Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is a harsh game that wastes little time in making it clear that this is entirely the point. Then again, why should Capcom’s venerated and vintage platform action series waste any time? If you’ve ever played any of the games in the series, you’ll already be well acquainted with its arcade-hard origins.
Once again, it’s a tale of brutality, platforms and comical knights running through graveyards in their boxer shorts. Also, that accursed flame weapon that nobody has ever liked is back. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is best described as a remix of what we’ve seen in the past, rather than an entirely fresh re-imagining of Arthur’s quest to save his princess from the devil himself. If you’re familiar with either Ghosts ‘N Goblins or its successor, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, you’ll find yourself smiling as areas that are broadly familiar, and yet refreshed come up. There’s a wonderfully balanced set of familiar challenges enhanced with new tricks and traps to play with here. Playing Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is a matter of accepting that this is an uncompromising experience at every point.
Arthur has a single jump in a fixed arc, and weapons that work slowly and predictably. As a result, if you go rushing into any battle expecting to brute force your way through a problem you’ll end up as a pile of bones rattling to the floor before you’ve had time to let out an expletive through gritted teeth.
It is an inflexible system, and I can see some players rebelling against that kind of thinking. If you can take joy in overcoming actually difficult challenges within a rigid system you’ll gain an appreciation of the game and have a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a more guided and friendly experience, you’ll find it exasperating before you finish the first level. That’s presuming you get that far.
There are some sops to modern game design lurking in the wings of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, but they’re carefully balanced. Choosing the lower difficulty levels will give Arthur the ability to take extra hits before he crumbles to bones. Choosing the “Page” difficulty level is an exercise in wasting the game’s potential, because it renders Arthur immortal. This isn’t a game for those who lack patience, but Capcom has built in a system that would allow them to see more of the game if they do.
Also, Cerberus is still laughing at your corpse, because that’s what he does.
Like the classic titles, there’s a sting in the tail still present. Finishing Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection does involve completing it twice. The second run through ups the difficulty even higher, with lots of fog effects, many more enemies and even more traps. It’s brutal, but if you get there, you’ll appreciate how it’s fine-tuning your skills and appreciation for game design with every single death.
There’s also a skill tree – and it’s a literal tree – that you feed Umbral Bees to unlock magic that will help Arthur on his way. Some of these are simple boons, like being able to hold more than one weapon or having a faster run speed. Others are enemy blasting tools like lightning, or turning every small enemy onscreen into a frog. That’s never not funny, but magic isn’t a get-out-of-gaol free card either. Every spell has a casting time, as it did in the later Ghouls ‘N Ghosts games. This means that choosing to cast a spell means you’re not firing your weapon, which could be a choice that costs you your life.
What can mitigate the difficulty somewhat is grabbing a friend to act as one of the game’s support spirits. These allow a second player to provide temporary assists and a little extra firepower. Your temporary assists include extra platforms, shields and the simple expedient of picking Arthur up and carrying him across obstacles for a limited period of time. The second player doesn’t have to be particularly good at the game, but it can be a nice way to get someone else involved.
Capcom’s used its RE engine to make the world of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection come alive, although you might not pick that it’s technically speaking a Resident Evil game at first. No 4K glories here, but instead a hand-drawn animation style. If you’ll allow me a small moment of pretension, rather reminds me of Japanese Bunraku puppetry. Arthur’s movements are deliberately marionette-style, which suits the storytelling scroll style of the game’s map if nothing else. Arthur bounces along as he moves with a comical style that well suits the game’s dark horror motif. Honestly, while I did for a while wish that the game had a dual graphics option a la LizardCube’s excellent Wonder Boy Dragon’s Trap update, after a short while I didn’t care one whit. Indeed, pixel-style art wouldn’t work all that well for some of the game’s later traps and challenges.
Is Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection for everyone? No, it most definitely is not. It’s a very deliberate game that demands to be played on its own terms. That means accepting Arthur’s slower, more deliberate movements, the realities of a single jump, fixed arc system for platforming, and a brutal difficulty curve that rewards patient play, all the while gently mocking you when you cross one threshold only to be ground into a fine paste by the very next trap.