Ultimate Ghosts & Goblins Review
I think I'm getting too old for some games. I recently tried Ultimate Ghosts & Goblins for the PSP, and I'll tell you right now: despite the game's great graphics, fun weapons and and addictive 2D gameplay in a 3D environment, I hardly enjoyed the game at all. It's just too difficult, and I am betting that many gamers out there will agree with me if they actually get a chance to play this one.
But let's back up for a bit. Capcom decided to go back to one of their oldest franchises: Ghosts 'n Goblins. Originally an arcade title, this game put you into the medieval plate suit of Arthur who must (of course) save a princess from the forces of Hell. The later NES release was nearly as good, but the problem with both versions had to do with the ridiculous difficulty of the game. If you got hit once then your whole suit of armor would pop pop right off, leaving Arthur running in his boxers red-heart-covered-boxers (which is still funny today, believe it or not), and if you got hit again then you just plain died. With only a few lives and hundreds of pits for Arthur to fall into, even the players who spent months memorizing everything just gave up when they found out that to really beat it you had to actually go through the whole game again to get a real ending. Capcom has already tried to revive this franchise with the Maximo games, but they seem to have given up after poor reviews and even worse sales, and are now back to the Ghosts & Goblins name.
It turns out that least some of that stuff from the classic arcade game has been kept constant here in Ultimate Ghosts & Goblins. The game's still stupidly hard and you still can't control the trajectory of Arthur's jumps once he leaves the ground. Sure, you can now get better suits of armor and take a few more hits before dying, and now you can even restart just the stage you're on once the lives run out, but in the end this game revolves around punishing the player so much that it's just not fun. I loved the classic game and while I never got very good at it, I at least had fun dying repeatedly. Here, you'll find that many of the enemies are specifically placed to knock you into a pit, while other bonus items are carefully put just out of reach so that - yes, again - you'll just die trying to get them. Maybe the original game did that too, but maybe I have outgrown that style of game. I feel like the developers tried as hard as they can to make me throw my PSP off a balcony or into a swimming pool. If so, then they failed, but only just barely.
The game certainly starts out well enough, with a great presentation and excellent 3D models for just about everything you see on-screen. It's still the classic 2D gameplay, but new versions of classic tunes and a wide range of enemies will certainly charm you for at least a while - until the first time the game conspires to kill you repeatedly, that is. The game even comes with three difficulty levels, which will not only adjust the number of lives you get to complete a level with, but will also turn on or off certain parts that are there to make you pull your hair out (like the wind that changes direction randomly, causing your already impossible-to-control jumps to come up short or go too far). Even on easy, I couldn't beat the fourth level. There are a lot of levels past number four, unfortunately, none of which I got to see, and even then the game expects you to replay through levels inside the same game to find the items to get through into later levels. You've got a small RPG-like system here, too, where you can find special items and use them, although it doesn't seem to add that much to the game since it's all about memorizing enemy locations and the fiendishly tough situations you'll get put into. Adding a bit of gear just doesn't impact that much at all.
Luckily, the simplistic gameplay of Ultimate Ghosts & Goblins lends itself to the PSP platform pretty well. The wide screen gives you pretty good visibility on either side of Arthur, while the controls are very easy with the D-pad and only a few buttons are used. The graphics are nice and the atmosphere works well, but unfortunately that's the end of the good news. Ultimate Ghosts & Goblins may bring on some nostalgia and looks fun for a while, but unless you are fantastically good at side-scrolling games or just plain masochistic when it comes to your gaming, this one's not worth your money.