Tokuro Fujiwara is back in town and his mission is murder. The Ghosts and Goblins Foreman was summoned by his former employer, Capcom, to inflict pain and suffering on masses of gamers, and he came with enthusiasm. To put an end to the conjecture surrounding the Resurrection, it is indeed hard to anvil through the skull; an assembly of barbaric and indiscriminate violence designed to harvest your soul and sell it into satanic slavery.
It’s harder right off the bat with its default difficulty setting, Legend, and the next, Knight, than pretty much all in the previous series. The legend is an atrocity that spits in your face and laughs, to break you like Ivan Drago. Here, the skeleton murderers don’t come at you en masse in the first twenty seconds, they run like the wind from left to right. The stages are vast, strewn with pitfalls and traps, and the landscape is constantly changing, often requiring quick reflexes to access inaccessible sections. If you can climb a falling monument before it hits the ground in an early section of the cemetery, you are rewarded with a hidden chest at its peak; while other secrets, such as purple vortices leading to a series of increasingly difficult survival challenges, are better concealed.
Thankfully – and despite his classically limited jump range – Arthur’s controls have been fine tuned to cope with every situation. You’re limited to four directions of fire with no diagonal range, but unlike previous entries in the series, you can now instantly turn and shoot from an dodge position, which helps repel the rampaging hordes. The golden armor upgrade makes a comeback, boosting speed and attacks while providing an extra layer of protection, but the double jump introduced in Super Ghouls’ n Ghosts left. While it’s a good idea to have the panoramic screen to show a wider view of the area, it does give the illusion of reducing Arthur’s speed and jump range slightly, and requires some tuning.
The scenes in Ghosts’ n Goblins Resurrection are a veritable torture garden of familiar terrors sandwiched between a host of short stories. Assembled with an ever-inspired invention, you cycle through lakes with giant man-eating plants, trees with retracting branches, and through fire-breathing pits infested with falling corpses. And that’s right at the start. The Red Arremer, the infamous winged demon of Ghouls’ n Ghosts, is also back in town; a mysterious programming evil that could lead to biting your fingers. If you plan on making progress, you need to look for the clues, keep your distance, and make sure you’re ready to jump or shoot the moment he tears you apart.
Divided into five zones, you initially have a choice of two stages at each junction up to zone three, after which it reverts to a linear structure in one stage until the end of the game. Complete the initial campaign on the options of higher difficulty and you’ll unlock a second nightmare loop in the Shadow Realm, where the stages present new confusions, enemies and dangers to face.
In Legend mode, checkpoints only appear once in the middle of the stage and again in front of the boss, resulting in many nerve-racking reboots. At the same time, this penalty is absolutely necessary to learn the step by heart, and although you need monk’s resolve and not a small amount of mental courage to see your path to victory, it can be achieved. This series has always it was a slow and measured memorization: knowing your routes, your methods and the specifics of your weapons, and how to avoid chests containing handicap spelling wizards.
While Ghosts’ n Goblins Resurrection is utterly infuriating starting with area three, and it won’t be long before you kneel in front of the TV and scream point blank at the screen, the engineering remains unmistakably solid. While the settings for the strike zone between Arthur and enemies are a bit blurry at times, the controls are pin-sharp and, although we did experience a brief drop in the frame early in the game. Fire Hamlet stage, it seems to run at 60 FPS smoothly. everywhere else.
Before we cry “No thanks, I prefer to skin myself with barbed wire!”, it should be noted that Ghosts’ n Goblins Resurrection has an olive branch for you. No more limited and continuous lives. Instead, the game automatically saves after completing the stage and at checkpoints, allowing you to exit and return to your last position at any time. For purists, this might be disappointing, as the personal challenge of credit to credit is abolished, and the best you can aim for is a clear of a lifetime, which will require supernatural determination. But, in light of the ferocity of Ghosts’ n Goblins Resurrection, ticking off each stage as a series of mini-challenges is a reasonable compromise to start over from the title screen.
The big game changer here is going back to find Umbral Bees: little glowing firefly things that often seem boring. Once you have a bee in the bag, it’s there forever, even if you die – and on many occasions it’s worth jumping to death to catch one because, let’s face it, you’re gonna die anyway.
Umbrella Bees can be exchanged for Magic Upgrades in the Umbrella Tree via the map screen. The more magic you unlock, the more options appear on the tree. The first magic attacks only require a single bee to be obtained, while the most powerful spell – the one that can regenerate Arthur’s armor – requires thirty. The best part is that you can hold multiple magic attacks in Arthur’s belt at any time, and you can swap out the magic you don’t want anymore to collect the bees and place them to something bigger. The goal is therefore to continue to accumulate bees even before mastering a scene.
Magical attacks in your belt are cycled with the shoulder button, and while most have a brief cooldown before they can be reused, you can button reload them to trigger them in any state, from boxer armor. This, along with the ability to save your checkpoint progress, makes the fight somewhat easier. Using magic requires strategy and certainly won’t negate a stage’s difficulty, but turning enemies into frogs and being able to hold three weapons simultaneously certainly improves your odds.
While Legend Mode is designed to serve fans of Ghouls’ n Ghosts – fans who need something to test their limits – difficulties Knight, Squire, and Page (the latter essentially offering immortality) have something for. everybody. The knight’s difficulty is still quite brutal, but Arthur gains three life points and faces fewer enemies, slightly slower. For the casual retro player looking for a solid challenge, the Squire difficulty, giving Arthur four hits and arguably too many checkpoints, is probably a good place to start. This brings the difficulty back to something akin to Super Ghouls’ n Ghosts, and although bosses like those in Stage 2 Fire Hamlet – three inferno cats with overlapping attack patterns – will still push you to ingest your Joy-Cons, it’s quite less punishing from the start.
The game’s two-player co-op mode is a nice addition, allowing a second player to cycle between the spirits of three fallen adventurers. These appearances can float freely across the screen to aid Arthur with unique abilities. Each has fairly slow and limited projectile fire, but their secondary skills can transport Arthur through gaps, build bridges, or, critically, create a brief but impervious bubble shield around him. Both innovative and fun, the cooperative opens a new world of strategic approach and a new dimension of the game.
And it’s time to stop worrying about the art style. Ghosts’ n Goblins Resurrection is a dark, detailed, and jaw-dropping affair with stunning weather effects and distant, haunting backgrounds that beautifully evoke the horror theme park style of the series. After ten minutes with the first steps, any discomfort about the aesthetic dissipates. The frigid constructions of the crystalline city and the buildings that divide are something to see; and The Caverns of the Occult – a hellish catacomb where giant candles are constantly extinguished, plunging you into a shroud of darkness – are intelligently rendered and cleverly paced, culminating in a spectacular stone dragon ride over a wonderfully gloomy landscape. The music too, with new interpretations of series favorites and an Elfman-esque set of compositions, quickly makes it easy for you to swing things like a scythe.
If you can’t stand the thought of tackling a game through a strenuous restart process, go now. There are times in the countryside when Fujiwara is about to pass the bar, and you wonder why sections like Zone Five’s Endangered Platforms have to be. enough if dragged, or why the hell he threw a Red Arremer in the mix at the start of zone four when you’re already assaulted from all sides. But we’re here to criticize the architectural makeup of the game and not necessarily its appeal to a wider audience. While its difficulty isn’t for everyone, it remains tightly coordinated, upholding the ethics of the series of practice-based progression through old disciplines and new processes.
Ghosts’ n Goblins Resurrection is Tokuro Fujiwara’s love letter to a famous thirty-five-year-old series for burying mortal men, and it’s a job done exceptionally good. By ignoring it, we risk having to wait another thirty-five years for a new entry, and, in a world where so many games have become cinematic, one-button 3D picture books, that’s an unacceptable prospect. . If you live for the challenge, toughen up, don that mental armor, and take the mantle like a spear. If you put in the time and effort, Ghosts’ n Goblins Resurrection will allow you to reap the most valuable of gaming achievements – the prestige of victory.