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Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection: how Switch modernises an arcade icon

The RE Engine powers a revitalised platform classic.

One of Capcom's most celebrated and beloved franchises, Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection for Switch is something of a treat, modernising a classic game with Nintendo's console hybrid technology, while at the same time honoring some of its most iconic moments. It's also one of the first Switch games built using Capcom's excellent RE Engine - the other being Monster Hunter Rise. While a very different sort of game, Ghost 'n Goblins showcases just how flexible the tools and technology truly can be and while this release has proven divisive to fandom, I think it's an excellent effort overall.

Personally, I love the way that the high-end RE Engine combines with hand-drawn imagery to deliver a game that looks modern but feels like an evolution of the series' 2D roots. It's a look that really grew on me as I played but it is certainly unusual at first glance. Unlike, say, the two Ori games, which uses multiple layers to build its scenes with soft, alpha edges, Ghosts 'n Goblins looks a little different. Pixel edges are visible within the artwork - so it's slightly more aliased than, say, Ori or Cuphead. However, it does reveal the rendering resolution with relative ease. When docked, this artwork is displayed at a fixed 1080p resolution while portable mode drops to 720p instead.

These visible edges certainly result in something that feels like a hybrid of 2D and 3D, but it looks great overall. Each stage features significant depth in the parallax scrolling with many overlapping layers. Scenery is highly dynamic as well - of course, you can expect storms with rain and blowing trees, much like Ghouls 'n Ghosts, but there's much more here including stages that break apart as you progress leading to unexpected shifts in design. It's this flexibility that allows for some of the most ambitious level designs in the series' history while still building off the original designs. There's equal love for Ghost 'n Goblins and Ghouls 'n Ghosts here to the point where you have your choice of intro levels which pay homage to each of the series titans in turn - they're much longer than the originals but retain many of the same beats. It sets the stage for the modernising work that persists through the entire game and I feel it's a fantastic way to approach the design - it's mostly new in terms of layout but it recalls so much of those classics and looks beautiful doing it.

DF Retro x Modern in full flow as John Linneman checks out the excellent Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection, integrating the new Switch release into a complete series appreciation.Watch on YouTube

The control system is based on the second game, that means there's no double jumping but you do have multi-directional attacks. To put it bluntly, Arthur requires commitment - the timing of every jump is so crucial to success and it feels just as rewarding learning the game. The series is well known for its brutal difficulty and the necessity to learn - and it's just the same here as it was in the originals. Animation is possibly the most divisive element of the game. Essentially, characters animate almost like puppets with tweened limbs flopping around. I believe this style of animation is where comments suggesting it looks like a Flash game are coming from and I think I understand that - the concept is similar. However, I feel that's selling the animation work here short here - it's simply the approach Capcom decided to take in modernising the game while still delivering a recognisable experience. The same goes for the control as well - it's responsive but the style of animation combined with the slow movement speed is proving divisive.

But it's the use of the RE Engine technology that I find especially interesting - dynamic lighting creates far more interesting effects, while gameplay ties into the graphical innovation. One stage sees you snuffing out candles, making it much more difficult to see enemies - but it's essential to do so as the flames cause damage. It's an example of an effect that just wouldn't have been possible back in the day. I was also taken by the subtle camera work. Essentially, the camera zooms in or out depending on the scene leading to a very dynamic side view of the action. It looks excellent in motion and works well in perfectly framing the action.

Performance? This is an interesting topic as the series hasn't always been known for smooth frame-rates. The Super NES game was often very slow while the PSP game was capped at 30fps. With this new Switch game, however, 60 frames per second is the target - as it should be - but it's not without flaws. By and large, the game does manage to reach the target frame-rate the vast majority of the time but it's not 100 per cent stable, particularly when taxing weather effects or flame dominate the screen, where you can drop to 50fps territory. The other performance metric we can discuss is loading times - but that they are relatively brief and inoffensive. You also restart quickly upon death - I only mention this as long loading times could have spelled disaster for the game due to how often you're likely to die while learning the game.

Overall, Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection is an interesting release. RE Engine performs well but at the same time, it's a step down from the nigh-on flawless Mega Man 11 in terms of overall consistency. The presentation is beautiful, I feel, but also divisive - which is also true of the game itself. I know some fans have been disappointed by the game while others absolutely adore it. Personally, I love it. While I still prefer the second arcade game and perhaps even the Super NES rendition, I do feel this is a solid entry. The team clearly understands what makes these games tick and delivers an exceptional set of stages to play through. I also appreciate the difficulty selection. This is a tough game - really tough - but each difficulty setting scales in a way that anyone should at least be able to have fun with it.So while it's not perfect, I do feel that this is a game that stands proudly next to the likes of Bionic Commando Re-armed and Mega Man 11 in how it brings a classic franchise back on a modern platform. It's difficult but rewarding and I know I'll be playing and replaying it over the coming weeks.

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