Genre: Action Developer: Sega Enterprises Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1990
I have many fond memories of the Ghostbusters franchise, cartoon monkeys and bad sequel aside. I also remember playing the heck out of the Master System version all those years ago. Living in a small town with no place to go gave me plenty of time to play out all my games, and I actually beat Ghostbusters , even though it was pretty bad (generous, I am). When I saw that it was being released for the Genesis, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I really wanted a game that did justice to the film. On the other hand, I had played the Master System version. Needless to say, I was quite surprised at the overall quality and playability the 16-bit installment offered.
Sporting an original story but retaining most of the charm of the film, Ghostbusters continues the saga of Peter, Raymond, and Egon (my favorite) as they battle to rid New York of the supernatural phenomenon that it seems to constantly attract. Although things had quieted down somewhat since the destruction of Zuul, recent earthquakes in the metro area have citizens in chaos. The boys suit up and tackle cases in four areas of the city, culminating in a mysterious castle that has suddenly appeared on the horizon.
First things first. Ghostbusters is an early Genesis title and may not look all that appealing by today’s standards, but it was pretty spiffy when it was released. After spending some time with it, it feels like a Ghostbusters game, and that’s what counts. Environments are large and easy to navigate, with platform elements that most gamers today will breeze through. Stages range from small houses to apartment complexes, each with a specific theme. Again, as it was released during the heyday of the side scrolling platformer, certain clichés abound. There are your expected fire and ice levels, those that offer limited visibility (infra-red goggles will fix this), a forest, etc. While they may not be cutting edge, they are well done and pleasing to the eye.
The main characters are drawn with oversized heads, and do a fairly accurate job of recreating each actor’s likeness. Each has specific traits that distinguish them from one another. Ray is tough but slow, and Egon is weaker but faster. Peter, finally, is balanced in speed and stamina and is a good choice for beginners. Don’t ask me what happened to Ernie Hudson though. I use Egon myself, as everyone knows he’s what makes the ‘busters the badasses they are.
Enemies are large and decently animated. There are no multi-jointed foes here but there are at least eight mini bosses that are a blast to fight. Everything from a huge caterpillar to the Grim Reaper himself has found its way to the big apple and is looking for a particle-accelerated ass whupping.
I was disappointed by the lack of parallax and other effects. Aside from a lightening reflection in the castle and the Marshmallow Man looming in the background in the high rise building (he punches holes in the walls as you climb!), things are pretty bare-boned here. Many other titles of the time, like Mystic Defender and Strider had fog and scrolling backgrounds, and I expected more from such a recognizable license.
One of the things that makes this title so easy to get into is the ability to fire in all eight directions. You have only three lives and energy refills are sparse, so being able to hit enemies from underneath and from an angle makes things a lot easier. While your standard weapon isn’t all that strong, upgrades are available in the weapons store between levels. Bubble shot (don’t let the name fool you), plasma beams, and 3-way shots all work differently with each enemy, so you’ll have to try each one out until you find the one that works best. In addition, the store also sells energy tanks to prolong the duration of your weapons, a shield to reduce damage, and food to replenish energy. The more ghosts you destroy, the more money you earn.
After you nail each mini boss, you have to capture them and haul them over to an open trap in the middle of the screen. Nabbing the baddies with your trap nets you some cash and kudos from grateful residents. The nasty little buggers will fight hard to escape and if they do, you’ll be admonished by your customer and won’t get paid.
A cool little detail is the appearance of Slimer in each stage. If you can shoot him, he’ll release life or weapon energy. He sometimes appears among a lot of enemies, causing many a greedy player to fall into his trap as they strive to stay alive or recharge their weapon.
Ghostbusters is on about the same level audibly as it is graphically. What’s there is nice and gets the job done but nothing really gets your attention. Music is upbeat and catchy but tends to get repetitive pretty fast. The opening theme has to be the worst rendition of Ray Parker Jr.’s classic that has ever been recorded and will quickly poison your enthusiasm. I recommend you press start as soon as possible.
I find it odd that many first generation Genesis games had sound effects that were never used again. Phantasy Star II , Rambo III , all had some awesome effects that I never heard anywhere else. Sega continued that practice here, and it’s a shame. The effects are one of the first things to come to mind whenever I think about this game.
As licensed games go, Ghostbusters is clearly one of the better ones of its era. While it may not be a defining example of the genre, it does what it sets out to do and is entertaining for the hour or so that it lasts.
SCORE: 7 out of 10