Ghosts 'n Goblins (or Makaimura in Japan) is a strange beast. It's a wholly unforgiving and fist-shakingly difficult game that allows the casual player to see no more than the first few levels. Even a seasoned gamer would be hard pressed to complete it without pumping a large number of coins into the slot; effectively buying their way to the final bos. So how has such a gruelling game become so iconic? Why are we still going back to it 20 years on?
The answer is quite simple really. The game is fair. This means that although you're likely to use many expletives whilst playing, you always get the "I'll beat you next time" feeling as Sir Arthur crumples into a pile of bones for the 14th time.
Controlling our knightly hero, you must first run through a cemetery despatching the many zombies rising from the dirt using your trusty lance. Other weapons are available, but woe betide anyone who picks up the Flaming Torch, which makes your task all the more troublesome with its pitiful throwing distance. Take a hit from one of the demonic creatures and poor Arthur is stripped of him shiny armour and forced to run around in his underwear (which as any school kid who has ever forgotten their gym kit will know is the ultimate humiliation).
Arthur's quest to rescue his girlfriend, Princess Prin-Prin, from the clutches of the evil Astaroth then takes us on a journey through a desolate town and a vast and depressing castle until he reaches the Throne room, where his (expensive) final battle can commence. Or so you would think! Those malevolent souls at Capcom callously decided to make you play through the game twice before giving Arthur the happy ending that he so desires (assuming there's enough room in the coin box).
Despite its difficulty, or maybe because of it, Ghosts 'n Goblins is as enjoyable today as it was when we lost our first (of many) 10 pence to it two decades ago.
9 / 10