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SummaryLet me know when we get to twenty. I’m gonna throw up.
The GoodI love Ghostbusters. It was an enormous part of my childhood. Then it became an enormous part of my adolescence. I’ve dressed as a Ghostbuster for Hallowe’en for years. This is why it breaks my heart that most games based off of the movies and the cartoons are so abysmal. Some of them reach into the realm of passable, but a good Ghostbusters game is outlandishly rare. Out of all the Ghostbusters licensed games that I’ve played, I’ve come across two that I really like; “New” Ghostbusters 2, and Ghostbusters: The Video Game. So where does that leave this, the NES interpretation of the first movie?
It’s my opinion that the reason most Ghostbusters games are bad is because the developers don’t seem to know what being a Ghostbuster is all about. If the game is about running around and blasting ghosts into submission, it completely misses the point. Ghostbusting is a job. It’s an extremely awesome job, but a job none the less. Luckily, this game gets it right. You go out on calls, cruise to your destination in Ecto-1, wrangle a ghost, and suck it into a trap. Then you get paid and spend it on better equipment. Okay, so in actuality the Ghostbusters made their own equipment, and having a store sell it to them is a little strange, but it works from a gameplay perspective.
The game’s setup is pretty simple. It sort of follows the story of the movie, but doesn’t really explain any of it. Psychokinetic energy is on the rise, which can only mean one thing, Gozer’s coming to town and the Ghostbusters are the only one who can stop him/her. To do this, the team must gain enough money by busting ghosts to buy the equipment needed to climb the Shandor building (named the Zuul building in this game, for whatever reason) and defeat Gozer. It’s a race against the clock, since you only have a short amount of time (about a half-hour to an hour, maybe) before Mr. Staypuft arrives to wreck the town.
There is something pleasing about the game’s methodical pace. Perhaps it’s because it treats Ghostbusting as a skill you must build up to succeed. There’s a sort of realism to the game. After fumbling a few catches and crossing the streams a few too many times, you’ll find yourself catching ghosts faster and faster, gaining more and more money to buy upgrades. The buying of upgrades allows you to see your company expand. It’s very satisfying, to an extent. However, this is sort of offset by the repetitiveness of it all. It’s always the same type and number of ghosts that you’re trapping, so there’s very little variety and challenge. However, since each game only lasts around a half-hour, things never really get tedious.
The BadOne of my high school chums had a Ghostbusters movie poster on his wall which featured three Ghostbusters; Ray, Peter, and Egon. Yes, that’s right, Winston Zeddemore was strangely absent. I couldn’t help but find that strange. Sure, Winston only appeared halfway through the movie, and his role wasn’t as big as the others, but what the hell? He was the fourth Ghostbuster. He helped save New York, so you can’t just forget him! Big surprise, he isn’t in this game. Yep, once again, Winston has been pushed into the background and doesn’t even appear in the movie’s officially licensed game. So what? You can’t include a black Ghostbuster? I know you didn’t use up the entire palette, and I can tell that there aren’t enough sprites on screen to fill a whole chart, so what is it? Laziness? Or are you just racist, Activision?
Speaking of palettes and sprites, this game has some of the worst graphics I’ve ever seen on the NES. From both an artistic and technical standpoint, this game looks like shit. The NES has a pretty limited colour palette, but Ghostbusters doesn’t even try to use it all. Ghosts are only one colour, backgrounds are bland and severely lack detail, and the Ghostbusters themselves look like they could have been rendered on an Atari 2600. Every bit of background scrolling in this game is in a single direction with extremely repetitive tile patterns. I can understand that the NES’s limitations are difficult to work around, but it’s like they didn’t even try. It’s not just bad, it’s amateur.
While we’re on the topic of amateur, I feel I must bring up a small complaint. The driving sequences in this game are insultingly simple and poorly programmed. Here’s a helpful tip, move your car to the very right hand side of the road and speed up to full. Now, you’re free to take a sip of tea, or take a bite of your sandwich, because you’re not likely going to hit anything. At full speed your car actually uses the exact same amount of fuel as it would at its slowest speed which is absolutely baffling to me, and I have no idea why you would ever even slow down. Cars spawn at very sparse intervals and move across the screen very choppily. Oh, and get this; the only scenery that you see on the side of the road is the exact same fire hydrant that passes way too frequently. It’s as if you’re driving through a forest of fire hydrants.
You like the Ghostbusters theme song, right? Sure, everyone does. However, and this may shock you, having an 8-bit version of the song looped at you over and over again is really maddening. There’s only one song and it doesn’t let up. It just keeps replaying. It’s not even a very good rendition of the classic tune either. It’s not particularly bad, but you’ll have plenty of time to appreciate its flaws. The song doesn’t even loop properly. It just starts over from the beginning. At least this way, you’ll be able to count how many times the song plays as you descend into madness. Granted, you could just mute the game and replace the soundtrack with, for example, Chopin, but you shouldn’t have to. Having one song in the entire soundtrack is completely inexcusable.
Do you remember that scene near the end of Ghostbusters where they had to climb up all those stairs? Well you may be happy to know that the developers of this game managed to capture the slow agony of climbing those stairs with heavy equipment on. In order to reach the end boss of this game, you must first climb a seemingly endless staircase while being pelted by ghosts. That seems bad enough, but to make things worse, you must do it by repeatedly pressing the A button for every baby-step you take. Who the hell thought that was a good idea? It’s stupid and I hate it. To make things even worse, the stairway level is next to impossible to complete. Further adding to the frustration, if you die, you don’t get to start from the bottom of the stairs, you have to play the game over again to make another attempt. The only way I can imagine beating this game is by using a controller with an auto-fire or being really hardcore and playing the game repeatedly.