Retrogamer by day, amateur game developer by night - Johnny L. de Alba, known in gaming circles as Arkonviox, has been a gamer all his life. His first console was the Atari 2600, which he still owns and manages to play from time to time. If he isn't gaming, he's making games as he remembers them best; Side scrolling and in the 8-bit style.
Johnny writes articles for a variety of websites on varied topics such as pirated and homebrew games for obsolete consoles, game development, and Ecco the Dolphin. For his latest articles visit his Retrogaming and Ecco the Dolphin website Arkonviox.com.
The final boss is Satan, the hero is the legendary knight Arthur, the game is like Contra but placed in medieval times. Forget what Contra was about, and think about what it is - a run and gun, adrenaline pumping, shooter. Instead of firing a gun, the player controls Arthur who can throw a variety of different weapons; An ax, a dagger, a torch, or a shield. What about enemies? They are Satan's minions; Ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and much more. This sounds like the premise of a Halloween themed party, but it's a very well known game, called Ghosts 'N Goblins.
Ghosts 'N Goblins was originally an arcade game, that spawned a sequel called Ghouls 'N Ghosts. There was a Ghosts 'N Goblins for the NES. The SNES had it's own variation called Super Ghouls and Ghosts - Yeah I know Ghosts 'N Goblins, and Ghouls 'N Ghosts are two different games but you'll see where I'm going with this. It is a series of games that involve a knight who can comfortably battle in his underwear, and a princess named Prin Prin who was kidnapped by Satan.
It is a game known for it's intense difficulty. The player must navigate through randomly spawning enemies, with attack patterns that would put many later games to shame. What makes the attack patterns so difficult? Predictability, you never know where an enemy might position itself. Not all of the enemies are unpredictable. Zombies might pop up from the ground, but at least they aren't darting across the screen.
The game is known for it's dirty tricks against the player. It's a game that wants the player to fail. Near the end of the game is a shield that the player must retrieve. If the player ignores the shield, he or she will have to go back to the beginning of the previous level. The shield is required to fight Lucifer, and later Satan. It's a weapon with a short range, that can destroy enemies, and enemy projectiles.
If the player manages to defeat both Lucifer, and Satan, the game will repeat itself. The player will be informed that their entire journey was just a trick devised by Satan. In order to save the princess, the player will have to complete the game twice.
A Modern Problem....
It's been 27 years since Ghosts 'N Goblins was released for the original NES. It is a game that redefined the home console. Players could now experience what they were accustomed to from an arcade.
Each variation of Ghosts 'N Goblins introduces something new that builds upon the previous game. If someone wanted to go back and play the original Ghost and Goblins, it would require the original console, or an emulator. There are ports to some of the games in the series, but doesn't Ghost and Goblins deserve better?
A Modern Solution...
Re-imagining a NES game for modern technology is not a new concept. WayForward Technologies recently tackled the development of a new Duck Tales, based on the original NES version. Duck Tales Remastered was a bold move by a major company like Capcom. It sent a message to the industry that Capcom was not afraid to take risks with some of it's older games. It also meant Capcom had found innovative ways to profit from 2D platformers originally developed for obsolete consoles. Finally an important question was answered: Could a remake of an NES game work in today's competitive environment?
WayForward Technologies is an established company that has been around since 1990. Duck Tales Remastered was an interesting project by a company who has done other games like it before. Their experience allows them the privilege to pick and choose what projects they could tackle. To give a game like Ghost 'N Goblins the Duck Tales treatment could be a risk WayForward Technologies isn't willing to take.
Ghost 'N Goblins is a difficult, and somewhat forgotten game whose spotlight's been taken by the likes of Super Mario, or Donkey Kong. It has brand recognition, and a certain appeal to it that can make it profitable. This is why it's smart for a newly established, independent game company to tackle such a project.
Large companies like Capcom expect polished demos. If anyone is going to remake any of their older games it better look good. A problem an independent game developer might face is being able to put financial resources behind a demo. A demo of Ghost and Goblins would have to “Wow” Capcom before they are willing to license the game. A group of independent developers without industry experience will not be able to acquire such a privilege (although stranger things have happened).
Enter Phantasm Studios.
A group of industry veterans decided to create a company called Phantasm Studios. Their plan is to tackle what I've termed the “Retro Active Revolution”. “Retro Active” is a word I chose to define taking an old game, or an old gaming concept, and remastering it using modern technology. Phantasm Studios plans to establish licensing deals like the one WayForward Technologies had for Duck Tales Remastered. The difference between the two companies is Phantasm Studios will focus exclusively on retro-active titles.
Imagine Capcom's entire NES collection re-imagined for new technology, it's something both parents and children can enjoy together. Most gamers from the 8-bit, and 16-bit generation are adults now with kids of their own. Modern consoles consist of a library that targets mature audiences. Nintendo is one of the few companies targeting younger audiences. The NES has more than a dozen well known titles that are child friendly. This is why Phantasm Studio's vision to re-imagine old games could work.
As a newly established company, Phantasm Studios will need a game, and funding. So far they managed to contact several companies about different ideas. One of the companies who have responded was Capcom, who said they were willing to review Phantasm Studios submission. Ghost'N Goblins was a natural choice for a team who both admired the game and grew up playing it. It's Halloween like theme fit the family friendly vision the company had established for itself. The only challenge they would face is gathering funds.
On To KickStarter!
KickStarter is a great place for a company, or an individual to go, to realize a vision. It is a crowd sourcing website where people can create project pages and ask others for support. The idea is a person donates money to a project for a certain amount. The projects creator fulfills an obligation to complete the project as promised, including delivering perks to the backer. How much a backer contributes determines what perk they'll receive. Perks can range from autographs, posters, mugs, or early release copies of whatever the medium is.
Phantasm Studios needed funding, and KickSatrter was the place to do it. They aren't the first company to use crowd-funding to help realize a goal. Game companies use KickStarter all the time, sometimes regularly. A game company might not want to pursue an idea because it's too risky, or a study might indicate there isn't a market for it. The thing about marketing is, there is always a market for something, it's tapping into it that's difficult. KickStarter is great when a company wants to pursue something they might otherwise be unable to. The thing Phantasm Studios chose to pursue was Ghost 'N Goblins, except their version of it would be slightly different.
Ghosts'N Goblins Demon World
“All the bodies throughout history have been buried in the world’s tallest peak, Graveyard Mountain. All but one man has fallen into darkness as the dead have risen. Become King Arthur and descend 4,000 miles into the core of Demon World, destroy Lucifer, and save the princess.”
The Ghost'N Goblins envisioned by Phantasm Studios stays true to it's roots, while slightly altering the story. King Arthur will have to face new bosses, such as wolfman, the grim reaper, the goblin king, and water monster. Other bosses include the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the undead knights of the round table. Arthur will have to descend into a world made up of several layers. Each layer represents a level with it's own unique sets of challenges. One of the levels will require swimming. The final layer represents hell, where Lucifer awaits - but it doesn't end there.
While this version of Ghost' N Goblins will maintain it's intense level of difficulty, it was designed for the whole family to enjoy. If a person playing this game loses a life, they pass the controller to the next person. Beating the game can be a team effort. This idea goes back to a time where most games were designed for a single player – it's still like this today in many aspects.
The player begins the game as Arthur, fully garbed as a knight. If he takes any damage he'll be forced to fight in his briefs. Any more damage after that resets the player to the beginning of the level. In essence the player will have to be hit two times before loosing a turn.
Each level will have a time limit, there will be 8 levels in all. The weapons will be the same ones players know and love from the original Ghost'N Globlins. There will be a dagger, an ax, and the ungodly lance. A bronze armor will add magic abilities to a weapon, a golden armor will greatly enhance the magical abilities. The player will be able to associate magic attacks with specific weapons.
When it comes to visuals, Ghost' N Goblins Demon World will feature 3D graphics, in a 2D perspective. It will be a little like Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins. The music will be simplistic, but expect to hear some familiar tunes. The music will be performed using medieval instruments, but not all of it. The team at Phantasm Studios plans to incorporate 8-bit chip tunes music for certain situations. The overall focus is to try and keep it as close to the arcade as possible.
The Clock Is Ticking...
Creating a KickStarter project has to be done months in advance. It has to be polished, and well planned. Phantasm Studios has a unique position as a newly established company. It has KickStarter as a tool for acquiring funds, but that's not all. The company behind the Ouya game console launched a “Free the Games Fund” to attract independent developers. For any company who manages to raise money on KickStarter, Ouya will double it.
Phantasm Studios launched their KickStarter project early, but competition from other companies is about to heat up. With the Free the Games Fund ending August 2014, most companies are likely to launch their KickStarters early next year. The advantage of launching a KickStarter early next year means companies can write off taxes received from a successful campaign. However, Ouya's ability to continue funding the contest could end before that.
Where's The Prototype?
With the clock ticking, Phantasm Studios could not get a polished prototype out in time for KickStarter. To release a game in an early unpolished stage would mean the risk of confusing the public. With Ouya's funds drying up fast, there is no better time than now to launch a KickStarter project. Phantasm Studios is not the first company to go to KickStarter without a prototype. Most of the time companies, and individuals alike go to KickStarter with just a concept. DoubleFine Adventure was just a concept when it's KickStarter launched in early 2012. The game received well over 3 million dollars, more than quadrupling it's target of $400,000. Phantasm Studios is only asking for $50,000 for Ghost and Goblins – Demon World.
The Grand Finale!
Time's almost up for the Ghost and Goblin's KickStarter. You might be reading it days before the conclusion, or months after it's ended. For those who did make a pledge, getting the actual game is not the only perk of becoming involved. If the campaign was successful and you were a backer, you may have received a variety of items as a thank you.There's a collectable deck of trading cards, a CD featuring the soundtrack from the game. If you were like myself, you may have went for the Skeleton Package that features a framed shadow box, featuring a dummy NES cartridge of Ghost and Goblins – Demon World, with a box, and booklet.
What makes Phantasm Studios story interesting is that it is a new company. It is one of many companies that has used KickStarter to establish itself. If they succeed, we may see more remakes from them. If they fail, lets just hope they use their past mistakes as a tool.