Halloween is a special time for gamers, as it gives them an excuse to get spooked out by some really terrific offerings. And I don't just mean contemporary stuff like the recently released Silent Hill: Book of Memories and that remake of Splatterhouse, but also classic stuff. A couple of days ago, we looked at the comprehensive history of Konami's Castlevania franchise. And this time, it's Arthur's turn.
Arthur is the heroic knight featured in the Ghosts n' Goblins series, which got its start way back in the 80's in arcades before becoming a staple on the NES. It soon evolved with a number of sequels, including Ghouls n' Ghosts for both arcade and Sega Genesis, as well as some interesting spin-offs, including the Maximo series.
With that, we've decided to look back at some of our favorite games in the series, including a few that are sure to infuriate you if you're not quite ready for the challenge. Step up, grab your best weapons (maybe knives?) and get ready to fight…
Not So Humble Beginnings
Ghosts n' Goblins first debuted in arcades in 1985, pitting lone knight Arthur against a demonic army who have kidnapped his beloved. Using a variety of weapons and skillful jumping techniques, Arthur is able to fight back to a certain extent. However, he can only take two hits. The first sheds him of his protective armor, leaving him in nothing more than a pair of heart-covered boxer shorts. The second hit, and he's done for. That made the game quite challenging, especially considering you had to run through all the levels twice in order to save your girl, Guinevere (also known as Prin-Prin, depending what version you play).
The games also included treasure chests, which meant one of two things. You could either pick up new weapons or restored armor, or it was a trap, with someone waiting to turn you into an old man or, worse yet, a duck. These were always crapshoots unless you figured out what chests delivered what.
Ghosts n' Goblins did rather well in the arcades, and though the translation was a bit rough on the NES, it performed admirably to boot. But in the late 80's, leading into the early 90's, Capcom upped the stakes with the follow-up Ghouls n' Ghosts, featuring improved graphics and music, more challenging levels (that, again, you had to run through twice), more weapons and armor types (including a set where you could unleash a super-charged attack) and a whopper of a final boss.
The game did very good in arcades at the time, but when Capcom opted for Sega to release an arcade-perfect port for their 16-bit Sega Genesis system, fans loved it, and it became an instant seller. The game was also released for Hudson Soft's low-selling Super Grafx system in Japan, for those who bought a unit. (You can download it through the Japanese PlayStation Store as well, if you're curious.)
Following that, Capcom went to the next level and, in 1991, released the console-exclusive Super Ghouls n' Ghosts for the Super NES. Featuring even better music (along the lines of orchestration), tougher levels and a boss that stood two and a half screens tall, it became an even bigger challenge to gamers than ever before. But they loved it, just like the previous games.
Capcom celebrated the legacy – in Japan, at least – with the release of the Ghouls n' Ghosts Collection, as part of the Capcom Generations package, for both Sega Saturn and PlayStation. All three games were perfectly intact with this release, and though it was rumored to come to both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, it never did. (Luckily, you can play all the games in Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded, and download them on the Wii Virtual Console service.)
It Takes a Demon
Arthur wasn't the only dark hero to come out of the Ghosts n' Goblins series. Firebrand, a ruthless winged creature who always wreaked havoc for him, appeared in his own games, starting with Gargoyle's Quest on the Game Boy in 1990, and then returning for Gargoyle's Quest II for both NES and Game Boy two years later.
But 1994 would bring his best game to date, a thrilling side-scrolling adventure game called Demon's Crest. Featuring a fantastic music score, breathtaking 16-bit visuals, tough boss encounters and a quest that took hours to complete, it changed the tone of the Ghosts n' Goblins series almost completely. Capcom had created a true classic here, but, sadly, they failed to give it any sort of re-release. It's definitely deserving of one.
Enter the Maximo, and the Return of Arthur
In 2001, Capcom chose to take a different path with its Ghosts n' Goblins series, shifting it into 3D for a pair of games featuring a knight named Maximo. The story is roughly the same – a maiden in dire need of rescuing – but the games, put together by the now defunct Capcom Digital Studios, featured terrific 3D visuals, as well as a music score put together by music genius Tommy Tallarico. The 3D gameplay also upped the challenge with better platforming skills and tougher enemies.
The original game was a hit, prompting Capcom to move forward with Army of Zin, a sequel featuring more mechanical terrors and a better storyline, as well as the option to buy more goods. Though the game was popular with fans, it didn't sell as well as expected, and Capcom scuttled any plans for a release of Maximo 3. (Luckily, you can buy the original Maximo: Ghosts To Glory on PSN for ten bucks.)
Maximo wasn't the only return to form for the series. Arthur returned in 2006 with Ultimate Ghosts n' Goblins for the PSP, featuring advanced graphics, more weapons and trickier vertical level design. It did all right, prompting Capcom to also release the Gold Knights spin-off games for iOS in 2009 and 2010. They're moderately cheap if you want to try them out.
So Where's Arthur Now?
Arthur's still doing very well for Capcom, as he's a featured fighter in both the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Ultimate spin-offs. Firebrand, his long-time rival, has also been added to Ultimate, bringing his own tactics to the fighting field.
Though it's great to see them in action in those brawlers, we can't help but think that Capcom may be planning another Ghosts n' Goblins game for the future. It'd be great to see Arthur – or Firebrand – in action again on the downloadable front. What do you think?