New Ghostbusters II
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9  |  As Good as it Gets
JAnderson , 1/22/2005 6:11:52 AM
Ghostbusters games have basically been a series of hideous mistakes. From the Atari 2600 mess(which saw NES and SMS ports), the rather unplayable Ghostbusters II for NES, and the rather oddball The Real Ghostbusters for Gameboy(which was just an odd graphical hack of Garfield for Gameboy), as well as the "okay game, but not Ghostbusters" Extreme Ghostbusters titles, the haunting truth that movies port poorly as games has been evident(though games have always ported poorly to movies as well, but that's another article).

Enter HAL. In 1988, through sublicense from Activision, they get permission to make their own Ghostbusters II game. A game which, sadly, would never see US distribution(I guess Activision wanted sole sales in the US, where GBII would be expected to do best). HAL's title would be called New Ghostbusters II.

NGBII is an overhead view game where you control two Ghostbusters. You can choose from Peter, Egon, Ray, Winston, or the meek accountant Louis Tully. It really doesn't matter who you choose since they're all the same. So long as you choose two. Your first choice will be who you control- the "buster". You will use the proton pack to zap ghosts. The second character- the "trapper" is AI controlled and follows you around. Pressing A works the proton beam. Once a ghost is held, pressing B calls your trapper to send out the trap. The idea is to trap all ghosts in a room. Once cleared, an arrow points you on to the next room.

Your buster has three lives and dies after each hit. Your trapper is immune to damage. The buster can latch onto a ghost and continue to move around to avoid other ghosts, though moving too far breaks the beam. It's also possible to catch a ghost through a wall, if the ghost is close enough to the edge.

As a movie conversion, the accuracy isn't any better than any other movie-based game. The movie's plot is followed loosely. But what's important here is that the gameplay keeps the spirit of Ghostbusters by allowing you to control two characters at once(the general GB rule is "never bust alone"). Few movie enemies show up- a number of Slimer clones, the bathtub ooze monster, the old severed heads from the subway, and the park jogger. You also have a multitude of small blobs, ooze monsters, spear-toting birds, ghost ninjas, chainsaw maniacs, and a pumpkin-headed creature(which somewhat resembles Samhain, a villain from The Real Ghostbusters catoon).

Graphics are good overall. The game uses the "super deformed" art style of Japan yet manages to make characters look like the actors. Colors are generally good all around, though color palette limitations make Winston blue rather than the proper skin tone. Janine Melnitz, the secretary, is not seen even though Louis and the prosecutor are.

Pausing brings up the score and remaining lives. Extra lives can be gained by increasing your score as you capture ghosts.

Level 1 is the courthouse. A simple level featuring a cameo by the prosecutor(being harassed by two ghosts). Reaching the courtroom features a rupturing jar of ooze, and a boss fight with the Scoleri brothers. Boss fights play out differently from standard captures- you must zap the ghost until they turn orange, then capture them. Level 2 takes you into the subways below, fighting a myriad of ghostly subway workers and miners, while avoiding being run over by mine cars. Reach the old ghost train, fight the severed heads, then capture a Slimer, wiedling a shovel and tossing chunks of coal.

Level 3 is the apartment, and foregoes a boss in favor of several minibosses. The end sequence shows baby Oscar being kidnapped. Level 4 takes you to the underground river of slime, where you will meet and fight large slime dragons. Level 5 is the museum, will you will eventually find the possessed Janosz, museum curator turned possessed servant of Vigo. Defeat him and be taken to the painting of Vigo for the final battle.

Unfortunately, the game is short. More levels could have been included, even a run through the street of New York catching ghosts. There is also no usage of PKE meters, slime blowers, or any other such goodies. Just the basic tools(though Ray wears his thermal goggles).

This is one of the more sought-after NES titles since it never saw US release. The PAL release is generally the most desired, though the game saw a near-identical release in Japan as well. Same text and title screens. However, the Japanese version's music plays at normal speed while the PAL music plays at nearly double speed. The PAL release also features fewer enemies(while making the game slightly easier, it also means you'll earn fewer extra lives).

The length is the only real detraction. A level or two more and I'd give the game a solid ten. The game is otherwise fun and captures the true feel of Ghostbusters better than any other game. This is one worth tracking down. (Real Ghostbusters II Earns a 9/10

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