Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts is the third entry in Capcom's long-running Ghosts 'N Goblins franchise. It is an action-platformer originally released in 1991 exclusively for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Like its predecessors, the game is famous for its high level of difficulty and features the heroic knight Sir Arthur on a brand-new quest to save his beloved Princess Guinevere from the clutches of the mighty demon-king Sardius (or Samael in the Japanese version).
The gameplay of Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts is similar to that of run-and-gun side-scrolling action titles such as Contra, albeit with a larger focus on platforming. Arthur begins wearing his standard Steel Armor, which shatters after a single hit, leaving Arthur only in his underwear; a second hit ends his current life. In contrast to the previous game, Ghouls 'N Ghosts, Arthur can no longer fire his equipped weapon vertically up or down.
New to this entry in the Ghosts 'N Goblins series is the ability to double-jump. Although Arthur still jumps in a fixed arc, he can now execute a second jump that allows him to gain extra height or even change his trajectory in mid-air. This gameplay mechanic adds an extra level of challenge to basic platforming beyond that of the series' previous games.
Weapons & Magic
Arthur begins the game with the straightforward Lance projectile weapon; several other weapons can be equipped throughout the game, each with their own unique properties. Acquiring the new Bronze Armor upgrade increases a weapon's damage, while the Golden Armor upgrade also allows Arthur to charge up for a magic attack that affects a larger area of the screen.
- Lance - Fires a single lance straight ahead. Upgrades to the Flaming Lance for additional damage. Thunder Magic fires a vertical magic bolt from the top of the screen towards Arthur's position, which then splits horizontally to the left and right for additional damage.
- Dagger - Fires a single dagger straight ahead. Weaker than the Lance, but can also be fired more quickly. Upgrades to the Magic Dagger that deals increased damage and leaves a damaging trail behind. Fire Dragon Magic creates a flaming dragon that sweeps around the screen in a counter-clockwise pattern.
- Axe - Fires a single Axe that slowly moves straight ahead in a looping pattern. Upgrades to the Hefty Axe which fires slightly upward before moving forward in a wave pattern for greater damage. Lightning Magic fires energy beams outward in eight directions.
- Crossbow - Fires twin bolts in an up-diagonal trajectory. Upgrades to the Magic Crossbow that fires three homing projectiles. Seek Magic reveals any chests hidden nearby.
- Torch - Lobs a single torch in a short forward arc; upon impact with the ground, a line of damaging flames extends across the surface. Upgrades to the Magic Torch that increases the residual flames' size and damage. Fireball Magic creates three magic spheres that orbit around Arthur, causing damage on contact.
- Scythe - Fires a scythe straight ahead which can optionally be fired down-diagonally. Upgrades to the Magic Scythe for increased damage. Tornado Magic creates twin tornadoes that swirl around to Arthur's right and left sides.
- Tri-Blade - Fires a blade that travels in an "L"-shaped pattern before returning to Arthur's position. Upgrades to the Shuriken for additional damage. Nuclear Magic creates an energy sphere that raises up from Arthur's position before splitting into two horizontal bolts travelling left and right.
- Goddess' Bracelet - Only available on the second playthrough, this weapon fires a large blast of energy straight ahead for a short distance. Cannot be upgraded or charged.
Arthur's Golden Armor comes equipped with the Moon Shield, which can deflect a single enemy projectile before shattering. While he has the Moon Shield equipped, Arthur may also discover the upgraded Sun Shield capable of deflecting up to three projectiles. Additionally, these two shields decrease the time required to execute a special charge attack, with the Sun Shield providing the fastest charge.
The game features seven full Stages, each of which is divided into two areas. Reaching a stage's second area will create a checkpoint, retaining Arthur's progress up through the halfway point of the Stage. The final Stage is much smaller and only exists as a single chamber to hold Sardius, the final boss.
Stage 1: The Dead Place
Arthur's adventure begins in The Haunted Graveyard, a zombie-infested cemetery prone to sudden earthquakes that cause the terrain to shift around unexpectedly; this Stage also pays heavy homage to the first level of the original Ghosts 'N Goblins and includes a new arrangement of its background music. Past the graveyard lies a coastal area where gigantic tidal waves carve away at what little land remains. Arthur can traverse these narrow footholds to arrive at the overgrown Forest of Fear, where exploding plant buds and rolling traps must be avoided to reach the Cockatrice boss at the stage's end.
Stage 2: The Rotting Sea
Arthur heads out to sea and enters The Graveyard of Ships, a fleet of sunken sailing vessels patrolled by ghosts. Crossing the rapidly-deteriorating structures leads to The Sea of Despair, where turbulent waters, jagged coral and a host of aquatic demons threaten to sink Arthur and his tiny raft. At the end of the area, the Giant Barnacle must be defeated in a sea battle to reach the next stage.
Stage 3: Vermilion Horror
The heat turns up in the Crucible of Flame, a demonic refinery filled with lava and guarded by fearsome fire-breathing enemies. Descending through the slag pits and across a molten lake, Arthur reaches the Towers of Molten Steel, where Arthur's longtime nemesis Firebrand is encountered for the first time in the game. Past the dizzying towers, the Death Crawler boss waiting here spins and attacks with a hail of stones, but it is defeated relatively easily.
Stage 4: The Ghoul's Stomach
Somehow, Arthur ends up inside of an enormous living creature in this Stage. The first Stomach area makes use of the SNES' sprite rotation capabilities to rotate the entire screen several times, opening new paths as the level shifts. The second area inside the Intestine consists of a few moving platforms that sway side-to-side as they drift through intermittent plumes of toxic gas. The exit is guarded by a three-headed Hydra boss.
Stage 5: The Deep Chill
Fell winds howl through the Ice Forest, a gnarled mass of frozen vines patrolled by frost-breathing monsters. Scaling the icy growth, Arthur discovers a cave that leads through the gigantic Ice Wall surrounding Sardius' domain. Footing here is treacherous, with sudden avalanches and packs of ferocious wolves slowing progress to a crawl. After a long upward climb, Arthur battles a being of pure ice known as Freon before finally entering the castle.
Stage 6: The Castle of the Emperor
A trio of Firebrands greet Arthur just inside the Castle's entrance; players must defeat all three in rapid succession before reaching Astaroth, the final boss of the original Ghosts N' Goblins.
Stage 7: Hallway of Ghouls
The penultimate Stage features a harrowing gauntlet of Cockatrice heads, tiny imps and ghosts. Astaroth appears once again for a rematch at the end, but after his second defeat he transforms into the powered-up Nebiroth for one last showdown. In classic Ghosts 'n Goblins fashion, players that manage to complete the game's seventh stage are told by Guinevere that they cannot defeat the final boss without obtaining a new hidden weapon, the Goddess' Bracelet. The player is sent back to the first stage where they must complete the game a second time; players are also required to equip the Goddess' Bracelet before reaching Sardius, the game's final boss.
Final Stage (E): The Throne Room
The final battle against Sardius takes place in this large chamber. The demon king towers above Arthur like a colossus, forcing players to hitch a ride on a floating platform while dodging Sardius' lasers in order to strike at the weak point on his head.