Monday, December 5, 2011

GHOSTS N GOBLINSIf the Nation of Glitchy Games were to revolt against their despot (E.T. for Atari), the rebels would name NES's Ghosts'n Goblins as Prime Minister. Ported from Capcom's arcade machine by Micronics (the same asshats company who shat Ikari Warriors) in 1986, Ghosts'n Goblins is famous for two things: awesome Engrish and terrible glitches. With it's brain-melting Japanese to English translation in mind, I loaded the cart and started Level Seven of my quest to become


I can't tonight, honey--I'm going to
be abducted by a demon.
I'm not positive on plot specifics, but upon pressing start, it looks as if the protagonist is about to get a blowjay when a demon steals his lady-friend. And because most 1st-gen NES games are about dudes chasing poon, the knight suits up and starts slaughtering the undead to get his blowjay back.

Everyday I'm shufflin'
For nine glorious seconds, I actually thought, "this game isn't so damn hard." Jump a few gravestones, kill a few zombies--no big deal. Alas, on the tenth second, Ghosts'n Goblins introduces the most difficult enemy in the entire game: the Gargoyle. He swoops with a Falcon's accuracy, fires projectiles, and taunts you with his sweet dance steps. You could run away as he swoops and try to score a few hits, but the only sure fire way to kill the Gargoyle is to employ the Elbow Glitch. Discovered by cowardice accident, if you score a hit while the Gargoyle is still sitting, run away and wait a few seconds, the Gargoyle will disappear. Later levels practically require this cowardice strategy.

"Oh yeah! Hit me harder, baby!"
After the Gargoyle, the zombies are replaced by (what appear to be) flying condoms. They're not difficult, but have a knack for spawning right in front of your face. Eventually the flying condoms give way to the Stage Boss, a pasty demon in S&M Leathers. Half the time, S&M Monster will stand still and let you pummel him. The other half, you will die. I quickly learned death is really no big deal because Ghosts'n Goblins offers infinite continues and savepoints in the middle of each Stage.

He has the blue apple splatters.
If the Gargoyle in Stage 1 wasn't deterrent enough, Stage 2 presents the most frustrating portion of the entire game. After jumping icy-looking platforms, good Sir Knight arrives in a city populated by Ogres. They require ten hits to kill, move quickly and attack by spitting and pooping on you. If this wasn't difficult enough, the Stage spawns birds to attack you as well. Excepting the end of the Final Stage, this is without a doubt the most difficult part of the game. You have to anticipate the birds and kill the Ogres in a specific order or you'll end up a pile of bones in short order.

After the perilous journey through Ogre-Poop City, the rest of Stage 2 is a simple matter of jumping some platforms and killing a few birds. The level boss here are TWO S&M Monsters, but if you're cautious, you can engage one while the other sits and watches. Again, just crouch, fire away and hope for the best.

Stage 3 starts with a rehash of Stage 1--lots of zombies, a few bats and some tower-things that shoot bowling balls at you. Simple. When the palette changes from brown to Blue, watch out. The rest of the stage is teeming with Red Gargoyles. Move slowly and employ the Elbow Glitch whenever you see one. At one point, after climbing a ladder, a Red Gargoyle materializes from thin air behind you, but luckily, you can simply avoid him by not climbing the ladder.

STAGE 3You will have to fight one Gargoyle near the level's end, but thankfully its on a long, flat plain, so you can simply run away and score a few hits as he swoops overhead. After the Gargoyle comes the Stage Boss: A Dragon. A quick note here about weapon power-ups. Enemies often drop weapons after being defeated. The general rule (General Rule [salute]) is to avoid them: all weapons have the same attack power. The only weapon better than your spear is the dagger, which flies faster. The fire and the axe fly in short arcs, making them both useless and dangerous.

The exceptions to this rule of weapon avoidance comes when specific enemies have weapon immunities. Case in point: the Dragon in Stage 3 is immune to your spears. Thankfully there's a Fire weapon leading up to the Dragon. Grab it. The Dragon is easy to avoid, simply duck under it or jump it when it's near and barrage it with fire.

Stage 4 is a respite from the insane difficulty, a simple level consisting of some moving platforms and a Red Gargoyle. Eventually Sir Knight comes to a bridge over a fiery pool, but as long as you keep moving forward, the baddies will spawn behind you and the jets of fire from below should miss your feet. The Boss battle here is another Dragon. If you have the Spear, there's a Shield weapon available at the start of the bridge. Blast the dragon and move on.

Stage 5This stage isn't 'difficult' per se, but takes some getting used to. The task is to climb a series of ladders and platforms up to the gate of the tower where your blowjay princess is waiting. The tricky part is the level is chock full of Ogres and Flying Condoms, and there are various paths up. After some trial-and-error, I found a 'a path of least resistance,' with minimal Ogres. A few deaths and I was to the top of the tower where a giant Red Demon waits. He's crazy easy , mostly because his projectiles are slow and he doesn't swoop low enough to hit you when you're crouched. Crouch under the swoops, step to the side of projectiles, and pump him full of daggers or spears.

This Stage makes up for the relative ease of Stages 4 and 5 and then some. You have to remember that this game was originally made by Capcom, and what does Capcom like to do in the last Stage, right before the Boss Battle? Make you fight every Boss again. This is made more difficult by the fact that certain bosses have weapon immunities. So the spears used to dispatch S&M Monster are worthless on the Dragon. The best tactic here is to stay on the ground floor until the Flying Condoms drop a dagger. Use the daggers to defeat the S&M Monster and the Dragon above him.

Stage 6
Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter This Screen.
On the level platform where you fight the dragon is a Shield weapon. BE SURE TO Pick up the Shield AFTER beating the Dragon and proceed upward with EXTREME CAUTION. After the Dragon, the level has Gargoyles guarding the edge of each platform. If you're careful, you can pass without waking them up with one exception. There is one Gargoyle planted right next to a ladder, meaning you'll have to fight him. Climb up the ladder a way to wake him up, then drop below and fight him. If you're lucky (or, like me, if you've died so many times you can proceed through Stage 6 with your eyes closed), you can best the Gargoyle without waking any of the other Gargoyles or getting shit on by an Ogre. The peril, unfortunately, isn't over: climbing this ladder sometimes triggers another Gargoyle to materialize behind you. Also, it sometimes does damage to you for no reason at all.

If you can get by without being attacked by the ladder or having a Gargoyle appear from nowhere, the rest of the level is a cakewalk. The boss here are two of the Demons from Stage 5--attack them one at a time for an easy win. If you grabbed the Shield earlier, the door opens and it's on to fight the Final Boss. If you didn't get the shield, and instead stayed with the (much better) daggers, Ghosts'n Goblins gives a big 'Fuck You' in the form of the following screen:
Wrong Weapon
And then it puts you back at the start of STAGE 5. Bastards.

Boss Fight
He only hit me because I was
drinking a coffee at the time.
Not really a Stage, just a battle with the Final Boss. He's a push-over. He paces to and fro and spits fire which is easily jumped. No real strategy, just hit him in the head until he poofs into flames and dies.

Now, after trudging through all 6 stages of Hell City, after the countless Red Gargoyles and  S&M Monsters and Flying Condoms, Ghosts'n Goblins gives you the following screen as ultimate reward:

You beat the game! Sike!
Then it's back to Stage 1. If you find a 'Trap Devisvt By Satan' unsatisfying and want to get your blowjay princess, YOU HAVE TO BEAT THE ENTIRE GAME AGAIN!!! Quest 2 is an exact copy of Quest 1, except the monsters are faster and your will to live is much, much weaker. If you do manage to get through this entire game twice without committing ritual Sepukku, your "happy ending" goes as follows:

Congraturation! Three hour of your
life is not being come back.
The nicest thing I can say is that Ghosts'n Goblins actually manages to be not totally awful. Even with infinite continues, it's a challenge to play this game from start to finish. Bad programming and only two hits mean Sir Knight will die more often than not. Beating Ghosts'n Goblins is a battle of wills: The voice that says, "You must save that blowjay princess," versus the voice that says "you are wasting your time, idiot." I have no problem giving Ghosts'n Goblins 
Four Controllers of Impossibility

Four Controllers of Impossibility!  Aside from Ikari Warriors (which doesn't qualify for Controllers of Impossibility because it is, in fact, not a game at all, but rather a torture device) Ghosts'n Goblins is the most difficult game I've played yet. I can't imagine the #3 Hardest NES Game of All Time being much more difficult than G'nG. Of course, it could slice me in half with a Katana, so we'll see...

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