Wanna get your ass kicked by a video game? Look no further than Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins. This update of the classic arcade series adds some modern RPG and adventure elements to the mix, but backs it up with the hard-as-nails action that the series has always been loved (and hated) for. In fact, Ultimate is easily the hardest GnG yet. If you can get used to the turbulence, though, it proves to be a pretty fun little ride.
As usual, you play the stalwart knight Arthur, who double-jumps gaps and chucks spears to save the virtue of his princess. This time he's got ten or so levels to traverse, packed with all manner of ghosts, ghouls and yes, even goblins. He'll need all the skill you can muster, as well as a huge variety of power-ups, to even hope to see the end.
Capcom must've known this game was a bastard, because it kindly offers three vastly different difficulty levels. Almost everyone should start with novice, which gives you nine lives per game, tones down some obstacles, and - gift of gifts - lets you restart close to where you died. Once you're comfortable, standard mode offers a fresh challenge. Ultimate mode, however, is akin to the classic games on difficulty-boosting crack, and should only be attempted by sadists and professionals. It truly is something else.
We won't lie: we were intimidated at first, and our initial forays into the demon realm did not go smoothly. There were too many items ("what the heck does this do?"), too many enemies, and too many unforeseeable deaths.
After some practice, however, we got used to the game's frantic tempo and adjusted to its demanding gameplay. Once it all clicked, the fun really started flowing, and we began to take all of the crazy challenges in stride. We used upwards of 16 continues during that first adventure, but hey, it was a learning experience. Next time we know we can halve that (or better), and we look forward to trying. That's the mark of a well-made, addictive arcade game.
Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins looks fairly good, though it doesn't push the PSP further than you've already seen it go. The 3D graphics are enjoyably atmospheric, but it's a shame that the action doesn't run a bit more smoothly (the sole downgrade, compared to the prior games). The soundtrack, however, is wonderful, full of haunting orchestral compositions that could stand well on their own. The control, too, is spot-on, which is essential for this sort of game.
As good as it is, Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins is clearly not for everyone. Folks who get an adrenaline rush from Nintendo's Kirby games should steer clear, as should anyone prone to throwing controllers. For the few, the proud and the masochistic, however, your game has arrived. Good luck, and for the love of god, use that optional wrist-strap. PSPs are expensive.