Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection PC Review
Having played Capcom Arcade Stadium recently on PlayStation 4, I can confirm that Ghosts ‘n Goblins in the arcade is one tough son of a bitch to complete without pumping in plenty of those virtual shiny coins for unlimited retries. If you know the series, then this statement is nothing new to you. Not including some run and gun iOS games, the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series has not had an entry since Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins on the PSP back in 2006. That is quite some time to be dormant, but the reason for the return of the heroic knight Arthur is that not only has it been 35 years since the initial game was released, but Capcom noticed a trend in popularity for difficult games, especially ones similar to this series, so the developers felt that it would be a good time to release a new entry. The question is then, is Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection spook-tacular or just plain Boo-ring?
Mimicking the games of old, Resurrection is part remake, part reimagining, with previous levels, enemies, and bosses returning in their new look. As with the story previously, this continues the simple tale set in a far-off land where a hero, Arthur, is chilling in the lovely sun. Along comes a princess, all happy to see Arthur until darkness appears revealing the Demon Lord, who snatches the poor lady away. Arthur is not going to stand for this, so he takes off to hunt the demon down and rescue the princess. That is your lot, no time wasted in getting the simple background delivered to the player. It’s a short cutscene and then it is straight into the challenging action.
Ah, yes, the challenge, a good starting point for the review. Fans will be glad to know that the challenge is in full force here. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is no joke, just as notoriously challenging as the original, but obviously, times are a little different now, so to account for this there are now four difficulty options to pick from when starting the game – Legends, Knight, Squire, and Page. Legend is a copy of the original game, in which armour takes one hit to reduce Arthur to a dude in boxer shorts, while the next hit kills. Knight is a step down from Legend, offering one extra armour hit and also offering multiple checkpoints in stages. Squire continues to increase the armour hits, now having 4 hits until death, but also now there is a reduced amount of enemies. Lastly, Page, offers unlimited lives and respawning at the place of death, aka, your pile of bones. Page difficulty is a way to brute force through the game since you should always be dying ahead of your last death. No matter what difficulty is played, the game will save after each stage, meaning that there are no longer restarts of the entire game. To me, this is a good thing, and if the super-serious players want to do runs from the start, then the game does let you replay from previously completed stages, helpful when aiming for a high score run.
One fascinating thing about Resurrection is that even though it came out in 2021, the developers decided not to break away from the gameplay that was done back in the arcades, which explains why this game is hard. This is near enough the same design as it was back then. It boils down to being a 2D platformer. The player helping Arthur over treacherous traps and falls to make it towards the end of level boss with jumping physics that have to be near-perfectly timed otherwise moving traps or platforms will just be barely out of your reach, causing an unwelcome trip down a bottomless pit. The jumping is slightly awkward, without much control in the air, making the timing more important to correctly land where Arthur should be.
Arthur can only attack in four directions and depending on the weapon will determine how Arthur attacks. Most weapons from the original return here – Lance, Dagger, Torch (now called Holy Water), and Shield, along with new ones, such as the Hammer, Spiked Ball, and Crossbow. Each one behaves differently. The Crossbow shows two arrows that split away from each other slowly as they travel across the screen, the Holy Water is a sort of grenade that when explodes causes blue flames to stay on the ground for a few seconds, dealing damage if monsters are within it.
Enemies are assiduously placed to give the player troubles – some of the positions require good timing with attack and jump, otherwise, they manage to hit you. Zombies will run towards you, scythe-wielding skeletons burst at you, birds will dive across the screen and ogres drop rocks through the floors below. It will take some tries to eventually beat the game, some down to your mistakes, but sometimes I cannot help feel that the controls are too stiff that part of my death was down to those issues. I understand the developers wanted to keep the controls close to the arcade game, which is fair enough since it means you have to take into account that everything is against you – no air control, enemies move faster than the hero, attacking slows down Arthur – but it does mean that occasionally you feel cheated when death comes knocking on Arthur’s boxer shorts. The trade-off with the old-school sensibilities in the game’s design is the sense of achievement. No matter if you are on Legend or Squire, the feeling of beating something that was previously obstructing progress is met with a little fist pump or a sigh of relief.
A new feature for this new title is the collectible flying friendlies called Umbral Bees. Each stage has a limited amount to find, and you can know how many are left by looking at the statistics screen for the stage. Collecting these will let the player spend them in the Umbral Tree to gain new magic abilities. This new magic system does help to give the player some additional survival tools. Transmogrifrog can turn any none boss/large monster on screen into frogs, making for easy kills, Medusa temporarily turns on-screen enemies to stone, making them climbable, again only works on standard enemies unless upgraded, and another is a firewall that ignites two walls of flames to Arthur’s left and right. There are a few others, and some even have upgrades to make them more powerful. To balance the magic, casting requires holding down a button before casting to charge the ability, meaning it is only good if you do not need to attack for a few seconds to be able to perform this action. Throwing in magic is a nice twist on the standard gameplay and does not upset what is already a solid foundation that has come from the 1980s.
I remember the game’s visuals were a big talking point when Ghosts ’n Goblins Resurrection was initially revealed back at 2020 Game Awards. Complaints about the move away from its pixel art were the number one issue, saying that this new art style was “cheap” and “ugly”, some rather negative feelings towards it. Personally, after playing the game, I have to disagree with those people. The idea behind the visuals is that it is supposed to be a storybook, and so that inspiration is brought into the game’s visuals. Remember those pop-up books as a kid, the ones with pulls to animated the picture on the cut-out? This is what the game is trying to copy. Seeing it in motion does it more justice than stills. Each stage feels like it was ripped from the books, their colour palette, drawing style fitting across each stage wonderfully within the concept. Arthur’s limb movement, and enemies for that matter, have the rotational motion seen in said books; it feels like an old children’s book has come to life on the screen. Enemies look just as good, too, bringing a mix of menacing and disgustingly cute designs. Just give it a chance and I think people will change their view after seeing it for themselves in action.
I am no professional when it comes to Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and so even with dropping the difficulty from the highest challenge, it still easily kicked my ass, causing me to die over 30-40 times on most stages. Do not let that deteriorate your view if you are after a 2D platformer, because Capcom has smartly allowed it to be suited to most players. Newcomers can always start on the easiest setting, finish it, which includes seven stages, but will not unlock the seven shadow versions – harder variants of the first seven stages – then jump on to the next difficulty and have a reason to try to beat it to get to the shadow remixes. To give an idea of length, each stage begins with seven minutes on the clock, but I can tell you that it took me nearly 7 hours to beat all 14 stages, and that was on the Squire difficulty. God only knows how much longer it would have been on the madness known as Legend.
In the end, Capcom has made a faithful resurrection for Ghosts ‘n Goblins, keeping true to the original game in so many areas that it causes it to also suffer from the same issues I have with the older games. These issues do not make the game bad by any means, this is still a decent game to play with good level design, an addictive, if annoying, loop, but the unbalanced nature of the controls does feel stuck in the past. The awkward jumping and response from Arthur will make players scream out in frustration from time to time. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection does no wrong in bringing this series back from history and will suit anyone looking for a challenging platformer. Just note that this game will take your lives away like a seagull stealing food.