Not Too Proud to Play a Page

My go-to excuse for not beating Capcom’s brutally difficult platformer Ghosts ‘n Goblins when it came out in 1985 is that I was only two years old at the time. Unfortunately, I can no longer claim that, so my new excuse is simply, “I’m a Games journalist.” Luckily, Capcom kept me and my fellow slow-reacting gamers in mind when they reimagined this classically hardcore title for its modern release on the Nintendo Switch. That’s right. Ghosts n’ Goblins Resurrection features a very friendly difficulty setting that will allow you to coast (and ghost) through the entire game if you simply want to see the insanity that’s on display. And there is a lot of it.

Dubbed “Page” difficulty, it’s essentially an option granting infinite lives and the ability to respawn where you die rather than back at your most recent checkpoint. That’s huge for level progress, but it also flies in the face of the challenges posed by the original title and its worthwhile, modern homage. However, infinite lives won’t help you (much) when it comes to platforming, riding on the backs of stone dragons, or collecting all the treasures and Umbral Bees in every level. And you actually won’t be able to experience all that Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection has to offer at this difficulty since Capcom encourages you to step up your game and try out the Squire, Knight, and Legendary modes. Good luck!

In all honesty, I chose to play (and stream) on “Page” difficulty to see what it had to offer, what its limitations are, and just how far I could get into the game in the time I had available. (I also watched Ezekiel_III almost come apart at the seams; four hours on Legendary difficulty, he’d only reached the second checkpoint of the first level. Yikes.) And as difficult as the very first levels can be for anyone venturing into the game on the hardest difficulty setting, the later levels are completely insane. This is the kind of title that is absolutely made to test the most hardcore gamers and speedrunners, and I cannot wait to see this game utterly taken apart and broken. It will be rather cathartic for me.

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Image via Capcom, Nintendo

If you’re not familiar with the Ghosts ‘n franchise outside of its notorious difficulty, the basics are these: You’re a knight named Arthur who must rescue a princess who’s been spirited away to the Demon Realm. Easy peasy. In place of heart containers or a life bar, you have only your suit of armor and your birthday suit (i.e. your skin); take too many hits and you’ll turn to a pile of bones and have to start all over again. It’s a clever visual health mechanic that, surprisingly, few other titles have aped. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection thankfully keeps it intact. The only tweaks here are that easier difficulty settings will give you a few more hits to your armor; pieces of them will fall off rather than the whole kit and caboodle, as on Legendary difficulty.

Arthur’s armor is but half of the story; the other half is his armament: Lance, Holy Water, Dagger, Hammer, Spiked Ball, Discus, Crossbow, and Shield all have their uses, even if their availability in each level is RNG-based. And the other other half (I’m not great at math either) is Arthur’s magical abilities, many of which are unlocked through the Umbral Tree, using collected Umbral Bees to purchase spells like Thunderstorm, Firewall, Emboulden (ball up into a rock and roll around), Doppelgänger, Transmogrifrog, Quickening, Umbral Net, and Medusa, to name a few. And that’s all well and good. It’s going to take a real expert at this game to figure out when to use which weapons / spells and in which scenarios, or harder still, how to get through every level unscathed with whatever the RNG grants you. But those players will also have to overcome some of the more irritating tics in this game that might just nuke a record-setting speedrun.

Image via Capcom, Nintendo

For some reason, Arthur occasionally gets stuck looking longingly up into the sky or stops to climb down a ladder without a prompt telling him to do so. Such moments are life or death (usually death … let’s be honest, always death) when enemies are swarming you and the autoscroller is closing in. Arthur also seems to have a somewhat fixed jumping distance. In other words, whether you’re running and jumping, or standing still and jumping in a given direction, he’ll cover about the same amount of ground. That’s maddening. And the fact that you can’t nudge his direction midair, along with a minor and random bit of input lag that occurs every once in a while, makes precision movements rather squirrelly. Surely better players than I will overcome all of this, but for filthy casuals, it makes even “Page” playthroughs a bit of a pain. (For the record, my journey ended in Zone 5 during a tedious upwards climb that has to be picture-perfect platforming; I stopped half due to time and half to frustration.)

Overall, Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is an absolute beast of a game. It does its bloodline good when it comes to combat and offering an insane challenge. The quirks are part of its charm, just like the snaking tendrils that will snatch you from off-screen, the fire-breathing dragons and hellcats that will haunt your dreams, and the most grotesque giant fly I’ve seen in some time, just to name a few. (That boss, by the way, might be a little buggy, no pun intended. It took a bit of pause-buffering on my playthrough to actually get the damage to be counted … or maybe I’m just that unlucky.) So while I am not going to beat my head against the wall to take on a Legendary challenge anytime soon, I applaud those who do. I cannot wait to see how many people Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection leaves in its wake as broken husks, and better still, to see those chosen few who survive the crucible and come out whole on the other side.

Rating: B+

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