Ghosts n’ Goblins is back, and it’s… still hard as nails, unsurprisingly. Resurrection is a loving reinterpration of Capcom‘s original arcade classic, touched up with hand-drawn storybook art and a wealth of new difficulty options to make it more accessible than ever. This is a considerable visual upgrade to the classic (which is, incidentally, now playable on the Switch too thanks to the Capcom Arcade Collection) that retains the same simple yet brutal gameplay philosophy that defines Ghosts n’ Goblins.
It’s interesting that in a world of dramatic reboots and revamps that Ghosts n’ Goblins has never really needed to reach beyond the core gameplay it established back in 1985. This is a series that spans backwards through time, revered for its difficulty before Dark Souls was a twinkle in Hidetaka Miyazaki’s eye. Arthur is on a quest to save the princess from an evil demon king, even if he has to do it with nothing but his underpants (which, to be honest, is how I spent most of my time in the game). There’s an infinite horde of, well, ghosts n’ goblins in the way, an arsenal of weapons to unleash, and a lot of death screens.
Ghosts n’ Goblins: Resurrection demands players replay stages again and again, perfecting the rhythm – monsters are enemies and obstacles all at once, moving in unison with level hazards to a beat that must be mastered to overcome. Cuphead has fairly recently reintroduced players to this concept, presenting a titanic crucible of challenges that teach the player to perservere through practice, and though this approach will certainly not suit players used to modern conveniences, difficulty nuts should really look no further.
The hand-drawn, fairy-tale overhaul works really well. Ghosts n’ Goblins paints a vivid picture of its demon infested kingdom, and monsters have tons of individual personality that is much harder to achieve in other art styles. What really struck me about it was how cohesive it made the world feel – despite the fact you’ll be running and gunning throughout the whole thing, it’s basically a living cartoon. A living cartoon that’s trying to murder you, sure, but the point still stands.
There’s a range of difficulty modes that make the experience a bit more accessible to the masses, but Ghosts n’ Goblins: Resurrection is by design punishing, balancing hardcore challenge with whimsical graphics. The introduction of mid-level checkpoints on lower modes is a welcome addition, allowing you to perfect particularly tricky sections without the threat of failure costing you the entire level. It’s not the purest Ghosts n’ Goblins experience but it is a welcome addition for slightly clumsy players (like me) who want to experience the game’s fantastic energy without grinding their fingers into paste.
The game delights in throwing curveballs to keep you on your feet. Hazards will come out of nowhere – the ground, the air, treasure chests you swear previously contained a health pick-up – and the constant need to move forward demands you meet these challenges head-on or suffer regardless. It is not a challenge for everyone – Ghosts n’ Goblins: Resurrection will feel downright unfair at times, a piece of gaming history that was designed to deliver brutal difficulty long before From Software started punishing players.
But here’s the important part. It’s really, really fun. I spent an embarrassing amount of time perfecting the first level, every tempting new powerup driving me a little bit deeper, every desperate dash for a piece of armour just as thrilling as the first. The levels are so energetic that replaying them until you get it right doesn’t feel like a chore. Athough the novelty does wear off eventually, new toys are dropped at a frequent enough pace to keep Ghosts n’ Goblins feeling fresh and entertaining for a long time. Mastering the game will be a long road, but a very rewarding one in the end.
Ghosts n’ Goblins: Resurrection – Glorious necromancy
Ghosts n’ Goblins: Resurrection is a game that knows exactly what it is. There’s no unnecessary fluff, no filler, no mechanics for the sake of it – just a horde of enemies and a bunch of fun ways to kill them. By today’s standards, it could still be considered somewhat basic – especially for the price tag of £29.99 – but if you love Ghosts n’ Goblins, rest assured Capcom have handled Resurrection right. It might not be what the series needs to attract and keep new fans, but old ones will be very happy indeed.