Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

“Super”. That’s a word that got thrown around a lot in the ’90s when it comes to video games and not every use of it was as appropriate. Many series that we knew and loved from the NES days adopted the “Super” title when moving to the SNES. It’s a word you gotta live up to and while Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is better than the original NES title, it is far outclassed by the Sega Genesis game Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Awkward…

Opening on an impressive cutscene, we once again see a familiar routine play out. Sir Arthur is visiting his beloved on the night of a festival, when demons swoop in and kidnap her. He immediately sets out on a rescue mission, which takes him through a number of hellish levels.

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We, of course, open up on the traditional cemetery stage, but the levels that follow after are very cool and utilize the power of the Super Nintendo well. You find yourself seeking safety from waves crashing into the level from the background or navigating a maze-like stage with platforms that make the whole level twist around you. The visuals are quite nice and the soundtrack isn’t far behind.

What I will say is that, especially the early stages, feel overlong. There are a lot of semi-autoscroller segments that just drag on forever without checkpoints. During “normal” gameplay, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts feels like a worthy successor. A double-jump now provides Arthur some means of controlling his weighty jumps and the platforming is  challenging without feeling unfair. Compared to the Sega Genesis title, I found Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts more generous in its level-design, though that did make it quite easy for a game in this series renowned for steep difficulty.

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I also felt that the “regular gameplay” often lasted too short, especially compared to how long the autoscroller portions are. Sometimes it felt like a stage would never end, while at other times I was perplexed to already be face-to-face with a boss.

What makes the game a downgrade of the regular Ghouls ‘n Ghosts from 2 years prior is the reduction in Arthur’s movement and the complexity of the game’s enemies. You are once again limited to only attacking left and right, which feels extra restrictive after being able to attack in all directions in the last game. Enemies are also less interesting all-around, with most just depending on physically bumping into you . Those few who have projectile attacks are usually slow, easy to dodge, and heavily sign-posted.

The game does benefit from great boss fights and it’s fun to cut your way through zombies and flying imps, but the game is marred by technical issues. The large sprites cause rampant slowdown on the Super Nintendo throughout the whole game, whereas this was only an issue in the late-game segments of the last game. The series’ iconic Red Devils also tend to get stuck in the floor now and the reworked weapons have some very wonky hitboxes and arches to them. I enjoyed experimenting with weapon in the last game, whereas here I tended to stick with the bow because every other weapon felt slow or unreliable.

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Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is still a big 2D platformer and its quality is felt throughout its entire runtime. It’s a beautiful game for the Super Nintendo, whose greatest flaw is not living up to the last game in the series. Those who are into 2D platformers will find it above par for the genre at the time. I am critical here, merely because I know the series can do (and has done) better.

Fans of NES-hard platformers may find its challenge milder than prior entries, which incidentally does make it a great suggestion for the less-masochistic players among us.

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