Ghosts ‘N Goblins: Commodore 64 (C64)

Ghosts 'N Goblins: Commodore 64 (C64)
Ghosts 'N Goblins: Commodore 64 (C64)

Insert Disk collects Ghosts ‘n Goblins for the Commodore 64 (C64).

Today’s retro game review is Ghosts ‘n Goblins for the Commodore 64 (C64). Capcom’s retro gaming horror classic is action platform based. Sir Arthur must battle the Ghosts ‘n Goblins to rescue the princess from the demon. It’s a classic retro combination of difficult platforming and princess rescuing. The Commodore 64 (C64) version of Ghosts ‘n Goblins contains all of the horror and mysterious sound track you would expect from this most excellent  of gaming systems.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review.
Today we are travelling back to 1986 to take a look at Ghosts ‘n Goblins for the Commodore 64. Capcom’s 1985 arcade hit was always destined for greatness. It’s the classic story of knight falls in love with the princess, princess is captured by a demon and our hero must fight his way through hoards of Ghosts ‘n Goblins to rescue the princess. Think Mario, if it was programmed by Clive Barker. The game found home releases on Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Game Boy Color and many other home consoles but today we are going to look at the Commodore 64 version.

The game saw various releases on the Commodore 64 including a hard to find floppy disk edition. More commonly though is the cassette edition. The cassette edition itself had multiple variants as it moved from first release to the budget range. Today we are looking at the original “clam-shell” release. As you can see the clam-shell itself is a little larger than a standard cassette case. Over time this format fell out of favour as they really didn’t sit on the shelf so well. They do however have that distinctive retro-chic feel to them. The artwork for the game is fairly decent. It’s clearly Sir Arthur vs. the Demon in an action sequence, exactly what you want from a game cover. I have to say that the back is not so exciting but it gets the job done. Inside we find the single cassette and the inner cover that also acts as the instruction manual. It’s short and to the point and is something to keep you busy whilst it takes the cassette time to boot up.

As mentioned the gameplay revolves around Sir Arthur rescuing the princess. This takes the form of a side scroller. You begin your quest with 5 lives and a standard lance for throwing at the enemies. The enemies come in a multitude of varieties including zombies, vultures, man eating plants, ogres and of course ghosts and goblins. There are many changes from the arcade original such as the enemy design and order as well as the levels themselves. The feel of the game is all intact though.

The controls are a simple affair. It’s the classic up/down/left/right/jump and attack layout and this works really well. Throughout the levels there are shield/weapon and armour pickups. I highly recommend gathering these. You will encounter numerous enemies and must dispatch them quickly whilst trying not to take damage. For this episode I’ve had to resort to an invincibility cheat, there was just no other way of showing off the game levels. In terms of difficulty Ghost and Goblins is a clear 10/10. I’ve heard is said that the NES version of the game is the most difficult. For my money though I’d nominate the C64 version.

Jumping on to platforms is near impossible at time, there never seems to be enough dexterity to avoid the barrage of on screen enemies, some enemies will track you whilst other will downright spawn on top of you.
The graphics for the Commodore 64 are actually very pleasing. Don’t expect all of the bells and whistles of today’s consoles but there is very solid presentation here. The scrolling is smooth and the boss fights have decent sized sprites.

In terms of sound there is only one audio track but what is here is excellent. It’s repetitive, dark and full of interesting sounds. It puts me I mind of the BBC phonographic workshop. The music was certainly crafted for the C64 capabilities and is fantastically memorable. I have a feeling that my criticisms of the game is fairly much the same as everyone else’s experience. That is that the game is punishingly difficult. The one hit kills can be very unforgiving and ultimately very frustrating. Even level one is a good challenge. It’s easy to see other YouTube videos of players completing the game within 6 minutes and making the experience look easy. The truth is that you really need an auto-fire pad and memorise all of the enemy attack patterns to survive this game. I suspect some also use tool assists for their runs.

Overall though I would still defend that this is a great title for the Commodore 64. Difficult but full of character. After all, I actually enjoy the challenge of many of the older games. Sometimes this is much more rewarding than just breezing through a game. There are only a handful of stages but you will certainly not finish this on a first play through.
When it comes to collectors prices the market has settles in recent years. This larger black clam edition is the more desirable C64 release. Expect to pay around the £10 mark unless you can get it in a bundle of other tapes. For the US that anywhere up to $15 but I expect on the right day there’s still bargains to be had as collectors clear out their old stock. I have seen this version sell for over the $20 mark though on the auction sites, there’s clearly still a demand for this original and the competitive nature of bidders is likely to drive the price up online. This is a case where you may be best off going to local traders and collectors willing to trade.
For the budget release of standard cassette case anywhere up to £3 or $5 is acceptable. Again, I dare say that you could halve this price is buying a mixed lot of games.

So, is the game worth it? In short, yes. My final verdict is that this game is a must if you are a Commodore 64 collector. It’s an early Capcom title, a game that left a legacy and also a game that holds up well all these years later. From a nostalgia perspective it’s a really nice piece to have in the collection without breaking the bank. From a gaming perspective it’s a really good challenge that paved the way for later high difficulty side scrollers.

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