One of the oldest, most played-out jokes on the internet is to declare any game that’s incredibly difficult as “the Dark Souls of” whatever. FromSoftware’s most successful intellectual property has become the go-to game to reference whenever a challenging title comes along. However, Dark Souls isn’t the first rage-inducing swords and sorcery game. That honor goes to the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins, which even for an NES game was far too hard.
Capcom has trotted this franchise out every once in a while to give us all even more of a reason to break our controllers in fits of anger. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is the latest attempt to expose the series to a modern audience, although it relies so much on that old-school brutality that it may have a hard time drawing new players in.
Ghosts ‘n Goblin Resurrection’s story is barely worth mentioning. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s just the same story as usual. Sir Arthur is relaxing under a tree in his underwear – you know, like everyone does – and his main squeeze, Princess Prin-Prin – yes, that’s apparently her name – comes to join him. Suddenly, the kingdom is set on fire, the titular ghosts and goblins show up to cause trouble, and the princess is kidnapped. So Arthur dons his iconic flimsy suit of armor and begins his quest to rescue her… again.
The plot is as thin as any story meant for young children, which is probably why the whole game resembles a storybook. Each level is full of bright colors, backgrounds that look like paintings, and animations that make everyone move like puppets or pages in a pop-up book. Even the creepiest baddies have a kid-friendly appearance. The enemies and characters themselves have a lot of personality. The various grim reaper enemies look so mischievous as they come after you, Firebrand – a reoccurring enemy and the star of Demon’s Crest – looks like he’s having the time of his life messing with you, and Arthur always has a grumpy scowl on his face (which matched the one I often had on my face.)
The levels are a bit on the long side, but they’re designed quite well. There’s something new and awful always lurking off to the side of the screen. Some notable examples include the classic opening graveyard level, a candle-lit crypt where enemies try to hide in the light, and a harrowing bottomless platforming section where you need to ride on the backs of flying stone dragons. You also get a choice of which levels to start with as there are two different zones. So if you’re sick of that tired graveyard, there’s a level based on Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ execution grounds you can explore as well. These levels are capped off by some creative boss fights that bring back old foes from the series who will attempt to crush you into a pile of bones for old time’s sake.
Now, the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise has always been about ultra-hard platforming along with swarms of enemies coming at you. Meanwhile, despite doing this job for long enough to know better, Arthur still wears armor that’s as strong as paper mache as it crumbles in one hit leaving him in his skivvies. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection certainly nails this feeling of hopeless difficulty, but part of playing a tough game is having fun gameplay that makes you want to keep coming back. I don’t feel like that’s present here, even on normal difficulty.
The biggest problem with the gameplay is that Arthur moves like he’s wading through a waist-deep river of molasses. It’s like there’s a strong wind pushing him backwards when you’re moving him forward. Everything from jumping to combat feels so slow and cumbersome. It was so rough that I thought there was something wrong with my Joycons. I actually went back to play the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins games for the NES and SNES via Switch Online to see if this was the way these games have always felt, but those titles played much better. Despite being extremely punishing, I would rather continue with those older games than this sluggish sequel. There is a feature that allows you to speed up or slow up the game called The Magic Metronome. This does alleviate some of my issues with the gameplay, but it didn’t improve the game-feel enough for me.
Some of the weapons could be borderline useless at times. I think this was an element present in the older games as well, but it’s something that’s always annoyed me. You can find treasure chests that will contain different forms of throwable weaponry. While some of them are handier than others, it always seems like there are situations where almost every weapon isn’t the right tool for the job.
Enemies will swoop in at awkward angles making projectiles that only be flung straight forward hard to use. Some weapons have a downward arc to them, which makes hitting certain enemies a chore. And if you have a weapon that’s designed for close-quarters combat then God help you with flying enemies and boss fights. Worst of all, you can end up switching out a weapon you like for one you hate by accidentally picking it up. So you can wind up being stuck with something crummy until another chest pops up.
I did like the addition of a magic upgrade system. You can find collectibles called Umbral Bees that can be taken to a special tree. This will give Arthur access to various spells such as a firewall, a thunderstorm, or the ability to turn every surrounding enemy into a harmless frog. It’s a good inclusion since it gives you more offensive options, but good luck getting all those bees, as they’re placed in the most inconvenient spots possible.
There are some things that were put into Resurrection to make it more palatable for new players. There are four difficulty settings that offer an array of challenges for both new and old fans. If you want the back-breaking labor of the early games then you can crank it up to Legend. For those of us who are namby-pamby babies, there’s a Page difficulty that allows you respawn immediately after death.
For the first time in the series, there’s a cooperative mode that allows two players to play together. The second player takes control of one of three helpful spirits known as The Three Wise Guys. They each have individual powers such as giving Arthur a magic barrier, carrying him around the level, or creating platforms for him to jump on. It’s a really neat idea that works well without breaking the game. The only catch is finding another person who wants to glow red hot with fury with you.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection leaves me feeling torn. I do believe that it’s a faithful reboot of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins games, as it matches the difficulty and successfully updates the art and world. I just wish it felt better to play. Arthur moves so slowly that it increased my frustration to the point where I didn’t want to bother with this game anymore. It almost controls like an old flash game, which is not something you’d want your modern remake to be compared to.
Had the gameplay been tuned up a bit more I could see myself recommending this, but unfortunately, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is one game that feels like it came back from the dead a little too soon.
A Nintendo Switch copy of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection was provided to TheGamer for this review. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection will be available on Nintendo Switch on February 25, 2021.
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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).
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