Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: June 1, 2021


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PS4 Review - 'Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 19, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The legendary platforming series rises again, as Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection marks the heroic return of the series, which debuted over 35 years ago.

Buy Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection

Before the Dark Souls series, Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins series was the shorthand that players would use to describe a game that was fun despite its brutal difficulty. The knockback upon being hit always came at the wrong moments, enemies always appeared at the right time to get you hit, and the games were not afraid to throw down one surprise after another. Those weren't seen as design issues but as extra layers of challenge for very dedicated players. The series had a following, even if the releases were so few and far between that you'd think the company forgot about it, except for its inclusion in retro packages. The latest game, Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection, arrives more than a decade after the last game, Ghosts 'n Goblins Ultimate, debuted on the PSP. While fans are ready for the beatdown, newcomers will find that the game gives them a chance of understanding it before the hurt begins.

The story makes no drastic changes. You play the role of Arthur, valiant knight and champion of the kingdom. One day, that kingdom is set ablaze, and the princess is kidnapped by the demon king. With the kingdom's Umbral Tree also affected by the invasion, it falls on Arthur to save the kingdom, the tree, and the princess.

If you've played any of the previous games in the series, then you know exactly what to expect in the gameplay, which is presented in the classic 2D perspective. You control Arthur as he runs and jumps across chasms and hurls different weapons at monsters. Weapons are unlimited and can be thrown in the four cardinal directions, and while you start with the lance, you eventually find other weapons, including the speedy dagger, the torch that engulfs a small area in flames, a hammer that can produce shockwaves, and a ball of debris that can roll along the ground. Arthur has no energy meter to speak of, but his armor acts as a hit buffer. Lose the armor, and it only takes one hit to kill him.

Arthur still carries with him the annoyances of past games. His run speed is rather slow, and his jumping is a much faster form of traversal. That said, you can't control his jumps in mid-air, and you need to be moving forward first if you want him to jump forward, or else he'll jump in place even though you push the d-pad or left analog stick in the desired direction. Every hit knocks Arthur back, and the game has a tendency to throw in last-minute surprises, such as enemies that spawn right on top of you or the environment suddenly shifting around. If you've never played the past games, those kinds of things can put you off, but since longtime fans expect those things to occur, it's tricky to say whether changing them up will be better for the game and its identity.

One new mechanic to the game is the presence of Umbral Bees that are scattered throughout each level. In true franchise fashion, many of the bees are placed in tricky areas, so there's a good chance that you'll die if you try to obtain them, but doing so is worth it since it marks the return of magic, which was last seen in the sequel, Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Some of that magic is familiar, such as calling forth lightning to zap foes in all four cardinal directions. Some are defensive, such as placing patches of fire to either side of you or returning your armor when you lose it. Others are more transformative, such as turning minor enemies on-screen into frogs at the expense of losing any items they may have held. Magic is a useful tool, and it helps that you can carry multiple spells and have infinite uses (as long as you wait for them to cool down). It doesn't make the game easier because it still falls on your dexterity and ability to anticipate patterns to get through, but every little bit helps.

Speaking of difficulty, this is one area that has been tweaked heavily, so everyone else can come away happy. This starts with the four difficulty settings. The toughest, Legend, keeps things as classic as possible by giving you only one hit before your armor is gone, barely any checkpoints to work with, and a ton of fierce enemies to vanquish. Below that is Knight, which increases the armor strength to three hits and adds more checkpoints while decreasing the enemy count. Squire does the same, but the lowest difficulty level, Page, is the most interesting, as you can take a load of hits before your armor falls off, but you can also resurrect yourself at the spot of your death instead of respawning at a checkpoint.

While taking on this difficulty level prevents you from seeing the game's true ending, you can still see a good ending and the end credits, so there is a feeling of accomplishment if you grind to the end this way. Playing through the other difficulty levels gives you the chance to go through all of the levels again for the true ending, but unlike before, you'll have to do so with the shadow variations. Those changes are significant, such as having more enemies show up if you hit certain environmental elements or a pervasive fog that obscures a good chunk of your view.

Beyond the difficulty settings, there are other things that Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection does to make the experience a little easier without ruining the overall challenge. No matter which difficulty setting is chosen, lives are infinite, so you can conceivably spend hours trying to beat a level on Legend difficulty without seeing a "game over" screen. After enough losses to a boss, you'll get specific hints on how to defeat them, and dying enough times produces an option to decrease the difficulty for the rest of the run. In a first for the series, co-op is featured, and the second player can take on the role of one of three wizards who can produce unique attacks and provide extra platforms for Arthur to jump on and defensive abilities so more hits can be taken. It's similar to the blue cursor in Super Mario Galaxy, except that the second player can get knocked out for a bit before they return to the fray.

As for the levels, it takes on the Sonic Mania approach, where you start off with familiar areas before moving on to something new. Those who have played both Ghosts 'n Goblins and Ghouls 'n Ghosts will recognize the environments right away, as the layout and placement of enemies and secret chests are copies of those titles, only with a fresh coat of paint. Once you reach the point where bosses would normally appear, the levels transition into newer material, where the designers decided to go crazy with the precision platforming aspects. From having to slide down vines before making a leap of faith to a platform to jumping across the backs of unpredictable flying dragons, there are plenty of areas that feel impossible to conquer the first time out, and the only recourse is trial and error gameplay until you memorize the patterns.

If there is anything negative one could say about the level design, it would be the fact that all of the stages seem to go on longer than expected. Seeing the level timer start at 7:30 gives you a hint that you're in for a long trek. However, the environments in one stage alone change so much that it feels like there were several different levels that the designers decided to mash together for the sake of amplifying difficulty; one might not notice it in the heat of the moment but may wonder about it later.

Like the rest of the game, the presentation is both new and familiar. The music is filled with old Ghosts 'n Goblins, now done in an orchestral style to add more punch to the title. It sounds excellent and is something that is worthy of a soundtrack release. Graphically, the game goes for a papier-mâché look that equates to some very detailed characters and backgrounds in the 2D space. It also creates a distinct look in motion, as each limb animates almost independently of one another, like one of those storybooks with pull out paper tabs for some rudimentary movement. It looks dazzling once you get over the initial shock of the drastic graphical change.

Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection stands out as perhaps one of the most accessible games in the series yet. The various difficulty levels, accompanying adjustments, and the unlimited lives for all difficulty levels give series newcomers a sense of hope that they can see the game to its conclusion. At the same time, the title remains tough and uncompromising in enemy count and gameplay, giving longtime fans some comfort that the series hasn't lost its appeal. It is a solid game, and the only players who should stay away are those who hate facing an elevated level of difficulty from the get-go.

Score: 8.0/10

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