Tag Archives: ghosts n goblins

Okay, Cruel World, the retro/throwback 2D games trend is officially old now

As an old person that played early side-scrolling classics like Pitfall and Jungle Hunt on his neighbors’ Atari VCS (aka 2600) consoles, I have an affinity for the genre and have played many of the recent remakes/updates/etc. Initially, I was excited by the trend but as I recently played through about half of Donkey Kong Country Returns, I realized I’m more or less over it.

My post is focused on recent releases that look to some old game(s) for all of their inspiration. I’m not including games like Sonic Colors or Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.  Althose these games are among the latest 2D entries in long-running series, they’re not “retro” in their focus and, really, 2D games in these series never went away.

Also, I will be focusing on games for DS, PSP, Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.  Now, let’s do this.


This category seems the most pointless of all.  These games are made to look, sound, and play like games originally released for NES, SNES, or Genesis hardware.

Mega Man 9 (2008, Inti Creates/Capcom: Wii, X360, PS3)

Capcom released SIX Mega Man games for the NES and FIVE for the Game Boy, all of which basically look the same (although the graphics did improve incrementally).  In perhaps the most cynical retro move Capcom decided, “Hey, let’s do it again,” even though Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, and Mega Man & Bass had been released for later systems with improved graphics.  Mega Man 9 is a very solid game and probably more innovative than a couple of the original NES releases but in some ways it takes steps backwards, removing abilities like the slide.

My credentials: beat it.

Mega Man 10 (2010, Inti Creates/Capcom: Wii, X360, PS3)

In true Capcom fashion, they decided to do it all over AGAIN.

My credentials: in true me fashion, I downloaded and still haven’t played it.

Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth (2009, M2/Konami: Wii)

Supposedly, this is a remake of the 1989 Game Boy release, Castlevania: The Adventure.  However, I have played that game and there are very few similarities between them outside of “story”.  Anyway, this is a very serviceable release but seems especially pointless, since there were already many classic 16-bit releases in the series, including Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania Bloodlines, Castlevania (X68000), Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, and Castlevania: Dracula X.

My credentials: beat it.

Contra Rebirth (2009, M2/Konami: Wii)

Again, a serviceable release, but doesn’t really improve or expand on the classic Contra releases.  The only noticeable change for me is that the graphics are almost a bit more cartoony, which takes things ever so slightly closer to Metal Slug territory.

My credentials: beat it (the only Contra game I know of with unlimited continues).

Yoshi’s Island DS (2006, Artoon/Nintendo: DS)

Way back before I was jaded regarding the whole retro 2D trend, I was really excited for this release.  Overall, it’s easily the best game in this portion of the article but it is sickeningly loyal to the original Yoshi’s Island.  This is a problem, as its shortcomings become more apparent.  The added feature of various baby characters available to ride on Yoshi’s back feels like inconvenient fan service.  The original Yoshi’s Island sticks out in part due to its visual innovation, so it’s ironic and shameful that this game just aped its predecessor.

My credentials: beat it.

Contra 4 (2007, WayForward/Konami: DS)

Supposedly, WayForward were inspired by New Super Mario Bros. but they seem to have forgotten that that game actually had modern visual and introduced many new elements.  Contra 4 tries really hard to include every Contra convention introduced in Contra, Super Contra, and Contra III.  It doesn’t add much outside of the strictly vertical grappling hook.  It’s fun, it’s tight, but what’s old is old.

My credentials: completed only on easy setting.


Bionic Commando (2008, Grin/Capcom: Xbox 360, PS3)

For the most part, this is pretty much a remake of the 1988 NES original.  However, the boss encounters are new, the visuals are great, there is a humorously dark attitude, and there are challenge rooms all over.  I think it’s definitely preferable to make a game like this that is basically a remake with some new elements rather than to make a “new” game that really has nothing new to offer.

My credentials: beat it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (2010, Dimps/Sonic Team/SEGA: Wii, X360, PS3)

I was pretty disappointed with this one, not because I love the Genesis Sonic games (I don’t) but because I generally love the Dimps-developed Sonic games.  SEGA decided to make a game true to the spirit of the early 90s Sonic games but they went too far, and basically just remade Sonic and Sonic 2.  From what I’ve played of the game, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles featured more innovation than Sonic 4.

My credentials: played about half, got bored.

Mega Man Powered Up (2006, Capcom: PSP)

A remake of the very original Mega Man, this release adds 2 brand new levels and, consequently, 2 brand new robot masters.  The updated visuals are cute but probably a bit too blocky.  The game allows you to play through the whole game as robot masters that you’ve defeated.  That may not seem all that great on the surface, but it allows you to use a specific robot master weapon as much as you want without worrying about it being depleted.  Capcom probably should have included the levels from multiple Mega Man games, which probably would have raised the quality through the roof.

My credentials: beat it.

Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X (2006, Capcom: PSP)

An updated remake of the original Mega Man X.

My credentials: I have not played it!


New Super Mario Bros. (2006, Nintendo: DS)

As a true homer, I really, really looked forward to this game.  A new side-scrolling Mario game!  The first since Super Mario Land 2!  I’m very conflicted on this release and it’s probably impossible for me to be objective but I can see for a certainty that it was way too easy.  It took me a scant 4 hours to beat the game the first time and I never, ever saw a “Game Over” screen as the game is painfully generous with power-ups and one-ups in some strange effort to make Mario’s quest as easy as can be.  I needed just 4 more hours to find all the big coins and secret paths and all that and then I was done.  And PS – I’m not even that great of a gamer.

Beyond that, New Super Mario Bros. is well-constructed but pretty uninspired.  There are new power-ups and other gimmicks but everything is so backward-focused.  There is no real innovation.  The structure feels like the developers looked at SMB3 and SMWorld and decided to ape them but with a few twists.  That isn’t much of a stretch considering the game was created by the same team that developed the Super Mario Advance re-release series on Game Boy Advance.  The old Super Mario Bros. games were largely special because of their crazy, surprising innovations.  They looked in front, not behind!

My credentials: beat it.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009, Nintendo: Wii)

Well, it’s a lot longer than its predecessor.  Four players can play simultaneously, which is fun.  Too bad 2 of the players have to play as generic Toad characters.  Nintendo claimed they couldn’t use Peach because it would look strange when someone held her above their head with her dress on.  Ugh.  She regularly wears more practical clothing in the sports games, why not here?  Or why not use Wario and Waluigi?  Or, Jesus forbid, a new character.  Some of the power-ups are cool but the focus on the past continues with the reintroduction of the Koopalings.

My credentials: beat it.

Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins (2006, Capcom: PSP)

Not much more forward-thinking than the New SMB games but it can be forgiven to some extent, as this game treats you like a man, not a kindergartener.  Additionally, some fundamental changes have been made, like a killed character continuing from the spot from which they perished, a warping system, an inventory (!), and non-linear gameplay.  A very worthy, well-thought-out update.

My credentials: got to the final boss door, didn’t have enough rings/keys/whatever to get in, quit, have fantasized for four years about coming back to it.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010, Retro Studios/Nintendo: Wii)

Retro previously developed the great Metroid Prime trilogy so I expected a lot.  And boy! I was disappointed!  This is probably not a bad game but I did not have fun playing it.  It misses the point more so than the New SMB games, as it fails to capture what really stood out about the original DKC games.  You might ask why I hold the game to the old standards; it’s because the game seems to be committed to them.  For one thing, at least in the first half of the game, I did not encounter any water levels.  I only came across Rambi once.  Also, the graphics, while of a very high quality, are not groundbreaking.  The original trilogy was known for its groundbreaking visuals and audio.  Before even considering a new DKC game, the developers should have thought of a way to make the game really stand out.

Additionally, the villains are totally lame and forgettable.  Strange, I used to think the same about the Kremlings but now I see their relative worth.  I just don’t get it.  I would have thought that Retro Studios would want to do something more original, ambitious, and rewarding after the Metroid games.  Guess not!

My credentials: played through 4 worlds.


Yes, I have played a lot of these games and I enjoyed or at least pretended to enjoy them as I did so.  But now I am older, wiser, and skeptical-er.  Almost all of the games in this article have been topped by recent 2D releases that were inspired by the classics but have decided to move into the future.  These games include LostWinds, Shadow Complex, and Braid.

National Game Registry 1988: Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

aka Daimakaimura
original platform
key personnel
Tokuro Fujiwara (design, production)
Shinichi Yoshimoto (design)
Hisashi Yamamoto (design)
Tamayo Kawamoto (music)

The sequel to Ghosts ‘n Goblins; even harder but perhaps less cheap than the original.  Now shoot vertically!

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts was inducted on August 23rd, 2009.

Return to the National Game Registry to view more inductees.

National Game Registry 1985: Ghosts ‘n Goblins

aka Makaimura
original platform
key personnel
Tokuro Fujiwara (design)
Ayako Mori (music)

After his beloved is kidnapped by Lucifer himself, the hero Arthur embarks on the original super-difficult, side-scrolling, platformer-shooter. His enemies are merciless and many of the platforming challenges he faces are only slightly kinder. Armed with seemingly inexhaustible projectile weapons supplies, Arthur cuts through the underworld hordes only to learn at the ‘end’ of the game that the preceding events were merely a dream and that he must repeat the whole adventure to truly free his one-and-only. At times the challenging action is nothing short of cheap but the devilish designs, level varieties, haunting score, and an addictive quality pull the experience together.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins was inducted on June 10th, 2009.

Return to the National Game Registry to view more inductees.

National Game Registry Sidebar: Arcade Compilations

This article features the best console-based compilations of classic arcade games. The included collections were selected based partially on quantity of games and especially on quantity. Most of these compilations include around twenty games each but this article focuses only lists games of NGR-level quality.  Video game publishers love to milk their classic games with re-release after re-release, often spreading games from a single series across different retro collections.  The compilations buck this trend to some extent and provide the best overall value.

Capcom Classics Collection Boxshot

Capcom Classics Collection (PlayStation 2, Xbox)
There are only six NGR-worthy games in this collection but they’re of very high quality and rather lengthy by arcade standards.

1943: The Battle of Midway
-1943 Kai
Final Fight
Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Street Fighter II
-Street Fighter II’ Champion Edition
-Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting

bonus: Rounding out the Ghosts ‘n Goblins package, the collection includes a the followingg SNES release:
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

Taito Legends (PlayStation 2, Xbox)
This compilation boasts a long list of games and enviable variety.

Bubble Bobble
Rainbow Islands
New Zealand Kids
Zoo Keeper
Super Qix
Plump Pop
Jungle Hunt
Space Invaders
-Space Invaders Part II
Return of the Invaders

Taito Legends 2 (PlayStation 2, Xbox)
Although not quite as strong as its predecessor, this collection features several great but relatively unknown games.

Majestic Twelve: Space Invaders Part IV
Space Invaders DX
Space Invaders ’95
The Fairyland Story
Don Doko Don
Liquid Kids
Bonze Adventure
Bubble Symphony (Xbox only)

Atari Anthology (PlayStation 2, Xbox)
A fairly comprehensive release featuring all of the classic pre-1984 Atari games that one would expect to see.

-Asteroids Deluxe
-Space Duel
Super Breakout
Missile Command

bonus: Dozens of Atari 2600 releases are also included, with ports of many of the above titles, plus the following highlights:

Yars’ Revenge

Midway Arcade Treasures (PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube)
In spite of the title, all of the best games in this collection were originally released by Williams and Atari Games, companies that were later absorbed by Midway.

Robotron 2084
Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest
Smash TV
Marble Madness

Namco Museum Virtual Arcade (Xbox 360)
This collection is rather comprehensive for Pac-Man and Galaga fans with the only glaring ommission being Gaplus.
Ms. Pac-Man
Super Pac-Man
Pac & Pal
Galaga ’88
King & Balloon
Dig Dug
Dig Dug II

bonus: The non-arcade content in this compilation is really impressive, including three update/sequels originally released in Namco Museum Battle for PSP as well as three sequels that debuted in Xbox Live Arcade.

Pac-Man Arrangement 2005
Dig Dug Arrangement 2005
Galaga Arrangement 2005
Pac-Man Championship Edition
Galaga Legions
Mr. Driller Online

Notes: With the exception of Atari Anthology, none of the Xbox releases are compatible with Xbox 360.

Things That Really Matter: The Top Ten NES Games (with an emphasis on variety)

I bet you were wondering about the Top Ten NES games of all time, weren’t you?  Good, because I can help you!  I originally posted this entry as being written by a Jewish Mystic combing the Bible for secret Top Ten video game lists.  I must confess that was a hoax and I am exorcizing the mythical Mystic from these posts.  In truth, this is a list of MY top ten FAVORITE NES games, with an emphasis on variety.  It must be said that there are many NES games I’ve never played or have had limited time with and I’ll address some of these at the end of the list.  As I am a true nerd, this list will probably change as I play more and more gamez.

#10 MEGA MAN (Capcom): A solid action game with a cool paper/rock/scissors concept and a non-linear progression.  The character design is near the top of the NES bunch.  If you like this game you’re in luck because there are five sequels that are practically the same game.  Also check out the DuckTales, Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck games by Capcom, which all use the same graphics and gameplay engine.
mega man screenshot

#9 BUBBLE BOBBLE (Taito) – wheeeeee!!  A successful port of an arcade hit.  Players get to control Bub and Bob, a couple of cute dragons, and run around trapping cute bad guys and bubbles before kicking them to hell.  It’s like a much, much more developed version of the original Mario Bros. (1983)  The bubbles are also used as platforms and the game’s physics actually change drastically from one stage to another.  For example, bubbles shoot quickly in some stages and slowly in others.  In some stages, Bub and Bob can almost jump through walls but not in others.  These changes keep you on your toes.  This game is also famous, along with Contra, as being one of the few NES classics that allow for simultaneous multiplayer action.
bubble bobble screenshot

#8 SUPER DODGE BALL (Technos) – One of the few kick-dick sports game in existence and naturally, it’s a fictional sport.  Basically, you master several special throws to KILL your opponenets with your dodgeball.  Yes, you really kill them and even get to watch their immortal souls float away to the Heavens.  In the American version, you control the USA National Dodge Ball Team and you work your way up through the ranks, finally getting to kill the Soviet National Team.  This game features the same characters as the Technos releases River City Ransom, Nintendo World Cup, Crash n’ the Boys, and other Technos-developed games.  This game may have single-handedly given rise to the action-sport genre, possibly inspiring the likes of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz.
super dodge ball screenshot

#7 GHOSTS ‘N GOBLINS (Capcom) – GNG was originally released in the arcades but this NES port is actually an improvement as several ridiculously cheap situations are ironed out.  Don’t worry, though, it’s still a very difficult game.  If you like both Super Mario and Contra then you should enjoy this buttcracking game, as it really falls somewhere in-between.  It’s amazing that this game (or the arcade release, at least) is just as old Super Mario Bros. but it doesn’t really get the props for being one of the first side-scrolling platforming adventures with many levels. 
ghosts n goblins screenshot

#6 THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (Nintendo) – Vague is the name of this game.  You have no idea what to do, which sucks.  However, it still has an epic feel to it and when you actually figure out how to get into the next dungeon, it’s pretty good karate.  I must admit there is no possible way I would have ever completed this game without a guide.  I just don’t have that kind of patience and I’m not willing to run round the entire overworld attempting to burn every bush until I find the next secret dungeon.  Incredibly, this is the sort of thing Nintendo really expected people to do and announced at the time that there were “100 hours of playtime” in this game.
the legend of zelda screenshot

#5 METROID (Nintendo) – Another super vague game but like Zelda it’s dripping with atmosphere and exciting times.  Finding powerups can be good times but the awesome music that plays when you find them makes owning an NES worthwhile.  This game also requires a lot of random shooting and running around in order to find new paths to follow.  And there’s no map to refer to!  This is another game that I had to use a guide for due to my low levels of intelligence and patience but I’m glad I got through it one way or another as the final confrontation and then the final escape scene were great touches.  This is one of the few NES games that has some real tension.  There’s a real sense of dread regarding the mysterious Metroids that you won’t see until almost the very end of the game.
metroid screenshot

#4 KID ICARUS (Nintendo) – Why is this game better than Metroid and Zelda?  Durrrrr.  It isn’t super vague in a major annoying way.  It uses Metroid’s gameplay and graphic engines and even features an enemy that looks just like our friends the Metroids.  It plays like a combination of Metroid, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.  The first three stages in each level are vertically or horizontally-scrolling platformer action-oriented combined with Zelda-like inventory management.  Every fourth level is a labyrinth that will appeal to you Zelda nerds but these labyrinths are actually somewhat manageable and with some exploration their layouts can be memorized and then destroyed.
kid icarus screenshot

#3 NINJA GAIDEN (Tecmo) – Hai-yah!  This is a very challenging but very awesome ninja kick-fighting video game for your NES.  Actually, it basically plays like a fast-paced version of Castlevania and that is a good thang.  Like Castlevania, there are power ups that come in limited supply.  The enemies never stop coming in this game and annoyingly respawn in the same spot if you accidentally back up a bit before advancing.  As a result, lightning reflexes and memorization of enemy locations is a key requirement.  This game was also special for featuring detailed and even semi-interesting story cut-scenes, a rarity at the time.  These scenes gave the action a sense of purpose and drama that they would otherwise lack.

ninja gaiden screenshot

#2 CASTLEVANIA (Konami) – It’s slow.  It’s scary.  I don’t know why, but it’s awesome.  It’s also very difficult so put on your pants for this one.  Many of the Western horror archetypes are present in the game with everyone from Dracula and Frankenstein(‘s monster) to a dirty hunchback making appearances.  Unfortunately, the graphics are very 1986 so the details on these monsters aren’t exactly clear or frightening.  However, the difficulty level IS frightening.  It’s hard to say exactly why a game with bad graphics and very slow action is so good but it all comes together, somehow.
castlevania screenshot

#1 SUPER MARIO BROS. 3 (Nintendo) – Okay, listen.  If it weren’t for the ’emphasis on variety’ requirement, SMB 1-3 would probably be the top 3 on this list.  Gosh, this is a good game!  Fast-paced!  Great character designs!  Awesome level designs!  Tons of levels!  Painfully creative!  Play it.  But you probably already have.
super mario bros 3 screenshot

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Bionic Commando, Mega Man 2-6 (my memories of all of these games are completely melted together), DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, Rainbow Islands, Zelda 2, Ninja Gaiden 2 & 3, Castlevania 2 & 3, Super Mario Bros. 1 & 2, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Kirby’s Adventure, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 & 3, Batman, Bonk’s Adventure, Double Dragon 1 & 2

“ME AM MAD.  MY FAVORITE GAME DIDN’T DO ON THIS LIST!”  Yes, there are really several NES supposed-classics I haven’t played enough to comment on but intend to play someday.  This list includes:  Contra, Super C, Metal Gear, Gargoyle’s Quest II, Willow, Blaster Master, Crystalis, Rygar, and River City Ransom.

“WAIT, WHERE AM THE RPGz?”  Well, I have played through Final Fantasy I and Dragon Warrior I & II but I currently have a personal bias against turn-based RPGs as a genre so sooowwwwwy.