The Nerd: Happy Halloween. And guess what I have here? I was doing an autograph signing not too long ago, and one of my fans hands me this piece of paper. It's a petition to review Ghosts 'n Goblins. Yeah, he went through the line and got everybody to sign it. Now, what's there to say about Ghosts 'n Goblins? Well, it's not a bad game. It's made by Capcom, so how could it? But it's one of the most difficult games in the NES library.
The Nerd: This game is harder than fossilized triceratops turds; I'm talkin' Mega Man combined with Castlevania, that kinda hard. Games this ruthless and unforgiving should be illegal, and I've never gotten a petition to review any other game. That's a true testament to its infamous legacy, and the eternal frustration that scarred us all since childhood. I remember my first time playing it: I got it for my birthday, the same day I got my NES.
Young Nerd: You wanna play Ghosts N' Goblins?
Young Nerd's Friend: Yeah, I do!
Young Nerd: Look!
Young Nerd's Friend: I do!
The Nerd: Of course, I had the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge, but the first game I attempted was Ghosts 'n Goblins. That's right, this is the first NES game I ever played. And that's one Hell of a game to start with.
Young Nerd's Friend: Go on, shoot 'em, shoot 'em!
Young Nerd: I don't know how!
(Shows gameplay of "Ghosts N' Goblins")
The Nerd: Naturally, I got my ass kicked. This is what it would've looked like my first time playing the game. I sucked balls. This new console was way different than the Atari 2600 I was accustomed to.
The Nerd: In the 80's, these were the kind of brutal-ass games that kicked us into shape and heightened our senses. Made us into fuckin' tigers. And now, 25 years later, I'm gonna put my gaming skills to the ultimate test and see if I can finally beat this fucker. Because it's Halloween. There's no excuse. I can feel in the air. The time is right to play some Ghosts 'n Goblins.
(The Nerd inserts the game into his NES, and thunder crashes and lightning flashes)
The Nerd: It begins with one of the most shocking intros in video game history: A couple just got done having sex in a cemetery. I'm not even kidding. What else does it look like? He's not wearing clothes. Next thing, Satan shows up as if saying "Yeah, I wanna get in on some of that," and takes her away. That's the plot. Is that the greatest opening to an NES game or what?
The Nerd: So you get suited up in your knight's armor and set off to rescue your girlfriend, fighting off a never-ending army of ghosts n' goblins, and zombies, and devils, and ravens, and dragons, and squealing ghosts that look like pigs in a blanket. Yeah. I guess they couldn't fit all that in the title.
The Nerd: Of all the enemies, the Red Devils are probably the most annoying. They stay up in the air like a little sissy, and then swoop down. That's the only chance you have to hit them, but that's also when you're bound to get killed. If you try to outrun them, they will chase you all the way through the stage. You encounter the first devil in the middle of Stage 1. This guy is a beginner's trap that's bullied unsuspecting gamers, and its arcade cousin stole more quarters than you could imagine. The first time playing this game, I figured, "He must be the final boss!" Nowadays, it's silly to imagine a game being that short, but back then I was accustomed to Atari. The idea of a game lasting longer than 5 minutes was beyond my comprehension. My only clue was that every time you die, you're shown a map screen, letting you know how much of the game is left. It's only 6 levels, plus the final boss stage. Doesn't sound that hard, but just you wait.
The Nerd: Your starting weapon is a javelin. It flies in a straight line, and kills whatever it hits. Seems like a good deal, right? Well, you'll learn how useless it is once you get to the first level boss, which the instruction manual calls a Unicorn. Yeah, it looks just like a unicorn, doesn't it? Anyway, this guy takes a million hits. You need a faster weapon, like the knife. The knife is the only weapon that's fit to the challenges that lie ahead.
The Nerd: Now we're in level 2. This is where shit starts to get criminally insane. How do you like jumping around on platforms taking leaps of faith while avoiding tiny enemies and projectiles? Next, these little bastards come flying out of windows. Then you're navigating ladders, while fighting these big guys that squat and drop shits, and take about as many hits as the Unicorn. If you didn't get the knife in level 1, don't even try. That's my words of wisdom: anyone who wants to get far in this game, my rules are: Number 1: Get the knife. Number 2: Get the knife. Number 3: GET THE KNIFE. You wanna cut steak with a plastic spoon? No. Get the knife. I can't stress it enough. They'd lock me up in an asylum. "Get the knife, get the knife!"
The Nerd: (sees a flame on the ground) Oh, fuck my uncle. You see that? That's a flame weapon. That thing sucks. It's the second worst weapon in video game history aside from the cane in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! It always misses your target, and if two of them land, you have to wait for the flames to die out before you can throw any more. You don't want it. But look, it's sitting on top of the only ladder that goes down. The weapons don't go away. They just sit there. Even if you run far away, then come back, the weapon is still there. You're probably thinking, "Why not just get the flame and then die?" Well, when you die, you keep the weapon. It never changes until you find a different weapon. That's bullshit, but on the plus side, when I have the knife, I get to keep that, too.
The Nerd: You know what I had to do? I had to reset the game and get the knife in level 1 all over again. And then guess what? The flame appears again! It's a trap. Well, I figured it out. The flame appears when you get to the top floor, which you don't have to do. You can stay on the second-to-top floor and progress to the right. So, that's my other tip: Don't let the flame appear on level 2. Speaking of weapons, there's also an ax, which I found deep into level 6. Want to know what that does? Well, I'm not gettin' it. The level 2 boss is two Unicorns. Did I mention, "Get the knife!"?
The Nerd: Level 3. You know what makes this level hard? The Devils. The whole stage is an endurance marathon of Devils. This is where you start to realize exactly what makes the game so difficult. It's because you can only get hit twice. No, it doesn't have all the pitfalls like in Castlevania, the respawning enemies like in Ninja Gaiden, or the disappearing platforms like in Mega Man. But imagine playing any of those games without a fucking life bar! In Ghosts 'n Goblins, the first time you get hit, you lose your armor. Second time, you lose your skin, and that's it. It's as if they programmed the game and then said, "You know what? It needs an Expert setting," and then they programmed it, but forgot to add it in the menus. It's a theory, but It's the best guess I can come up with. Why else would they make the game so fucking hard?
The Nerd: Well, one fair thing I can say is that there's no Game Over. Well, technically, there is. It says "Game Over" when you die three times, but there's unlimited continues, and it always puts you back at the checkpoint where you left off. So the game's incredibly fair when it comes to that, but it's so relentlessly hard, it almost doesn't matter anyway.
The Nerd: There's actually a glitch I found out where you hit the Devil when he's just barely off screen, then run away. Wait like 5 seconds, come back, and he's gone. YEAH! How do you like that, you fucking game?! It's cheating, but for a game like this, I don't feel bad about it. Now, I actually have a chance against the dragon boss. After observing his pattern and getting some practice, he's not too hard to beat.
The Nerd: Level 4 starts it off with a big jumping game on floating clouds. It's a mess. After the checkpoint, you're on a fiery bridge with flames rising below, and projectiles at every step of the way. The level boss is another dragon. There's no tricks I know of. The only way to do it is to fucking do it.
The Nerd: Level 5. Now you're in what seems like the final stretch of the game. I mean, you're in the final tower, after all, but I guarantee, these last two levels will take you the longest of all. But that goal is so tempting: Just to be able to say you beat Ghosts 'N Goblins. Or you could just aim for the score. Yeah, I didn't mention yet that you find money and treasures all around, which are only good for points. That's right. No power-ups, no life bar, but plenty of points, if you just want to get that high score.
The Nerd: The level 5 boss is Satan. He's just like the swooping Red Devils. It's worth mentioning that he's called Satan, but the last guy is the Devil. I always thought Satan and the Devil were, um, the same thing?
The Nerd: Level 6. Oh, boy. This is the infernal Hellhole of the 8-bit underworld. There's nothing more synonymous with Hell, eternal damnation, fire, and brimstone than level 6 Ghosts 'N Goblins. This will make you curse the day you ever picked up an NES controller. Your body will shake, your hands will be sweating all over the controller, your heart will be racing out of control, you'll forget to breathe and your eyes will be burning from not blinking. These are all common symptoms of NES fever. You get it from playing games like Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter 2010, the Famicom Transformers, and this one.
The Nerd: First, kill the Unicorn. By now, you should be good at it. Then, kill the dragon. He's an asshole, anyway. Then, a shield drops down. No, it's not some power-up. It's a weapon. That's right, a shield is a fucking weapon. In other words, you don't want it. Right?
The Nerd: Next is one of the most frustrating moments of the whole game. A big guy wanders back and forth. If you go up the ladder, he kills you. The only thing you can do is wait for him to go away from the ladder, I mean, far away, and there's no pattern. You can lure him toward one side, but, for the most part, he just wanders around as he feels like it.
The Nerd: I've actually ran out on the timer waiting for this guy. Yes, there's a time limit. As if the game isn't hard enough. Once you do make it to the top of the ladder, you're in a real bad spot. One step to the left triggers the skeleton, and one step to the right triggers the Red Devil. You do not want to wake that guy up. You can even wake him up by throwing a knife in his direction. That means if the big guy is to the right, you have to count off exactly ten hits. If you throw one extra knife, you'll hit the Devil, he'll wake up, and then it's Game Over.
The Nerd: The next obstacle is the worst of all: a Red Devil that you can't avoid. Don't go up there and fight him. Trigger him to come down and then hope to God you can kill him. Oh, no. No! (barely avoids getting killed) Oh, thank God for post-hit invincibility. (Kills him) Yeah!
The Nerd: After you beat him, you're free to go up. You're almost done with Level 6. But wait a minute. Remember that shield? Supposedly, if you beat Level 6 without the shield, it sends you back to Level 5. This is one of those famous pranks in the history of gaming. Whether or not it's true, I'm not risking finding out, I'm gettin' the shield. Thankfully, enemies do not respawn. So, my strategy is killing them with the knife then going back for the shield. The only disadvantage is that you only get 3 minutes on the timer. So, doing all this is barely possible. Then you go back up, and watch that flame. It's there every time. Lose the shield now and you lose the game.
The Nerd: Oh, here's the boss! Here's the boss! It's a Satan. It's another Satan. Oh. The shield has a short range, but at least it can block his projectiles.
(The Nerd kills Satan)
The Nerd: Yes!
(Another Satan comes.)
The Nerd: Oh, my God! It's ano--it's another one! There's two Satans? That doesn't make any sense. Come on! Come on! I'm runnin' out of time! I'm runnin' out of time! I'm... (Gets hit, grunts angrily and dies) Fuck!
The Nerd: And now you're stuck with that shitty shield. Don't even try. You can't kill the Unicorn with the shield. It doesn't work. If someone else wants to try it, go ahead. You need the knife. So now, you gotta go ghostbusting. Kill those fucking ghosts until one of them drops a knife. Again, it's at pure random. So, expect to run the timer out a few times. And by this point, those annoying squeals the ghosts make will nearly drive you to break the fucking TV screen. (Ghosts make squealing noises and the Nerd mimics it) OH, SHUT UP!!!
The Nerd: Finally, when you get the knife back, you can try the level again. (Nerd is fighting Satan) C'mon, c'mon, c'mon! I'm gonna do it! (Dies and exclaims with frustration) FUCK! (Looks at the jack-o'-lantern behind him) WHAT'RE YOU LAUGHIN' AT?!
The Nerd: You know that feeling you get when you almost beat the level, and you want another shot right away? You have that adrenaline going, and you want to start again immediately? Well, you can't. You gotta go wait for the fucking knife to come back. So, you'll never get two tries in a row. You know what? I'm sick of it. I've been playing this fucking game since the 80's! I gotta beat it! I need closure on this. I need to end this chapter on my life. This... chapter of... not beating Ghosts 'N Goblins. (barely beats the two Satans as he gasps) I did it! I beat two Satans! ...In my underwear.
The Nerd: Final boss! The Devil! Notice how I'm walking backwards. So, it's now in one-on-one fighting mode. Kinda like a certain other Capcom game. (Gets hit and exclaims) Come on! My mother throws bigger fireballs than that.
(The Nerd defeats the Devil and the Nerd is shocked but relieved)
The Nerd: You know what? I don't try to be cocky or anything, but... who's the man?! I just beat one of the hardest games of all time! I bet you didn't think I could really do it, but I got this, man! I GOT THIS BY THE ASS!!!
(The Nerd notices text on the screen)
The Nerd: "This room is an illusion and is a trap desisvt by Satan. Go ahead dauntlessly! Make rapid progres!"? (The Nerd is put back at the beginning, and he is horrified and speechless.)
The Nerd: You have to beat the game twice? (Chuckles sarcastically) You have to beat the game twice... in a row. That's just great, because this time I'm (angrily) TWICE AS FUCKING PISSED OFF!!!
The Nerd: Beat the game twice. I'll show YOU twice! After all that hard work, who'd want to do that shit again? It's like building a house, and right after you're finished, you tear it down just to build it one more time. "Oh, yeah, we could have made twelve stages, but instead, let's just make six, and make people have to play the game twice."
The Nerd: All right. I'm gonna get the good ending this time. It better be good, whatever it is. It better be something awesome for goin' through the game twice. All right. All right!
(The Nerd beats the game again)
The Nerd: YEAH! I did it!
(The Nerd reads the ending text)
The Nerd: "Contraturation. This story is happy end. Thank you. Being the wise and courageour knight that you are you feel strongth welling in your body. Return to starting point. Challenge again!"?
(The Nerd is angrily speechless, and rage builds up inside him, and tries yelling "Fuck!", but can't.)
The Nerd: Curse! Curse! Goddamn it! (Grunts) I used up all my "Fuck!" points during the last 107 episodes. (Sighs) I don't have anything new. I gotta rely on the old tricks.
(Begins to fight Ghosts 'n Goblins Role-Playing-Game-style)
The Nerd: All right. Let's try the Cluster F-Bombs. Fuck this fucking piece of shit fucking shit fucker game!
(Ghosts 'n Goblins attacks the Nerd)
The Nerd: (Grunts) Uh, gotta go for the Precision F-Strike. (sarcastically) Oh, how this game lures you in with its appealing gameplay, and charming atmosphere, and then (angrily) BENDS YOU OVER AND FUCKS YOU TO HELL!!
(Ghosts 'n Goblins attacks with diarrhea blast)
The Nerd: (Exclaims) All right, how about some Wordplay? Alliteration. Feast on some fried fuck-farts! Assonance. What's up, you dumb fuck-tuple mother-humpin' motherfucker's uncle?! Uh, Rhymes! Suck on this muck, you run amuck fucked-up, uh, mandarin duck.
(The Nerd misses and Ghosts 'n Goblins attacks with blizzard of balls)
The Nerd: (groans) Alright, when all else fails, it's time for the Atomic F-Bomb!
(Roars and the 8-bit word flies toward the screen)
The Nerd: (Bellowing) FUCK!!!!
(Loud explosion kills Ghosts 'n Goblins)