Super NES Mini Countdown: #11 | Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts

Arthur's return lived up to the necessary prefix.

Nintendo's Super NES Classic Edition mini-console arrives at the end of the month, and the Retronauts writing team has voted to rank the 20 classic games on the mini. Unlike last year's Classic NES Edition, the Super NES mini doesn't have a single dud on it, so think of this as a countdown from good to great. Today, Capcom take the spotlight for the second day in a row with Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts.

Previous entries:

11. Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts

Dev.: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Fighting
Release date: October 4, 1991 [JP] ] Nov 28, 1991 [U.S.] December 10, 1992 [EU]

What makes Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts a worthy inclusion?

Perfection of a formula

Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts represents the fine tuning of a game through three similar incarnations, each notably better than the last. Ghosts 'n' Goblins was a fun enough platformer in the arcades, even if it's probably most famous for its ropey NES port. Ghouls 'n' Ghosts was similar in many ways, but the design of the levels was so much stronger and varied than it had been in the original title. While Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, with the addition of the "Super" prefix, seemed at first glance to merely be another conversion of the 2nd game (for which a perfectly good one already existed on the Mega Drive), it was so much more -- a full sequel with all the little changes required to turn the game from a very good if highly challenging title to a flat out masterpiece.

What are these improvements, then?

The most notable addition to Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is, of course, the ability to double jump. As with various other Capcom games such as Strider, the jumping in the G 'n' G games is based on more realistic momentum -- once you jump, you cannot change direction. While this can seem restrictive at first, the addition of the double jump in this game really opens up the design of the levels, and allows for a lot more creativity and variation. The Golden Armor, first introduced in the original Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, has also been improved due to now being found in chests once you've made the necessary upgrade to Bronze -- and so the wide range of attacks that Arthur possesses with various weapons are so much more open. These little things go a long way to making Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts the great game that it is.

It's worth the challenge

If you've not had much experience with Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, then it's certainly a game that'll take a chunk of your time. Alongside Mega Man X and Contra III, it is amongst the toughest games in the whole collection -- indeed, there's a strong case for it being the hardest outright. As with the other two games in the series, this one is a cruel mistress -- leaving out the already challenging nature of the levels, it's all too common to be cruising along and doing fine in the game, and things suddenly going pear-shaped in a flash -- suddenly an item drop leaves you with a weapon that's utterly ill-suited to the situation, or one stray projectile leaves poor Arthur in his pants, exposed to the elements, almost inevitably about to become a skeleton. Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is like walking on a tightrope -- the slightest misjudgement can be fatal. Oh, and you have to complete the game twice in order to actually defeat it. 

It's here on merit

The inclusion of Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts on the SNES Mini is quite an interesting one -- of all the 20 titles that made it, the G 'n' G series is perhaps the one that's least defined by its appearance on Nintendo machines. While this is a SNES exclusive (at least at the time), the other two games in the series were mostly famed for their Arcade versions and had appeared on many different systems -- the port of the original game on the NES, while popular enough to warrant inclusion on the NES Mini last year, was far from the best version of said game. Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts feels like a game that's here more on merit than anything else -- even if it's not as synonymous with Nintendo as something like Mario, Donkey Kong, or even Contra and Mega Man, it's still one of the system's greatest titles, and deserves a place for that reason alone.

Interesting facts about Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts

Regional differences

As with other games in the series, a few little changes were made to Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts in the West based on some of the more religious imagery that the game used. Whereas the original Japanese game used crosses throughout the game, these were changed to Egyptian ankhs in the Western versions. The name of the final boss in the Western versions was also changed to Sardius, as opposed to his original name – Samael, the Talmudic angel of death. The European version suffered even more with the removal of certain enemy placements, although this appears to be down to difficulty reasons as opposed to censorious ones.

The Nickolodeon connection

Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts was featured on the popular Nickolodeon show Nick Arcade on their "Video Challenge" wall of video game-related challenges. Unsurprisingly, this challenge would usually result in failure for anyone who was either brave enough, stupid enough, or too misinformed to actually pick it. It is said that the challenge was rarely featured due to the game showing a map after a death that could conceivably give the second player an advantage, but even so the difficulty alone would be enough to do most contenders in.

The evil ways of the game

We've all been there. You're on a good run of the game, everything's going well, you come across a chest that you know contains an awesome weapon or an armour upgrade - the last nine times you've played, that's what's been it. You break it and suddenly a magician comes out and turns you into a baby, or you end up with a horrible weapon that allows the Red Arremers to come and strip you of your armour and dignity. What happened? Nothing is truly fixed in Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts -- the contents of chests are all based on a complex tier system based on many different factors -- your current status, items you've picked up or left before, all sorts. You can never fully know what to expect from this game.

Changes before release

A recent trawl through the archives of Nintendo Power have uncovered some interesting pre-release tidbits on the game -- there's a big preview from the October 1991 issue including quite a lot of things that were changed in the released version of the game, from different backgrounds and a different level order, to an entirely new boss for the second level. These changes were scanned and summarised by The Cutting Room Floor, and their article can be found here.

Other ports

While Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts only made it to the SNES when it was originally released, it found its way to other machines later on, first appearing on the PlayStation and Saturn as part of the Capcom Generation: Chronicles of Arthur collection. These ports are notable for not featuring as much slowdown as the original SNES version does. The same port also appeared on the Capcom Classics Collection for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The most notable port of the game, however, is probably on the Game Boy Advance -- this version of the game features an Arrange mode where a player can choose to play redesigned levels from the first two games in the series, and the Goddess Bracelet is available throughout the game as opposed to on the second run. This version of the game also retains the signature SNES slowdown throughout.