These days, folks talk an awful lot about how they're up for a challenge in games, taking on the New Game + mode in a number of titles, as well as swearing up and down that they'll conquer anything that comes their way in Bloodborne and Dark Souls. But well before then, we had another place that provided a challenge – the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Games were hard on this thing. We're talking about "can you beat Battletoads to the very end?" and "Think you can beat the final boss in one try?" But one game that comes to mind right off the bat is Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins, which really tested gamers as they journeyed through a land of monsters not once, but twice, in an effort to rescue their beloved princess. And in boxer shorts, no less (when you were knocked out of your armor).
We've seen some great Ghouls 'n Ghosts games since that time, including the difficult Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, which is still a trial for some players. But it's been some time since we've seen a new entry from that series, leaving us wondering if Capcom is leaving it out in the cold on purpose. Thankfully, Abylight Studios has managed to pick up the weapons Arthur has left behind for its own side-scrolling homage title, the decidedly old-school Cursed Castilla EX for PlayStation 4.
Old-School Design Won Me Over
Originally released on Xbox One last year as Maldita Castilla EX (Cursed Castle, I believe), the game works similarly in nature to the Ghouls games. You portray a knight who finds himself on a holy crusade against a growing army of monsters, and it's up to him and his unlimited weapon supply to bring them down.
The game has many nods to the Ghouls series, including enemies that resemble ones featured in Capcom's classic series (like the monsters that throw things down at you while you're on a lower ledge, straight out of Ghouls 'n Ghosts), but it definitely has an original vibe when it comes to its retro goodness. The team at Abylight designed this game beautifully, with great level design and even the ability to play through the game with CRT settings, right down to the recreated vector lines from the classic "tube" televisions.
Also, the music is decidedly old-school, with a soundtrack that's very good, sounding ike something out of the late 80's-early 90's era. In fact, by ordering the limited edition that EastAsiaSoft is selling on its site right now, you can snag a bonus CD with the soundtrack on it. It's a nice little package, but it's selling quickly, so get your hands on it as soon as you can.
Sound effects in the game are kept to a minimum, but they too pay a bit of homage to the old Ghouls series, with occasional sounds to indicate when monsters are coming (like those annoying harpies when you're riding the wagon). It's a bit miniscule, but still works for this sort of game.prevnext
What An Awesome Night For A Curse
And the gameplay? Amazing, really. It's like Abylight dialed in that old-school Capcom feeling and kept it in check throughout the course of the game, whether it's throwing weapons at enemies or jumping over rickety platforms to avoid certain death. By the way, you won't. This game is dialed in with the same difficulty settings as the first Ghosts, so you're going to die – like often. Even if you're the most skilled player in the world, you'll run into scenarios where, if you don't use split-second timing to your advantage, you're "RIP" before you know it.
But if you do die, that's on your head, because the game provides very little problem when it comes to accuracy. Sure, some of the weapons suck, like bouncy bombs that do very little compared to the average bolos and spears, but that was kind of the way the Ghouls games were, too, and I know Abylight was just trying to throw in a mixture of stuff for different players to try out. Hey, some people actually like their games more difficult – like those Bloodborne nutcases.
While Cursed Castilla EX comes to an end all too soon, it's a sweet old-school journey that many players, especially those that grew up in the NES era, should take again. Its visuals and music have their hearts in the right place, and the gameplay is just about perfect if you're seeking a Ghosts vibe. Just remember – come prepared. This is the sort of game that will not just hand you your ass, but rip it off, gift wrap it, wait till Christmas, smash you over the head with it and then steal Christmas dinner. Yep, that hard – but totally worth it.
RATING: Four out of five stars.
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.prev