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Ghosts ĎN Goblins - Home Computer Versions


Part 1 - The story of Elite, the C64 version and the aftermath

Seeing how Ghosts 'N Goblins had conquered amusement arcades worldwide, it was only inevitable for a software company to pick up the rights to create home computer versions. Technology was seriously lacking back in the mid eighties but thankfully, Elite had a strong relationship with Capcom and thus, home versions of G'NG could be created!


Elite

Elite managed to churn out some pretty decent ports of comparatively successful arcade machines. Providing gamers with home versions of Commando, Bomb Jack, Paperboy and the like with mixed feedback, the European based Elite did wonders with other games such as Ikari Warriors, creating an alternative C64 version that was vastly superior to an awful US version. Anyway, Autumn 1986 (thatís Fall to you :)) and computer owners got to see what Elite had done to the chilling arcade cabinet that they couldnít beat, no matter how much money they put into the darn thing.

Shame the box art sucked ;-)


C64 Version

(Format: Commodore 64, UK Release date: September 1986, Publisher: Elite, Programmer: Chris Butler, Sound: Mark Cooksey)

"Ghosts 'n Goblins is the classic fighting fantasy story, heroic Knight to rescue beautiful maiden from the clutches of demonic Overlord..." (Eliteís interpretation of the Ghosts 'N Goblins tale)


After a slightly disappointing conversion of Commando (I thought it was okay personally but have since been informed that it is possible to run through the whole thing!), Elite proved themselves capable of bringing a Capcom arcade hit into the home, and then some! Whilst this is toned down to say the least, the most important aspects of the gameplay have been restored on the C64 faithfully. Brave Sir Arthur runs, leaps, dodges the birds of hell and crazed man-eating plants, throws weapons at corpses rising from the ground and collects bags of treasure, just like he did in the amusement park! But if heís not too careful, heíll lose his armour and then possibly his skin! These events all happen as fast and as smooth as they should and the difficulty setting is right through the roof, just as it was in the original! Control of our favourite knight was always going to be a bit of a problem, what with nearly all computer games of the time only using one fire button, but it manages to work fine here. Pushing up on ye medieval joystick makes Arthur jump and believe it or not, unlike a lot of other titles of the time, the game doesnít seem to get confused when one wants to climb ladders as opposed to leaping over the un-dead (this is also done by pushing up, yísee).

The awesome soundtrack of the coin op is gone, but this has been more than compensated for in the form of a new track. C64 music was pretty good for its time, and this is recognised even today as the belting SID sounds it created have quite the cult following, with some remixes of this one kicking about out there by numerous nostalgic freaks (no, really!). Whilst it isnít the best music Iíve heard in a video or computer game, Mark Cookseyís new track is darker than the Capcom original and yet still manages to suit G'NG right down to a tee. It works amazingly well with the first stage especially, beginning with a haunting bassline leading into experimental howling effects, building up to a fever pitch just as you reach the first demon! (If you check out the flash version of Ghost Trick, the tune that plays is a small fraction of Markís music!) I prefer the original arcade track myself, but this isnít half bad. As for the sound effects and the high score table jingle, theyíre practically perfect!


The Weapons

The Spear - Or the Lance, Javelin... Whatever you want to call it, Arthurís weapon of choice is just as effective in the C64 game...

The Sword - ...But you canít fault the much faster sword now can you?!

The Torch - Argh! I hate this weapon! Just as in the other versions, it works kinda like a grenade but doesnít go as far as youíd like it to.

The Axe - For some reason I always end up with this for the majority of the game! Goes slightly further than the Torch and isnít too bad if you aim properly, but it still ainít as good as the Spear or the Sword now, is it?

The Shield - Unlike other versions, the shield isnít a must have to complete the game. Itís still pretty good for slashing up zombies however!


Scoring

You get 100 points for a zombie or a bird, 200 for treasure, 300 for those plants and of course, a lot more for those demons and end of level guardians! Pickups include the bags of treasure, those flashy shields but alas, no extra amour in case our hero is reduced to his underwear. There sure arenít as many items as in the original.


The Stages

Stage One - The Graveyard / The Forest - An extremely accurate interpretation of the well known level, if a little shorter. Also, youíll notice midway through that our favourite demon (or least favourite depending on your point of view) now follows a strict enemy pattern. Not really a bad thing since this makes this point of game, one of the most annoying moments, a lot easier. However, once Mr Demon has been vanquished, the moving platform leading into the forest can be a right pain in the butt! But hey, a walk in the park just wouldnít be G Ďn G! Watch out for the one eyed gatekeeper known to some as Unicorn now! And get that key!

Stage Two - The Ice Palace / The Ghost Town - Again, a good port of the arcade game here with the blue fairies flying at you, the tricky falling platform, those annoying little guys that fly out of the house windows and the angry drunken football hooligans that treat our hero like heís an away supporter! (No, wait! Theyíre ogres!) Unfortunately, as correct as stage two is, this is where you begin to notice that something is amiss. At the end of the stage, only one Unicorn appears as opposed to the two in the arcade game.

Stage Three - The Caverns / The Bridge - "Wait a second! This is level four!" Indeed it is. We now jump forward to the fourth stage from the coin op, beginning with the dreaded moving platforms of annoyance! Arthur must then make his way toward the bridge over a fiery furnace! Soon though, if heís managed to hold on to his life (thou cares not for oneís armour!) heíll go one on one with... another one eyed monster! Yep, Unicorn appears yet again to seek revenge on our hero for beating him twice already in this game (and possibly laughing at his silly name too!) You just donít mess with that guy in this version!

Stage Four - The Emerald Cave / The Dragonís Lair - Okay, so now things get really confusing as the game takes you back to what is stage three on the original map. It begins with what is essentially the graveyard scene from level one. However, you soon notice that this all takes place inside a cave filled with bats, zombies, demons and those two headed statues that dare to spit at our noble knight! Dodge or destroy these evil foes, make your way up ladders, onto platforms and soon you might finally meet the deadly Chinese dragon himself! To kill him you gotta destroy each part of his body!

Sadly, after this stage, the game ceases to be (click here to see the ending for the C64 version). No doubt, some hardcore gamers of the time that managed to get this far will have been ticked off, especially since programmer Chris Butler pulled the same thing in Commando. However, the only thing Iím blaming here are the limitations of old technology. You did a good job in my book, Chris!


If there are any other problems with the C64 interpretation of G'NG itís that there simply arenít enough lives (Arthur has been granted five) and no credits to speak of. You could also say that the game is just too difficult regardless but to me that means that itís a very close conversion! There are other smaller niggles but those are just things that I would have liked to have seen in this version and donít really affect the game that much (for example, extra armour would have been nice, as would have inclusion of the map after each death. And thereís no frog obsessed magicians either :() Other than that, itís about as good as it ever could have been. It received a huge 97% in classic UK Commodore magazine from yesteryear, Zzap 64 and rightly so in my opinion.


Armour (Pros)

- Brilliant arcade port for the day, possibly the best in C64 history, and manages not to lose as much as the Spectrum and Amstrad versions

- Extremely recognisable graphics

- New tune is a good substitute for the original soundtrack

- Cut down but still very, very difficult to complete and just as addictive

- All in one load!


Underwear (Cons)

- Missing stages - stages five and six are goners

- Missing enemies and guardians: no second Unicorn on level 2, no skeletons, no Satan and no Lucifer... Bah!

- Credits would have been nice as would extra armour after Arthur is undressed!

- As good as the new theme tune is, itís used throughout the entire game and on the title screen thus grinding into your skull after a while

- Erm, did I mention all the missing stuff?


Overall

- All C64 games are showing their age terribly now, most of them are awful, but unlike other old crusty Ďclassicsí this remains playable. A superb port despite the missing stages.


Success

Released in late 1986, G'NG on the home computer was a huge success, loved by both critics and gamers of the time. Iím sure there were many people who never played or even seen the arcade version but loved their 8 bit counterpart. It probably even drew people like myself to play the coin op that had previously passed up on the opportunity (I was too scared before yísee ;)). Following the success of Arthurís first appearance on home computers, Elite decided to release 16 bit versions of the original G'NG on the PC, Atari ST and the Amiga about three years later. The ST and Amiga versions are somewhat legendary as both were deleted far too early after their initial release yet were praised to death for being almost arcade perfect ports! It was also around this same time that the 8 bit versions received a re-release under the Encore label and sold even more copies since they now cost around a quarter of the price they had been at originally! Indeed, this was when I finally managed to grab a copy of the C64 version!


And the artwork still sucked :). Heck, there is loads of original artwork in Capcom Generations! Why didnít they just use something (anything!) from Capcom?!

Coming soon: The Spectrum version! The Amstrad CPC version! Where the missing stages went and what they became! And a shocking Ghosts Ďn Goblins rip-off that has to be seen to be believed!

- Steve Halfpenny

Email: psycho_ste@hotmail.com


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