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RELEASE DATE (NA): September 19, 1985 GENRE: Platformer
// review by Meow

The Dark Souls of the 1980s.

Due the overwhelming popularity of Ghosts 'n Goblins, it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. Upgrading to 16-bits, Ghouls 'n Ghosts has a lot more graphical prowess, as well as improved instrumentals. However, the story is fairly the same: three years following the events of Ghosts 'n Goblins, Arthur returns to Princess Prinprin's kingdom, only to find it being raided with laser beams, with his darling love being shot through the heart right before his eyes. Her soul, along with all the others of the kingdom, have been stolen by Lucifer, taken to the world of Ghouls 'n Ghosts.

Arthur sets out, once again, armed with an array of weapons which are, once again, mostly overshadowed by daggers and the Enchanted Lance of Justice. Other notable weapons are the Arthur sword, a high-powered melee weapon, and the appropriately named Psycho Cannon, a weapon of great power, but only obtainable on the inevitable second cycle of the game. In addition to these new weapons, Arthur also has access to the Golden Magic Armor, which gives Arthur the ability to charge his weapons with magic and unleash devastating effects, such as calling down powerful lightening with the Lance, or creating an invincible clone of yourself with the dagger that mimics what you do, essentially making daggers the hands-down best weapon until you get the Psycho Cannon, which is the only weapon that doesn't get a charged power. Instead it gains the power to annihilate enemy's projectiles and flies a lot farther and faster than it normally does. And if Arthur wasn't powerful enough already, he now has learned the mystical art of being able to aim up and down. Amazing.

The game is leagues ahead of the RNG-heavy madness that was Ghosts 'n Goblins, giving each level its own unique and catchy music track, as well as a unique boss that proves to be a more menacing and formidable challenge than the previous entry. The game, not relying on RNG quite as much as the previous game, makes the challenges harder but more predictable as you learn. This, I feel, makes the game fun, though still frustrating at times. Smart enemy AI still exists, and it's harder to figure out than before, but with enough time and not-panicking, you'll be golden. There's one strange thing I noticed, though, playing through the game: there's a distinct lack of sound effects. It might be so that sounds don't interfere with the new and improved musical tracks, but I can't say for sure.

Arthur's looking even buffer in this shirtless sequel.

Now, for home ports, other than this one being included with the Capcom Classics Collection on PlayStation 2, I know of the Genesis/Mega Drive version, which is the first version of this game I played. Some would say that version is trash, but I personally enjoyed it. Notably, the game is far easier than the arcade original, and the Arthur sword is actually one of the best weapons to use (though daggers are still the reigning champs). There's also a random blue pillar in stage 2 that doesn't show up if you're playing easy mode, which is an odd change, but the only one I can think of. It's definitely there in hard mode. They also added in checkpoints before bosses.

Unfortunately, the boss of Stage 4 can make this be a bit of a problem if you make your way to it with the sword as the weak points of the boss are suspended above instant death water, making them impossible to hit. Strangely enough, the Japanese version of the game IS on the NA cartridge as well. If you have a system like the Retron3 that has a toggle for regions, you can play the game in the original Daimakaimura context, making it more like the original arcade, disabling the boss checkpoints. It's rather odd, but was a neat find I made by pure accident years back.

If you're looking to get into some difficult classic platforming games, this is definitely one I recommend. It still has its rough spots from time to time where the game is just obnoxious, but it's an ultimately more enjoyable experience above Ghosts 'n Goblins.

Fun Fact: The final boss is called Loki in the Genesis version.

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