It’s been over thirty years, but Ghosts ‘n Goblins is back with another brutally hard, 2D sidescrolling adventure.
The Ghosts ‘n Goblins series had a reputation for being wicked hard before being wicked hard was cool. I remember back in the late eighties when my friend Marty and I talked our parents into buying us each the NES. I got a copy of The Goonies 2 with mine, while my friend got Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins. I’ve been playing video games ever since, but my friend gave up video games within the year. It’s my completely scientific and legit theory that the brutal difficulty of Ghosts ‘n Goblins literally killed video games for him. I borrowed his copy a couple of times back then and I can tell you that playing Super Mario Brothers and Goonies 2 did not prepare me the digital slap in the face that game gave me. But even at ten years old, and despite the difficulty, I could tell it was a good game. Now, over thirty years later, Capcom has brought this sidescrolling classic back from the dead. But is this Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection a watered-down copy of the real thing, or does it manage to bring both the core gameplay and hardcore nature of the original? Let’s dig in and find out.
First of all, If you’ve finished the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins, you’re a badass in my book. I never did, which should be no surprise considering I’m an average-at-best gamer. But I’m about to finish this one, and I’m really enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still really hard, maybe even harder if you play it on the highest difficulty, but Capcom has added a surprisingly robust set of difficulty options. I chose the second easiest option and I still filled my house with an expletive-laced soundtrack for the next eight hours. There is also an option to slow down gameplay, which I utilized quite a bit. But you get the idea, I’m not very good… let’s move on. If you’re a hardcore purist, then these options probably sound like blasphemy. Just remember, they can never take Bloodbourne away from you.
And don’t forget, there is more to Ghosts ‘n Goblins than merely being difficult. The hand-drawn environments are beautifully depicted and full of color despite the macabre environments. Graveyards, fiery pits, and haunted forests where even the tree’s limbs are ready to jump and grab look inviting. These are beautiful reimaginings of the original levels and themes, but it also reminds me of the fantastic Salt and Sanctuary. The artwork in that game is more gritty and Dark Soulsy, while the art in Ghosts ‘n Goblins doesn’t take itself so seriously. For instance, our hero Arthur starts with a full set of armor. As he takes damage, he loses armor until eventually he is are wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts with hearts on them. Plus Arthur still has his cartoony and exaggerated running style from the original game that is all pumping knees and elbows. This is especially awkward because despite how hard it looks like he’s running, everything on screen feels twice as fast as him.
Almost everything on offer in Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection truly honors the original. Unfortunately, this has reminded me that the good ‘ol days weren’t perfect. Only being able to fire my weapons in four directions – left, right, up, and down – is maddeningly frustrating and dated. Plus, I think I can jump further than Arthur. This makes the many platforming sections unnecessarily frustrating. And while we’re at it, a dodge or roll button might have kept me from scaring the neighbors with my colorful language. At least a little bit.
The developers ripped the story directly from the original (and most other ’80s games on the NES) and goes something like this: rescue the pretty princess from the clutches of some purely evil creature. Fleshing out this old story would have been great, but aside from a thirty-second opening scene, you won’t find any more storytelling until the end. This feels like a missed opportunity to me, but it’s a small gripe and I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game.
You’ll stumble on 8 different weapons such as staples like daggers, a lance, a hammer, boulders, and a strange blue torch that I think is holy water. Most of these are thrown (or rolled) except the hammer, which instead sends a shockwave when it hits the ground. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. I used them all but typically felt most comfortable with the dagger. I could throw them so fast, it lent itself nicely to my typical spray and pray playstyle. You will also collect umbral bees, which you can use to upgrade Arthur’s magic and combat skills at a giant “skill tree”. This too reminded me of Salt and Sanctuary in the best way possible.
There are five zones in the game and these will take you anywhere from 6 hours to a hundred lifetimes to complete depending on which difficulty you select. It turns out that if you select the easiest difficulty setting, you will be resurrected right where you died, effectively granting you immortality. I spent each boss battle cursing the game and myself for not choosing the easiest difficulty setting.
Ghosts n’ Goblins Resurrection is a fitting return for the franchise with only a few missteps. If you love 2D sidescrollers and rescuing princesses, then Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection should put a tingle in your heart-covered boxers. It did mine.
Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection PS5, PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Ressurection is a fun and fitting installment in the classic franchise. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, instead choosing to give lovers of the series, and the genre, more of the same. It looks and sounds great, and the difficulty options, while controversial, are welcomed with open arms by this gamer. A few updates to the playstyle and story would have been nice, but I still had an absolute blast playing this game.
- The hand-painted world is a joy to look at
- The levels and bosses are varied, tough, and fun
- I love the multiple difficulty options for average gamers like me
- Not being able to fire in multiple angles is frustrating and too old-school for me
- Arthur’s movement feels a little stiff making platforming less fluid than it could have been
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5.