Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts is a painfully difficult side-scrolling platformer produced by Capcom and was originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991. The original SNES version sold over 1 million units during its release.
Gamers takes the role of the knight Arthur, who must once again rescue the Princess from the demons. Fiendish foes and grim demons are about to hurl disaster your way! You must save the wondrous Princess Guinevere. But beware! The reeking ruler of the forbidden land can call forth evil and destruction. Who knows what creeping, leaping terrors haunt this dripping realm! You may lose your armor and your strength. You may be hexed. You may become a baby, a duck, or a skeleton! But you are never without a weapon. And magic awaits to help you. Destroy the witches, ogres and ghosts. Escape the snapping skulls and ghastly demons in Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts!
Arthur starts the game with an ordinary suit of armor, which may be upgraded up to three times. No matter how upgraded, the character’s armor falls off following any touch by an enemy, leaving Arthur defenseless and clad only in his underwear, at which point he will die if hit again. Arthur can always get his defenses back by finding new armor, which is in hidden treasure chests throughout the game.
Another key feature to Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts is the Double Jump, which allows Arthur to leap into the air, and then leap again. The unique feature which makes this double jump different from its more common iterations is the fact the player has no direct control of Arthur’s movement once in the air. The second jump can change direction, but that is the only control players have. This adds greatly to the difficulty and challenge of the game, as it essentially affords no second chances or last minute adjustments. While aggravating to many novice players who view it strictly as a frustrating control flaw, more experienced players and fans of the game find the quirk to be an enjoyable, challenging layer to the gameplay that can be overcome and even exploited with practice.
Treasure chests found throughout the game add a unique twist to the gameplay. Arthur is dependent on these chests for all his armor needs (weapons can be picked up from chests or enemies), and as the upgraded armors in turn provide the most powerful weapons and magic, finding the hidden chests becomes very important for survival. The unique aspect of the treasure chest system is that they are hidden and can only be accessed by moving through certain specific areas of the screen, which causes them to appear.
This can make discovering the chests a challenge, as frequently the key to making a chest appear involves an unnecessarily reckless and difficult leap or movement through a dangerous area that might otherwise be completely avoided. Additionally, chests can be unearthed using the charge magic of the crossbow, which, instead of dealing damage to enemies, causes any hidden chests on the current screen to reveal themselves. The treasure chests, when opened, may contain one of seven weapons: a lance, a dagger, a crossbow, a flame, a scythe, an axe, or a tri-blade. However, they may also contain a bear trap or an evil magician who, if the energy ball he releases hits Arthur, can turn him into various forms including a baby, seal, hornet or even a girl.
The first upgrade from the ordinary starting armor is to the bronze armor, which allows Arthur to use the more powerful, magical versions of his weapons. From the bronze, Arthur can upgrade again to the golden armor, which allows him to unleash special magical attacks unique to each weapon by charging with the attack button. The golden armor also comes with a sun shield, which may be used to block one projectile before breaking. The final upgrade comes in the form of a moon shield, which, in addition to blocking up to three projectiles, reduces the time needed to charge Arthur’s magic attacks. Projectiles cannot be blocked while Arthur is moving, so in order to use the shields for defense, the player must stop and wait to be hit while facing the correct direction.
Weapons also have a huge role in gameplay, as they determine not only the speed, trajectory, amount, and damage of Arthur’s attacks, but also the specific “magic attack” that can be charged and unleashed with the possession of the golden armor. As with armor, weapons can be found in various hidden treasure chests throughout the game, and can additionally appear as a random drop from enemies. All weapons come with unlimited ammo, which is useful as most areas of the game feature unlimited waves of re-spawning monsters.
Old School Difficulty
Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts was one of the more punishing games on the Super Nintendo. It took excellent timing and level memorization to be completed. It was not a game that could be casually picked up and beaten. This style of gameplay however made it that much more rewarding. Sticking with old school tradition, players had to complete the game twice in a row, the second time with a special weapon before being treated to the true ending.