Ghosts 'N Goblins Resurrection: difficult and different

Bravely bold Sir Arthur, he was not afraid to die

It’s been a while since we had a Ghosts ‘N Goblins game. A faire auld whyle, indeed, as the last one was Ultimate Ghosts ‘N Goblins for the sorely-missed PSP as many as (Sweet Mother of Sainted Christ) fifteen years ago. In a way, I’m glad of the enforced absence because I absolutely cannot stand ghosts. But I’m gently indifferent to goblins.

Enough nonsense. You know what this series is like. Bastard nails hard. That’s the point of Ghosts ‘N Goblins (and indeed Ghouls ‘N Ghosts) – to make you cry salty tears of rage as you blunder Arthur into his underpants over and over again. Blunderpants. They should just rename the series that, actually. Inform Capcom.

No, though, the scene has changed a great deal where hard games are concerned. Kaizo hacks are commonplace, with even Nintendo effectively embracing them via Super Mario Maker and its reams of amateurish, passionately unenjoyable levels. More conventionally, games like Super Meat Boy or the justly-forgotten Cloudberry Kingdom make being harder than a bumblebee’s nihilism into a feature. So good old Makaimura has had a look at them and gone, oi, I was here first, and popped up with the intent of showing pretenders just how it’s bally well done.

So here we have it. Ghosts ‘N Goblins Resurrection. And it’s Ghosts ‘N Goblins filtered through modern masocore gaming at the expense of some of its unique feel, but retaining the undeniable X factor that makes GnG so compelling.

Levels are much, much larger now, but contain (on default difficulty) many more checkpoints and opportunities to acquire power-ups. There’s a skill tree that allows you to exchange hard-to-get collectables for permanent (minor) upgrades. The double-jump of both Super and Ultimate GnG is gone, leaving you just your four directional weapon throws and your magic attacks, which you can now use at almost any time. To compensate for this increase in power, the game is hyper-aggressive like no GnG before. Enemies often absolutely flood the screen, sometimes appearing out of nowhere to do you in. It’s crazy busy and a different kind of hard from the series’ previous offerings.

Is it bad? No. Frustrating to a fault, certainly, but not bad. I’d argue that it doesn’t feel quite so complete – returning to Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts on the Switch SNES app, or even playing Ghouls on Capcom Arcade Stadium, there’s a definite loss of identity, of atmosphere. The gameplay is there but the journey isn’t. Making your progress so piecemeal, so gamey and so utterly, shamelessly in deference to what came before makes Resurrection feel a little like a super-tough remix of the rest of the series rather than a new entry in and of itself.

And while that’s not unusual for the franchise, it is a little bit of a shame. I don’t think Ghosts ‘N Goblins Resurrection is at all bad – in fact, it’s very good – but it isn’t the kind of good that I wanted. Is that insane? Quite possibly. But there are so many games with this type of difficulty, now. Infinite lives doesn’t make me sweat, it makes the game into a war of attrition. It feels like given the absence of Game Overs, the designers felt more comfortable with making every situation have one specific correct solution. There’s very little scope for player creativity or thinking on your feet – a staple of the series to this point.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs or pushing my idea of what Goblins should be like and judging Resurrection unfairly as a result, but I think the differences here are pronounced and not necessarily for the better. So, what we have here is an excellent masocore game, but not the greatest Ghosts ‘N Goblins. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another fifteen years for another one.