I write a lot about games I love. Writing for NRW has given me the platform to do that, and it's wonderful. However, I can't neglect the games I absolutely hate. Ranking high on that list is Ghosts & Goblins, a game whose enduring success baffles me to this day.
Ghosts & Goblins is an arcade platformer that not only enjoyed success in coin-op form but was ported to numerous systems over the years. Initially released by Capcom in 1985, the game did well enough in American arcades to be considered memorable. I'm willing to wager the majority of my readers will remember one of the console ports; the NES and Genesis both got one, and the SNES received a sort of sequel.
The X68000 (left) and NES box art. Click to enlarge.
In Ghosts & Goblins, you play as Sir Arthur, a remarkably brave but fragile knight whose lady friend has been kidnapped by “Satan, King of Demon World.” Satan gets the drop on you and your maiden fair “Prin Prin” while you two are bonding in the cemetery.
Arthur must battle through six stages of random and numerous monsters to reach the throne room of Satan. On his way, he can find... well, surprisingly little. There are some better weapons than his lance lying around, chiefly a cross and some fire. There are a lot of things you can pick up that give you points, too, like treasure. Once in a while, you might even find a replacement suit of plate mail if yours falls off from being hit once by a monster. Don't get hit while you're in your underpants or you die! That's right, G&G not only murders you repeatedly, it kills you while you're in your undies.
I'd like to stress: we're not dealing with normal, “reasonable” difficulty here. This game is insane. It's sadistic. Once you get rolling, there's no such thing as a safe spot to collect yourself. You're constantly assailed on all sides, your armor absorbs one hit, and (SPOILER) if you beat the game without using the cross or flame weapon, you get a message like this:
I think I'd rather allow a bullet ant to bite me than play this game for an hour, but that hasn't done much to stymie its popularity. The Wii/3DS Virtual Console and Game Boy Advance have ported it in recent years, and it was released on several home computers in its day, including the ZX Spectrum, X68000, MSX, and Amstrad. G&G was also part of Capcom's Arcade Cabinet release for the Xbox 360. The franchise continued with multiple sequels under the Ghouls & Ghosts banner, with the game formula barely changing. Two spin-offs were made, Gargoyle's Quest and Maximo. Characters from the games are featured in Marvel vs Capcom 3.
I'll be generous and give Ghosts & Goblins 5 out of 10 stars. It's one of those games I fail to understand the appeal of, but it's not total crap. It's just weird and hard and kind of... creepy in ways it maybe didn't mean to be. In any case, it's part of our hobby's history.