The Retro Critic

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts

Forget goblins.

Goblins are for THE WEAK.

Sure Ghosts ‘N Goblins was a fun game and it kick-started a really popular franchise but those goblins had to go. 1988 was the year of the ghoul and yes, I’m basing that statement solely on the game I’m going to talk about today.

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was the first sequel to Ghosts ‘N Goblins and although it was released in the Arcade and on a variety of other ports, I’ll be focusing on the Sega Master System version because we all know how sloppy and, by extension, amusing those Arcade conversions can be on that console.

Besides, it’s Halloween soon and there’s nothing scarier than the Master System with its sharp fangs, its deadly claws and its thirst for human blood.

Or is that werewolves…?

Either way, I’m still reviewing Ghouls ‘N Ghosts.

The game sees good old Arthur, the knight with the silliest run out there, side-scroll his way through some pretty hellish levels and fight a number of terrifying creatures.

Arthur Run GNG

The game has a mostly cartoonish look to it but there’s also a weirdly dark Iron Maiden album cover visual style to the monsters. Some RPG elements were added to this particular version of the game as you uncover these secret shops which include upgrades to your weapons among other things.

Red Upgrades GNG

I guess red’s “in” right now.

The best and most note-worthy part of the game, easily, is the unfortunate encounter with some evil magician who transforms you into a horrible beast, a ghoul uglier and more powerful than any other ghoul out there.

You remember Zuul in Ghostbusters?

He’s handsome next to the foul being you’re unjustly turned into in this game.


Purple Duck GNG

Fluffy purple duck is fluffy.

TOO fluffy.

That scares me.

I do like that Ghouls ‘N Ghosts doesn’t take itself too seriously, I also like the fact it’s not lazily put together and actually provides a worthy challenge while still having fun with its characters and plot.

One second you’re happily kung-fu kicking tornadoes:

Tornado GNG

The next you actually have to pay attention and focus on what you’re doing because…

Cluster GNG

Things get pretty challenging, pretty fast.

Like I said, the creatures have a cool, often crazy design to them, even if some are unapologetically rubbish.

I’m thinking of this guy:

Tree GNG

A tree with a face?


When you think of how creative a lot of these ghouls and ghosts are, a tree with a face really stands out as a lazy last-minute idea someone came up with after watching The Wizard Of Oz, like that movie just came out and they were the only one to know about it.

Luckily, that tree’s an exception as most of the nasty sprites you face are imaginative.

Here are some of my favourites:

Eyeball Cloud GNG

Eyeball cloud that shoots lightning bolts.

Terrifying in real life, mostly bizarre in a video game.

Fire Dog GNG

Fire demon dog.

Because no matter how many blue frisbees you throw at him, he never catches ’em.

And, last but not least:

Plant GNG

Plant Open GNG

Mouth plant.

This one’s something straight out of Weird Dreams, and I’m talking about the game and one’s actual weird dreams here because only a particularly strident nightmare could come up with a plant with not only a mouth, teeth and a tongue but an eyeball inside it.

Sickening stuff.

The levels mostly consist of villages, castles or what I can best describe as Hell!

Hell GNG

The backgrounds in this game, as you’ve probably noticed, look pretty flat so for better ones you might want to check out some 16-bit versions of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts but, all in all, for a Sega Master System game, this looks decent and colourful. Parts of it are just more detailed than others, that’s all.

This is by no means an easy game and some levels should frustrate you no end unless you’re a pro but it always remains fun so it’s very likely that, as much as the game likes to torture you, you’ll still feel like beating it and won’t give up on it.

The bosses alone are worth sticking around for as they’re big, random and a pain in the neck.

Poor Arthur sure has a lot on his plate, from purple-bearded angry dudes:

BEarded Guy GNG

To giant wasps (or flies?):

Wasp Fly GNG

It’s never an easy battle.

The game’s final baddie, Loki, is nowhere near as dreamy as you’d expect since, originally, he was called Lucifer, not Loki.

Lucifer Loki GNG

Man is this guy naked.

Like, crazy naked.

For the life of me I do not remember that particular shot of Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider, by the way. Maybe it was taken behind the scenes…

Seriously though, I really wish I wasn’t seeing this much of Lucifer right now.

Any guesses as to what’s the best spot to shoot at him from?

Lucifer GNG

Very funny, Capcom.

Anyway, so that’s Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, in my opinion a worthy successor to Ghosts ‘N Goblins: it takes what made that first game fun and gives us more of it. It also gives us less goblins but many more ghouls. I think so, anyway, I can’t tell what half of this stuff is half the time.

Have a very Happy Halloween from me and remember that even naked Loki (or Lucifer, whatever) can’t stand in the way of true love and happiness.

Running GNG