Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review – A Knight in Shining Boxer Shorts

    Title: Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection
    Developer: Capcom
    Release Date: February 25, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Capcom
    Genre: Action Platformer

Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins is a legendary video game franchise, and long before the term Souls-like described challenging games, it was this title that we gauged difficulty with. What was once one of the biggest hits for Capcom on both arcade and console, returns to the gaming spotlight once more after an almost 15-year hiatus (sans a few minor mobile spin-offs and cameos) as the ambitiously titled Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection.

Although developed by a fresh team, series founder Tokuro Fujiwara returns for this reboot. As the name suggests, this title is the resurrection of one of Capcom’s most cherished IPs. More than being just a return of a classic 2D platformer, it also introduces plenty of new ideas to make it feel like it belongs in this generation.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection largely retells the same classic tale of our hero Arthur, the proverbial knight in shining armor, rescuing the princess from the Demon Realm and battling the Demon Lord himself. Despite this pretty basic story, the ghoulish game world itself is charged with some fantastic artwork and monster designs. Initially, the paper doll aesthetic might feel a bit jarring to those accustomed to 2D pixelated sprites. Still, you really need to experience the game in motion to appreciate how the graphics and art come together to create something that fits the medieval aesthetic.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is powered by the new and improved RE Engine, making use of 2D and 3D elements seamlessly to deliver its unique gameplay. Screenshots and even YouTube footage don’t actually do the game justice, and so it’s one of those things you need to try firsthand to really admire the intricacies of the graphical style and animation.

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As a reboot, this largely feels like a collective reimagining of the two most pivotal games in the franchise: the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins (1985) and Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1988). These two games inspire the level themes and presentation of Resurrection, and while the reboot has some familiar set pieces and level segments borrowed from past entries, they are entirely new. Fans going in expecting a modern reskin of classic levels will surely be caught off guard when they face new challenges and drastically altered level progression.

Calling Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection a challenge is putting it mildly, as this game is infuriatingly difficult and yet masochistically satisfying at the same time. The default standard difficulty is Legend, which is how the game is intended to be experienced. This game doesn’t pull any punches right out of the gate, nor does it try to ease players in. Enemies of all shapes and sizes attack you from every conceivable angle, and even the levels are designed to hinder progress with all sorts of traps. As unreasonable as this is at first, there’s a genius and method to all the madness, especially when certain impossible sections suddenly become achievable with enough patience and practice.

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Although protagonist Arthur comes fully armored with all sorts of weapons, including the trademark golden armor powerup, players can expect to spend most of their playtime in boxer shorts. In addition to Arthur having to deal with various enemies and difficult platforming, there are, of course, the behemoth bosses. Most of them are complete redesigns of boss encounters from the previous games. These encounters are infuriating, in particular the swarm of flies you need to battle at the end of Zone 4, and what’s scary is how these bosses eventually become standard enemies towards the end game.

If the Legend difficulty overwhelms (and it will), three other difficulty settings ease down on the enemy onslaught and allow Arthur’s armor to take a few more hits before he has to battle in boxer shorts. Of interest is the Page difficulty setting, which is as easy as it gets, allowing Arthur to respawn on the spot without restrictions. Of course, playing the game in this setting completely defeats the purpose of the intended design, but it is a great way to learn the levels’ layout before aiming for higher difficulty settings. Granted, it won’t prepare you for the crazier enemy patterns, but plowing through the game on Page difficulty will at least help you become familiar with the level structure.

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While the previous titles were arcade romps designed to be conquered in one sitting, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection benefits from some quality-of-life improvements afforded by modern gaming. For one thing, you are not expected to power through the adventure in one go. Even on the highest difficulty (although this feat is achievable), the game’s world map keeps track of your progress. Structurally, there are seven or so levels spread across five zones, where earlier zones have branching paths that allow you to choose a preferred level. Furthermore, there are opportune checkpoints within levels which can help depending on the difficulty setting.

This is, of course, just the basic quest because, true to series tradition, there are additional levels and secrets all part of the second adventure loop to reach the true conclusion. The second loop involves shadow variants of existing stages, and these are, believe it or not, far more difficult than the standard stages. Brave players should be prepared to potentially go mad in pursuit of the true ending. More than just an ending, it’s the journey leading to it with all sorts of collectibles and secrets to discover and help with the sense of progress and satisfaction. There are even in-game achievements to hunt.

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As hard as the standard adventure is, there are other tools and features to ease things a bit and give players a sense of progression, even when they are stuck retrying the same stage over and over. The Umbral Tree serves as a skill tree of sorts where Arthur can use collected Umbral Bees to learn new skills and magic.

What’s also neat is that Arthur can equip multiple weapons and spells, where players can use magic a little more freely now. The variety of weapons and spells give players a chance to figure out their favorite combination of spells and weapons to equip. As hard as the game is, it does features some experimentation with different settings and abilities for players to take control of their adventure.

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Players who feel like they need a helping hand will appreciate the two-player local co-op option. This mode doesn’t allow players to control two different Arthurs. Instead, player two becomes a supporting character as one of three spirits that they can switch between on the fly. These spirits have a basic attack, but their real purpose of assisting Arthur in navigation, such as carrying him around or even creating a temporary makeshift platform. The second player’s experience will most likely be similar to what many younger siblings felt when they had to control Tails in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. However, it’s still a neat idea to complement the classic Ghouls ‘n Ghosts gameplay.

A lot can be said about the difficulty, level, design, and all the different features, but the glue that holds it together is ultimately the excellent character control. Arthur has never controlled better, and so having responsive and nimble mechanics go a long way to allow players to enjoy the game, even when they are getting destroyed by the level design. The basic movement,  perfectly timed jumps, and the precision of attacks all enhance the game’s replay value.

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Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection feels like a major reboot of a classic franchise in every way, reintroducing a celebrated style of action platforming and infusing it with new ideas. It’s a revitalization and realization of the vision behind the original, designed to be one of the toughest games you will ever experience, but now with plenty of intuitive features and options that allow you to shape your experience. This happens to be the most complete and feature-packed rendition of Ghosts ‘n Goblins imaginable and has something for everyone to enjoy.

Score:
/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!