Quality Control – Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

When I was a kid, I picked up a used copy of Ghouls & Ghosts for the NES. I picked it up after hearing Adam Sessler, a game critic I respect immensely, gush about the game on Extended Play (which might have still been “GameSpot TV” at the time). I played it, found it frustratingly hard, and turned it in. When I came to the last issue of Nintendo Power which I did a Where I Read for (Issue #29), I decided now, with the aid of emulation, to give the 16-bit version of Ghouls & Ghosts another try. This way I’d actually stand a chance of beating a level and would be able to pass some sort of judgement about the game.

The Premise:

You are Arthur – King of the Britons. Queen Guinevere has been kidnapped by demons, and you must travel across the land trying to rescue her.

The Good:

Considering that this is a SNES launch title, while it doesn’t do a lot with Mode Seven, what it does, it does well. We get level art with 4 layers to it – foreground, the level itself, and a layer or two of scrolling background. We get several levels which involve rotation (including a level based around rotation, but not as heavily as the rotation based level in Super Castlevania IV). The controls are generally fairly solid, with a few problems.

The Bad:

I have one major complaint about the controls. Jumping at an angle. It’s not too clear that the way you jump at an angle is that you hold the direction you want to move in, and then jump. As it is, I tend to prefer pressing jump than the directional button. Unrealistic? Yes. However, if you’re dealing with precise jumps (as you do on occasion in this game), being able to jump that way helps me make those jumps a little easier.

The Ugly:

Here’s the main problem. I did not beat this game. Why? Well, Basically, you need an item called the “Goddess Armlet” to be able to beat the final boss. The game doesn’t tell you that you’re looking for it. Well, it might if you read the manual – but that doesn’t help you if you’re getting the game used, getting it through Virtual Console (thus, essentially, emulating the game) or if you just lost the manual (or, as many modern gamers do, you don’t read the manual in the first place). So, if you don’t get the armlet, what do you do? Why, you get sent all the way back to the beginning of the game, of course. You then have to play all the way through the game again, while trying to find the damn armlet.

The Verdict:

This is a bad game. I’m sorry, but this is a perfect example of bad game design – specifically because of the failure of the game to tell you about the damn Goddess Armlet. You don’t need to hand-hold us and tell us where the armlet is, you just need to tell us that we need to get the armlet while we’re on our way there. For all the merits the game has to it, I cannot recommend playing this game. 3 out of 10.