Developer/Publisher: Capcom || Overall: 8.5/10
A famous side-scrolling series from Capcom has made its way to the PSP in the form of Ultimate Ghosts ’n Goblins. Infamous for its difficulty, Ultimate Ghosts ’n Goblins is presented in beautiful 2.5D (2D in a 3D world). You take control of Arthur, a knight that must save a princess from the clutches of evil by battling through five hellish stages, collecting hidden golden rings along the way. Using the tools and weapons available along the way, UGnG has a very simple objective and requires little understanding in terms of how to play. Ultimate Ghosts ’n Goblins earns its rank of being one of the most difficult games to come out recently, capturing a retro feeling at the same time.
For new players to the series, Ultimate Ghosts ’n Goblins is flexible, but stays true to its objectives. When starting a new game, you are presented with three difficulty modes: Novice, Standard, and Ultimate. The game is basically the same through all of the settings, but how the game treats you dictates the difficulty. In Novice mode, you’ll start out with many lives, and after you die your weapons will remain powered up upon re-spawning. In Standard, you only start with two lives and no post-mortem powered-up weapons. In Ultimate mode, your armor is weak, breaking in only one hit, and when you die, you’ll restart at the beginning of the level (and with regular weapons) rather than re-spawning close to where you had died.
The frantic side-scrolling action that comes with the game might be hard to get used to at first, but when you learn what to expect from the game in terms of enemies materializing from thin air, it becomes more manageable. Crybabies will find no solace here — the whole point of the game is to be difficult. Enemies will pop out of nowhere, infinitely respawn, and attack you from all sides. Capcom pulled out all the stops to make the game as difficult as it can be, but they still managed to make it fun. While there aren’t many stages to work your way through, the difficulty and the randomness of the enemies and obstacles will work toward extending the game’s life. Not to mention there are quite a few items to collect and earn that will help extend the life of the title.
In a game like UGnG, story is not important — a basic “save the princess” scenario is laid out in the beginning of the game, and off you go destroying enemies. Many weapons, types of magic, and shields are available for use. Each weapon has its own advantage or disadvantage depending on what you need to accomplish. Some weapons can be used quickly while others take longer between each shot. Weapons include daggers, whips, arrows, and many more. Magic spells can also be used to your advantage and usually pack the punch needed to get through a tight spot. Shields also help with defense, but one shield in particular, the Dragon Shield, is an important one — it can be used to help you fly for a limited amount of time, helping you reach places that would otherwise be impossible to get to. Different kinds of armor are also available.
Throughout levels, random treasure chests of either a blue or red color will appear. Well, they seem like they’re “random” but in all actuality their appearances occur when you touch predetermined objects or areas. Within these chests are weapons, power-ups, or even new magic spells that can help you complete your journey.
The gameplay mechanics are tight and responsive. The game depends a lot on jumping over hazards or getting through an obstacle in a certain amount of time, both requiring a lot of skill from the player. Most of the game is played through the use of three buttons — Square for using weapons, X for Jumping, with circle being used to activate magic. Stage design is the absolute strong point of the title, even though it can be merciless at times. Many of the hardest parts of the game depend on timing and only having a limited amount of chances to make your way through obstacles. Boss battles, like the rest of the game, are challenging yet fun, and occur at right times to break up the pacing of the game.
Other shining aspects include the graphics and sound. Through and through, Ultimate Ghosts ’n Goblins is visually a great game to experience. Practically all the levels have at least some sort of eye candy, as can be seen in the screenshots. Sound effects and music are also of top quality. The soundtrack is very good as well. The full audiovisual package is quite amazing for a handheld, especially considering that load times don’t last much longer than one to three seconds at a time, and no loading or slowdown is seen at all when playing through a full stage. The game runs at a solid frame count, which lends itself greatly to the high action that UGnG prides itself with.
A number of things keep the game from being perfect, however. The most annoying of the flaws is not being able to control your double-jump while in mid-air. When you need to jump onto an exact spot, it is very hard to be accurate. For example, if you’re next to a gravestone and need to jump on top of it to activate something, you can’t go right up to it and then jump up on it. You have to go back a few steps and then jump onto it. It’s simply impossible to change direction while you’re doing a double-jump, enforcing the fact that you’ll have to look before your leap. Another disconcerting aspect of the game is the fact that there are quite a few elements not explained well, or even at all. For example, there is no explanation of what a shaking grave stone means or what to do with circular portal-looking things. Little things like this pull the final product down from being as enjoyable as it could be, because all it does is create more frustration (as if the regular gameplay didn’t do that enough as it is).
Gamers looking for a true challenge will find Ultimate Ghosts ’n Goblins to be one of the most enthralling side-scrolling experiences to come out for quite some time. As a throwback to the retro days of when the side-scroller was king, Ultimate Ghosts ’n Goblins is a game that shouldn’t be passed over. It’s a perfect portable game to have, with especially fast load times and quick starting gameplay that can easily kill time.