‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ was originally released in Japan as ‘大魔界村’or ‘Daimakaimura‘, the literal translation of which is “Great Demon World Village“. It is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Capcom and released to the arcades in 1988. It is the second game released in the ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ franchise and was arguably more successful than its predecessor both in terms of sales and revenue. As a result it was eventually ported to a number of other platforms.
Personal recollection – I first came across an upright version of the game in a bar called ‘ Moriarty’s’ (long since gone) on Queen Square in Wolverhampton in 1988. I was at University at the time and whilst everyone else was getting drunk and generally talking rubbish, I would occasionally have a quick blast on this excellent, but taxing game.
Once again, as in ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ you play as Arthur, a knight who is on a quest to rescue his beloved princess, Prin Prin. Three years have passed and the princess, along with many other local villagers, have been possessed and incapacitated by the evil dark lord Lucifer (renamed Loki in the English-language Mega Drive and Master System versions).
Gameplay is similar to that of ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ in that you control Arthur through a series of demonic and gothic horror inspired levels, fighting off all manner of demonic and undead creatures in your quest to restore the villagers and rescue the princess.
The gameplay has evolved somewhat from its predecessor in that as well as weapon pickups there are also different types of armour, which can give more fire power. Arthur can now also fire up and down (whilst jumping), in addition to left and right.
The player has to traverse five levels before they can enter the sixth and final level, Lucifer’s chamber. As is the tradition in most of the ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ games, the player has to complete the main levels (one to five in this case), twice. One the second play through Arthur is able to obtain a special weapon, which is needed to defeat Lucifer.. ..having equipped both the magic armour and the Psycho Cannon, the player must have also successfully defeated ‘Beelzebub’ the ‘fly boss’ at the end of the fifth level in order to be finally allowed into Lucifer’s chamber.
As with the original ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ the player is shown a fairly detailed in-game map at the start of each new life.
Level 1 – The Haunted Graveyard and the Haunted Hill
Level 2 – Village of Decay and the Village on Fire
Level 3 – Baron Rankle’s Tower and the Horrible Faced Mouintains
Level 4 – The Crystal Cave and the Icy Descent
Level 5 – Lucifer’s Castle (parts 1 & 2)
Level E – Lucifer’s Chamber
Treasure chests and the evil magician
Throughout the game, traversing certain locations will cause a treasure chest to be unearthed, which can then be broken open with the current weapon. When opened, the treasure chests can reveal special armour or another weapon. The special armour allows you to ‘charge’ Arthur’s current weapon (by holding the fire button) to release a powerful magical attack (e.g. lightening), which varies according to the weapon being currently used.
There are, however, two exceptions to what can happen when opening a treasure chest:
- More often than not an evil magician will materialise from the treasure chest. If not immediately killed by Arthur, the magician will cast a spell on him turning you into either an old man on crutches or a duck. Whilst both are very amusing to watch, the player is left defenceless against attack from the various enemies on the screen. The spell wears off after a while returning Arthur to normal;
- If Arthur is in possession of the special weapon, it will not charge up and have a special attack, unlike the other weapons.
The soundtrack and audio effects
The excellent and spooky original soundtrack and audio effects for the arcade version were composed by Tamayo Kawamoto. Many ports of the game to home computers in the late 80’s include an alternative soundtrack by Tim Follin which consists of some new arrangements. Follin’s soundtrack on the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga versions has received much critical acclaim (the selection of pieces and some scoring differs slightly between the different systems).
The CP Arcade System
The arcade version of ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts‘ runs on the Capcom CP System (システム), one of the first arcade system boards that ran games from replaceable ROMs. The system is also known as CPS1 to distinguish it from the successor CPS2 system. The ability to change games by simply replacing the ROMs and the cabinet artwork was a very welcome development and made the systems cheaper to produce and reduced overheads for arcade operators. However, the system was quickly plagued by a multitude of bootleg ROMs; in some regions these were more common than the official Capcom ones.
The system is based around a Motorola 68000 running at 10Mhz with a Ziolog Z80 running at 3.579 Mhz acting as a co-processor. The very competent sound abilities of the system were provided by a Yamaha YM2151 and Oki OKI6295 chips. The system adheres to JAMMA standards.
Insight – the Capcom CPS Changer
Because of the replaceable nature of the game ROMs the CP System was used as the basis for the unsuccessful, and largely forgotten, Capcom Power System (CPS) Changer. This was Capcom’s attempt to enter the domestic markets, similar to and aimed to compete against, the NeoGeo AES.
The CPS changer is little more than a SuperGun JAMMA TV adapter in a box with Super Famicom controller ports attached. Protection against using the arcade version of the ROMs in the home system was achieved simply by changing the physical shape of the game cartridge.
Capcom also released the Power Stick Controller around the same time as the CPS Changer, which along with the games completed the system. The Power Stick Controller was also compatible with the Super Famicon/Super Nintendo due to it using the same underlying hardware as Super Famicon controllers and their connectors. The CPS Changer was only released in Japan and was not successful.. ..only a handful of games were ever released for the CPS Changer and unfortunately they did not include ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts‘.
Ports to other systems
Due to the popularity of the arcade version of ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ it has received numerous ports to other systems over the years:
Various ports were released in Europe in 1989 for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Unfortunately, they were all developed by the same team (Software Creations) and are pale imitations of the arcade original. Whilst this is acceptable, indeed somewhat expected on the 8-Bit machines, even the versions on very capable 16-Bit systems like the Amiga are poor in comparison.
This is particularly disappointing on the Amiga, as the port of the original ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’, coded by Elite Systems, was almost arcade perfect.. ..the Amiga hardware, although not matching the power of the coin-op, was relatively similar.
Other notable conversions have included:
- A SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis port of ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ was also released by SEGA in 1989 in Japan and North America; and in 1990 in Europe. SEGA handled the conversion ‘in house’ and whilst lacking some detail compared to the arcade original, it is very close and one of the best games on the system. Due to the popularity of the arcade original the Mega Drive version was also one of the most expensive games on the system, retailing for £45 in the UK upon release. This version was re-released as a handheld TV game with Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition in 2005 and as a downloadable Virtual Console game for the Wii in 2007
- SEGA also released a Master System version of the game in 1990. Due to the lack of processing power on their 8-bit system, significant changes were made to the game play. The power-up system was modified, allowing the player to enter secret shops and upgrade parts of their armour. In addition, armour now includes helmets, chest plates and boots, which give the player access to new weapons and magic or allow the player to sustain more damage or increase their speed, respectively.
- An excellent SuperGrafx port of ‘Daimakaimura’ was coded and released by NEC Avenue in 1990 and is one of only five games released for this short-lived system. Whilst it captures the arcade game-play well, the music is different and some colours are changed.. ..however, some would argue that the music is actually nicer in this version.
- A pixel perfect version of ‘Daimakaimura’ was released by Capcom in 1994 for the Sharp X68000. This is no surprise as Sharp’s system was very close to the arcade machines of the time and Capcom actually used them as CPS development units.
- In 1998, Capcom released Capcom Generation 2 for the Sony PlayStation and SEGA Saturn in Japan, a compilation which included ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ along with ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ and ‘Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’. The PlayStation version of this compilation was re-released as a bundle in Europe with three other volumes entitled ‘Capcom Generations’ under the title of ‘Capcom Generations: Chronicles of Arthur’. Capcom later released ‘Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1‘ for the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox in 2005 in North America and Europe and ‘Capcom Classics Collection: Reloaded’ for the Sony PlayStation Portable in 2006, which includes all the ‘Capcom Generations’. Whilst the emulation on these compilations is excellent and in the main represents pixel perfect renditions of the arcade originals, the screen display is often a little dark on some of them.
Near perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original ROMs.
Whilst as infuriatingly hard as its predecessor, there is just as much to enjoy here. I would say that in general ‘Ghouls n’ Ghosts‘ is slightly easier than ‘Ghosts n’ Goblins‘, particularly in the middle levels, but the first stage is tough.. ..especially when you are ascending the ‘Haunted Hill’. Nonetheless, I love playing ‘Ghouls n’ Ghosts’ and the additional features and graphical upgrades are spot on.. ..this is a no brainer recommendation.. ..go rescue princess Prin Prin, again!
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