Super NES Retro Review: Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Super NES Retro Review: Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Join us as we review every Super NES Classic game. Next up: Hope you're open-minded about pain.

Join us as we review all the games on the SNES Classic Mini Edition in chronological order!

If you think of the game-line up for the SNES Classic Edition as a party (and what a party!), Capcom's Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is the guy who stands quietly on the fringes of the larger social circle with a drink in his hand.

He's not awkward or out-of-place; in fact, he has a few good friends hanging with him. But he doesn't have the same pull as most of the other attendees. If you spend time with him, he'll treat you to a good conversation and a few laughs. But at the midpoint of the talk, he'll inevitably burp a cocktail-and-shrimp cloud in your face.

After that pleasant happening, you may decide to slip away and go hang out with the party's more couth guests. Or you may decide to absorb the punishment and stick around because, despite his flaws, Mr Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is interesting company.

Unlike Super Mario World, Mega Man X, or Super Castlevania IV, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts doesn't make any big alterations over its predecessor, Ghosts 'n Goblins for the NES. The mighty hero Arthur still chugs from left-to-right, throwing an assortment of weapons at the minions of evil. Enemies still swarm, platforms still crumble, and Arthur still loses his armor when he gets hit by foe. If he takes one more hit while he's parading around in his skivvies, he's out.

Sesame Street's secret Elmo x Satan cross-breeding project yielded some temperamental results.

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is hard. It's classic "Nintendo hard." Your margin for error is smaller than a Red Arremer's capacity for mercy. But unlike Ghosts 'n Goblins, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (mostly) plays fair by upping the frequency of power-up drops, and by providing Arthur with a double-jump. Bless.

But Arthur's slightly improved mobility (double-jump or not, the boy moves like a tank) and wide weapon arsenal doesn't erase an important fact about Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts: Victory is only possible if you memorize every pixel of every level. You need to know enemy patterns inside-out. You need to know where power-ups will spawn, and which weapon is suited for which bad guy. You need to know where platforms will give out on you, and where the actual stage background will rise up to kill you.

We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue. And then we take our pants off.

Then, to get the real ending, you must play through each level one more time, but with a significant handicap.

Oy.

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a difficult game to review – in more ways than one. It's not the kind of game that can be fired off as an easy recommendation, unlike most of the games parked on the SNES Classic Edition.

It's well-built; as I mentioned earlier, it's a hard game, but it's rarely unfair. It all comes down to whether you want to play a game that requires you to remember terrain shifts, enemy movements, and power-up spawns. Are you cool with a game that forces you to learn the hard way through your (MYRIAD) mistakes? Are you OK with a game that kills you in two hits, but is miserly about health restoration and checkpoints?

Even the bosses hate pants. There's a story, here. I'd love to hear it.

Fingers off the "Print Screen" button, friend; I'm not about to say "Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is the Dark Souls of 2D platforming." That's Salt and Sanctuary, a punishing game that nevertheless offers you a sense of gradual accomplishment. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, by contrast, expects you to get the job done in a single sitting. You're invited to try as many times as you like, but Arthur's only possessions are the weapons he digs out of the ground and the boxers he wears around his middle. What you see is what you get. Love it or lump it.

I never got around to playing Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts until I was an adult, and I think that's a bit of a shame. It's the ideal "birthday game," i.e. it's the perfect game to get if you're a kid who only receives video games for special occasions. There are no saves in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and no passwords. If you honestly have the time to sit down and commit it to muscle memory, you'll discover a game that's as handsome and charming as it is merciless.

If you just don't have that kind of time, though, don't feel bad about skipping over Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts in favor of the SNES Classic's choicer action games.

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts asks for no quarter, and it gives none. Its determination to kill you makes it a great game to study over the course of innumerable deaths – but the average player is sure to find that a tedious and frustrating pursuit. Though it stands on its own merits, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a squire amongst royalty as far as the SNES Classic Edition's line-up is concerned.

3.5/5

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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