Though I’ve yet to beat this game myself, I absolutely love it. In fact, I love it so much, I even made an infographic about it once, while basking in the quiet darkness of the wee morning hours under a full moon and a little (a lot) of salacious imbibing.
So what is it about Ghosts ‘n Goblins that is so great, you may ask? Heralded as one of the most challenging games in NES history, some folks would be inclined to call foul, primarily citing its punishing difficulty as its sole disqualifying factor.
However, it is through this blood-soaked attrition that Ghosts ‘n Goblins is not only a testament to videogaming badassery, but also assumes the role of a wise old teacher, whose harsh lessons can turn us into battle-hardened warriors, but only if we’re brave enough to heed its clarion call. Starting with…
Modesty Matters Little Where Courage is Required
For those not familiar with Arthur and his heroic adventures, the titular first entry starts out with our hero in a full suit of armor. The only problem is that one errant hit from an enemy or one mistimed jump later will see Arthur traipsing through wave after wave of demonic hellspawn while clad only in his underwear. Where more modest folk would be inclined to seek refuge from strange and judgmental eyes, Ghosts ‘n Goblins encourages Arthur to continue his lonely and honorable quest regardless of his scandalous garb.
Having been kidnapped by Satan himself, Princess Prin Prin does not possess the luxury of time, and acts as Arthur’s stalwart motivation in a time where trite modesty cannot be entertained. Throwing shame to the wind in favor of saving an innocent life, Ghosts ‘n Goblins proves that superficial nobility and all of its trappings are trumped by sheer determination, but only if we possess the strength to let it drive us forward.
Nothing is as it Appears
Literary works innumerable have certainly painted a vivid and beautiful picture of the unicorn. A noble creature who exudes nobility, purity and strength. However, in the twisted universe of Ghosts ‘n Goblins, all living creatures are made horrific by the sadistic author of this terrible play. Here, the Unicorn is morphed into a wide, beastly creature whose tall, bulky stature and feather-light feet only instill fear in all who encounter it.
Not even humble forest creatures are free from The Devil’s hand: normally standoffish crows are sent hurtling towards Arthur, hellbent on his destruction. Even worse, the ones further under The Devil’s influence have taken on a red hue and attack our hero in a guided and lethal straightforward attack, occasionally casting Arthur into the icy depths of the town lake.
Even the nearby forest is not safe, with risen Forest Ghosts and mutated Eyeball Plants determined to bring Arthur’s quest to an end. And this does not include the freshly animated dead, which include Zombies and Skeletons who ambush Arthur if he ventures too close. To complete your quest, you must reject everything you think you know about the world, and believe the evidence of your eyes and heart; that is the true path to nobility.
Fear is But a Fairy Tale of Our Own Design
Anxiety and fear have long been the pitfall of many a great man. How does one best an enemy that can change into our worst nightmare before our very eyes? What exactly is it that shakes us to our very core? Perhaps the ghastly mutation of a once beautiful creature? The outright assault on Princess Prin Prin’s kingdom carried out by the vilest creatures ever witnessed?
Despite the precarious platforms, spell-casting Magicians, capering Blue Demons, evil Dragons and winged Red Arremers, Arthur’s quest remains crystal clear: rescue the Princess. Despite the fear that surely rises in his heart at the behest of a demonic army, Arthur must overcome it, despite the sheer impossibility of what he encounters.
The anxiety of losing one you care about, Arthur’s crippling disbelief at what he is witnessing, the slow erosion of the very foundation of his sanity, and the fear of being shackled to a lesser form or weapon all need to be bested in order to rescue the Princess. Fear is indeed a four letter word, and you would be wise to put it behind you. Let your goal infest your very being, and knock down any that get in your way.
May Unfamiliarity Give You Strength
In the face of harrowing odds, Arthur must complete his mission before the kingdom and the very world as he knows it is swallowed up by the Demon World. In order to do this, Arthur must leave the creature comforts of the castle behind and delve into the literal belly of the beast. Without knowing what is ahead, what he may know about the Demon World provides little comfort, as images of fiery bridges and towering sacrilegious structures fill his mind.
Now bereft of fear, the brave Knight can in fact harvest strength from his aberrant surroundings. When all that we know has been cast into the flames that now surround us, this newfound reality becomes our reality. At first unfamiliar but, much like what we’ve previously become accustomed to, eventually able to be mastered and even harnessed for the greater good.
Despite multiple failings, Arthur is able to adapt to his once unfamiliar surroundings, find a pattern that works, and once again become the king of his domain through familiarity, as odd as that may be at first. Fear not what is unfamiliar, Knight, but rather embrace it and come to know its machinations to truly know thyself.
Love Conquers All
Often cited as one of the most powerful emotions that we can experience as humans, love truly can drive us to greatness. Whether it be conquering an old foe through an act of kindness or finding the strength within to overcome impossible odds, love has the ability to light the fire within us that we did not know existed.
Fear, self-doubt and even demonic raids do not hold a candle to the power that love possesses. With its strength, Arthur is ultimately able to cast aside his fears, overthrow a demonic army, and rescue the love of his life, Princess Prin Prin. When one that we cherish is taken away from us by force, somehow, we can muster the courage to overcome frivolities and even impossibilities of nature to retrieve them.
If Arthur’s quest has taught us anything, it is that even the weakest of weapons can overcome the greatest of foes, as long as we fill our hearts with love and act with clarity. Act not with hate but love, and all obstructions shall fall, brave Knight.