I’ll be skin and bone by the time I finish Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

super ghouls n ghosts logo 2

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1992)

Fitness regimes. How many have I undertaken in my life, on my never-ending quest to look good in underwear? Sometimes I hate to see those pictures of people who have undergone “transformations” from hulking 400lb behemoth to lithe javelin, because it goes against my ignorant presuppositions that people are either fat or skinny or skinnyfat at age 18 and then they’re set that way for life. People shedding 20 stone reminds me of my own vainglorious failure to drop (and keep dropped) far less weight.

But is it really about the numbers on the scales? Is it really about health? Of course not. If you’re a vain young man, which I used to be, then you’re dropping weight for one reason only – to look like a beast when stripped naked, therefore looking all the more appealing to the opposite sex.

Actually, there could be an additional motivation if, like me, you enjoy belly dancing in front of mirrors after a shower. You might even go one further than me and treat unsuspecting members of the public to your impromptu belly dancing sessions while you both wait for the bus. My clients tend to be so impressed by this that they actually let me on the bus first, so believe me, there’s no better way to skip a queue.

And you can go about weight loss in two different ways, either by improving your diet or getting more exercise. Well, it’d be even better if you could combine the two, but let’s not go too crazy here. After all, we want to see our veins and our collarbones again, but do we have to give up pizza and alcohol and run for miles in order to do that? Why not just take your own life instead?

Once you get down to the nitty gritty of trying to eat better, you’ll introduce yourself to the whole world of headaches that is calorie counting. And if you really want to get anal about it, you can get a kitchen scales and weigh your food while preparing each of your six meals that day. I mock these people for their anality, but I can admit it – I’d secretly love to join them.

Did you know I have never set foot in a gym in my life? Had you already guessed that? Well, fair enough, but you need to know that if I even went near any of my local gyms, the regulars my own age would fix me with one of two looks – either the look of aggression they’d used to give me when I reminded the teacher that he hadn’t collected the homework yet, or the look of disbelief and distaste when I’d join their teams in PE (sorry, “gym class”).

No, my appearance in a gym would be grotesque and devastating, and people wouldn’t be able to work out or take selfies or tag themselves in peace until someone pulled a fire alarm and I went off running scared. But not before de-racking as many weights as I could and dripping as much belly sweat as possible all over the machines.

Inevitably, or at least inevitably if you’re me, the allure of deep fried dinners and kegs of beer becomes too much for your strict regimen of celery, dust and water. Having near-starved yourself for the past number of weeks, or months if you’ve got a bit more staying power, you will immediately compensate for this by eating trolleyloads of grub and possibly putting on a lot more weight than you even had to start with.

So you’ve gone back to square zero and you are a victim of ‘yo-yo dieting’, a term that sounded a lot cooler before it was explained to me I must say. And in further bad news, it’s back to looking dismal in your underpants for you, with a brand spanking new set of shiny stretch marks to boot. What was all that effort of yours even for?

Even in your undercacks, you’ll have to go some way to looking as pitiful and miserable as Arthur does when he gets his armour knocked off him in Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. I suppose a few stinkers had to go on the SNES Classic, and this is one of them, alongside Kirby’s Dream Course.

I would say Capcom released this to shops in 1991/1992 but in reality it seemed more like they unleashed their cat claws and viciously scratched the consumers’ faces off, charging them fifty bones for the privilege. You are Arthur, a beleaguered knight of the realm who has to save his princess from the baddies. Pretty well written, that.

Unfortunately, what Arthur doesn’t know is that this quest to save the princess will see him traverse a number of nightmarish stages with hardly a single bit of respite or juice. There are no quirky bonus levels full of coins up in the clouds, put it that way. Everything is designed to kill you here, and everything will do just that, sooner or later.

Super Ghouls lumbers you with two-hit-kills rather than one-hit, which honestly doesn’t make a blind bit of difference – it’s enemies from all corners, and no amount of skill is going to save you. If you can predict the future, or pause every few minutes to check out the next 16 hazards on YouTube, then great.

Otherwise it’s a woeful grind of moving forward three feet, dying pathetically, respawning, moving forward the same three feet and remembering what killed you last time. A 50/50 chance that you get past that, and then onwards a few more feet until yet another sadistic piece of “game design” gets you, prompting you to spit venomously on the ground. Not so bad actually – does spitting consume calories?

Well, you can shoot enemies with various weapons, but they take 900 hits, so that’s pretty much out. As a particularly cruel joke, you can upgrade your armour which… still sees you losing it in one-hit. But the double jump is really classic: once you gulp loudly and make the terrifying commitment to actually press the jump button, know that this is your trajectory, and therefore your fate, sealed. You cannot move now, you are committed to that jump and by God will you jump. 

Now, what you can do here is invoke the double jump, but surprise surprise, I have more bad news for you: this double jump will affect your jumping trajectory with about the same economy of movement as Frankenstein’s monster. And that’s the only way you can change direction mid-air, short of getting whacked backwards by an enemy that has quite literally just spawned into existence and which you had no hope of avoiding from the start.

In terms of large commitments, jumping once in Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is buying a house whereas double jumping is having six children with an emotionally unstable, drug-addicted partner with a history of violence and a rap sheet as long as your arm. As you may know from your own experience, these kinds of arrangements tend to end in tears. On top of all that, the aesthetics are grim and unappealing, the entire soundtrack is shrill and unlistenable and the framerate is a disgrace.

And as for that wonderful last trick of having to beat the game twice to get the ending? I think I’d rather starve myself for weeks on end.

12 May 2018

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