When I was a kid—back in the NES days—I only encountered Ghosts n’ Goblins once. I was visiting one of my older cousins and while I was there I watched her play both Castlevania and Ghosts N’ Goblins; although at the time, I never learned the names of either of them. As a kid, I never played either of them, which was probably for the best, for if I had experienced the raw, volcanic punishment that was either of those games, I may have hung up my controller for good.
I didn’t truly experience Ghosts N’ Goblins until I was an adult—my gaming skills having been tempered in the fires of games like Ninja Gaiden and Bloodborne. Now, the franchise is reborn as Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection, and three decades since it’s initial release, it’s still harder than fossilized triceratops bones.
While Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection is true to its retro roots, it is worth mentioning up-front that it has made some accommodations for the modern era and included several difficulty modes for players who may not be up to the challenge. But much like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, this game is meant to be played on the “hardest” difficulty setting. That was my experience, and that is what will form the basis of this review.
In true Ghosts N’ Goblins fashion, Resurrection is an UNFORGIVING game. Every second is a constant struggle as you face unfavorable odds of enemies with not but a simple weapon and your wits. While there have been some quality of life improvements made, chiefly the ability to attack straight up, and down while jumping, the controls are extremely tight and responsive and the entire feel of the game stays true to it’s NES predecessor.
Arthur is stout of heart, but not exactly fleet of foot; moving at a somewhat slow pace compared to the barrage of enemies who spring from the ground, move in strange patterns, and hurl projectiles at every turn. Furthermore, jumping is a precise calculation as, much like classic Ghosts N’ Goblins or Castlevania, players cannot control their momentum mid-jump, so if you’re going to try and jump over an enemy, you have to commit. Much like the SNES Ghouls and Ghosts, the stages themselves are a lot more dynamic throwing various curveballs at the player at all times and adding to the challenge.
Compounding the difficulty is the classic two-hit life meter—if you get hit once, you lose your armour, get hit again and you lose your skin. This means you have to constantly be on your toes: attacking from every direction and moving and jumping with the utmost precision, which in itself is a challenge.
However, you shall not face these trails unarmed. While Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection includes some new and old weapons including Arthur’s trusty Lance, the Torch, or Flame; a massive hammer, and a big ball; all of these weapons pale in comparison to the knife. If I can offer one tip—borrowed among other things from the AVGN—for playing Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection it’s GET. THE. KNIFE. You wanna cut steak with a plastic spoon? No, get the knife.
Furthermore, adding to the arsenal of weapons is a newly added “skill tree” of sorts, that players can access by collecting “Umbra Bees” that are scattered around each level. By returning these bees to the tree, players can unlock magic abilities such as making Arthur temporarily faster, or giving players a chance to be revived; it can also equip Arthur with powerful, screen-clearing magical attacks that can really help out in a pinch. Granted, it probably won’t save you from the onslaught of death you will face, but it’s something.
Also, and this might just be me, but if you really wanna add to the fun of Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection, I would HIGHLY recommend playing with the Switch NES controller. While the two button controller may limit some of the functions you’re provided from the skill tree—such as the ability to carry two weapons—the tightness of that controller’s D-pad and the retro feel really adds a lot to the experience!
While some may find this level of difficulty, this is the kind of game that kicks you into shape and heightens your senses; it makes you into tigers! I’ve spent probably six to seven hours playing Ghosts N’ Goblins for this review, and I have yet to clear the first level. But honestly, I cannot get enough of it.
It’s the main reason why even though Bloodborne was my first Souls-like, it became one of my favorite games of all time. While in the moment, it can be extremely frustrating, there’s something deeply satisfying about slowly learning the layout of a level, knowing when to anticipate enemies, and making that incremental progress. When you finally clear a part that had been stopping you for hours, you feel like a god amongst men.
Like I said, I’ve been playing for hours and I have yet to clear the first level, but at no point have I stopped having fun, nor do I want to stop playing.
Adding to Ghosts N’ Goblin Resurrection’s punishingly satisfying gameplay is an incredible art style that gives everything a beautifully painted look, while still adding a lot of colour and detail to the landscapes and backgrounds. Arthur, as well as every enemy has that distinct Ghosts N’ Goblins design that screams retro Capcom, and every character has a unique paper-doll aesthetic that gives their movement a somewhat eerie vibe that adds a lot to the spooky feel of the game. Backing the visual design is excellent sound direction and music that brings the classic sounds and the iconic Ghosts N’ Goblins music into the modern era.
Honestly, I know it seems weird to spend an entire review gushing over a game that I haven’t even gotten past the first level of, but that’s Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection—hell, that’s Ghosts N’ Goblins in general. The game is ruthless fun that will rake you over the coals over and over, and keep you coming back for more.