Welcome to Level 1. Every Thursday we are going to look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for, we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode! This week we're trading the sunny skies of Super Mario Bros. for the nightmarish graveyard of Ghouls 'N Ghosts. Find out what we can take away from this Genesis classic when we look at Level 1!
Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Capcom)
[ Release: 1989 - Console: Sega Genesis/Arcade ]
Uh ... Arthur, look out behind you!!
Ghouls 'N Ghosts is the sequel to Capcom's 1985 smash hit, Ghosts 'N Goblins. Despite being a sequel, Ghouls 'N Ghosts was a much bigger deal on the Sega Genesis than the original was on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This early 16-bit cartridge proved that Sega was ready to play, porting some of Capcom's best arcade games to their fledgling system. More importantly, the game was good. Damn good. Ghouls 'N Ghosts was one of the best reviewed games of 1989, even going as far as to win Game of the Year in Electronic Gaming Monthly's first annual awards show.
Seeing the success of the 16-bit home market, Capcom decided to forgo the arcades entirely and release the sequel (Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts) on the Super NES. This trend would continue as Capcom released two Maximo games on the PlayStation 2 and Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins for the PlayStation Portable. While the franchise may not be as well respected today as it was twenty years ago, there are still a lot of people who yearn for more adventures starring Arthur. The first level of Ghouls 'N Ghosts demonstrates why those people are in such good company.
Each Ghouls 'N Ghosts level is split up into three different sections, each with their own unique set of challenges. The only way you can tell that these three sections are different is because Capcom has been kind enough to make them invisible checkpoints. For this write up we will take a look at the Graveyard, the Stormy Mountain and then talk about the first level boss. But let's not leave this game at the title screen, it's time to push start and see what this first level has to offer ...
Ghouls 'N Ghosts does not mess around, the very first place we visit on our journey to defeat Loki is a dark and scary graveyard. Not only is it stormy out, but there has been whispers of a possible earthquake. But Arthur is undeterred; he's going to take this fight to the ghosts and ghouls ... even if that means getting his
Ghouls 'N Ghosts - The Graveyard!
armor wet. It's also worth noting that Arthur doesn't seem especially surprised by the appearance of crucified skeletons and zombies digging themselves out of the ground. This is all in a normal day in the life of Arthur, the hero who already went on a similar quest four years earlier.
As we creep through the graveyard we're assaulted by birds, the walking undead and a magician that turns you into a duck. That's right, a duck. Thankfully we've avoided all of that and found a treasure box with a brand new weapon. Unfortunately the daggers I picked up will do me no good against a series of automatic guillotines. On the other hand, the daggers work wonders against a gigantic tree filled with flesh eating vultures. They stare me down, but my powerful daggers get the job done before they even have a chance to leave their perch. Up ahead I see the exit gate for the graveyard, it's an enormous
Ghouls 'N Ghosts - Magician's Curse!
guillotine, a device that takes up the entire height of the TV screen. It's menacing ... but it was also easy to avoid. Not looking back, I rush through the guillotine and find myself right in front of the Stormy Mountain.
As if to welcome me to Stormy Mountain, I turn around and see the short bridge that brought me here collapse into the restless waters. I press on, this time fighting against the rain and wind. Small hurricane-like monsters fly through the air, occasionally showing their real face and firing projectiles at me. I jump over them to avoid them. Up ahead there's another hidden treasure chest, this
Ghouls 'N Ghosts - Special Powers!
time giving me an armor upgrade. My brand new gold armor not only looks sweet, but also allows me to charge up a powerful magic attack and take out many of the enemies on screen. I use this to take out the hurricane monsters.
Up ahead is a large mountain full of violent plant creatures and vines that stick out of the ground ready to strike anything that gets close. Needless to say, this is not the mountain you want to hike. Thankfully there's a path that leads to the top of the mountain, though you're going to have to avoid a significant amount of debris and vomit. Wait ... vomit? Did I forget to mention that this mountain is known for having pig-like demons that choose to attack their enemies by vomiting? I learn this the hard way when I accidentally find myself
Ghouls 'N Ghosts - Vomit on Stormy Mountain!
getting puked on. I get rid of my flashy gold armor and continue fighting my way to the top. While I know I should be worried about the vomiting bad guys and the gallows in the background, I am more concerned about the huge drop off on the other side of the mountain. It took me all this to climb this giant mound of dirt, yet all I need to do now is jump down? Thank goodness for all of those earthquakes.
As I regain my footing from the huge jump I made, I notice the first level boss. Here we see a gigantic lizard creature that stands the entire height of the television screen. He's fully armored and has a green tail sticking out the other side. The most disturbing thing about this creature is that he's literally holding his head with one hand. There's a big empty hole where his head should go, which suggests to me that he's already gotten into a couple
Ghouls 'N Ghosts - Boss Fight!
of different scrapes. I throw a few daggers at his decapitated head and he explodes into a ball of fire. He leaves a key that opens up a huge door behind him. I grab the key and push on, knowing damn well that this was just the start of my troubles.
What Have We Learned Today?
You never know what you will find when you go digging around a zombie-filled graveyard. On second thought, maybe you actually do know what you'll get. And even if you don't, Arthur should have known. After all, this is the guy who has already done all this before. This first Ghouls 'N Ghosts level has a lot in common with the
Ghouls 'N Ghosts - Level 2 introduces the fire (and the challenge)!
first part of Ghosts 'N Goblins, his previous adventure. This first level also teaches us the ins and outs with the weapons and armor. We see how certain types of armors allow you to use magic and how the weapons affect the type of special attacks you can pull off. After fighting through a graveyard, climbing up a mountain and taking on a decapitated lizard monster, you are pretty much ready for anything Loki can throw at you.
What Did We Miss?
Although the game gives you a good taste of what's to come, it leaves a lot of the best weapons hidden for future stages. Instead we get the bare essentials, an easy level where not much happens and all of the enemies are easy to defeat. Don't expect the rest of the game to be this easy, because things really ratchet up from here. By the time
These types of games are always easier when you're wearing a red cape!
you read the fourth or fifth level you'll yearn for the easy challenge of this first level. And did I mention that you'll have to play through this level twice? Yeah, don't get too used to the easy difficulty.
What's the Story?
There's something missing from the beginning of Ghouls 'N Ghosts. I saw the main menu and pushed the start button, but I never saw a cinema or a story. Instead I'm just thrown in the middle of a ghoulish graveyard. Our hero appears to be dressed and armed, so clearly somebody informed him on what's going on. But what about me? You expect me to fight my way through all of these hellish levels for no reason at all? The original 8-bit game gave you a short cinema, it featured your girlfriend getting captured and you arming up to fight the good battle. But there's nothing like that here. What, you couldn't be bothered to come up with a lame reason to send Arthur on a fun adventure? Fine, I'll do it for you: Arthur thinks he's filming a movie about his Ghosts 'N Goblins adventure, only this isn't a movie and he doesn't realize it ... yet!