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Review – Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (Nintendo Switch)

 

SNES Classic Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for Nintendo Switch

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts introduces players to the knight, Sir Arthur, of noble birth, as he ventures through a land of demons on the prowl. His mission? To return the princess back to her home and survive against an onslaught of minions led by The Great Emperor. This side-scrolling adventure from developer Capcom promises to give you more than just a few mild spooks to handle. 

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is the third entry in this series and the one most famed for the challenge it offers. The series has a reputation as the quintessential example of having a hardcore difficulty in gaming. It’s cited often as being a trying experience for even seasoned veterans of gaming. So let’s put Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts to the test with a 2019 filter. 

The Gameplay

Super Ghouls n Ghosts SNES box art
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts SNES box art (Capcom)

Rudimentary tools will be assisting you in a world that is hellbent on destroying you. Arthur’s main mode of attack is spearing enemies with a sword. Thankfully, he does have an unlimited supply; otherwise, there would be a completely different layer of challenge. The standard fare of side-scrollers is to invent creative ways to direct a player through a series of winding obstacles. Secrets and treasures are an encouragement for the player to seek out each part of every level.

With Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, the side-scrolling element serves as a trial by fire. The game is intended to form waves of enemies so large that they overwhelm the player. Equipped with very little to begin with, you must tactically move your way through a seemingly-endless supply of powerful foes. Your armour can take a certain amount of hits. Initially, it flies off with the ease of a knife through butter, but upgrades become available to allow you to better withstand the forces. The aim is to actually get that far.

Arthur moves with the grace of a pot-bellied pig and accurately portrays what it would be like to wear that much armour day-to-day. The double jump notwithstanding in this case, as it is by far the difference-maker between life and death at times. 

Poking at the internal need to be the best is a bold route to go down and only attracts certain types of players into the fold. Magic, in the later stages, alleviates the burden upon the player, but not measurably enough to cut the difficulty as a whole. This game is very hard. As it should be. 

The Graphics/Visuals

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts offers some beautiful nightmare creations to keep you up at night. The enemy design is a factor that should not be overlooked; it is the main crux of the game. Admittedly, the backgrounds themselves are hard to enjoy, as you won’t be sticking around them much due to the swarms. However, you’ll be seeing plenty of the creatures up close as you once again hear the jingle of the game over music. 

In all honesty, though, this is a stellar reminder of the power that the Super Nintendo had to capture a certain quality of pixel. It looks as it did way back when, and having it on the go on the Switch is a visual treat to behold. Tastefully, we can now view Arthur roaming around in his boxers in a slightly nicer format, and that’s all we can ask for with a straight-up port like this. A sterling example of wonderfully creepy stylised visuals. 

The Story

The game is an excellent example of exercising willpower. A simple story that we have seen multiple times in gaming, it is punctuated by an innate struggle that fuels the player onward to complete it. In Arthur’s journey to rescue the princess, we are given the narrative of one versus all. This is prominent in games like Mario, but more grandly highlighted here with the set-pieces and wear-and-tear throughout the journey.

The plot itself rewards your progress with each little step you take. The penultimate scene of the story crescendos into a gut-punch when we know that we have only one way to slay the Emperor. We must obtain a relic known as The Goddess’ Bracelet to finally take him down. This requirement is the ultimate assessment of the player’s willpower, by making them play through the entire game again. Reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno, this is a personal unending hell inflicted upon those bold enough to wish for full completion. It truly has to be admired for its brazenness.

Overall

SNES Classic sheds a fresh light on an old generation of games that don’t often get the recognition they deserve. Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts set the groundwork for the modern-day Dark Souls games with its unashamed darkly-toned visuals and difficult learning curve. An intense admiration swells inside of me when I play through a game of this variety that knows what it wants to be fully: a mind-bending, bone-crunching game that only strongest can survive. Sadly, I was not one of the people who completed it to 100%; the ambition is still there and someday it may still happen.

For now, I simply take myself on the journey when I can, enjoying the brilliant soundtrack and the brimming sense of dread I am filled with as I reach a different stage. One definitely to revisit for those who want a challenge and for those not faint of heart. Still as relevant in gaming 20 years on.

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About the author

Daniel Kelly

Proud beard grooming enthusiast with a background in writing about not beard-related topics.

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