© CAPCOM (1990)
Daimakaimura (translation: Great Demon World Village) known as Ghouls n’ Ghosts to us English speakers is a game I’m sure needs no introduction, but just for the hell of it lets do one anyway!
A direct sequel to Capcom’s 1985 smash arcade hit Ghosts n’ Goblins. Set 3 years after, Ghouls n’ Ghosts sees you reprise the role of Arthur who must once again rescue his beloved princess Prin Prin from the clutches of Lucifer himself! The game saw a number of home ports released across an array of systems ranging from the 8bit Master System through to the more recent PSP. The one we will be looking at today is NEC’s port on the Supergrafx. One of only seven games released on the system, Daimakimura is considered the best of the bunch and can also be argued as being the best home port of the game. The game is noted as being a real challenge, not only for its relentless difficulty but also for the fact that you must beat the game twice to see the end, with the second play through ramping up the difficulty level even more! Despite this the game has earned a huge fan base and is now considered a true classic of the genre.
Right from the start you can sense the impending doom with the opening sequence showing princess Prin Prin being snatched away by Lucifer. Stage one sets up the game perfectly, the classic graveyard stage sees a constant barrage of scythe wielding undead stalk the player while overhead vultures attack. Grotesque demons and hellish stages are blended perfectly with the games cartoon like graphics and dash of humour. Right from the off the game sucks you into its ‘just one more go’ style of gameplay and although GnG is brutally tough it is never unfair, you died because you messed up, it was your fault.
The level design is well done, offering nice variation and progression throughout. Moving on from the opening cemetery stage you enter the eerie village which soon bursts into flames as the ground trembles and earth splits beneath your feet. The most unique and memorable is the third stage which begins with Arthur climbing an old tower infested with a number of dismembered knights and flying creatures. Once at the top you must traverse the “Horrible Faced Mountain” where the demonic rock faces attempt to swallow you whole! Next up is the challenging icy caverns fraught with danger, the cave eventually leads to a waterfall which requires precision platforming skills to overcome. In the final stage you enter Lucifer’s palace filled with yet more platforming challenges, demonic creatures and a good helping of mini-bosses. Should Arthur make it this far it is revealed to him that in order to save the Princess he must first acquire the power of the Goddess and the trademark second loop of the game begins.
THE ENEMIES & BOSSES
Ghouls n’ Ghosts offers an impressive array of beasts for you to slay, from grotesque pigs who spew vomit from above to flailing zombie worms that burst from the earth below. The enemies throughout the game can be somewhat sporadic at times, introducing an element of randomness to the stages which can be infuriating to say the least. One of the highlights of Ghouls n’ Ghosts is the impressive and creative bosses! First up is The Shielder, an armoured Cyclops who wields his own head as a weapon, possibly the most recognised in the series. Stage two sees Arthur go head to head with Cerberus the hound of hell who quickly darts about the screen raining fireballs from above. The third boss is an ominous being known as Gassuto, a floating eyeball who zig zags in random patterns. Once in the depths of stage four you will find the giant larvae Ohme who excretes a number of nasties. The fifth and final stage is host to three bosses, the first is an old foe of Arthur’s – Astaroth, the fire breathing demon lord. The sixth boss is Beelzebub who takes the form of a giant fly and finally Arthur must conquer the towering titan that is Lucifer.
The great level design, giant bosses, and colourful cast make Ghouls n’ Ghosts an instantly enjoyable experience however the game can exclude certain players or just plain defeat them due to its punishing difficulty. If your willing to stick around and give GnG the time, practice, and patience it needs then it can be a very rewarding game. My only gripe is with the weapon system, some weapons are just useless and others can become a handicap. The major flaw is not the weapon design itself but the fact that when one is dropped it stays there indefinitely. This can lead to a whole play through being ruined, pick up a bad weapon by mistake or because you cannot avoid it and the game becomes immensely harder and even death won’t rid you of it. The default weapon is Arthur’s trusty lance, a great long range all rounder, it’s fast, accurate, and can be thrown in four directions. Similar are the knives which are both quicker and stronger than the lance, perhaps the best weapon in the game. The rest of the arsenal includes a broad sword for close combat, a hefty axe which is slow and awkward, the discus which can be skimmed across the ground, and the pretty much useless torch weapon. The ultimate weapon can only be found during the second loop, known as the Psycho Cannon, it is blessed by the archangel Michael. The weapon is required for entry to the final battle chamber and is the only way to defeat Lucifer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There is definitely fun to be had with Ghouls n’Ghosts if you can push through the initial difficulty barrier. The Supergrafx port has an options menu which lets you increase credits and has a choice of difficulty settings (although I can’t really tell the difference between any of the easier options) I highly recommend using the extra credits the first time you play to help ease you into the game. All in all GnG is an excellent game that is well worth the accolades it receives, the graphics are gorgeous, the tunes are catchy, and most importantly the gameplay is solid.