Long before FromSoftware earned notoriety for being the rare video game developer who challenge their audience with their games, an entire generation of video game fans grew up with titles that were brutal, soul crushingly difficult, designed to thoroughly extinguish any hopes or dreams or desires you might have, or designs on finishing the game you were playing. The term “Nintendo Hard” exists as a (misleading) label for this generation of games, that were designed around the arcade experience – designed to be as difficult as possible while still retaining just enough semblance of fairness to suck players dry of their quarters, but not frustrate them into dropping the game altogether.
This generation of arcade games and their home console conversions saw many notable and beloved titles, one of the most notable of which is Ghosts ‘n Goblins from Capcom, as well as its many follow ups and spin offs. The series has become very highly regarded among Capcom’s older fans, in large part because of how nail bitingly difficult it is, demanding nothing but total mastery of the game’s mechanics and designs from the player. Now, Capcom has brought this IP back for modern audiences with Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Resurrection, a Nintendo Switch exclusive game that, as the name suggests, is a reboot of the franchise.
Any ideas you may have had that the game would go soft on players in consideration of modern sensibilities should really be dispensed of as soon as possible, however. While Capcom has introduced several measures to make Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Resurrection friendlier to new and less skilled players than older games in the series, those who are looking for the kind of brutal, punishing, unforgiving experience that the original games provided will find that here in spades. The same kind of diabolical level design, the same kind of devilishly placed traps and encounters that can do you in the second your attention so much as flickers from the screen, the same kind of constant unpredictability that made the original games so tense, is all here – and then some.
You will still find protagonist Arthur falling to even the lowliest of skeletons or trash mobs because you got greedy and didn’t put in the distance that was necessary between yourself and the nearest enemy that would give you the breathing room to be able to take them all out with ease. You will still die to unexpected traps that you could not possibly have seen coming, and had but a second to react to (if that). You will still find your knuckles growing white as you grip your controllers ever tighter the further into Resurrection you get.
"While Capcom has introduced several measures to make Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Resurrection friendlier to new and less skilled players than older games in the series, those who are looking for the kind of brutal, punishing, unforgiving experience that the original games provided will find that here in spades."
I’m not too good at games (I freely admit this), with my virtue being patience rather than pure skill – but even with this, Ghosts ‘N Goblins has always been one of those titles I have never really managed to get through, because even patience eventually runs out when you are forced to repeat the same few parts of the game over and over because you keep dying. Thankfully, for less skilled players such as myself, as well as for newer ones who flat out may not be able to handle the exacting toll the original games take on their players, Capcom has included several difficulty and accessibility options.
The most obvious of these is, of course, the difficulty levels you can select. There are four of these, with Knight and Legend recalling the classic Ghosts ‘n Goblins difficulty fans know and love with no compromises made, while Squire and Page make things easier, letting Arthur take many more hits before he dies, as well as how many monsters you are made to deal with at a time. There is very little disincentive for these lower difficulty levels (they were the ones I spent most of my time with the game with), although the game makes it clear there are some things in the game that are reserved only for higher difficulties – so for more dedicated players, the easier difficulties, should they use them, are meant more as training grounds to be able to come to grips with the game and its mechanics than anything else (more casual players, of course, will presumably not care that much about missing some content, as long as they get to actually finish the game).
Another great option added by Capcom is allowing players to outright control the speed of the game. By using a “metronome”, you can make the enemies slow down immensely, allowing yourself far more time to react to them, or to stick them with your blades and spears (something that I imagine is especially empowering on lower difficulties). Conversely, if you find the game too easy, even on the hardest difficulty, you can speed the game up even more, making it still more stupidly difficult for yourself in the process. Best of all, you can even use the two options to create “custom” difficulties for yourself – if you don’t want the lower enemy spawns and higher health for Arthur that lower difficulty levels get you, you can retain those while still giving yourself a leg up with slowing enemy speeds down, for example.
It definitely is good that there are all these options available, because the game definitely seems to often veer into the side of being unfair on the player. While I definitely appreciate well designed difficulty in games, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection often feels like it exists literally to try and troll its player as much as possible. And to be fair, there is a contingent of old school fans who will probably like that – but I do feel that that makes this game more frustrating for many others, especially when coupled with the game’s sometimes surprisingly subpar level design (which can mean either levels that feel far too straightforward, or levels that are so convoluted that it’s unreasonable to expect the average player to be able to reasonably do them in any rational number of tries). At the very least, there are parts of the game that feel as though they were designed around the expectation of co-op play (which this game obviously supports), and that’s great, but for singleplayer experiences, those parts can stick out.
There’s also the fact that this game channels its arcade roots in other ways – for example, it’s 5-6 hours long at most (more if you decide to make it as hard for yourself as possible so you have to keep beating your head against the same wall repeatedly for hours on end, sure). Once you finish it, you definitely do get the option to replay it with a remixed campaign (again harkening back to its classic roots), while different weapons and abilities also encourage you playing through the game repeatedly and trying different styles out. Given it’s $30 price, it’s hard to fault the game for its value proposition, to be fair – especially given the further appeal it has as a co-op game to boot. But for those who wanted more from the game as opposed to having to spend more time per content in the game, I suppose the length may well be a sticking point.
"It distinctly looks Ghosts ‘n Goblins, while simultaneously looking modern."
On the other hand, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the art style. I wasn’t a fan of it when I saw it in debut trailers, and while I still don’t think it matches the sheer beauty of some of the best looking classic games in the series, on the whole I think it’s a very nice looking game (I am definitely shocked at how well the RE Engine has lent itself to this kind of a game, to be honest). It distinctly looks Ghosts ‘n Goblins, while simultaneously looking modern – a feat that can be difficult to achieve (just as Sega about how Sonic the Hedgehog 4 went for them).
It’s heartening to see that Capcom still has the ability to turn out a game of this sort today – while we have seen more and more of this style of game turn up in the last few years, they have mostly come from smaller and indie developers, with the bigger publishers sticking to mostly disappointingly safe AAA fare. Which is why even while my own gaming tastes largely diverge from this vintage old-school brand of game design at this point, I am so glad this game exists – it represents a style of game that is simply hard to find among the bigger publishers and developers in today’s day and age.
My own proclivities aside, I still appreciated the minute extent to which the developers have an understanding of difficulty and challenge, something that is evident in Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection in its best moments. At its worst moments, sure, the game can be maddeningly unfair and frustrating, but even there, Capcom’s decision to include considerations for difficulty and accessibility can help out – not to mention the achievement that it is to be able to offer those kinds of options without compromising on the core experience that players expected from the game to begin with. Fans of the older games will find a modern entry in the franchise that is pretty much everything they could have asked for in a revival – while even newcomers might end up finding a game that they end up taking to thanks to its curiously addictive mechanics, and its willingness, unlike its forebears, to meet them halfway to try and onboard them into its world.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Gorgeous art style; excellent accessibility and difficulty options that don't compromise on the core challenge of the title; co-op and remixed campaign lend this game great lasting appeal
A lot of the level design veers towards being decidedly unfair; the campaign comes in at a rather brisk 5-6 hours