E3 06: Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins Hands-On - Further Through the Graveyard

The latest build of Capcom's monstrous side-scroller revival left us bruised and bloody after our most recent play test.

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Remember how you used to get so angry with Ghosts 'n Goblins' maddeningly unforgiving difficulty so that you chucked your poor NES controller clear across the room? Those days are almost here again, except this time you probably won't want to fling your PSP any appreciable distance when you die repeatedly in Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins, the upcoming 3D-graphics-2D-gameplay update to Capcom's venerably ghoulish side-scrolling action game. After spending some time with an updated build of the game recently, we began to feel that familiar but not unwelcome ache in our thumbs once again.

Yeah, so you're still playing as Arthur, running from left to right and hurling medieval weaponry at the horrible denizens of the night. The game definitely plays just like you remember, with tons of enemies coming at you from all sides, including overhead and right out of the ground. You'll pick up plenty of weapons along the way, such as Molotov cocktails and a spread-shot crossbow. But just like the original game, Ultimate won't stop you from picking up an inferior weapon accidentally, so you should be careful when you see that next shiny power-up.

The mechanics here are a little deeper than in the original Ghosts 'n Goblins, which only let you pick up new kinds of weapons (and replace your boxer shorts with armor, when you'd taken damage). There are now different kinds of armor you can pick up, each with a different magical attack tied to it. The magic we got to try out had a big cloud of flame that fanned out from Arthur whenever we used it. You'll also collect shields as you traipse through each level, and these can be equipped from a menu screen at will. You duck to ready your shield, which will naturally repel any incoming frontal attacks. The downside is, your shield will break after it takes too much damage. But at least the more-advanced ones carry passive magical effects to help you out (though Capcom reps wouldn't tell us what these effects will be just yet).

Boxer shorts aren't anymore protective in 3D, dude.
Boxer shorts aren't anymore protective in 3D, dude.

Yes, this game is still ridiculously hard. Thankfully, Ultimate will boast a more-flexible difficulty setting than the original game. You've got novice, standard, and expert difficulty modes available, and before you start complaining about how you'll feel like a wuss having to play on novice (or at least, that's what we did), the expert mode is the one that's equivalent to the difficulty of the original games. So standard is in fact a little easier, but considering how we flailed around even on novice, the game's going to give you a run for your money no matter how you play it. At least novice dispenses with a few of the traps and enemies--but not that many.

Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins is a great-looking game from what we've seen so far, and it manages to really reproduce the characteristic art style of the originals in 3D. Though we didn't get to play much beyond the initial graveyard level--eventually entering into a spider-filled cavern--we did get to see one rousing boss encounter with a massive creature that towered far above the height of the PSP's screen. We're looking forward to seeing what other sadistic surprises Capcom has in store for us later in the game, and we'll eagerly tell you about them as the game's September release date approaches.

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