Picking the single most challenging game from the 8-bit era is a daunting task, but there are few that would argue that Ghosts ‘n Goblins should not be considered in the discussion. The original arcade version was known for eating quarters like popcorn and the subsequent NES port was no less unforgiving, with people back in the ’80s calling it a 2D Dark Souls. This punishing level of difficulty continued in Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and other subsequent games in the franchise, which was notorious for making players reach the final level only to start over at the beginning of the game to play through again before they can face off against the final boss. After laying dormant for several years, Arthur must once again put his armor on over his boxers as the series rises from the dead in Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection has four different difficulty levels that range from hard to virtually impossible. The actual difficulties are Legend, Knight, Squire and Page. The first three offer the classic Ghosts ‘n Goblins punishingly difficult experience with different levels of intensity. Page is the easiest but is the least authentic way to experience this title. In Page difficulty the player will still die a lot but will respawn at the point of death (or close to it) and has unlimited lives. This is a good difficulty for people who just want to see the world and progress to the end as easily as possible but does not offer the full Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection experience. The other difficulties Arthur respawns at the last checkpoint flag he reached, and the game does offer the option to lower the difficulty after multiple deaths. Completing Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection on Squire or harder difficulty is an impressive feat.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection begins in the typical manner of these days. Arthur and the Princess are spending some time together, he in his trademark boxers with her in a traditional princess gown. Their tranquil afternoon is interrupted as the Princess is captured by a demonic entity. This enrages Arthur, whose dons his conveniently-placed armor, which at this point in the series we presume is the only article of clothing he owns, and chases after her captor. Straight from the get go it’s obvious that while this is a brand new game the developers wanted to pay homage to the original games in the series. The player can choose their starting level between a graveyard or execution spot, both of which will look familiar to anyone who played Ghosts ‘n Goblins or Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. The familiar classic theme from the first level plays in either one, which would be comforting for those primarily playing this game for a nostalgia fix. Any feeling of peace is short lived as death is just around the corner for all but the most hardened Ghouls ‘n Goblins players.
The gameplay of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is exactly what series fans would expect. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one of these games so to let newcomers know what they can expect is some challenging old fashioned 2D action platforming. Arthur needs to traverse each level filled with horrific monsters that want to stop him in his tracks. If that wasn’t bad enough there are a few difficult platforming sections such as riding the backs of flying serpents or navigating branches that seem to have a mind of their own. One section even feels like it’s designed to be an homage to classic Donkey Kong games but much more fire is involved. At the end of each stage is a boss battle and these larger than life encounters offer their own sets of challenges to overcome. Each level has its own unique design and is filled with challenges.
To overcome these obstacles Arthur can collect a variety of weapons. There are the classic weapons such as the lance, dagger and crossbow with some new additions including a ground-pounding mallet and throwable spiked discs. Arthur can also throw his weapons in multiple directions, which is essential for certain situations. During his quest Arthur can collect Umbral Bees which he can then use to spend on magic. Unlike some past games where magic use was tied to Bronze or Gold armor, Arthur can enter battle with any of his spells for his disposal. Thunderstorm and Firewall are classic attack spells from the games past, while newer ideas like Emboulden turn Arthur into a boulder while forcing the player to read a pun, and Transmogrifrog turns onscreen enemies into frogs, which any veteran of the series would love the chance to be the one turning enemies into defenseless creatures.
One of the appeals of this Ghosts ‘n Goblins has been the extreme challenge. Sure, some deaths will feel cheap and it can be frustrating dying seconds before a checkpoint, but this is a game where the player can get better through practice and learning the game to ultimately overcome the challenges. I could not begin to describe how satisfying it was to beat Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the SNES for the first time, and Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection revives the legendary difficulty with the same level of satisfaction when a difficult section is finally passed. Playing the game on Legend difficulty is the intended and most authentic way to experience the game but may be too difficult for some. Page is the most accessible way to experience this title, and while most players should be able to complete this mode provided they don’t give up, it doesn’t have the same satisfaction that comes with rising the challenge of other difficulties. And that’s not to mention that completing Page mode doesn’t reveal the full Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection experience, though it is recommended to play on whatever difficulty the player finds most enjoyable.
The graphics of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection are perfect for what the game is going for. A lot of classic environments and enemies are found throughout the game, and the modern take on the classic style appeals to modern sensibilities and old school fans. The graphics are stylized to look like storybook illustrations of the classic games, creating visuals that are as enjoyable to watch as they are to play. The score reworks some of the classic music with original compositions, putting the perfect finishing touches on something that’s both new and familiar. The gameplay mechanics are smooth and responsive, which they need to be in order to make this difficult game enjoyable. The only minor complaint about the controls is Arthur does not have the ability to double jump.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection successfully revives one of the most celebrated franchises of video game history. The developers succeeded in creating an original game that feels modern while maintaining the classic feel of the games from the ’80s and ’90s. The multiple difficulty settings was a nice touch as they make the game accessible to people who have varying desires to be challenged. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is challenging, but it’s well enough designed where fighting to overcome the challenge is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is a worthy rebirth that earns its place next to the classic titles in the series.