Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review: Brutally Old-School on Every Level
It can be hard to bring back classic games, especially those from the arcade-era of the 80s and early 90s. Deciding how close to stick to the original template is key, since design philosophy and game mechanics have moved on so much since then. In the case of Capcom’s revamp of their arcade classic, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, the developer opted to stick right to the source material’s template.
That sounds great, nostalgically, and for those who have played Ghosts ‘n Goblins in modern times and liked it, Ghost ‘n Goblins Resurrection will almost certainly appeal. For those used to more modern sensibilities and controls, this classic take on side-scrolling action is much more of a mixed bag.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review: Brutally Old School on Every Level
Arcade games were designed for players to fail, just enough to put more quarters in the machine and not so much so they rage quit. GnG always skirted that line. Even by standards of the day, it was a viciously hard game. Resurrection embraces that insane difficulty level with abandon. In that pursuit, it shines a light on so many of the original game's flaws while choosing to emulate them.
As the beleaguered, armor-wearing knight, Sir Arthur, the entire game world is against you. It starts with Arthur’s own legs. The man runs and jumps like he’s in mud. The weird, janky pace of his movements impacts everything, especially jumping and dodging. Where tombstones and other bits of scenery do nothing to hamper the armies of the undead (both enemies and enemy fire go right past them), it all hampers Arthur, forcing him to jump over even minor obstacles.
It forces players to perform perfectly timed attacks and movements to get through nearly every part of every level.
All of this is, of course, is spot-on for the source material. It’s remarkable how exactingly Resurrection mirrors the feel, pacing, and overall gameplay of the original. Whether it’s particularly fun is another question entirely.
The game starts out brutally hard and never lets up. Chase sequences mix in with more standard side-scrolling, where you’ll have to jump from flying dragon to flying dragon, avoid murderous bee swarms while jumping to disappearing platforms, and maneuver through other creatively sadistic tasks.
The only compromise here is the difficulty level option. There are three main difficulty levels to choose from and Page mode, the easy mode that also doesn’t allow access to the entire game. Only Page mode allows you to continue from right where you died. The other three rely on sparse checkpoints set on each map. There, when you die, you get sent back to the last checkpoint, which can make forward progress frustratingly slow.
I tried the game on all four settings but only managed to actually get through on Page. Squire and Knight, the next difficulty levels, proved sanity-threatening by around half- to three-quarters through the game. If anyone can beat the game on Legend mode, hats off to them.
The frustrating point isn't really that enemies are wickedly hard to kill, but how much the game relies on the sluggishness of Arthur to punish players. Beating a level after umpteen attempts, with all the repetitive backtracking it involves, felt more annoying than satisfying.
Even with weaker enemies, more power-ups, and saner respawns, Page mode is far from actually easy. Since Arthur moves and controls exactly the same no matter which setting you choose, platforming challenges still suffer from sluggish movements. Given that even the arcade sequel, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, felt noticeably improved over the first, the sluggish feel of your character here feels almost cruel.
Granted, arcade revamps and ports in the modern world cater to nostalgia more than anything else. Some of them are legitimately great in their own right, but all come with expectations of a certain style and challenge. On that level, Resurrection certainly accomplishes what it set out to do. It feels spot on to the original.
One area where there is a definitive enhancement is the game's artistic style. Resurrection has a delightful, colorful, almost-hand drawn graphic style. It looks charming and fantastic. Enemy design, from an array of zombies and skeletons to pig men, vicious bugs, and huge bosses, is great as well. There’s a surprising variety of villains here, and they look great.
The soundtrack in general is excellent, but the updated score will be music to an old arcade hound’s ears. There’s also an incredible variety of weapons to collect and throw. Starting with the standard lance, there’s explosive holy water, knives, shields, a giant hammer, crossbow, and more.
New to the series are special powers Arthur can buy by collecting magical sprites. These build Arthur up with moves like turning into a rock temporarily, turning weaker enemies to frogs, unleashing lightning and fire, and more. Bizarrely, these secondary moves require you to hold the main attack button to charge instead of having their own button. Given the frenetic pacing of the rest of the game, having to wait a couple seconds without being able to attack makes these specials hard to use.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review — The Bottom Line
- Captures everything about the original game nearly perfectly
- Delightful artistic style and great soundtrack
- Excellent enemy designs and great selection of weapons
- Perfect if you want an absurd challenge
- Insanely hard
- Sluggish player movements hurt pacing and accuracy
- Can’t see the whole game on the easiest difficulty level.
Fans of classic arcade games will almost certainly be eager to jump into Arthur’s sluggish boots again for another romp through this classic adventure. For those on the fence, the best approach may be to download the original game in Capcom’s Arcade Stadium and see how it feels.
Resurrection captures everything about Ghosts ‘n Goblins, warts and all, with little to no compromise.
[Note: Capcom provided the copy of Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection used for this review.]