Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Some words on Super Ghouls'n Ghosts

at 12:32 PM
Since I've covered the two subseries recently (Demons Crest/Gargoyle's Quest and Maximo), might as well talk about mainline GnG.

Super Ghouls'n Ghosts. For all the superfluous "super"s that are thrown around throughout the SNES library, Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is the one that best earns it. The arcane tome known as dictionary.com provides this definition: "super: of an extreme or excessive degree". How better could one possibly describe the antagonistic forces - the eponymous ghouls and ghosts - of Super GnG? Severe, punishing, unforgiving, exorbitant, obnoxious, take it away, Mr. Thesaurus! The very nature of the game is its wildly skewed balance, pitting a very ordinary hero against an extraordinary threat. So I can't think of a more fitting title - besides perhaps You're Gonna Super Lose, which didn't test well with focus groups.
Goddamn these fuckers
It is an ass game. It is so stupid, pisses me off in every way possible, and there is no way that anyone should ever want to play it. It's random as shit, wildly unbalanced, controls beyond unintuitively and some ASSHOLES claim it's one of the greatest platformers of all time. Nothing pisses me off more than a bunch of ASSHOLES declaring something to be one of the greatest somethings of something. Look at the Grammy. The Oscar. There could literally be nothing worse for a work than in its time to be declared the best of its time. WHY would you like Super Ghouls in Ghosts? I've never heard any legitimate answer or explanation. But I know the secret. It's hard. And any game that is hard (proper hard) immediately develops a following, because there is that handful of assholes (ASSHOLES) who manages to stomach it all the way through to the end just so they can say "I beat it". And then comes that most scoundrelous of questions: "who fucking cares?". Well, now that they've wasted the time and made the claim, Asshole Group A needs to justify it somehow, so they condescendingly say "it's an amazing game and you'll never get to experience that because you SUCK too much to win". It's always going to be subjective whether anyone liked the game, but now there's that ulterior motive: that elite distinguishing earned because claiming that they like it means they're "good enough" to like it.

Still though, who cares?

Well, for all its unpleasantness, Super GnG does have a strange charm, an enthralling character that always seems to drag you back for one more try. I don't think it deserves dismissal among the elitist ranks of Gradius V, Metal Slug 3, or Battletoads. The people who are speed-running or 1CC-ing this game have totally missed the point.  It manages to be captivating because you don't actually have to win, and you can accept that making it to the end is hardly even the goal anymore. You just want to make it one more second, survive a tiny bit longer. The game laughs in the face of the notion that there is an end; when you do finally defeat the boss at the climax of the last stage, you're informed: "Actually, Sir Lonely, you have to do it again. You don't rescue the princess this time. Go back to the beginning, which is now set to a higher difficulty, retrieve this bracelet that wasn't available the first time around, and then come back here." It's not like a "bad ending" or a Second Quest (Legend of Zelda), it's literally that you have to beat all of the stages two times through to reach the end. What a dick move.
The fuck is going on here
Yet it reminds us of the purgatorial nature of Super Ghouls'n Ghosts. We aren't really supposed to be enjoying ourselves. We aren't supposed to grasp for the light at the end of the tunnel. We're beating our heads against a ridiculous wall, laughing at the futility, lamenting every squandered opportunity. Yet somehow it isn't soul-crushing, but invigorating. Everything is so well-crafted, so technically impressive (slanting, shaking, and morphing environments) and artistically detailed (everything has a face?) JUST to fuck you over, that you can't help but delight in the hours spent wasting your life.

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