There are times when I crave a little challenge from a video game when I feel like taking a break from easy-based or normal-based games (though they're still fun to play). I like a fair challenge from a video game, and Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is no exception. I remember the first time I played it back in 2006 on Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded for the PSP (it's funny, considering that it was antecedently released on a Nintendo platform; I guess the GnG series of games only work as a trilogy), and it's a moment I'll never forget, for many reasons.
A festival was taking place at the castle, and the knight Arthur has been invited to see Princess Prin Prin, his betrothed. While they were together in the castle, a demon broke in and has kidnapped her royal highness, and it is up to Arthur to save her. He'll do whatever it takes and traverse many places to get her back, no matter what challenges await him. Okay, so it's another game with a "save the princess" plot, but it's a cool plot (I don't mind it when Nintendo does it with the Super Mario series of games). The atmosphere is haunting with its plethora of expositions. Some areas are quite grotesque.
Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is a 2D platformer, and it plays well, but takes some getting used to. Arthur can jump, do a double jump after his first jump, and shoot his weapons. The jumps are simple enough, but the thing about them is that they cannot be controlled while in the air. What that means is that, if you jumped into the right direction, then Arthur will just keep going right until he lands. Same for the double jump; if you jumped to the left, there is a chance you can jump to the opposite direction, but Arthur will still go the opposite direction until he lands. Practicing and timing your jumps and double jumps is key. It makes the game very playable, and it helps in reaching high places. The weapons are comprised of lances, knives, arrows, and several more. Trust me when I say that the arrow is the best weapon in the game, so if you see it in a chest you opened, grab it. Speaking of chests: they can be unveiled in the most irrational of ways; whether it be to double jump at the far left at the beginning of a stage, climbing down the ladder just slightly, or by jumping off a ledge and aim your second jump back to safety. The contents of the chest will be a weapon that could come in Arthur's aid, an armor (whether it be primary, secondary, or tertiary), or a court-jester. Basically, if you get hit by the court-jester's spell, you'll become any of these things for a few seconds: an infant, a blue seal, or a girl [!!]; all of which leave you vulnerable to enemy attacks, so avoid the spell at all costs. Now, as for the armors: you start with the regular shining armor, but if you open a certain chest while wearing this armor, you will find the secondary (chartreuse) armor, and if you open a certain chest while wearing it, you will find the tertiary (gold) armor. You may be wondering, what's the difference? Well, the more powerful your armor is, the more effective and the wider the range the weapon you use will be. If you have the arrow weapon (with the chartreuse and golden armor), they will be more powerful and home in on enemies, which is cool. If you're wearing the golden armor, if you hold down the attack button as long as possible, you'll do a major move; whether it be very powerful attacks, or amassing a force field that will temporarily shield you, or to uncover chests without revealing them in sporadic ways, all depending on which weapon you have. Sadly, if you're not careful, no matter which armor you're wearing, you'll be reduced to nothing but your underpants, leaving you very vulnerable and increases the chances of losing a life (turning you into a lifeless skeleton). So, unless you find the primary armor in a chest (whichever one it is), you're just gonna have to avoid the enemies, and shoot them (if you can), while at the same time keeping your distance from them. If you walk off a ledge, you'll fall straight down. It seems to me that Arthur's normal jumps are floatier than in the previous two games, and I have a feeling I know why: because of the inclusion of the double jump. I would've liked to have shot above or below you like you could in the original Ghouls'n Ghosts arcade game, but I guess Capcom was saving memory (after all, this was one of their first games for the SNES console). Some bosses are pattern-based, while others do things differently, and defeating them will grant you the key to the next stage. The Ninja Gaiden Syndrome also victimized this game, but admittedly, it's nowhere near as bad as it is in Super Castlevania IV. That's because Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is fair and better structured, despite the fact that it's a bit hard. I'm not a hypocrite, I'm not. =(
Sound-wise, it is absolutely superb, impressive, even. The soundtrack has menacing and ominous tones, and it gives you the sense that you're partaking in a very arduous quest. The 16-bit remake of the "Haunted Graveyard" theme is done so well, and the "Ice Forest" theme is very chilling (and one of my favorite songs in the game). The boss themes not only are menacing, but they are also slightly altered remixes of the stage theme that you are in, which gives a lot of variety in the boss department. The final boss theme against Sardius is very cool. The ending theme will reward your hard-earned efforts. The sound effects are nice as well. I like the different sounds the weapons make.
The graphics are very nice. The backgrounds and foregrounds are nicely detailed and colored; some backdrops even glow. Some areas are quite grotesque: examples coming to mind are the ground rising up or shrinking down in the haunted graveyard, a ship that constantly sinks the higher you get up it, and an area with rotating Mode 7 effects with what (I'm not kidding) look like a ghoul's stomach (with a song title like that, I can't think of anything else it could be) above and below you. The bosses are all varied, and they look cool, and animate decently; one even uses Mode 7 effects. Sardius is very huge. The characters in the game are nicely drawn, and I like how the red feathers in the helmet of Arthur's golden armor follow the way that he moves and drops. Capcom's usage of the color chartreuse is pretty. The ending art is very pretty and foreboding. The box art of this game (beautiful though it may be, albeit inaccurate) showed Arthur in his armor wearing a cape and weilding a sword, neither of which he did in this game (methinks the box art designer thought Capcom was gonna port the original Ghouls'n Ghosts to the SNES).
I always love a challenge in a video game, and this is a good example of one. I remember the first time that I played this game back in 2006, it seemed impossible for me at the time, and I could not be able to get past the second stage; plus, it seemed like any second I was gonna be hit by an enemy. I remember having watched ShiryuGL's gameplay footage of the fifth stage, and boy was I impressed. However, one day in January of 2008, something changed. I actually managed to beat the second stage, and it opened me up to the rest of the game. It took me a lot less time to beat the rest of the stages in comparison to the second stage. When I beat the game the first time, I was surprised, because I managed to beat what is lauded as one of the hardest games. But, the more I played the game, the less hard the game became for me; but I appreciate it because of the challenge it gave me. It's nowhere near as hard as Mr. Nutz or Plok (both fun, overlooked SNES games), but the difficulty in Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is sufficient for me. Throughout the game you will go through haunted graveyards, tidal waves, a ship that constantly sinks the more you get to the top, a raft ride, spiral towers, rotating caves, and even avalanches. No matter how much progress you make you're always gonna be kept busy. It's challenging if you don't know the enemy patterns. It's actually less hard if you go at it at a slow pace. The game's first five stages are comprised of two halves: if you die at the first half of the stage, you have to begin at the first half of the stage; but you if you lose at the second half of the stage, then you have to start at the beginning of the second half of the stage. Stages 6 and 7 need not apply, since they're relatively short stages; Stage 8 is just the final boss. If you've heard anything about this game, chances are you've heard that once you beat Nebiroth for the first time, you have to start the game over again and retrieve the Goddess' Bracelet, the most powerful weapon in the game. It may frustrate some, though personally I thought it was nice. Okay, so at first I wasn't okay with it, but then I began to appreciate it. I thought that, if I could get past the stages before, then I could do it again. The thing about going through the game the second time is that it is absolutely imperative that you keep holding on to the Bracelet, 'cause if you switch it with another weapon, then you better hope to get the golden armor with blue shield and open the chest like this to obtain it. However, it's easy to skip the weapon you don't want. I can't recall for the life of me if I've ever lost a life at Stage 6. Sadly, the low point of the challenge is the bosses, which are very easy in comparison to the stages themselves. It's sad because their attacks are easy to predict, and you'll know when the attacks will come before they happen. Sardius, the final boss, is disappointingly easy; he can be beaten without losing your armor. Other than that, the game sports a nice amount of challenge. The game has to absolutely be beaten in one sitting.
What can I say about Super Ghouls'n Ghosts that hasn't been said before? It's fun, and it's a tiny bit challenging. The soundtrack is atmospherically eerie, and the visuals compliment the sometimes grotesque scenery. The controls are very good, though it takes some getting used to, because the jumps cannot be controlled in mid-air. It has to be beaten in one sitting, and it's got limited continues, and that's where the bags of money come in. If you collect a certain amount of moneybags, you'll earn a continue. You can only earn up to nine continues. It's fun to take down monsters and discover chests in dangerous ways, which adds to the strategy of whether or not the armor will be in the next chest. And the way that Arthur is kept busy is also exciting, because there are chances that you could be caught by a tidal wave or an avalanche if you're not careful. I wish the bosses had a bit of challenge in them, but otherwise I cannot complain with what Capcom managed to cram in here. Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is a great classic, and one of my favorites. It's a game that no other game in the series, not even Ultimate Ghosts'n Goblins (which I found disappointing), can surpass. It's a game that will satisfy challenge-loving gamers (like myself), and it may be your cup of tea, too (it all depends on whether or not you enjoy a little challenge). It's the most fun I've had in controlling an armor-clad character.
Image (cropped by myself) from listal.com