A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Ya know, I’ve been getting my arse handed to me by the Ghost ‘n Goblins franchise from the very beginning. First in the arcades of the mid-80’s, followed up by the port on the NES, then Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the SNES, and ultimately (pun intended!), Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins on the Sony PSP. I probably should also mention that in the early 2000’s, I subjected myself to even more abuse from the original arcade version of the game by adding that cabinet to my coin-op collection.
Like an abused spouse in a trailer park episode of COPS, I always had an excuse for the series and was ready and willing to dole out another chance for the game: “Don’t take it away officer, I know the game is mean and abusive, but look at that theme…the spooky visuals…the MUSIC!”. No matter how much punishment the series gave me, or how many times I quit in a fit of rage, I never seem to learn my lesson. And so, here we are, 36 years since my abusive relationship with Ghosts ‘n Goblins began, and like a moth to the flame, I jump right back in.
HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME
Make no mistake, this latest entry in the GnG franchise isn’t playing around. An amalgamation of Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (with some new elements here and there), Resurrection is as tough and frustrating as you might expect it to be. Enemies spawn right on top of you, platforms disappear after you jump on them, enemies fly at you from both sides in wavering patterns, and bosses can take a while to defeat (mostly because it’s difficult to hit them in the particular area that actually damages them). You know, the typical GnG fare that makes you want to throw a controller through the wall. Oh, yeah, (to no one’s surprise) heavy level memorization is a must, but thankfully, there are checkpoints along the way to take the edge off level repetition.
And while the game is very unforgiving by design, I am happy to report that Resurrection adds multiple difficulty settings, making the game accessible to both masochists and casual gamers alike. From easiest to hardest, the difficulty levels are named Page, Squire, Knight, and Legend. The Page setting has you resurrecting on your spot of death, so if you’re willing to make your way through the game’s many platforming elements, you will be able to experience the game from beginning to end without having a nervous breakdown. As you move up through the difficulty levels, you lose on-the-spot resurrection, and the amount of enemies you encounter increases, while the amount of damage you can take decreases. On the Legend difficulty setting…well, let’s just say it’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
It seems that the visuals of Resurrection are a bit polarizing, with some folks loving the hand-drawn artistic style, while others say it looks like a terrible mobile or Flash game. I definitely fall into the former camp, as I think the game looks fantastic. I’ve always been a major fan of hand-drawn art and sprites in video games, and Resurrection does it very well. From the characters to the environments, the artwork looks great, and really made me want to continue moving forward to see what was next. I guess the naysayers citing visuals akin to what you’d see within Adobe’s Flash platform are more referring to the animation style involved, but I find nothing to be critical of there. And on that point, Arthur controls just fine, so there’s no legitimate argument against the animation in that regard. (It really just comes down to whether you dig that particular style or not.)
I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t mention the game’s soundtrack: the classic tunes from the GnG series you remember are present and they sound GREAT. Nothing can fire up a gamer’s nostalgia like music, and from the get-go, the music in Resurrection instantly took me back to my youngers years. (Sure, I remembered feelings of annoyance and anger…possibly murder…but the music was always a happy place.)
KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID
The gameplay is traditional GnG fare: simple run, jump and shoot platforming. However, there’s also a magic system at play, where you collect sparkling “Umbral Bees” located throughout the levels, which can be used as currency to purchase magic spells at the “Umbral Tree”. (You can also purchase upgrades to the spells you’ve chosen, making them more powerful.) These spells do various things like call down lightning strikes upon your enemies, put up a flame shield on either side of Arthur, or turn multiple enemies into frogs. While this magic system is a cool element for the game to have, the spells take a bit of time to cast after you initiate them, and any hit from an enemy will cancel the cast. Because of that last point, the magic system often feels useless, as the game doesn’t necessarily ever give you much time to stand still and fully charge up a magic attack. Now, there is a skill that can be purchased from the Umbral Tree that shortens the cast times of spells, but it’s pretty high up in the tree, requiring a lot of previous purchases in order to reach. In other words, it may be quite some time before you’ve played enough to make the magic system fairly useful.
LONG SHORT WAY HOME
I feel no shame in admitting that I completed the game on the Page difficulty mode. (Yes, I took the easy route to reach “HAPPY END”.) I achieved all of the nerd “street cred” (acquired by beating hard-as-hell games) I ever wanted back in the 8-bit and 16-bit era of gaming, and these days, I just can’t be bothered to torture myself over cruel game design. But because of that decision to start with the easiest difficulty level, I actually got to experience a Ghosts ‘n Goblins game from beginning-to-end, and actually had fun while doing so.
I suspect the game’s original designers felt that if their game was too easy, then it would shorten its life, with players not wanting to return to it after finishing it (if they even could). In actuality, I feel it’s the opposite, as the original game caused a lot of rage-quitting, while Resurrection makes me want to play it more. Honestly, now that I’ve beaten the game on Page difficulty, I feel STRONGTH welling in my body, and am now working my way through the game on Squire mode. If I succeed, I’ll surely kick it up a notch and move to the Knight difficulty.
With classically fun gameplay and great audio-visuals, Capcom has done a wonderful job at bringing back one of their oldest properties. Not only does it remain true to its originally difficult roots, but it’s also accessible to the casual gamer, making this game a winner for all. For the MSRP of $29.99, it’s kind of a no-brainer, really.