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Critical Reception: Capcom's Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins

This week's Critical Reception explores online reaction to Capcom's side-scrolling platformer Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins for the PlayStation Portable, a graphically updated entry in the classic Ghosts 'n Goblins series.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column explores online reaction to Capcom's side-scrolling platformer Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins for the PlayStation Portable, a graphically updated entry in the classic Ghosts 'n Goblins series. Debuting in arcades in 1985, the original Ghosts 'n Goblins earned a sort of infamy in the gaming world for its extreme difficulty, and is to this day regarded as one of the most challenging games of all time. Ghosts 'n Goblins was followed by two sequels -- the arcade release of Ghouls 'n Ghosts in 1988, and 1991's Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Both titles are generally considered to offer more forgiving gameplay experiences than Ghosts 'n Goblins, but are still brutally difficult nonetheless. Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins, however, is said to recall the unrelenting challenge of the original game in the series. Critics seem to disagree as to whether this is a good thing or not, as GameRanking.com's average score of 75% is comprised of ratings that range from as low as 40% to a high of 95%. Does a solid, satisfying game lurk under this tough-as-nails exterior, or does Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins' difficulty prove to be too unforgiving to make it a worthwhile play? Jeremy Dunham of IGN thinks that this difficulty is worth surmounting, and that Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins will be well received by fans of the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. "It successfully captures the spirit of a series that helped make Capcom a household name in the 1980s," says Dunham, who adds, "It takes what's an otherwise-ancient gameplay design and updates it with fantastic graphics, easy accessibility, and a couple of new twists. In other words, Ghosts 'N Goblins is a great source of old-school fun." The title is not without its problems, however. In particular, Dunham cites the game's sometimes-inadequate controls, which he says, "will definitely take some getting used to for those accustomed to having finer control of their onscreen characters." This flaw, however, did not detract from Dunham's overall enjoyment of the title. "Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins may not be a particularly original title (or one with highly-responsive controls)," Dunham concludes, "but it's still a great, great showpiece for Sony's handheld system." GameSpot's Ryan Davis agrees, to a certain extent. "Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins is a fully capable update of the 20-year-old game," Davis states in his 6.7-out-of-10 review, but this praise is accompanied by a laundry list of complaints. "What's really disappointing about Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins, though, is how the game is structured," Davis says, explaining that "the inherent design of the game relies on you wanting to play through (...) five relatively brief levels multiple times." Davis also alleges that Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins' rigid control scheme contributes heavily toward overall difficulty, and that the title would benefit from a more modern approach to jumping mechanics. Despite its potential appeal to the hardcore crowd, Davis concludes, "the very familiarity that will draw some people to Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins will leave others cold." 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish doubts that this appeal will exist for even long-time series fans, however. Branding the game with a rating of 4.5 out of 10, Parish states that, "the fundamental elements that have always made the series so compelling despite its esteem-crushing difficulty are either missing, compromised or broken in this sequel." Parish claims that unlike its tough-but-fair predecessors, Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins' challenge frequently crosses the border separating difficult from cheap. The title's biggest fault, according to Parish, lies in the fact that, "the constant onslaught of enemies demands perfection from players -- perfection that the clumsy object interaction and the stiff jump controls make impossible." Many reviews for Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins lament that frustration over rigid control schemes is a hallmark of the Ghosts 'n Goblins series, though whether this is a forgivable flaw appears to be a matter of personal taste. Gamers weaned on the abusive difficulty inherent in '80s-era video games may find a lot to like in Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins, but others could find the game too frustrating to enjoy.

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