Bad Guys Anonymous


Here we are in yet another edition of Bad Guys Anonymous. This weekly column covers the first opponent gamers encounter in the ranks of classic games. They aren’t famous, they aren’t tough and they aren’t remembered… until now.

This week’s entry focuses on the zombie.

“Which zombie!?” you plead. Well, back before zombies became the mainstay in the corporate world of video game murder, they weren’t quite as common a foe. Perhaps in titles like Zombies Ate My Neighbors they were, but your run-of-the-mill platformer wasn’t always rife with them.

So, which zombie? The one from the impossibly hard Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts for the Super Nintendo. This is one of the hardest games ever made for the SNES, and I’ll attest that it’s a pure miracle that any copies still exist on planet earth. Why? Because most owners were tempted, daily, to chuck them into the molten belly of a heaving volcano.

In this Capcom classic, Arthur beats back the hordes of demons and undead that stand between him and a recently kidnapped princess. The first anonymous villain he encounters? The zombie. More like three zombies. At once.

If you’re a regular here on the corner of Bad Guys Anonymous Street and 1 More Castle Avenue, then you know that one of the most important qualifications for the first baddy in a video game is that it’s easy to defeat. The Goomba, the Snail, Met and Gnawty, all of these foes are super easy. And for good reason: the opening foe establishes its game’s learning curve. Teach the player the principle of beating enemies early, and challenge them later.

Zombies die fast. Toss one projectile weapon in their direction, make a hit and they blow up. If you don’t they’ll rob you of your clothes first, then the next hit will take away your skin and leave you as a pile of bones.

The first zombie isn’t so tough. The first three zombies aren’t either. It’s the fact that Capcom tosses them down all at once, and then puts an object that must be double jumped over in order to move forward in the same space. Zombie 1, 2 and 3 pop out of the ground in their weird graves, Arthur tosses a lance at them and then tries to hop a stone enclave. Too bad more zombies are coming, 10 year old me doesn’t know what a double jump is and the designers put me on a hill so that my lance won’t hit said zombies as I’m now backed into a corner.

This, ladies and germs, is Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts. It’s brilliant game that plays host to a whole slew of awesome and anonymous villains. It’s also devilishly difficult, and I sort of hate it for that.

The zombie is the definition of an anonymous, mindless, lurching drone, but he’s one of the toughest baddies that will ever be featured in this column.