Ghouls'n Ghosts starts you off in a graveyard armed with a throwing lance.  Despite wearing a suit of armour, Arthur is quite spritely.  He can leap, duck, run, and shoot upwards and downwards (while jumping).  If Arthur is hit he loses his armour and has to continue on in his boxers.  If he is hit again he turns into a pile of bones and loses a life.  Each stage has a time limit and you also lose a life if the clock counts down to zero.

The main enemies in the graveyard are zombies which shamble up from the ground.  The occasional zombie, as do some other monsters in the game, carries a pot.  Once killed these monsters drop objects such as different weapons or items for bonus points.  Aside from the lance, weapons include axes, flaming torches and a sword. 

At certain points a chest bursts forth from the ground.  These can contain extra armour (if you’re down to your underwear), golden armour (if you’re already wearing some) or an evil magician.  The golden armour upgrades your current weapon to give you a charge shot.  The magician can turn you into a shuffling geriatric or a harmless duck for a few vital moments.

As for the difficulty….. hmm.  Yes, it is very tough but practice can get you a bit further each time.  There are some unfair moments, however. For example on the second level where sections of rope bridges collapse without warning above ant lions – even a full suit of armour won’t stop you losing a life here. After a few hours playing I can usually get through the first level and most of the second without losing a life.  If you do lose a life you start again from either the beginning or midway through the level.  One thing I didn't notice at first is the word ‘Practice’ at the bottom of the screen.  This is the default setting but from the options menu you can select a ‘Professional’ mode which makes the game even harder (not as hard as Daimakaimura).  The real kicker, though, is that once you have completed all 5 levels, you have to do them once again in order to collect a special weapon with which to defeat Loki.
I don't like hidden traps.  This section on level two has lots of them.

I don’t know how the Mega Drive game compares to the arcade version in difficulty.  Daimakaimura on the PC Engine version is certainly closer in terms of graphics but in the playability and fairness stakes the Sega has it licked.  It therefore deserves a place on my blog.
Sir Arthur soldiers on in nothing but a pair of boxers.
Example gameplay

1 comment:

  1. Eeek! I spent so long on this one but I was determined to finish it without cheating. So yes, I was one of the ones fooled by being sent back to the beginning. Bah! Still not sure why it was £10 more expensive than all the other MD launch games though :|