Video Game Review: Ghosts ‘n Goblins (NES)

This would have been one of the greatest NES games ever if it wasn’t so f’n hard! No, seriously. This game makes me want to headbutt an axe.

It doesn’t help things that if you get hit twice, you’re dead. It also doesn’t help things that the majority of the enemies swarm you, move quickly and follow your movements. And you can’t really run most of them off of the screen if you dodge them and keep going.

Another issue with this game is that the mechanics are brutally difficult. Your jumps are short and quick and you can’t go very high. Also, good luck having the controllers respond in any sort of consistent way when you have to jump from moving platforms. Going up and down ladders? Also a mechanical clusterfuck.

Yet, for decades, I haven’t been able to stop playing this game. Because with all the frustration and madness that this pushes up from the darkest parts of my soul, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is just so cool.

I love the music in this game, I love the look and tone of it and at least it came out in an era where we still got games with codes and the level select option made this a lot more fun, even if after level 2, I’m basically dead f’n meat.

The boss fights are really tough but none of the bosses are unbeatable. Working your way through levels full of little flying demons, shitty ladders and moving platforms seems to be more difficult for me than the actual boss fights. Although the big winged demons in the last few levels are a real bitch. And that dragon takes so damn long to kill.

Strangely, defeating Lucifer, the final boss, is one of the easiest tasks in the game. But when you kill his blue demon ass, it’s still really damn satisfying.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins has some strange magical hold over its fans. For something that makes you angry as hell, it still brings you a lot of joy. It’s hard to explain but at the same time, maybe that only works for people that have a lot of nostalgia for the game.

But I’ve never played something so frustrating that still calls me back to it, fairly often, over thirty years later.

This isn’t as frustrating as Silver Surfer for the NES, though. And I never have the urge to go back and play that one other than to remind myself why I hate the shit out of it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other games in this series, especially the original arcade version. Also, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest for similar themes and bouts of madness trying to play through it.

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