For at least a decade if not longer, a sect of the game-playing community has and continues to discourse about a need to “git gud.” Games like Dark Souls, Super Meat Boy and even the occasional deceptively cruel Nintendo joint capture that niche. It’s all about that drive to succeed when the deck is stacked against you, that “Nintendo Hard” phrase harkening back to Ninja Gaiden or Battletoads. You’d think Ghosts ‘n Goblins would’ve been a more active part of this moment before now.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is the first new title in Capcom’s cartoonishly oppressive arcade series since a few attempts at a mobile version didn’t draw much attention. It’s also the first Ghosts ‘n Goblins to appear on a more traditional gaming platform since a PSP entry in 2006. Sir Arthur’s never-ending struggle against Astaroth’s armies of darkness have been some of the most difficult in all of commercial videogames, but Capcom wasn’t able to fit it in that space for whatever reason. That said, Capcom has also been pretty aggressive about keeping that world in view, with Arthur and Firebrand showing up in fighting games and other spaces. But now that the world itself is back, in high definition and with a brand new captizating, shadow puppets-meet early euopean animation-meet paper cutout visual style.
The circumstances are largely unclear, although much like the Collection of SaGa and other strange releases, the Nintendo Switch’s unforeseen popularity around the world must be a factor. Risks like you could find on the Game Boy and DS platforms seem to be feasible again. And here’s one of the most masochistic possible examples of that, appearing almost out of nowhere to remind us rolling credits on Bloodborne ain’t shit.
And it feels good. This is, aside from the nostalgic charm of “retro” games, the best a Ghost ‘n Goblins game has ever felt to play. The smoothness and clarity of the controls and animations respectively make the basic throughline of Resurrection feel much less reactive, even when you’re on a higher difficulty that constantly spawns zombies. Arthur has the same limited mobility and limitations as ever, but the levels are designed around them.
And yes, there are difficulty options here. Capcom has tried it before, but those PSP games just didn’t land regardless of anything the developers did. Here though, as I mentioned in the preview earlier this week, the balance feels on point.
Possibly inspired by games like Shovel Knight (itself inspired by games like GnG, forming an endless loop of derivative progress), your difficulty choice will include factors like intermittent checkpoints. The location and function of these checkpoints can differ, and you can even choose to not use them at all, regardless of the settings.
On top of that, hopping back into the action is super fast. If you die, there’s only like a second of “lol you’re dead” before you get the retry menu. When I started on the “Squire” difficulty, even if I died on a specific challenge a million times, I never felt frustrated because I could compartmentalize the levels, and even take a break and continue from that checkpoint.
It feels like climbing a mountain, but with reasonable tools. You can still just climb up with your bare hands if you want, but you can work up to it and have a similar experience to the folks going for broke at the onset.
This compartmentalization of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins experience also lends a lot to a more modern arcade feeling, in that you can go in and out in bursts or longer sections, and choose when and where to engage in “replay value.” You don’t have to win in one run; each zone is connected by a menu rather than a map that taunts you after every game over. And as you clear zones, the game shows you there’s more you can do later, but it isn’t required.
I believe this is really how streamlining or contemporizing games of this type works best. There’s a core to these games, and the most progress seems to come from adjusting the material around that core. We’ve seen concepts like lives and game over screens vanish from even Super Mario games entirely, and many other arcade game tropes not go away, but evolve or gain guardrails.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection has a mode in which Arthur cannot lose. He respawns where he stands the moment his boxers fail as a last line of defense. But that mode still feels like the same game, uncompromised. The ass-kicking stands, you still lose your grip on the mountain. The extra hand you pick just determines how far you fall after a mistake.
I rolled credits for the first time the day before Resurrection officially launched, and I felt like a champion. I felt accomplished, satisfied with my run and was totally confident I could jump back in on the next highest setting and make it to the top.
But I also didn’t feel the need to, as the experience was complete. It was still challenging, still frustrating but always motivating. I’ve already beaten Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts; I don’t need more street cred. I’d rather look forward, but it feels good to know I can jump back in whenever I want.
You don’t “Git Gud” at Ghosts ‘n Goblins. You suffer. You persevere until you make it to the other side. But Resurrection is the first one that doesn’t hate you for trying.
-Dope visual style
-Thoughtful difficulty options
-Huge structural quality of life advancements
-the magic system feels undercooked and at times irrelevant to the gameplay
-No double-jump 🙁
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review