It’s Halloween (as of writing), the season where strange beings roam our realm, where ghosts from other sides unknown to mortal men come to visit, and terrorize. Who are we supposed to call when this bizarre occurrences happen? Why, the Ghostbusters, of course!
But what was good about the Ghostbusters franchise? Nothing. Everything was way beyond awesome; the characters were lovable, the vehicles were stunning, the enemies were a perfect combination of strange, funny and sort of evil, while the story itself made perfect sense. Two movies and a cartoon show held millions of children (and adults) hostage of the Ghostbusters adventures and soon the products related to the franchise started to conquer different stores. From toys to t-shirts and sheets, the Ghostbusters were a global trending, something similar to what had happened with the TMNT though in a minor scale.
While the Ghostbusters fever was affecting thousands all over the world, the NES was on the road in several different countries, hence a Ghostbuster game for the Nintendo’s 8 bit console was not a bold move from the marketing geniuses at Nintendo. Although the NES and the Ghostbusters franchise seemed to be a couple made in heaven, the reality surprised gamers with a very ugly truth: the games released by Activision were horrible.
The story of the Ghostbusters in Europe is happier than the one we got in America. For example, if you happened to own a Spectrum, the Ghostbusters game was pretty decent and fun to play. The GB story would take a turn for the better when HAL Laboratory (if the name doesn’t ring a bell think in Earthbound, Kirby, Super Smash Brothers) released New Ghostbusters 2. In America, Activision had the rights for the Ghostbusters games, so unfortunately only Europe (or countries like mine where hacks poured daily) got to play this great Ghostbusters title.
The plot of the game follows that of the second movie almost verbatim: A possessed painting in the art gallery where Peter’s girlfriend works comes to life and plots to take over the world by using her son. The Ghostbusters have to trap the evil spirit and rescue the baby, easy right?
After a lovely intro -which includes the well-known GB theme- we are taken to the selection screen where we must select not only one, but two busters to get the job done. Though the difference in the sprites in each one of the characters is quite clear making all the busters quite distinctive, there are no unique special abilities or items for them. You can also select Louis as a playable character, which was a very cool addition in my opinion, after all, she is also a Ghostbuster, isn’t she? (I definitely score some points with feminists groups with that line, for sure).
Controls are rather simple, which only adds to the fun of the game as the title proves to be really easy to master from the very beginning. Basically, one button fires the zapper that sort of “hooks” the specters in place and the other commands the second buster to set the trap that catches the slimy beings. Did I mention that the other member of your crew is immune to damage? Well, it is, and that makes things much simpler which is the only thing that -in my opinion- lowers the overall score for this game. Difficulty is indeed a tricky thing, something very hard to balance. In New Ghostbusters 2, HAL went for a rather easy difficulty which though it doesn’t affect the fun aspect, doesn’t pose a real challenge to the regular player. In fact, after a few runs, one can easily beat the game in a couple of hours.
The game has six stages which are based upon the different movie locations, the big courthouse which is such a cool scene, an abandoned subway tunnel, Dana's place, the drainage system, the Art museum and finally Vigo the Carpathian. Each one of the stages is quite unique in terms of enemies, objects and colors and pleasantly large with a boss to defeat at the end. Every boss battle presents an interesting challenge, where a pattern needs to be followed in order to beat the boss and advance to the next level. The process to discover these patterns is not very complex though fun as hell, just like the rest of this game.
Graphically the game excels. The decision to go for a deformed style in the main characters was spot on, since it allows other sprites to run smoothly even when there are several enemies displayed simultaneously. Some details were a nice addition for detail lovers to perceive, for example, if you pay close attention, you will be able to see how Louis’ hair stands on after catching a glimpse of a couple of ghosts. The colours make use of the whole NES palette, which translates into bright and highly detailed backgrounds and perfect animation.
The music is pure evil! From the very beginning, we get the Ghostbusters theme in a perfect 8-bit symphony, the rest of the game keeps that rhythm up with tunes that go from the typical suspense melody to a more rapid drum lead march. The sound effects work great for the title, and go hand in hand with the game structure.
It would have been great if this version of Ghostbusters had been more mainstream back in the day thus available in all continents, but at least in this era of emulation and worldwide markets many players will be able to enjoy this hidden NES gem and relive a lovely franchise like Ghostbusters, in an 8 bit style.
Verdict:- Yet another NES gem that still shines bright as new. A game that wanted to redeem the poor quality titles that came to America and accomplished its not so difficult mission.
Any time is a good time if you're from North America seeking to rectify that very same persumption of the Ghostbusters films failing to have a great outing. Whether its Halloween, or just revelling in the winter months like the film itself. This one is highly recommended!
Second Opinion:- Although it may be on the wrong System...New Ghostbusters II gets full Transbot approval. This for the second film and Ghostbusters on MD/Genesis for the first and any avid retrogamer will be set. In Transbots defining opinion, that is.
Fun, addictive, cute and just all round 8-Bit awesomeness ensues. Sort of what one robot would expect from the typically excellent HAL.
Transbot knew a guy called HAL once...Good 'bot..
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10