Why won't my parents let me cross the damn street by myself?
Then I turned 10 and all that changed becuase my parents got me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. It was a life altering experience. It came with a freakin' robot! This robot would help me play games. I use the word "help" loosely. After using the robot twice I realized that he was more of a hinderance than anything else and that the same tasks could be accomplished much more expeditiously if I just used my toes on the other controller instead. Besides the robot looked cooler positioned like Johnny Five's younger brother on top of my TV.
The only games I had were Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt and Gyromite. Anyone that was in my shoes at the time quickly realized that these would only serve as mediocre entertainment until we could get more games. But games were expensive! Where the hell does a kid get $29.95? I know I did it, I got games, but I can't for the life of me remember where I got this cash.
So slowly my game collection grew. Metroid, Mega Man, Legend of Zelda, Castelvania, etc. Some games were borrowed from friends and never returned, others appeared as if out of nowhere, it was a strange phenomenon. No one actually paid money for T & C Surf Design, yet everyone seemed to have a copy. I'm pretty certain that I only paid for about six games in my life, yet my collection was about twenty-five games at it's peak.
Everyone has that one friend who's mother buys him everything. You know the kid. The one that had two S.S. Flags for G.I. Joe so that his entire basement/game room was filled by the enormous G.I. Joe fleet of ships. And 4 tomahwak helicopters sitting idle on his aircraft carriers. 4 tomahawks? I had none, where's the justice in that? My buddy had every G.I. Joe, every Star Wars action figure, enough legos to build a two car garage for his parents and of course plenty of video games.
My friend Eddie had already packaged up his Atari, Intellivision, Coleco Vision and Commodore 64 into Xerox boxes and packed them into his closet converting it to an "Electronics Hall of Shame." He had to make room for his 350 Nintendo games. I didn't even know they had that many. Think about it, that's almost $10,000 worth of Nintendo games in 1988.
So from Eddie I would occassionally borrow one of his games that I wasn't fortunate enough to possess. And once I picked out a game called Ghosts 'N Goblins. I thought, "I like ghosts, I like goblins... this must be a fun game."
I've never been so wrong.
From that point on I learned what stress was. This game was impossible. There weren't any tricks, no secret codes, no strategy, just a rather lanky and clumsy warrior against insurmountable odds.
The game starts out in a run-of-the-mill fashion. Our hero, Prince Arthur, and his girlfriend are having your average midnight picnic in a graveyard when Satan arrives to rain on their parade. Who could have predicted this? I think Satan's lawyer would build a strong case that Prince Arthur was "asking for it" but no lawsuit takes place, Arthur decides (while standing foolishly in his underwear) to take matters into his own hands using his own special brand of vigilante justice.
Acting as a rather inept judge, jury and executioner he ventures into the graveyard to teach Satan a lesson. What he hasn't taken into consideration was that before he reaches Satan he'll have to battle about 4,000 of his minions about 1/4 of which seem to look just like Satan himself.
I'm a Generation X-er, I've played a lot of video games. I'm by no means the caliber of say Lucas Barton from "The Wizard" but I can beat a lot of games. I give myself the benefit of the doubt that I can beat just about any video game put in front of me if I'm given enough time. The exception to this is of course, Ghosts 'N Goblins.
If you haven't played this game my advice to you is to NOT PLAY IT. It could be a fun game if it were at all possible, but it's not. And I know what you're thinking. I too have thought before that certain games were impossible but through perseverence proven myself wrong. This is not the case with Ghosts 'N Goblins, you can not beat it. Other games have frustrated me, but with a few hours of game play I've figured out how to accomplish the mission and done so.
Even the biggest game heads in elementary school, the ones who lied about everything (i.e. "I can beat Legend of Zelda without a sword." "I can beat Super Mario Bros. in 9 minutes." "I beat Mike Tyson in 11 seconds and then there's a super bonus round with Sugar Ray Leonard.") wouldn't open their mouth about Ghosts 'N Goblins, because they knew that no one would believe them.
I wouldn't believe anyone for a second if they said that they beat Ghosts 'N Goblins.
Our Hero Prince Arthur is arguably one of the hardest characters to control in video game history. He can't seem to do anything! You have an immediate psychological disadvantage due to the fact that he actually looks worried. When you jump it seems that he's so scared by the Prince of Darkness that he's soiled himself. You can't jump onto ladders, a feature present in even the most primative of video games. Sometimes he can't even get onto ladders! If he does succeed at it he has trouble getting off the ladder when he gets to the top. At the end of a level when Arthur has defeated a foe and retrieved the key he throws his hands up in the air. It's hard to tell whether he's celebrating or just giving up.
Arthur also is one of the weakest heroes ever. One hit from any of the most common enemies will leave Arthur braving the elements in his skivvies. ONE HIT! No power level, no hit points, no little red hearts that you can increase on your quest. One hit and your armor isn't just damaged it leaps from Prince Arthur's body as if it were frightened away by the perils that await it.
Then it's just one more hit and our hero turns into a pile of bones immediately. That's it. It's back to the beginning of the level. The only feature in the game that's good is the unlimited continues, but that only tortures people for even longer making them believe that this game is possible.
The enemies are fast and seemingly intelligent. I remember the first time I made it to the second level in Castlevania, I was walking along and these bats started flying at me up, down, up, down, up, down and one hit me. The next time I used my human brain and figured out that they'd do the same, I timed it, I jumped and I got by onto my next challenge. No such thing occurs in Ghost 'N Goblins. The enemies don't use any patterns! On the first board you have zombies walking at you in two directions and ravens flying at you from the tombstones and you're pounding on the control pad trying to get Arthur to respond to your commands.
There's the "Unicorn." I know what you're thinking but if he doesn't know that he's not a unicorn then I'm not telling him. Legend has it that if the Unicorn grabs a hold of Arthur with his big muscular arms, he will be thrown to the end of the stage. This never happens. Instead, he jumps around or walks around or runs at you or jumps on you and you never have any way of predicting which he's going to do. You can't even hit him 10 times to kill him because you're too busy trying to get Arthur to get his ass off a ladder.
Then there are the red devils. They hover in the air too high to hit and then dive down on our hero removing his armor or killing him 9 times out of ten. I've never seen any video game where there's no timing involved in an attack because no matter how fast you are, you can't actually be fast enough.
I'm telling you that if you haven't played this game that you shouldn't. But if you don't believe me, go ahead. You won't win. You'll do what I did. I finally made it to level 6 and beat it, I was so happy I could hardly contain myself until I discovered something. I hadn't beaten the game at all. I had to do it all over again.
This was no, "You beat the game, now try a slightly different version--Legend of Zelda style," it was the same thing. And it wasn't a, "You beat the game, now have some more fun by playing another quest." It was a full out, "You did not beat the game, you have to do it all again" message. And it's not any different... oh, except for one slight detail: THE ENEMIES MOVE TWICE AS FAST!
Now the 1st level, already the most difficult first level of any video game ever, is like beating an ordinary game in itself. Never mind the fact that you're racing against the clock because you know the Nintendo is going to decide to freeze up or pixelate for no reason. Even the game genie would leap from the nintendo if you would try to enlist his help. A real genie wouldn't be able to grant you the wishes you'd need to make this game beatable.
Frustrated I returned this game to my friend, discouraged and upset with the world. I picked out another game, it seemed similar but perhaps with more fun interspersed with the misery. This game was called Wizards & Warriors. I thought, "I like wizards, I like warriors, how bad could it be?"
So I get home and find the exact opposite of Ghosts 'N Goblins. The positive to its negative, the north to its south, the win to its lose. The way that Ghosts 'N Goblins was impossible to beat, Wizards & Warriors was impossible not to beat. The only way you could not beat it was if you just stopped playing or stupidly forgot to continue.
Our main character has as similarly awkward a jump as Prince Arthur, but unlike Arthur he can do things. He can avoid enemies (not that he has to, he has unlimited continues and enemies do very little damage) he can kill enemies, he can run quickly. It's like a dream after having just played Ghosts 'N Goblins. You can beat the first level in 5 minutes on your first time playing the game.
Another great feature is that when you die your revived character is placed standing in exactly the same spot he was when he was killed. There's none of the hassel of being put at the beginning of the level. I'll drink to that!
With ridiculous sounding special items like: the feather of fall, the dagger of throwing and the boots of force, it's a light-hearted romp through the cliches of poorly translated Japanese gaming. I loved it! I couldn't be sure at the time if this game was easy or if I was just it just seemed so after playing Ghosts 'N Goblins, but having played it recently I can vouche for it being incredibly easy.
Easy but fun, my only major complaint being that there is an overt lack of both wizards AND warriors in this game, but who cares. The direct japanese translation was probably called, "Ahoy, knight traveller man! Be prepared for the treacherous battle ahead!" and that just doesn't sell in the English speaking world.
No two games seeming this similar on the surface could possibly be any different. It seemed as if I'd found the positive and negative infinities of my 10 year old world. Every other game I've played since has fallen in between the two, a harder and easier game still await conception.