Here, without context, are things I have exclaimed while playing Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection:
- “Oh of course it’s the eyeballs…”
- “Why is every bird evil?”
- “So I guess I’m a frog now.”
- “Give me back my greenrock!”
These are just from the first few stages, and as humbling as it is to admit that was about as far as I could get during my first night with the game.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection doesn’t care about you having a good time. Its goal is to watch you die, not because it enjoys your suffering but because that’s the only truth it knows. For a long time you won’t be able to escape its reality, but as small victories build it becomes apparent just how well crafted this tapestry of nightmares is.
For anyone uninitiated, I suggest you spend just fifteen minutes playing either the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins, or its follow up Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. They’re both on the Switch Online NES and SNES libraries respectively. Go on, I’ll wait.
Now imagine that every few times you died you lost a quarter. This medieval torture in motion was designed to take money in arcades, but it was also designed to empower the player. Getting past a tough group of enemies or reaching a new level is its own reward because you had to put so much trial and error and even faith into getting that far. It’s the same principle that guides modern Souls and Rogue-likes, but at an acute rate.
G’nG dares you to stand up to it, and to its credit Resurrection gives you tools and modern concessions to do so. I wouldn’t say this makes it “easier”, but instead that it makes your experience around the gameplay itself more enjoyable. It has a checkpoint system, but the paces between those banners is going to be hellish the whole way through. It offers up a choice between multiple levels for when things feel too insurmountable. And best of all, it has an outside means of progressing Arthur’s capabilities in its new magic system.
As shown in the parchment penned opening, the kingdom has been besieged by the legions of the Demon Realm yet again and the Princess needs rescuing. Also introduced is a tree full of rainbow colored disco bees (Umbral Bees, to use their actual name) that are found and gathered as you attempt to make your way. Thankfully these aren’t lost when you’re reduced to a skeleton again and again, allowing you to use them to unlock spells that afford Arthur new techniques.
The earliest two are a far hitting lightning bolt attack, while the other flanks him with fireballs. I found uses for each of them, and investing in them made retreading old ground easier, keeping me armored and more confident in the perilous unknown ahead. Looking at later fruits of this literal skill tree, you can access ways to clear the screen of danger or enhance Arthur’s speed and survivability. It’s encouraging to see what lies ahead, and it created secondary goals. “Maybe I wouldn’t beat a stage this time around, but at least I’ll get enough Umbral Bees to turn myself into a boulder” is a legitimate thought I had while playing this game, and dammit if it doesn’t make perfect sense.
Everything I’ve just described came from playing the game’s “Legend” difficulty. This was described as being true to the original games, and it shows. However there are idiosyncratically named options to tone things down, taking you down from Knight, to Squire, and to lowly Page. The game even unobtrusively offers to let you bump things down if you die enough times, keeping things on your terms.
Despite the implicit frustration that comes with a game like this, I really don’t have anything “bad” to say about Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection so far. I’ve still only scratched the surface, though, but have seen enough to say that it’s not a game everyone will enjoy. Patience and perseverance are necessary here, and a little masochism won’t hurt.
One thing that’s worth praising directly is the game’s art direction, which breathes new life into the series by giving it a very exaggerated animation style. This comes courtesy of the RE Engine, and shows versatility beyond most other Capcom titles using it. Everything has a high degree of movement, from Arthur’s walk cycle to the stages themselves from time to time. Likewise, this might be one of the most vibrantly colored hellscapes I’ve ever suffered through, popping well in both handheld and docked modes.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is the type of game that will reward your successful trek of a roundabout path with a treasure chest, only to have that chest actually be a wizard. But that won’t matter, you were just clipped by a zombie falling from above, followed by about a dozen more appearing out of nowhere. Just because. It dares you to let your guard down so it can throw salt on your wounds, and prides itself on turning bad into worse.
Yet I can’t stop trying to make it even one step further…