Really, there was only one reason I passed on the fifth star: my personal rule of not awarding a game-developer the highest marks when all they're doing is a touch-up of an already classic title. It seems that Capcom is stuck in the same rut as Nintendo when it comes to digging up old code and doing a recompile on it. Other than the vague disappointment that they didn't actually develop a true sequel, I was in ecstasy when I heard Capcom would be dropping Super Ghouls & Ghosts onto a cart for the GBA-one of the most memorable sidescrollers since, well, Ghosts & Goblins.
Even though it felt odd playing the game after having played through Maximo a few months earlier, I was reminded of the features I really missed as well as the items that really pissed me off. It doesn't come as breaking news that this game is 2D and hard as hell, but the difficulty level is something you might have forgotten (though, I don't know how). After the first level, I was rudely reminded of the legendary difficulty of this game. Yes, legendary. This will probably be one of the toughest games you'll play through; however one option that I don't remember being in the original, not saying it wasn't there, is the ability to save your game at any point in your quest. You can't imagine how cool that is. Super Ghouls & Ghosts is a game of patience and timing, the former because if you rush, you'll die, and the latter because it's a straight, block-like jumps, no bouncing off of walls, grabbing edges, etc.
If you're not already familiar with the game, then you should be told it has your standard hack plotline. You assume the role of Arthur on a quest to save the princess. It's boilerplate, but kind of chic from a retro point of view. One of the cooler elements, one that made the series memorable, is the amalgamation of various European mythologies and their manifestation as enemies you face along the way. I mean, who can forget (note, this will be a bit of a spoiler to newschools) the battle with Loki.
Aside from maybe some minor tweaks, there isn't much graphically that'll distinguish this incarnation from the original-both the arcade and SNES releases. With the Gameboy Advance's lighting problems, portions of the game can be difficult to play. It would have been nice to see Capcom take this issue into account and customize the game to adjust for this hardware problem; brightening the colors would have been a nice touch. Luckily, I was able to play through the game on a modified GBA. Afterburner, baby.
At the core of Super Ghouls & Ghosts is the difficulty that at once hinders you, yet rewards with a feeling of joy as you crawl your way through each level. The control of Arthur is by no means fluid, but that's not to expected from a game like this; rather, you have the movement, much like your characters in the Castlevania series. Jumping seems at times blocky-at least to me. Once you jump, you're on your way ,so to speak, so plan ahead, know your cliffs, know your enemies, know the fireballs that you might need to duck when you land.
Health is handled via the loss or gain of suits of armor. You can collect up to three suits, the third being golden. I can't tell you how many times you'll be running around in your skivvies dodging everything under the moon. It was rare for me to acquire the Golden Armor. Granted, it's nice when you do so, because the power-ups add to your weapons, which makes a nice segue. Arthur has a variety of weapons at his disposal, though you have to discard your current weapon to switch to another one, but usually the type of weapon you find seems tailored to the section of the game you're working through. You'll quickly learn which one is your favorite and hold onto it throughout the course of the level. My personal favorite: the scythe and daggers, especially the daggers when you have the Golden Armor.
For today's standards, the gameplay isn't too fluid; in fact it can become aggravating, especially if you're used to the more modern games. Still, it remains one of the more rewarding re-releases of recent times.
Each level is linear and provides a midway restart point, which also incidentally indicates how close you are to the boss character for that stage. Yep, this is one of those games, meaning metered levels that are completely straight forward, including their milestones and end challenges. The downer here is that this isn't anything new in the gaming world and the only reprisal Ghouls & Ghosts has is that it was an older game, so I can't harsh on it too much, right?
What can be said about the music? It's not a symphony, just straight forward 16-bit tunes, not good but not awful. Still, you'll probably want to play this game with the volume turned down.
For some of the older gamers, this might be a nice, nostalgic addition to the GBA library, but I get a sense that you can only spend so many hours with the game. When I first got it, I was stoked-played it everywhere: in the apartment, in the bed before I went to sleep. It was cool, then something happened; it started to get old on me, quicker than most games do. Maybe it's because I'd already gone through the motions and the pain of beating it earlier in my life. In its day, the game was totally intense, but nowadays it just seems like another sidescroller lacking any type of innovation. If you can, rent this game first or borrow it from a friend; however, if you're after the nostalgia or to re-experience the early days of console gaming, then by all means pick the cart up and enjoy. I sure did.