Tough as Nails: Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts

Scarily Hard

The original NES was renowned (or perhaps reviled) for its incredibly difficult library of games. By the time the Super NES rolled out, most of the franchises that had been hits on the original Nintendo were made a little easier; games like Zelda, Castlevania, Mega Man, and Metroid. However, the sequel to the NES’ Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins was not one of those. Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts was perhaps even more foul, cruel, and bad-tempered than its predecessor.

As in the previous game, you play a knight named Arthur. And as in the previous game, it’s hard as fuck. You start the game in a graveyard, which is appropriate, as you’ll spend a lot of time dying. So your goal, naturally, is to get to the far-right side of the world map, defeat the bosses and get your princess back. Sounds simple enough. Arthur is well equipped with lances and full plate armour, and is apparently in the peak of fitness as he can double jump. Yes, he can jump not only once, but twice in full plate (although, quite realistically, wading into anything deeper than a shotglass is a death sentence).

Everything wants you to die horribly!

Yet even these abilities are little help against the odds you’re facing. This game is going to kick your ass and gloat about it. Infinite hordes of the undead rise from the ground; vicious wolves; living, biting treasure chests (mimics!) are all out to make you dead.  Of course, the game isn’t just content to kill you. It has to humiliate you while it’s at it. One hit sends your armor flying off so you have to fight in your boxers, and sorcerors turn you into a baby. That’s humiliating! This game quite literally adds insult to injury.

The thing about Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts is that it demands memorization. Yep, it’s one of those games. Play it a thousand times until you get it right. Even on its easiest difficulty, the game is relentless. You need to know where to jump, when to attack, and when not to double jump to even stand a chance. And then, at the end, when you’ve finally killed the final boss and rescued the Princess…you have to do it all over again. At this point, I pretty much quit playing. That’s just cruel!

FOOLISH MORTAL, you think this is the end? BEGONE with you!

Yes, I’m admitting I wussed out. And yes, I have beaten Kid Chameleon. But the sheer vindictiveness Capcom’s designers threw into this is frankly amazing. It’s like they played the (notoriously unforgiving) D&D module Tomb of Horrors and said “you know what? Let’s make this into a sidescroller!”

And that’s Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts. You try and you try, just to get left standing out in your boxers. It’s a game with some measure of nostalgia to it, but that quickly dries up because it’s more hard than fun. You end up playing it not to enjoy the game, but to say “Hey! I beat Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts.” It’s still kind of interesting to see the early SNES tech at work, what with its frequent slowdowns (there are a lot of sprites on-screen at once) and use of Mode-7 scrolling, although you do have to make it a considerable way into the game just to see that.

I’m not sure if it’s a good game or not. It’s frankly so hard that I can’t remember ever squeezing any enjoyment out of it. I mean I loved the gothic-lite atmosphere that it shares with Castlevania (which thankfully got easier on the SNES), but the game is just so damned unforgiving that it’s hard to recommend,unless you’re the kind of masochistic glory hound that the 8-bit era spawned, in which case this is your game. It’s by no means a bad game, as far as quality goes (apart from that typical SNES slowdown), but my dear god is it hard!

Better gamers than me have gone mad and embraced insanity as a preferable alternative to this game’s difficulty. If you can finish Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, then my hat is off to you. And you may need my hat, when all you’ve got is heart-print boxers.

He can't catch a break.

One Response to “Tough as Nails: Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts”
  1. akella says:

    Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts seems interesting! Congratulations!

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