Tag Archives: ghouls ‘n ghosts

FGC #602 Gargoyle’s Quest II: The Demon Darkness

SCARYI know you would destroy the world if you thought it would be a little fun.

There are two kinds of videogame worlds:

  1. Our world (but in a videogame).
  2. Something like our world, albeit possibly at a different point in time. The allowed epochs are “medieval” or “future”. If a director is feeling saucy, “ninja” is also acceptable.

And that’s that. Think about nearly any videogame setting long enough, and you will see that it boils down to one of those two options. And even when you have things like robots fighting or ponies attempting to magic their problems away, it still winds up being a world that is generally recognizable as our own. Is your world full of electric rats and haunted keychains? Well, it’s still got department stores selling bicycles, so it is practically home. And we are all forced to identify with Middle Earth/Camelot environments repeatedly, so if a princess needs saving, we can and will handle it (even if she is a princess of a kingdom of mushrooms).

Of course, this makes perfect sense. A game will always have a win condition. Many videogames will attach a familiar plot to that win condition so as to encourage/enrapture the player. Rescue the princess. Defend the kingdom. Save the world. And why would you do that? Because you’re a good person? Phht, no! Because you recognize this world as something familiar, something like your own. Something worth saving. Even the greatest misanthrope believes we live in a world that is worth protecting against a giant space laser, so why not do the same in a digital world? Even with a slight change in time, location, or planet, videogames tend to include extremely human characters. And you like humans, right? 99% of people that play videogames are humans, so it is generally assumed you are on board with saving humans, even when they’re a little less humany. Close enough, right?

But how about some zombies? Or a kingdom of demons? How do you feel about saving the forces of Hell from… another Hell?

Today’s game is Gargoyle’s Quest II. It is the Nintendo Entertainment System-based (mostly) sequel to Gargoyle’s Quest, an exclusively Gameboy jaunt. The original, monochrome adventure portrayed our titular gargoyle, Firebrand, in his home dimension of the Ghoul Realm in glorious pea green and/or gray. The NES version got a full-color upgrade, and the Ghoul Realm is… well…

Real estate values are low here

Look, I do not want to judge, but if you have seas the color of blood, you are either living on an Earth that has had a few too many Impacts, or you are distinctly somewhere you don’t want to be. And who does want to live there? Why, all the enemies from Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, of course! You have a significant undead population, several demons apparently wearing clothes, and a substantial number of kings and queens who have additional heads on their abdomens. This is the Ghoul Realm, after all, it would be weird if there were not any ghouls running around. Hell, the plot even begins with a quick note that this is all taking place before “Man” even became much of a thing…

But lest you think this gargoyle’s quest is steering toward a twist that involves the rise of a number of boxer shorts-clad knights assaulting Firebrand’s kingdom, do not worry, this is a strictly demon-on-demon violence affair. The “dark light” is sweeping through the realm, and, in its wake are crippled kings, double-deceased zombies, and at least one group of scientists that are reduced to gibbering idiocy. The ultimate source of this destructive wave is Breager, a demon lord that was summoned to the realm by Evil King Goza (granted, we are just assuming Goza is a king because he owns a castle. He could just be ludicrously wealthy). Breager is a four-armed giant (double Firebrand’s height!) that can summon a bevy of fireballs without so much as leaving his throne.

Breager is also indistinguishable from the rest of the “good” demon cast of Gargoyle’s Quest.

Terrible bugsLet us examine Firebrand’s allies. Samuel of Sidon is a cross between a dwarf and some manner of furry bug. Hecate the fallen angel is a minotaur/lizard hybrid. Queen Verona is a gigantic chunk of ice-monster. Morock is the infamous Astaroth that rules Ghosts ‘n Goblins as the capital-d Devil. Lethe is that second version of Astaroth from Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Barr is a boss from Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and is mostly notable for his detachable head. And Rushifell/Loki/Lucifer is the final monarch of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. In short, every one of Firebrand’s named supporters is not remotely human at best, and a noted antagonist of humanity at worst. His opponents are not any better, as we’ve got a “head in the abdomen dude” right out of the starting gate, but with a serpent tail in place of legs. Then there’s a Death Balloon (no further explanation necessary), Sand Frog (ditto), and Twin Guardians that could be Firebrand’s evil twins (before you literally fight Firebrand’s evil twin). Then we’ve got the final boss fights, which are back to “more heads equal more evils” thinking.

So, yes, if you, the fleshy human reading this article, ever encountered one of Firebrand’s friends or foes, you would run away screaming. Yet you, the player controlling the Red Blaze, are saving these unknowable horrors from slightly different unknowable horrors. Why would you do such a thing? You are saving a world of “people” that are only going to live on to make Arthur’s life that much harder! Why are you even entertaining this nonsense?

The answer is simple: because you can.

Fine, stay in your chairLet’s not pretend you have to play videogames. “But thou must” may be how Dragon Quest starts, but you absolutely have the choice of turning off the NES and grabbing a whole different game off the shelf. No one is making you play Gargoyle’s Quest anymore than anyone is forcing you to play Super Mario Bros. one world at a time. There are warp zones for a reason! But you can beat every last Bowser if you want, just the same as you can maneuver Firebrand into banishing all those demon-demons. It is not about the story, it is about the challenge. It is about taking this unique hero, be they pink puff or bat-winged monster, and seeing if you can succeed. Are you saving a kingdom of fungi or fun guys (that eat people)? Immaterial! Videogames offer the only story telling medium wherein you can actively and continually loathe the protagonist, but enjoy exploring the world that they inhabit. Or, to put a point on it, hate the player, love the game. Particularly if the player hates you.

So, yeah, you’re gonna save the Ghoul Realm. You are going to save every last monster that will one day define the concept of monsters. You do not have to. No one is saying you must. But you will. It is fun, and you like fun things, right?

The world is going to burn, and you lit the match. All because you liked flying with the silly little red dude…

FGC #602 Gargoyle’s Quest II: The Demon Darkness

  • Let us reflectSystem: Nintendo Entertainment System, and an enhanced, region-locked Gameboy version.
  • Number of Players: Firebrand simply cannot work with others.
  • Port-o-Call: If you can stomach the lack of color, the Gameboy edition does seem to be the definitive version. That desert that is completely devoid of landmarks in the NES edition has a whole dungeon now! And you can earn a homing-fireball! Tell me that wouldn’t make a few fights about 200% easier.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Like Kirby’s Adventure, this is one of those great, late NES titles that wholly justifies platforming games by granting some limited flight options. That was just what everyone needed after experiencing the glories of raccoon-travel. Other than that, it is basically a Mega Man game, and who can say no to that?
  • RPG Elements: The world map is entirely perfunctory, and adds pretty much nothing to the gameplay experience other than an easy way to backtrack. However, it does go a long way toward making the Ghoul Realm feel like a big, wide open area. The Ghouls ‘n Ghosts version of it is, like, three lil’ levels.
  • For the sequel: Demon’s Crest is the sequel, an unfortunate end to any and all gargoyle quests. Now, that plot learned a thing or two from its prequels, and you are now actively avenging Firebrand against a world/Phalanx that has wronged him. See? It is not about saving demons, it is about making demons feel bad. Totally different universe of storytelling there.
  • This is not a clawStory time: Gargoyle’s Quest 2 is actually the prequel to Gargoyle’s Quest (1), and is another one of those situations wherein almost the exact thing happened to an ancestor/descendant pair. However, it is worth noting that the Firebrand of Gargoyle’s Quest (1) is almost certainly the same protagonist of Demon’s Quest, and probably the jerk that directly deals with Arthur on a regular basis. Of course, I am no authority on the subject. All these red, winged demons look the same to me.
  • An End: The penultimate boss is the hardest boss in the game. There, I said it. You unlock unlimited flight, high jumps, and dragon-fire breath before the real final boss, and then that donk doesn’t even get out of his chair. Meet the Red Blaze, dumbass, and burn until my grandson kicks your ass all over again.
  • What’s in a name? The Twin Guardians are clearly a pair of malevolent gargoyles. This is Gargoyle’s Quest. Is there a reason they can’t just, ya know, be called gargoyles? Did Disney copyright that, too?
  • Favorite Boss: I appreciate the Maze of Mirror’s Doppelganger boss, and how attacking your own reflection will only hurt you. And it utilizes Firebrand’s “enemy” attacks of shooting fire and randomly swooping around! Hey, wait a minute, why can’t my Firebrand swoop like that?
  • Did you know? The original, Japanese version of the title screen is kickin’ ass with a cool, animated frame of flames. The American/European title screen is so, so boring by comparison.
  • Would I play again: This game gets breezier every time I play it. I would be down for a new gargoyle-based quest, but, until that surfaces, I will happily give the old one a go.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dante’s Inferno for the Playstation 3! Folks, it looks like ROB wants me to go to Hell. Please look forward to it!

Every single one of us, devil inside

FGC #585 The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse

This cave is creepyWith the recent release of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, a lot of people are revisiting the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise. And it isn’t all that hard! For a franchise that is fondly remembered from the early days of gaming, there have not been that many GnG titles through the generations. Aside from a few reboots of varying quality, the franchise barely got out of the 16-bit era without all but disappearing. Maybe the Resident Evil and Devil May Cry franchises filled the “horror” shaped hole in the hearts of Capcom? Or maybe it is more similar to how the Resident Evil franchise ultimately mutated and birthed the Devil May Cry franchise? After all, we could see a mutation in real time with GnG. 1991 saw Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, 1994 saw Demon’s Crest, and, in 1992, we saw the middle point between the two: The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse.

Admittedly, this was a bit of a deviation from the original Ghouls ‘n Ghosts formula. First of all, as keen-eyed players will notice immediately, Arthur is temporarily retired for this adventure, and has been replaced by a sentient mouse man. This is significant change in the formula, but this “Mickey Mouse” is apparently a noble warrior, not unlike Maximo or Firebrand of Demon’s Crest. And, speaking of Demon’s Crest, this was clearly the genesis of Red Arremer’s greatest skill in that title: switching between different “costumes” to utilize different abilities. Mickey does not come equipped with Arthur’s array of lances, daggers, and crossbows, but he does have the ability to switch between magical attacks, a firehose, and a grappling hook. And, if all else fails, Mickey has been granted the strength to leap on his opponents. Hey! It worked for that plumber guy!

This isn't spookySpeaking of Mario, The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse is undoubtedly one of the easiest titles in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise. It is funny how a few minor changes make a difference in difficulty level. Mickey has three hearts to Arthur’s two, and additional “golden armor” hearts only make our hero even more resistant. Furthermore, there is a “shop” feature that can provide extra lives and powerups, so all those “money bags” that Arthur was always hording serve a purpose here. This would eventually be utilized in Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection with the collectible sprites that offer new abilities, but here it just offers Mickey a rudimentary leg up on his opponents. But these enhancements don’t mean it’s all fun and games for Mickey. The main offensive options for the costumes all require “energy”, and, while refills are abundant (and outright repeatedly provided during boss fights where they are a requirement), Arthur never had to worry about rationing his torch output in the middle of a heated battle. And that grappling hook powerup? Let’s just say that Arthur, double jump or no, would not survive the platforming challenges Mickey would be forced to negotiate. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a pile of hitpoints when those hearts take a dive into a pit…

But don’t worry, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts fans, once you see the worlds Mickey has to traverse, you’ll feel right at home. Presumably in an effort to draw in a new audience, this Ghosts ‘n Goblins title starts with an inviting opening stage, forsaking the traditional graveyard filled with zombies for a “happy” wooded area. But things get spooky fast, as there are malevolent, mutated bugs and bees around the forest, complete with a gigantic “dragonpillar” that recalls the three headed dragon of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. From there, Mickey receives “magic powers” to simultaneously use a ranged attack and swim through a giant tree. Is this “Dark Forest” being unusually damp meant to evoke the iconic second stage of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and its haunted ship and raft ride? Probably! This is a franchise known for occasionally relying on “oblique” references to older games. And this haunted forest is all topped off with an eerie giant spider invasion. Can you get scarier than arachnophobia?

Too hot!Well, yes, the Fire Grotto, is where the ghouls really kick into gear. The whole stage starts with a downward elevator ride that recalls a similarly deadly situation in Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (though at least that elevator had the decency to go up). Then Mickey does the typical Demon Realm entrance thing by traipsing through a fiery Hell. Practically everything is on fire in this stage, and, while the firefighter costume does mitigate the various heated issues, you still have to deal with platforms that are apparently fueled by cranky souls. And a flaming stone guardian to top it all off? Be afraid, Mickey, be very afraid.

The following stage, Pete’s Peak, once again follows the Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts route of including the “cave area” after its blistering welcome, albeit this level is a lot less… fleshy than its sister stage. However, the boss of this miniventure is the same Cockatrice that menaced Arthur back in the previous title. You just keep spitting eggs, you gigantic, evil bird!

Mickey’s Stage 5 is arguably repeating Arthur’s adventure to an exact degree. The Deep Chill aka Snowy Valley outright reuses layouts from Arthur’s icy prison, though with the added fun of introducing a number of “sleds” that speed things along. This is the first stage that does not introduce a new “power”, so it is nice to see something that generally helps our hero (and confirms, once again, that Arthur’s biggest plight is that he has to slowly walk everywhere). In the case of the boss of this stage, we have no hard confirmation that SGnG’s Bēruaroken is an ice-skating walrus when thawed out, but it does seem like this monster does have a similar stance to Arthur’s icy opponent…

WeeeeeAnd then the finale of any good GnG game: the haunted castle. As alluded to in earlier levels, the final boss of this title is Pete, a giant, monarch-style creature in the vein of Astaroth, Lucifer, or Sardius. Does he have an extra face under that regal cloak? Who knows! But what we do know is that Pete’s Castle is the proper finale for this franchise, as it is a challenging, imposing area filled with monsters of all shapes and sizes. And spikes! The ol’ Capcom staple of just covering every goddamned thing with spikes and then throwing in a light boss rush is all that stands between Mickey and rescuing his princess. (… Who is a dog. And, to be clear, that is not a judgment of a princess replacement, Pluto is apparently literally a dog. At least this time the ending won’t reveal the “damsel”’s measurements.)

And that is the whole of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts 2: The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse. Mostly. The ending implies that the whole of the adventure was a dream, and then Mickey awakens to a game of catch that is exactly how this whole plot kicked off in the first place. Does this imply that Mickey is stuck in an endless loop, forever searching for the “goddess bracelet” that would allow this hero to finally end King Pete permanently? Probably. Those loops are a GnG traditional, after all…

Stay away!For anyone curious about Mickey’s future involvement with the GnG franchise, not unlike The Red Blaze, Mickey would go on to have his own “spin-off” trilogy, but would not see another title beyond the Super Nintendo. And, while many of Mickey’s most prominent features would be carried forward to Demon’s Crest, this slight deviation in the GnG canon is now just as discarded as Maximo.

Sorry, Mickey, I guess your turn to be the star of something will have to come later. Apparently history is going to remember Sir Arthur as the leading man of this franchise.

FGC #585 The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse

  • System: Super Nintendo, and, later, Gameboy Advance. It seems like a lot of SNES games wound up on the final Gameboy (and we are better for it).
  • Number of players: 2 players in both cases, but alternating on the home console, while you can work together on the GBA. Of course, you need two cartridges to do that…
  • It's chillyPort-o-Call: The GBA port is obviously going to have a few more bells and whistles, as it was released a solid decade later. You can play as Minnie! And fight in competitive multiplayer games! And Disney is part of the title now, for some reason! Just in case you thought Capcom owned Mickey Mouse!
  • Favorite Costume: The mountain climbing gear has so much potential, but is only really built for one level (or the level is built for the costume… whatever!). However, the utility of the firefighter costume is gigantic, and it never wavers. Would you like to extinguish flames, battle soldiers, or freeze snowballs? You can do anything with the power of firefighting!
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Speaking of specific costumes, this game is inextricably linked to Nintendo Power #44, the “bonus issue” that included a fold-out cover and a “Mega Man Spectacular”. This is also the origin of a Mario vs. Wario comic which reveals that Mario used to be kind of a dick. That is appropriate, given the presence of the cover boy.
  • ToastyDid you know? Speaking of Nintendo Power, the following characters/things appeared on Nintendo Power covers before Mickey Mouse: Wile E. Coyote, Darth Vader, Felix the Cat, Darkwing Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Chip ‘n Dale, the Joker, the Starship Enterprise, and Dracula’s severed head. Seminal Pugsley Addams headlined the following issue.
  • Would I play again: This is a fun little game… but emphasis on “little”. Once a GnG game is less challenging, it can easily be cleared within an hour or so. And that’s not bad! It just means I probably won’t bother again for a while. But I shall return to this interpretation of the Demon Realm…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour! Get ready to race around your favorite theme park in pursuit of nuts! Please look forward to it!

I miss the 90's

FGC #574 Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection

Here they come!This was either the absolute perfect time to release Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, or the absolute worst.

Yes, folks, we’re going to talk about COVID, the past year, and probably squeeze some ghouls ‘n ghosts in there, too.

Let’s pretend this article is actually about the title matter, though, and address Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection. It’s a Ghosts ‘n Gobilins game! In the year 2021! And it is a 2-D “old school” title like its forebearers! No 3-D Maximo for this Arthur! And, in a lot of ways, it follows the Contra 4 model of being “the most Ghosts ‘n Goblins”. Yes, there is new content across this latest Demon Realm, but it’s hard to point at any one thing and not see how it is a precise evolution of something that existed in a previous G ‘n G title. As an easy example: all of the bosses are foes Arthur has faced before, but they all have new patterns, so they are effectively new challenges wearing old skins. Same for the many venues Arthur must traverse, and the surprisingly high number of demon stomachs he is going to have to trudge through. Technically there is nothing and everything new here, and it’s a fun time for G ‘n G fans old and new.

But you don’t play a G ‘n G game for the scenic vistas, you play for the challenge. And does Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection challenge the player? Hell yes. GnGR leans completely into the challenging spectacle of previous G ‘n G titles, and even seems to ascend to the level of “masocore” that is usually only reserved for Super Mario Maker stages made by sexual deviants (you heard me, you maniacs!). In fact, it is possible that GnGR focuses too hard on difficulty, because there is a definite feeling that the “flow” of previous titles has been forsaken for checkpoint-based mini challenges. This title does not contain anything as dramatically epic as Super Ghouls’ second stage, so it is hard to escape the impression that the game was designed around a difficult-and-escalating series of “challenge areas”, not a cohesive Demon World. Or, put another way, for reasons that will never make any sense, there is the boss of a stage that is a deteriorating stone dragon, and then you must progress through a series of stone dragon riding challenges in the next stage. Wouldn’t the previous boss be Let's run!an excellent capper to that area that contains nothing but its brethren? Yes! But then the difficulty curve would arc in the wrong direction, and we cannot have that. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is about the challenge, so everything about its world is about the challenge first and foremost. You are playing a Ghosts ‘n Goblins game, over everything else, you should be worried about maintaining careful offensive with continual defense.

And constantly dodging everything in a concentrated, eternal effort to survive? Yeah, that’s been this last year in a nutshell.

I’m not writing this article for right now. I’m writing this essay so I don’t forget what 2020 has been. I’m writing this article so I can remind myself what has happened. I’m writing this for future generations trying to understand why there are millions of weirdos that act bizarre because “oh, they lived through COVID”. If you’re reading this in the Spring of 2021, shortly after GnGR’s release, then this is all going to be something you are inordinately familiar with. And that “something”? It’s that life has been impossible for the last year.

While it is still fresh in my mind and not polluted by nostalgia, here is the arc of the last year or so. As of New Year’s Day, 2020, I was celebrating in Athens, Greece on a European trip that my (now) wife had planned for our vacation. At the time, there were news reports that China had some kind of weird virus thing going on, and, by the tone of the reports, they were trying to contain it by setting up concentration camps. Ha ha! Weird, backwards China is stomping all over the rights of its citizens because they can’t keep a virus under control. And here I am, exploring the Parthenon with thousands of other tourists, and petting strange cats I found on the street. Hey, babe, it’s okay, I’m not going to get worms, I’ll wash my hands eventually.

We eventually came back to the States, and I formally asked the love of my life to marry me. That was the final day of February (Leap Day!), and there wasn’t much of a question as to whether she would agree to the arrangement, as we had already literally set the date a month prior (we travel backwards through time on occasion).Slashy slashy 11/20/20 was chosen because the numbers looked cool. Sweet! We proceeded to have a rockin’ engagement bash thrown by our friends, and we were partying like Gatsby. Things were looking up, and I’m pretty sure we hadn’t heard about that virus from another continent since January. Is that thing still around?

And then we hit March. It is remarkable, in retrospect, how quickly things changed. On what was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, many bars were not only 100% open and operating, but they had all sorts of “special” drinks that mocked the current situation and recommendations. Would you care for a quarantini? Or a maskgarita? COVID was considered little more than a punchline, and, while the locals were well aware that New York City was already suffering, nobody thought to consider that a virus ravaging an area a short car ride away would actually impact the local population.

And then we hit real quarantine. Offices hastily closing and frantically switching to “remote” setups. Retail businesses randomly declaring themselves essential because they sold absolutely critical items, like Funko Pops. And a deluge of information that may or may not have ever been correct. Masks were either essential or a silly precaution only employed by the most germophobic nerds. What could qualify as a mask? A scarf? A bandana? A banana? Whatever. And don’t touch anything! Or maybe do, but use hand sanitizer constantly! Assuming you can buy it at all, because it has been sold out for weeks! And speaking of shopping, leave your groceries in the garage for three days, because apparently they need to die, venture through the underworld, and then be reborn on the third day in order to be cleansed of all impurities. It was a weird time! You practically had to have a score card to determine whether someone wearing a facemask while bicycling was either the biggest dork on the planet, or a person that was infinitely more responsible than your average plebian.

WeeeeeBut it was all in pursuit of one thing: nobody wanted to get sick. The Corona Virus was reported as deadly from day one, and even people that claimed it was little more than “a big flu” knew they didn’t want to get sick, regardless of survivability. As more data was released regarding how ‘rona could impact the lungs of even a healthy person in unprecedented ways, it was confirmed that this was a virus that was more than just a week or two in bed. So we all did the only thing we could: we dodged. We followed the rules. We stayed home. If we went outside, we avoided other people. We went shopping as little as possible, and (if at all possible), during less crowded hours. We touched nothing. We hugged nothing. We spent all day, every day either “hiding” in quarantine, or venturing out only when it was possible to assess the value of every last action, and whether it was “worth it” to get the ‘rona because you had to go out for more paper towels. You want to die for that Taco Bell run? Be my guest. I’ll attend your funeral on Zoom.

And I’m not even going to consider the number of people that had to make that decision for the purpose of continuing to have an income. My wife and I both were fortunate enough to be in positions where we simply changed tracks to remote working (gee, that “switch” sounds so easy now), but so many people were forced into situations wherein they literally had to risk their lives so more fortunate folks could have food or healthcare. And this is to say nothing of people who had no choice but to risk their wellbeing for their family or friends that required their presence. I took up a job as a Legend of Zelda NPC, and walked around the neighborhood, dropping off supplies and food at the front door of my parents. But I am (again) lucky that any of the older folks in my life did not need constant care, nor did they require me to physically be there (potentially with an “outside the bubble” health aide involved, too). We threw around the term “heroes” a lot during the start of the pandemic, because it genuinely did seem heroic to risk your own lungs to help another, whether that be through produce stocking or helping an older person get upstairs.

RiitBut, as this life of dodging everything wore on, an important question began to surface: when can we have fun bbagain? And, as alluded to earlier, this presented a difficult question in my own life: when am I going to get married?

Our original wedding date was November 20, 2020. That sounded cool an’ all, but by the time we were finally able to meet with “the venue” in June, that already seemed dangerously optimistic. What had initially been a two week quarantine was still going strong come Summer. Some fragments of normalcy had begun to return (the only reason that we were meeting in June was because hotels had just been allowed to legally reopen), but we were still nervous about setting any concrete plans for November. It would be one thing to plan a wedding if it was a simple affair, but at the point you have to make decisions about booking a DJ, you want to know that your deposit is not going to go to waste. So, as of June 2020, we made the decision to push the wedding out to March of 2021. Surely “one year later” would give the world enough time to recover from all of this nonsense. Surely putting some money down on March being a good time would be a safe bet.

Lord, typing this in March of 2021 makes me wonder how I was ever so stupid.

In all honesty, I do not remember exactly when we determined we would go back to the November 20th date. I know a significant factor was determining that there would be no way in hell that allowing my wife’s family to fly in November or March would be a good idea, but I am not certain when that information was first evident. Regardless, we decided to reinstate the wedding on November 20, and plan for what would be (in my wife’s own words) “the most expensive backyard BBQ ever”. It would be outside. The guest list would only include local people that we were generally already interacting with at that point anyway (aka a lot of coworkers). We would pray for a sunny day, and hope for the best with… everything.

Hot stuffAnd if I thought life was nothing but dodging before, planning a wedding with the looming threat of coronavirus and its attendant issues was its own, zombie-deluge level challenge. Not only was there the general fear that the wedding cake or dress might not be available due to a local outbreak, there was also the hazard that a government could, at any moment, essentially make our wedding illegal. Okay, we vowed that the actual wedding ceremony would happen one way or another (if every participant had to be on a stream, so be it), but the actual reception was the tough nut to crack. We wanted to celebrate our union! We wanted to at least have the appearance of a normal wedding (albeit one without hugs)! We wanted to have some goldarned pigs in a blanket, dammit!

Spoilers: our extremely limited backyard BBQ of a wedding reception did go off without a hitch. The dress was there, the cake was there, and, more importantly than all of that, literally no one got sick as a result of our wedding. We did everything right, apparently, and the small enclave of our friends and family that attended had a good time and did not contract a deadly disease. It was everything we could ever hope for, given the circumstances.

And when I think of what could have happened, I am still shaken by what I could have done.

I do not know what I would have done if I had been showing some kind of symptoms shortly before the wedding. Or, I suppose if I’m being completely honest, I think I do know what I would have done. I think I would have gone forward with the wedding. If I knew I had coronavirus, if I outright tested positive, I know I would have cancelled everything. But if I “just” had a strong headache, a less responsive sense of smell, or was just kind of generally sneezing more? And I did not have enough time to get the results of a (presumably rapid) test? I probably would have gone forward with the wedding as planned. Hey, everybody gets an upset stomach before their wedding, right? It’s probably nothing! Why should I cancel the months of planning and disappoint all those happy guests with a no-show groom? Why not endanger the lives of everyone I know and care about for a chance at some decent cake?

Bad timesAnd it is freaking horrifying knowing that it is possible you could do that. It would have been difficult to cancel the wedding and its attendant features so close to the event, so I probably would have gone ahead and allowed people to be infected because to do otherwise would be a hassle. But I did not have to make that decision, and I possibly would have made the right decision (just reschedule, you absolute asshole). And, relatedly, it is equally horrifying to know that anyone else could be in that same situation, and making the same wrong decision. And infecting everyone around them. And spreading a deadly virus even further. And all in the name of getting those little eggroll things that only seem to exist at catered events. Acknowledge how you must multiply all of these potentials for virus transmission by your entire life and everywhere you have to be just to survive, and life becomes a gauntlet of dodging, dodging, dodging. Anyone could have made selfish decisions. Anyone could have made well-meaning decisions to help others, but wound up infected as a result. Anyone could be a threat to you, your family, and everyone you know. And it takes little more than a sneeze…

And that has been life for the last year. That’s the gameplay of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection. Dodge, dodge, dodge and hope you don’t make the wrong jump into an abyss. Hope you have the right equipment for all the challenges you’ll face. Hope you don’t have to make a terrible choice because of the sheer randomness of what is happening. In much the same way an hour and a half flew by while I fought the same boss over and over, a year has now gone by while I spent all of my spare mental energy trying to determine if it is safe to deal with some jerk that seems to genuinely believe it is safe to go see Tenant. We have all spent the last year dodging assaults from all possible directions. We’ve all spent a year playing Ghost ‘n Goblins Resurrection.

But, end of the day, at least I can say I beat Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection. And we’ll find all the shadow orbs in this pandemic, too.

FGC #574 Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection

  • This sucksSystem: Seems like we’re only looking at Nintendo Switch at the moment.
  • Number of players: Arthur is a single hero kind of guy, but he can get assistance from a second “assistant” player. But that’s cheating!
  • Get those upgrades: Holy cow, Gold Armor is a game-changer. And I would not have ever known if not for the skill unlock system eventually leading to an “armor powerup” spell. Yes, it takes forever to charge, but being able to start from practically any checkpoint with a gold armor powerup is amazing. It well and truly makes GnGR one of those games that frontloads the difficulty, and things get a lot easier as you level up.
  • Favorite Weapon: Gold Armor-Crossbow is practically Contra’s Spread Gun, and it can fell a Red Arremer on its charge in a single shot. I liked being able to sling arrows already, guys, you didn’t have to sweeten the deal that much.
  • Favorite Boss: I like me some flamin’ devil dogs. Fire Cerberus? Whatever that puppy happens to be called, he’s my favorite boss, as he is pure G ‘n G in a nutshell. The whole thing seems impossible at first, and there is always a level of randomness, but you can overcome if you figure out the patterns and tells. Or you have that golden arrow thing, too. Whatever works.
  • Step into the Shadows: I was expecting the “second run” of GnGR to be the typical “the real game starts now” wherein the stages are the same, just harder with additional traps and spawns. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the “shadow stages” are more or less entirely new challenges with familiar level layouts/graphics. Good on GnGR for “for real” doubling the length of the game, and not just including its own Very Hard mode.
  • ChompyDid you know? Satan appears as the third boss (or fifth, if you are completing all the stages). There are (many!) demons that stand above Satan in this universe. And that reminds me: despite being Satan, the big guy rarely gets to star as a final boss. Any games you can think of where straight up named-Satan is the finale, and not some random fallen angel (ala Lucifer)?
  • Would I play again: Like a Mega Man X title, it is genuinely fun to replay earlier stages with a complete set of upgrades. And it is challenging-fun to play the game without a precise loadout. So I’m probably going to play the game with one of those choices. … But never both.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Big Bird’s Egg Catch for the Atari 2600. We’re going from 2021 to 1983! Please look forward to it!

These dorks

FGC #345 Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

SLASHAs the proprietor of GoggleBob.com, I feel that, on occasion, I must take a break from talking about mutant ninjas, fighting games, and whether or not Sonic is good, and talk about the real issues of the day. I have an obligation, nay, a responsibility to tackle the tough stuff, and get some real answers for my loyal followers.

Today, we shall answer one simple question: is gross scary?

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is the pick of the day, so let’s start our research with that apparently forgotten franchise (“Didn’t you just play a game featuring Arthur, like, yesterday?” “Yes. Shut-up.”). Ghosts ‘n Goblins was technically an arcade cabinet that started the franchise, but most people remember that title from its NES port (and also the Commodore 64, assuming you spent a lot of time in your school library, nerd). Despite the fact that no one made it past the second level, most people remember GnG fondly. And it was spooky! There were ghosts and goblins! So the franchise flourished, and we eventually had Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and its follow-up, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Lot of little n’s, and a lot of ghouls later, we never saw the franchise again, and it was probably for the best. For the best.

But for only containing three entries, GnG had a surprising amount of variety. No… wait, that’s wrong. GnG had almost zero variety between entries, and that’s what makes it all so very confusing. All of the GnG titles start in a graveyard with infinitely respawning undead creatures. Every GnG game must be completed twice, and you have to find some lousy weapon to access the final boss. The final boss is always a huge pile of suck. Possibly every boss is a huge pile of suck. Oh, and, give or take the fidelity of your chosen system, you might be fighting the same monsters as last time, but… uh… are they supposed to be the same? That’s Firebrand again, right? Was he always supposed to be wearing armor? Why is he naked again in the next one? Wait… is this supposed to be a prequel or sequel?

Going up?And it’s that all important bestiary that can confuse the layman. Look, let’s face it, while you or I know that there is some nuance there, is there really that much of a difference between a large monster man with a head in his chest and a large monster man in armor with a head on his arm? We’re still dealing with the same basic concept (head in unusual place) and the same basic boss pattern (head in unusual place can shoot fireballs). Infinite zombies may as well be infinite grim reapers, and an annoying bird is always an annoying bird regardless of genus. Firebrand is the marquee monster of GnG, and he does set the scene for a number of generic monsters across the series. This isn’t Castlevania, you’re not going to encounter Frankenstein(‘s monster) or a werewolf: GnG is all about the demons of the Demon Realm, so we’re basically looking at an army of wings and teeth and maybe a monster plant. Obviously, Capcom created monsters that are better than the modern 3-D standards of “some wolves” and “some wolves, but a different color”, but even the most ardent GnG fan has to admit that it’s difficult to recall which title had the blue guy with an axe (not to be confused with the blue guy with a scythe).

But Ghouls ‘n Ghosts does have something that separates it from its peers: it’s gross.

The original Ghosts ‘n Goblins had endless hordes of Hell, but they were polite hordes of Hell. When Arthur encountered a tattooed ogre, that monster would purely punch a ball (or something?) at his rival. Zombies merely meandered, and multi-headed creatures had the good sense to spit fire, not icky spit. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts took it all a step further. Now there are pig-demon orcs, and their main method of attack is… barfing. And, no, there is no question here. This isn’t lava or… pig juices? Is that a thing? No, this is definitely brown/green puke, and it’s delivered in a disgusting, nonstop stream. And it doesn’t break with the pigs! There are wriggly demon tongue platforms, realistic bugs bigger than buildings, and the infamous Boss of Level 4. Its name is Ohme, and it is an immobile slug with five beating, exposed hearts and a plethora of parasites of multiple shapes and sizes. It’s disgusting, and the way its flesh (scales?) opens to release more and more… bugs is like something out of Dante’s Inferno.

BLECHActually, let’s talk about Le Inferno for a moment. Aside from being Facebook for an era that barely had moveable type (Pope Boniface VIII doesn’t like this post) it also had its share of… fart jokes. Or… something like that. Yes, we’ve all heard of Satan eternally devouring the betrayers while stuck in the coldest of ice blocks, but your English teacher may have skipped over the part where flatterers are cursed to endlessly muck about in a pile of crap. That’s it! Eternity wading through poop. It’s not Shakespeare (note: also full of shit), but it doesn’t exactly sound like a fun time. And Dante knew that! Dante knew that something we’re intimately familiar with on a daily basis (again, to be clear, I am talking about pooping. Everybody got that? Poop) is still considered inordinately gross. It’s a perfectly natural thing! That has created entire industries! Look, there is no other reason in the universe that air freshener exists other than for yo’ stinky ass (and, yes, I am just talking about you. Eat more fiber).

And it is simultaneously ridiculous and completely justified. Poop is gross. Pee is gross. I want to have a man (or pig man) puke on me about as much as I want to jab out my own eyeballs with a rusty pipe. I’m sorry, did that simile disturb you? Yes, blood and guts are gross too, even though many of us eat fresh animal flesh on a daily basis. All of these “natural” secretions are sickening because they’re familiar. Everyone reading this article knows the appearance, texture, and odor of crap, so the idea of splashing through it is wildly unpleasant. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a lot more relatable than the average afterlife punishment of eternal fire. You’d get used to the heat after a while, right? But poop? Not so much.

DIEAnd maybe that’s why gross is scary. A demon is abstract, worms slinking over your flesh are not. Try as I might, I do not believe there is any circumstance in my life that could ever lead to me facing a fire breathing monster. But having someone puke on me? That could happen. It’s a lot less likely past my college days, but the very thought of such a thing, to feel the chunky, sticky slop of someone’s digestive track on my own skin? I might have to shower for a solid week at just the thought of such an encounter. And, while it’s a little unusual that such puke would melt Sir Arthur’s flesh to the bone, I’m not quite sure it’s a fun experience for Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ protagonist, either. Can you imagine picking pig vomit out of your beard? Ugh.

So I suppose Ghouls ‘n Ghosts did separate itself from its GnG brethren. Low-fi ghosts and goblins haunted the first adventure, and, while Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts seems like the better game, it did return to the sterility of the first adventure. Give or take a bloody conveyer belt and monster belly in SGnG, the series forsook gross for the multi-headed dragons and fire breathing wolf-bears of traditional fantasy. And, while we don’t exactly need Firebrand literally pissing all over Arthur (we have Deviantart for that), it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the franchise to return to its “gross” experimental phase. We’ve got the mature rating for a reason, after all, and maybe we can have it applied to a game for something other than blood and tits. Gross is scary. Now maybe we can see some frights beyond jump scares.

Poop scares.

FGC #345 Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

  • System: Sega Genesis for the review, but also available in arcade cabinets and Amiga… did that thing have discs? Cartridges? I have no idea. And before you say it, let’s suppose that “gross” had nothing to do with not appearing on a Nintendo console…
  • Number of players: Two player alternating, which is basically one player for people that can’t share.
  • Favorite Weapon: I love the sword. I love the idea of having a powerful, short range weapon in a game that is meant for projectile weapons. I love Zero. Though I don’t love that the sword makes one of the bosses literally impossible. That’s not so great.
  • So, did you beat it: Yes! And, because this game seems more manageable than the other GnG games, it might have been the first I actually “for real” beat (as in, didn’t use a stage select code). Oh, also, the ending is completely incomprehensible.
    ... What?

    I’m pretty sure the actual writers never beat the game. Or at least the proofers.
  • The Devil Made Me Do It: Firebrand first appears in this title above a pile of skulls. Like, a giant pile of skulls. A pyramid of skulls. I assume this is meant to represent every death-by-Firebrand that happened in the previous title.
  • Did you know? Color palettes for monsters are determined by area. Watch the reaper.
    ... What?

    Adorable.
  • Would I play again: Maybe, when the moon is full and the witching hour is upon us, I might give it another go. I prefer Super (mainly for laser daggers), but this ain’t bad. And it’s a bit more manageable than its less gross predecessor, so that’s a point in its favor.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Taito Legends for the Playstation 2! Hey, remember when you used to be able to buy like sixty “retro games” for twenty bucks? Taito does! Please look forward to it!

QUACK!