Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is the third entry in Capcom’s Ghosts ‘N Goblins series, which is infamous for its high difficulty curve. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was originally released on the SNES in 1991, and while it holds up strongly in terms of overall gameplay, its intense difficulty may alienate some modern players.
Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts sees players once again take control of Arthur, a brave knight trying to save a princess from hordes of monsters. Players will travel across eight levels as they run, jump, and destroy every enemy in sight (provided the enemies don’t destroy you first).
The gameplay itself is simple enough. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is essentially a run ‘N gun style platformer, where the player simply runs through the level, shooting everything in sight. Arthur’s standard weapon is a throwing lance, though you can pick up other weapons like the throwing knife, the torch, the crossbow, the throwing axe, the scythe and the tri-blade.
Of the lot, the knife is certainly the most useful. It essentially works the same as the lance, but it can be thrown at a much faster rate, which comes in handy as every level features an enemy type that is almost constantly spawning (the first stage has zombies appear out of coffins at pretty much every turn). Though the crossbow (which shoots three arrows diagonally) also comes in handy. Meanwhile, the torch (which throws a small flame onto the ground) rarely feels worth it.
You may think it would be simple to just stick with the good weapons, unfortunately, Arthur can only hold one weapon at a time, and he automatically picks up a weapon when he passes over it. Arthur even keeps his current weapon after receiving a game over, so you better hope you’re holding one of the better ones when you lose all of your lives (and make no mistake, you will get plenty of game overs).
These weapons can be upgraded by finding emerald armor. But be warned, if you take one hit while wearing the armor, it goes flying off and you lose your supercharged weapons. Speaking of losing armor, Arthur’s health is simply determined by whether or not he’s wearing any armor. Taking one hit removes Arthur’s armor (leaving him in his underwear, which showcases the game’s sense of humor), and a second hit kills him. Unfortunately, the emerald armor only powers up weapons, and doesn’t give Arthur any additional hit points (you can find shields to deflect a set number of projectiles, but they are exceedingly rare).
Like any self-respecting platforming hero, Arthur will do a lot of jumping during his adventure. Though Arthur’s jumping is much stiffer than Mario’s, as he is unable to change direction while in air, leaving the platforming to be ridiculously precise. Furthermore, Arthur can double-jump, with Arthur’s first and second jumps being able to go in different directions (defying all physics), but once again, neither jump can be altered after the starting direction is chosen. This may not sound like much, but it really adds to the game’s unforgiving difficulty.
Speaking of that difficulty…wow. Just wow. There are constantly enemies coming at you, the levels contain countless hazards, and many elements are entirely trial-and-error, forcing you to learn how to best an obstacle only after you’ve fallen to it.
On the plus side, each level contains a checkpoint, which Arthur will resume from not only after dying, but even after a game over. Better still, continues seem to be a non-issue, so you really can just keep playing and playing until you have all the tricks and traps memorized. On the downside, there is no save feature, so if you want to beat the game, you have to do it all in one go (unless you’re playing one of the re-releases, such as on the Wii U Virtual Console, in which you can save your progress at any point when you exit the game). This is one of the hardest video games I have ever played, and it demands that you run the gauntlet in order to best it.
In terms of aesthetics, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts still looks and sounds fantastic. The character sprites are detailed and well designed, and the environments are both colorful and grim. The soundtrack is pretty incredible, with each stage containing its own memorable tune that matches their themes.
Overall, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is a whole lot of fun, but it can also lead to a whole lot of frustration. Those who love a steep challenge will have a great time, but any other gamer may just find themselves throwing their controllers and turning off the game in aggravated defeat.