Sunday, June 7, 2009

Genesis look: Ghostbusters

While the Ghostbusters franchise has been no stranger to getting videogame releases it wasn't until this Genesis game did we finally see a good one. Released in 1990 this game has a different storyline than either of the movies(though fans will see a number of familiar ghosts like that Stay-Puft dude and Slimer). An Earthquake has hit New York City and with it ghosts have made their way back into the land of the living. Take control of Peter, Egon, or Raymond(Winston isn't this game for whatever reason) and save the day once again.

At the start of the game you can choose from four haunted locations(though it's best you do them in order) as well as access an item shop for healing supplies, bombs, and goggles for seeing in the fire stage, or a weapon shop for new equipment and to recharge your energy. 

Taking control of your ghostbuster of choice you explore these buildings taking out minor ghosts and finding assorted goodies(like money and the very rare 1ups). Your main objective is to find all of the major ghosts(bosses) and destroy them. You can tackle these guys in any order but they must all be destroyed before you can face off with the end-boss. This game has a surprising number of different bosses to fight and they're all quite creative and challenging. After taking out a major ghost you can gain bonus cash and some health/energy restoration by capturing them(just like the movie). The trick is to hold and release the fire button while leading them to the trap. They get away after a short time and if you hold the fire button for too long they'll break free and attack.

As a Ghostbuster you're more than equipped to handle these guys. Aside from the standard jump(which has a lot of mobility, great for getting around and dodging things), you can fire straight ahead, up, or diagonally(only upwards though), and you can crawl. Crawling is an excellent tool for dodging attacks(in fact it's essential for a few bosses) and since you can fire while doing so it's great for many situations. In terms of equipment you've got a standard array stuff like spreadshots, cannons, and even a couple defensive items to help you take less damage. All of these drain energy which is replenished by either going to the store or finding slimers(more likely they'll drop health though).

After so many really poor Ghostbusters games(though some people actually like that one on the Commodore 64) I expected little from this one but turns out it's actually very impressive. The stages themselves don't really have a lot of variety to them(they take on different themes but the differences are miniscule at best) but they show a good sense of progression and get more complicated and dangerous as you move forward. The boss-fights as mentioned before are really good and there's quite a few of them. While the arenas where you fight them are completely empty spaces there's usually enough room to give you the maneuverability you need to deal with them.

Another great aspect is that while it isn't obvious there is a scoring system in place for this game. You're given three lives and ten continues so completing the game shouldn't be a problem. Beating this game is an entirely different story and you have to play effectively to make the most of your limited resources(though you can always retreat to the beginning of a stage to access the shops again). While there's little stopping you from just killing the same few ghosts over and over for some ridiculous score you get such a ridiculously high bonus from completing the game that in renders all that moot. Thus in order to attain the best score possible you can't use continues as well as capture all of the major-bosses when you defeat them. Couple that with a hard difficulty setting and you've got more than enough to keep you busy for awhile.

The only major troubling aspect of this game is the character balance. All three characters in the game have varying stats: high HP/Low Speed for Raymond, Low HP/High Speed for Egon, and Somewhere in the middle for Peter. The problem with this is while HP is self-explanatory the extra speed doesn't really mean anything. There's a slight difference sure but when crawling everyone moves at the same speed. So unless you want an additional challenge you'll most likely want to go with Raymond. Why not throw in Winston as a secret character and give him High HP/High Speed? While we're at it how about ditching speed altogether and replacing it with something more useful like More Energy(Egon) or More Power(Peter). That would have gone a long way towards giving the game more ways to be played through as well as catering to the gamer's own play-style. In the end though it's probably just nit-picking so there you go.

In conclusion this is a really good game hampered only by the fact that lately it seems to have gained in value making it one of the more expensive Genesis titles out there. I can't recommend a good price for this game but if you can find it you should seriously get it as it's well worth the time. And for me at least time is far more important than money when it comes to games.

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