Retro Respawn – Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

Seeing as it’s Halloween in a couple of days, I decided to look at a game that features spooky baddies in the form of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the Super Nintendo. The main reason I picked this one is that it’s on the SNES emulator for the Switch that comes with a Nintendo Online Membership. My original pick would have been the original third gen Castlevania, but the NES emulator doesn’t come with that one for whatever reason, which feels a bit like an oversight to me, but I guess Konami are less amenable than Capcom; that or Nintendo are just useless at updating these apps.

Backstory

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is the third game in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series and sees you, once again, assuming the role of the knight Arthur as you try and rescue a fair maiden from a big bad and his slew of “scawy” creatures. Released on the SNES in 1991 for Japan and North America (with us suckers in Europe having to wait until 1992 before we could get our grubby mitts on it), Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts did eventually see a release to the Game Boy Advance in 2002 as well.

I do actually have memories of playing the game back in the day as my mate, Jim, had it for his SNES, and he brought it ’round my gaff once or twice so I could get a look at it. I don’t think I was ever an especially big fan of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, even though I have gone back to it now and then to see if I can generate any enthusiasm for it. It generally reviews well in the 80-90% area, although some outlets have clocked it at 60%. This often tends to happen with more modern reviews though, so it could be that peoples’ tastes have changed over the years, and Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts no longer dances on the taste buds like it once did.

Arthur remains an enduring character in Capcom’s heroes gallery, showing up in crossover games, like Marvel Vs. Capcom, and he’s humorously almost always portrayed as a short, stocky feller who will bravely scrap with anyone or anything, regardless of size difference. He is perhaps best known for the fact that his armour can be knocked off in battle, leaving him running around in his underwear whilst still trying to take out all of the baddies in his way. I personally enjoy the character, even if the series itself might not be in my personal upper pantheon of classic video games.

Gameplay

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a mixture of difficult combat and lethal platforming. When you manage to successfully pull it off, it feels great, but if you’re me, you’ll often find yourself driven to frustration at how easy it is to get hit or fall to your doom. Arthur starts out with a lance and a standard set of protective armour, but as the game progresses, you will be able to find different weapons and nicer sets of armour to wear. You often find these by breaking open pots carried around by your enemies, with occasional treasure chests popping up as well. Be wary though as those chests can often contain evil sorcerers who will cast unhelpful spells on you, leaving you a sitting duck for the hoard of enemies who are after your hide.

Arthur’s initial jump doesn’t clear much distance, but you can add a little boost to it by pressing jump again whilst you are in the air. Doing so will cause Arthur to double jump and will allow you to travel even further with your jumps. A downside to this though is that you can’t adjust your jump in mid-air once you have double jumped, which leads you open to attacks and falls if you haven’t timed things right. The most common death that I sustained in Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts was getting my double jump all wrong and either colliding with an enemy or tumbling into a bottomless pit/the bottom of the ocean.

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is just merciless in general when it comes to how hard it is, even when you play it on the lower difficulty levels. Without the ability to use save states on the Switch SNES emulator, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in this game because it’s absolute nails and gleefully unapologetic about it. If playing really difficult games just for the sake of it is your jam and you haven’t ever played Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, then it needs to be on your “to play” list as soon as possible because it will punish you at every turn and will cackle whilst doing so.

Strangely enough, the part of the game I found to be the easiest were the boss battles, of all things, as once you get into the rhythm of how they move and operate, you can settle into a routine and gradually wear them down. It’s a marked difference from the levels themselves, where enemies constantly respawn at a horrifyingly quick rate, and you never really know where the next attack is coming from. It makes me think that Capcom knew you’d already suffered a bunch just to get to the boss, so they decided to ease off on the accelerator just a bit to stop you from flinging your console out of the window and then dismantling it with a halberd.

Sound and Graphics

I personally think this is an area where Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts really shines. The music from Mari Yamaguchi really captures the classic “Capcom feel” that those who enjoyed games like Goof Troop and Street Fighter II back in the fourth gen will remember. Graphically, the game looks great as well, with the characters oozing with personality (and sometimes just plain oozing depending on what sort of nightmarish creature they are supposed to be), and the dark, foreboding look of the levels really adds to the ghoulish atmosphere going on. The designs of some of the baddies is outright unnerving at times, with the chomping fish in level 2 especially giving me the willies for whatever reason.

Longevity

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts presents one heck of a challenge, so there’s a good chance you’ll invest a lot of time trying to get to grips with it, especially if you’re one of those nutcases that just HAVE to complete the really difficult game as decisively as possible. I personally tapped out after a certain point because the game became so difficult that it wasn’t really fun to play anymore. I like a challenge, provided it’s a fun one, but Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts crossed the line for me after a certain point.

Would I Recommend It?

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts because it’s just too difficult to be enjoyable after a certain point. However, if you like hard games, then this could very much be up your alley, so if you have a Nintendo Online Membership and have never played this one before, then I’d strongly suggest giving it a goosy gander.

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