The Rube’s Review: Ghost n’ Goblins (Capcom/NES 1986)
When I was a kid, I loved birthdays, birthdays were always a big deal. It was never about the presents, it was always about the cake. Growing up with very little sugar, cake was always one of those “supertreats” that I usually would have to wait all year for and usually would eat so much of that I would get sick. Do you know what makes birthday cake so special, though (sugar-induced coma aside)? It’s the candles. As kids, we’re told not to play with matches, to stay away from campfires and other nonsense that any 7 year old wouldn’t care about.
Every year I’d get more excited as my parents would tell me to go away as they up’d the ante with another burning death stick. Then, at that perfect moment, there would be a second of silence and everyone would start to sing your birthday chant. Even as a little Rube I would close my eyes even before I was told to make a wish and blow out my candles… I would savor that one or two minutes and think to myself, “This is my moment,” make a wish, and blow out my candles. Then it was all taken away from me.
One year, as I perform my birthday ritual, all I heard was laughter. I opened my eyes and to my surprise my candles were still lit. I made my wish again and blew out my candles and like magic they re-lit themselves. I was devastated. Not only was my perfect moment gone and I couldn’t make my wish, but I had a whole house of laughing hyenas that were running outa breath. That’s the first true time that I felt cheated… it’s also exactly how I feel about Ghost N’ Goblins.
Let me point out that Ghost N’ Goblins is a GREAT game and is a must for anyone that still plays or collects NES games. I would easily rank this game in my Top 5 “I’m on a Never-ending Quest to Save My Girlfriend” type of games, but as with the fate of all great games it’s also one of the hardest platform games that ever came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Before I go all hardcore on why you should play this game, lets take a look at the game label art (see above): you’ve got the Hero, the Princess, an awesome Chinese Dragon, a more awesomer™ Harryhausen Cyclops, other monsters and… SATAN! Yep, that’s Satan, and that big, blue muppet-looking guy looks super pissed off. Really not what I would figure Beelzebub to look like but still how many kid’s video games can you think of that had SATAN as the final boss? Uh… NONE! And that was enough to blow kids minds in the 80’s, especially during the time that there was a parent/religious ban on “satanic” music like Alice Cooper and games like Dungeons & Dragons.
So, you begin the game in your underwear trying to make out with your girl in a cemetery (which is wrong on SO many levels) when a red devil (not Satan, remember, he’s blue) shows up and takes your fair maiden away. Why? Who knows, maybe you pissed him off by the thought of doing the nasty on consecrated ground. Anyways, you jump in your armor and off you go on a quest to get your girl back.
The full game is broken down into 6 levels which consist of a cemetery, woods, Ewokean tree forts(?), a row of low-rent apartments with tattooed “MOM” heart trolls for landloards… oh, and multiple cavern levels leading to Satan’s castle. Most of these levels are just brutal. Not only are there a never-ending brigade of zombies, red devils, and other nasties to get in your way but if you get hit twice, you lose a life and have to start the level over (which happens a lot) or half way point if you get that far.
The first time that you get hit you pop out of your armor and have to fight in your Tighty Whities™ (actually, Natureboy Brown in the NES version but Bright White in the arcades), which does nothing for your morale and honestly makes it pretty hard to concentrate. Sometimes a monster will drop a pot that’s worth some points, but if you’re lucky you’ll find another suit of armor and get to fight like a man again!
Another thing that makes this game difficult is if you’re not equipped with knives as your weapon (you start with lances) then you’re just screwed. Knives are the best weapon to have, but for me are essential to certain levels. You can shoot them off fast, sometimes even before a monster has time to attack and if you accidentally pick up flames and lose your knives, especially on the apartment levels, well… you might as well just hit the RESET button and start all over.
Speaking about starting over, after you spend hours and hours repeating and beating every level, you finally get to the top of the castle and defeat Satan in his house painter white overalls. However, be prepared to kick your TV screen in when you see this message (typo included):
WHAT?! I literally spent all day… skipping meals, neglecting chores, playing each level over and over again before running out of time, learning all of the monsters patterns, forgetting to feed the cat, not getting hit twice… and after finally gaining a sense of pride and completion by killing Satan with the magical Cross-Shield Combo Thingie Capcom decides to rob me of “My Perfect Moment” by telling me, in broken English no less, that for you to truly beat the game I’ll have to restart the whole game at Level 1 on a harder more challenging settings? WELL FUCK THAT!
I don’t recall if I ever did beat Ghost N’ Goblins as a kid… I’m sure I must have at least once. Overall it’s a very fun and challenging game with a soundtrack that I’ll never get tired of listing to, but because the Rube is now an adult with adult duties, the only thing I wish is that there was an “easy” setting. Still, it’s a lot of nostalgic fun and even with all of my bitching and whining is one of the best games that ever came out for the NES.