Bustin’ makes me feel good
What else can be said about the Ghostbusters that hasn’t already been said? The first film is considered a classic! Most consider the second film a disappointment. The recent “reboot” is considered the most controversial reboot of all time. It has been one of the most talked about franchises in the history of film but mostly for all the wrong reasons. Fans of the franchise don’t discuss how great the film was because they are a bit too busy talking about how the new film is going to destroy what they know and love. I’m here to tell those fans to not worry. Your childhood VHS copy is still there nice and snug between The Gate and Goonies.
Ghostbusters as a video game franchise, on the other hand, isn’t talked about anywhere near as much as it’s film counterpart simply because the games are notoriously bad. Most gamers have begrudgingly played Ghostbusters on the NES (I can hear that horrible digitized voice in my head as I type this), or it’s poorly, fingernails-on-a-chalkboard-esque Sega Master System brother. The New Ghostbusters 2 wasn’t as bad as the original games, but sadly it never got an American release; instead we got Ghostbusters II, which was a tad bit better than the original but many would still not consider it a good game. It wasn’t until Ghostbusters landed on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive that fans of the franchise finally had a video game worthy of the title.
Ghostbusters on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive starts off where the first film ended, but acts as if the second film was never going to happen since there is never a mention of this story in the film. I guess you could consider this a parallel universe in a way. Three of the four Ghostbusters, Egon, Ray, & Peter (Winston is not in this game), are a bit down on their luck since the defeat of Gozer. Paranormal activity in the city has just about ceased completely which means their bank accounts are shrinking. The guys are about to give up on their careers as Ghostbusters, but just as their about to hang up their proton packs an earthquake occurs and along with it comes a slew of phone calls begging them for their paranormal services.
Once your past the introduction of the story you will be greeted with four cases that you can take in any order that you’d like. Each case has a reward amount attached to it with the higher the reward being the more difficult the case. The cases themselves come in all shapes and sizes with a home manor being the easiest, and a large and high rise building reminiscent of Dana’s living quarters from the first film being the toughest. Each case has at least one mid level boss and a final boss that drops a mysterious stone that the team must figure out how to piece together. Once the 4 pieces of the tablet are connected properly the Ghostbusters will discover who or what has been causing the dramatic increase of paranormal activity in the city. The story isn’t the best, but considering the NES and SMS storylines, this is Oscar caliber stuff.
The options menu that’s available on the start screen will take you to a difficulty setting that includes easy, medium, and hard. The easy and medium difficulty settings will alter the amount of hits enemies can take before being defeated, and also change the cash reward amounts that the Ghostbusters are given for each ghost captured and safe found. You will start the game with 2 lives and if you end up depleting them, a generous 10 continues are at your disposal. If you defeated a couple mid-bosses and then needed to continue, the mid-bosses will remain defeated making things a bit more forgiving. Health can be replenished if you manage to shoot the notorious Slimer ghost that makes several appearances throughout each level. The game offers a moderate challenge on both easy and medium with boss patterns that most veteran players will discover almost immediately, but upping the difficulty to hard will bump your continues down to a measly 5 and bump up the hits enemies can withstand significantly.
At the start of the game players will be given the option to choose their Ghostbuster to use throughout the campaign with each having their own set speed and stamina stats. Egon being the quickest but he’s unable to withstand a lot of damage , Ray having the most stamina (able to withstand the most damage) but he’s really slow, and Peter being the most well rounded of the group. I found myself choosing Ray most of the time due to his large health meter, but I can see speed runners taking advantage of Egon. There is not a time limit in the game so I don’t see much more of a reason to choose him other than beating your previous time or if your in a hurry. Peter will probably be the obvious choice of most considering he’s the most popular, and he’s the perfect Ghostbuster for first timers to learn the ropes. Depending on what character you choose has no effect on the story as each character says the same exact lines.
Super easy and smooth controls are the name of the game here as Ghostbusters utilizes the simple 3-button design of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive gamepad. The C button jumps and the B button will fire your gun which is not the well known “stream” that fans know of that shoots from the generator on the proton pack. This new weapon doesn’t get an explanation but I suspect it’s a new form of device that Egon has cooked up in the lab. It shoots individual shots that will take out your basic enemies with just a few hits depending on the difficulty you choose in the options menu. The A button will unleash a bomb that will clear the screen of enemies and give you some much needed space. Weapons can be upgraded for a price by visiting the item shop before and after cases. The main weapon that you start the game out with has unlimited ammo but as you use upgraded weapons you will notice your energy meter depleting. Energy can be purchased at the same shop as well as bombs and other upgrades.
Graphically speaking, the game has aged pretty well with the mid and major boss sprites being the big highlights. The Ghostbusters themselves have small bodies but very large heads, obviously so the player can tell them apart. The buildings the cases located in are your standard fare of water, fire, and ice levels but they are maze like in nature to keep things a bit interesting. If you don’t utilize the map on the pause screen you will find yourself walking in circles and getting frustrated fairly quickly. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man surprisingly makes another appearance for no reason other than for fun, and the sprite work here is glorious. The final stage, which acts as a boss rush, has a very dark feel to it and fits the game exceptionally well.
The music is memorable with each case having a different tune that fits the environment. The ice stage, for instance, has an echoey sound throughout and the fire stage is a faster pace jingle. The Ghostbusters theme will greet you from the switch of the power button and that Yamaha YM2612 sound chip goodness will please any Sega fan immediately.
Most modern gamers have been pampered with 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game, but us older fossils didn’t have it as good. I believe this to be hands down the best Ghostbusters video game of the 8 & 16-bit era and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t give it a play. Strap on your proton packs and start bustin’ some 16-bit ghouls!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Released on: Sega Genesis (reviewed) ; Publisher: Sega of America ; Developer: Compile, Sega Enterprises ; Year released: 1990