Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection review for Nintendo Switch.
I died 189 times on the second level of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection. I’m laying my cards on the table here, knowing that when this game launches there will be a YouTuber who completes the thing in under 3 minutes while blindfolded and baking a soufflé at the same time. However, before talk of Resurrection’s difficulty becomes a pecker-swinging contest a la Dark Souls, I want you to understand just how obscenely tough this game is.
I’m familiar with the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series. I’ve played the originals and I somehow managed to complete Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts back in the day. But whereas those games were a test of skill and patience, Resurrection is a test of your self-esteem. When you think you’ve got it all figured out — when you’ve bested a grueling boss or memorized a lengthy pattern of enemy attacks — it throws something else at the wall to break you. Have you ever found yourself locked in a blood feud with a virtual vampire bat? Thanks to Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, I have, and let me tell you that it did nothing for my confidence.
Is it more difficult than the original games?
Playing my Nintendo Switch in bed is one of life’s simple pleasures, and I can report that Resurrection managed to ruin that for me. In the past, I’ve spent a blissful Saturday morning tucked under my blanket tending to my Animal Crossing island or catching Pokemon. But thanks to Resurrection, I instead spent last Saturday telling a murderous virtual spider to go fuck itself. So how did Resurrection manage to be more difficult than one of the most notoriously difficult ’90s games?
On paper, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection should be easier than its predecessors. A rethinking of the first game in the series and its sequel Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, this remake adds helping hands such as checkpoints, multiple difficulty levels, and also removes any hard game over screens. There are no lives, so even if you die repeatedly you can respawn back at the last checkpoint, unlike the originals where you’d have to start the whole game over again. There’s even a difficulty level that removes death altogether, with Page mode allowing you to respawn on the spot at the expense of not being able to experience the traditional Ghosts ‘n Goblins second loop.
However, now I understand that these were only added to the game because it would have been nigh-on impossible without them. Resurrection has added a whole bunch to the original two games in terms of enemies, boss fights, and level design that didn’t exist before, and all these new ideas are designed to make it tougher. If Resurrection forced you back to the title screen after dying a few times, few would make it to Zone 3, let alone its conclusion. Even with these additions, I’d wager that only a small percentage of players are going to tough it out until the end.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is not more difficult to be complete, but it is plenty more difficult in terms of its minute-to-minute gameplay due to Capcom’s various additions. Whereas the second level in Ghouls ‘n Ghosts ended with a swift boss battle with a fiery dog, now you’re facing the three-headed Cerberus who can morph into three separate dogs, each delivering their own unique kick to the groin in a lengthy fight to the death. Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ cavernous third level now has candles that snuff out when you hit them, enveloping the stage into darkness and helping zombies and reapers maul you discreetly. But despite these ample changes, players are still in control of the same old Arthur.
The Knight of Die-a-lot
Resurrection retells Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ story, so you again assume the role of Arthur the knight who continues to lack the agility required to competently rescue the princess. Arthur has a single short jump and you cannot change its trajectory mid-air, meaning that you need to perfectly line yourself up before leaping rather than maneuvering before you land. You have a number of possible projectile weapons at your disposal which can be obtained via chests, including the new Hammer and Spiked Ball, and you can still collect the golden armor that makes your weapons more powerful.
Magic is also introduced that lets you do things like transform into a giant boulder or shoot lightning bolts across the screen. Unfortunately, as you can only use magic by holding the attack button, in many situations it’s preferable to just keep attacking rather than leaving yourself open for a period of time. Better abilities can be unlocked by collecting Umbral Bees, though many feel hit and miss to the point where it isn’t worthwhile trying to use them. It also isn’t helpful that not all abilities will affect all enemies, so when you cast magic that’s supposed to turn everything into a snake, it’s confusing when certain foes are somehow exempt from this rule.
For those who want a literal helping hand, two-player co-op has also been introduced. This allows a second player to join the action as one of three selectable ghosts, each with their own unique abilities that can clear out enemies. Success will still be solely determined on keeping Arthur alive, with the second player not taking damage and instead providing a backseat passenger role.
The number of enemies in Resurrection’s Legend and Knight difficulty modes is greatly increased compared to the original games. They appear at you en masse, with them also occasionally spawning in one giant wave. While Ghosts ‘n Goblins has always been about memorizing enemy patterns, I needed to know them like the back of my hand to safely reach the next checkpoint. There isn’t a great deal of room to fly by the seat of your pants, as swiftly forging ahead will usually lead to you becoming overwhelmed by things trying to kill you.
Horror theme park
While Ghosts ‘n Goblins moving away from permadeath is a necessary change to modernize the series, by slowing the pace of its action down to lengthen its levels it loses something in the process. Resurrection is at its best when it’s giving you some room to breathe, like when you’re riding stone dragons and timing jumps to avoid electric jellyfish. It’s not at its best when you gain momentum and suddenly find 8 zombies simultaneously spawning on you.
But let’s talk about those dragons and jellyfish. Resurrection has given the ’80s series a dramatic makeover, cleverly imitating a pop-up picture book art style with both its scenery and characters. This new design direction was controversial when first revealed, but it works perfectly in-action. The alterations to familiar enemies are impressive, with late-game bosses in particular set to be a real treat for the series’ fans, while there are plenty of new additions such as the adorable Fire Fennec scattered throughout.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins creator Tokuro Fujiwara said in an interview with Polygon that Resurrection’s concept was a “horror theme park” and this is evident throughout. Each of its zones is broken into distinct sections that have their own challenges and often their own unique design, whisking you through a tour of monstrosities you have to overcome. The aforementioned stone dragons even behave like rollercoasters, scaling up into the sky before plummeting down as you desperately try to stay on top of them.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review | The final verdict
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is so absurdly difficult that I entered into something of a zen-like state playing it. After repeatedly failing in such spectacular fashion, any frustrations I may have had exited my body, as I resigned in the knowledge that the only way to succeed was to endure endless death. However, favorable checkpointing always convinced me to carry on and persevere, even though this almost certainly won’t be the case for the majority of players.
Like its predecessors, Resurrection isn’t for everyone. Different difficulty levels help soften the blow, but if you’re playing on anything tougher than Page mode, you’re going to die. A lot. Still, it’s tremendously satisfying when you finally beat a hard-as-nails boss or a tough stage, even if the sheer number of enemies and obstacles to overcome often feels unfair. This is a good-looking remake with plenty of new sights to take in, even if I’ve got a feeling that most won’t get to see them.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Code provided by publisher.