“Take a key for coming in!”
The kingdom of Hus is in trouble. Princess Prin-Prin (aka Guinevere), last of the royal bloodline and ruler of the kingdom, has been kidnapped by Satan, a minion of the evil Astaroth (aka Hades).
The evil demon king plans on using her royal blood to invade the human realm. As luck would have it, our valiant hero Arthur happened to be with Prin-Prin at the time of her abduction and sets off on a quest to right the wrongs of the threat that is Astaroth.
And so begins the first of many adventures of the hero known only as “Arthur” in the 1985 Capcom game, Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Ghosts ‘n Goblins (also known by the original Japanese name, Makaimura (Demon World Village) introducues us to Arthur, armed only with his trusty suit of armour and lance.
By destroying enemies carrying clay pots, has the chance of acquiring other weapons including dagger, an axe, shield, that god awful torch and a crucifix (more about THAT later). Playing the game back in the day, I always had a preference for carrying the dagger, as it allowed for super fast attacks, albeit doing less damage per hit.
I have vivid memories of playing Ghosts n’ Goblins outside of my local take-away. It was often crowded by a group of ‘big kids’ and one sunny day, my friend Matt and I took off for the shops, me on my bike, and Matt on his skate board. Once there I was challenged to a game of GnG by one of the local big kids. The loser was to pay for the next game.
Challenge accepted, even though I had no way of paying for an extra game were I to lose. (Surely not!?).
It wasn’t long before the score was well and truly stacked against me, and it was time to cough up the twenty cents for the his game. Lucky for us our young legs were able to elude them as we peddled / skated for our lives as they gave chase.
Unlike the ‘big kids’, Arthur was relentless. Even when he was left standing only in his now iconic boxer shorts, having had his armour knocked off by a nasty red-headed Zombies, Arthur pressed on. Through the gloomy Graveyard, trudging through the haunted forest, through towns, palaces and caves Arthur pressed on through the games six gates. Finally Arthur confronts Astoroth . . . and is met with this screen..
You are then forced to play the entire game on a higher difficulty level until you can confront Astoroth a second time. This time around, you had better pick up that crucifix weapon before you get to the end boss, because if you don’t, the game will restart at the beginning of level 5 and you will have to play through levels 5 and 6 again and again and again until you have the right weapon.
Aarrgrgghhhh!!! Now you know why it is commonly known as one of the most difficult arcade games ever released.
Despite all of that, I adored this game on so many different levels. The music and sound effects grabbed me, I loved the varied enemies from the zombies to the dastardly Red Arremer and the well designed and varied levels. I loved the little hidden extras like jumping in the right spot for hidden loot and wizards that appeared from gravestones to turn you into a frog.
Arthur went on to appear in a number of sequels and spin offs including Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Ultimate Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Marvel vs. Capcom: Fate of Two Worlds, Canon Spike for the Dreamcast, We Love Golf! for the Nintendo Wii as well as numerous cameos in other games. The original GnG was also ported to a huge number of platforms including the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, IBM PC compatibles, Commodore 16, Sharp X68000, Nintendo Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and NES. Phew.
I owned the C64 version of the game (which featured some great music by Mark Cooksey) which was actually missing a few levels from the original arcade, and the final boss battle was not with Astaroth, but with the Dragon. I remember a copy of the C64 being lent to a school friend at the time, Stephen, who returned it the next day having had it banned from his house by his mother who was not at all impressed with Satan being portrayed on the front cover of the game. Ha!
Did you love the Ghost ‘n Goblin series? Do you have your own memories to share about Arthur and his exploits? Leave your comments below. Right now, I leave you with this picture …