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This month, we are jumping into two classic titles that should make for one haunting October that should please just about any retro gamer.
Alone in the Dark
In 1924, the artist Jeremy Hartwood commits suicide in his Louisiana mansion, Derceto. While the police rush through the case, Jeremy’s niece Emily Hartwood arrives at the mansion to check a piano for a secret drawer hopefully containing a note from Jeremy and offering closure for his demise. A private investigator, Edward Carnby, also arrives seeking the piano at the behest of an antiques dealer. Once inside, the door slams shut, and bizarre and terrifying monsters and supernatural occurrences begin to appear. Can Edward and Emily solve the puzzles and discover the secrets of Derceto’s dark past? Or will they suffer a fate far worse than death, one that will have terrifying consequences for us all?
The brain child of Frederick Raynal, Infogrames developed and produced Alone in the Dark in 1992. The game proved a hit and was enthusiastically received by the industry, earning such accolades as the Most Original Game at the European Computer Trade Show 1993 and the Consumer Electronics Show award for Best Foreign Game. The game has since appeared on multiple lists for greatest games of all time, as well as Game Informer’s list of most influential games in 2005. As the first 3D horror game of its type, Alone in the Dark would serve as one of the two primary influences on Capcom’s Resident Evil series(the other being the Famicom RPG Sweet Home), and its design would leave an indelible mark on the entire horror genre.
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Don’t feel that running around haunted mansions while dealing with tank controls is your thing? That’s ok, there is always glory in the arcade. In tandem with Alone in the Dark this year, we’re also playing Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, the start of one of Capcom’s best-selling and beloved franchises. Created by Tokuro Fujiwara and released to arcades in 1985, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts proved to be a hit and even became runner up for Arcade-Style Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards in 1986. Considered one of the top 200 best NES games according to Nintendo Power’s Top 200 Games list, it is legendary for its difficulty. In fact Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is often labeled one of the hardest games ever released.
Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark is a 3D action game that predates the term “survival horror” but helped create all of the trappings commonly associated with the genre in the 1990s. Releasing in the early days of 3D third person game design on home computers, the game necessitated a control scheme and viewing angles which could adapt to a new dimension. The result: tank controls and fixed camera angles which could instill paranoia and dread in the player, which was further supported through the game’s audio design. Instant deaths, rudimentary and limited combat options, and the ability to enter an unwinnable state further shaped the genre to come while also revealing Alone in the Dark’s point-and-click roots. The player does receive the option to play as either Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood, though this has little bearing on actual gameplay.
The story for Alone in the Dark is crucial to the game’s horrific mood. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and other stories were a major influence, as were the writings of Howard Philip Lovecraft. In fact multiple references to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos are made, including an appearance by the Necronomicon. Infogrames developed the game Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet around the same time as Alone in the Dark, and a few subtle references between the two games can be found. Edward Carnby’s name comes from a story by Clark Ashton Smith, while the mansion’s name, Derceto, is pulled from a Syrian fertility goddess.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Ghosts ‘n Goblins is a side-scrolling platformer released for arcades in 1985. The player controls Sir Arthur, a knight who wants to save Princess Prin Prin from the clutches of Satan, the king of Demon World. To do this, he’ll have to face hordes of monsters across a slew of levels until finally taking on Satan directly. Power ups such as new weapons, bonuses, and extra suits of armor can be found along the way, which will likely all be needed due to Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ famed difficulty. Besides the numerous foes that Sir Arthur will face, he also has limited health, he’s up against a time limit, and he must use a specific weapon to defeat Satan or else be forced back to the start of level 5 again. Even “beating” the game is a trap however, as the player is then taken back to the beginning of the first level to play the game on a higher difficulty. The game is only truly beaten at the end of this second playthrough.
Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark was ported to different machines in different regions. Europe saw a DOS release in 1992 as well as a 3DO port in 1994. In the United States, the game was distributed by Interplay Entertainment for DOS in 1992, then later on the 3DO in 1993 and the Mac OS in 1994. Japan saw ports for the PC-98 and FM Towns in 1993 handled by Arrow Micro-Techs Corp, followed by a 3DO port in 1994. The 3DO ports were all handled by Krisalis(and distributed in Japan by Pony Canyon), which added voice acting and an orchestrated version of the game’s soundtrack but left the core gameplay largely unchanged.
The iOS version released worldwide in 2014 by Kung-Fu Factory, while the DOS versions saw an updated release as a pack-in with Alone in the Dark 2 and 3 on GOG in 2011.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins
As a result of its popularity, Ghosts ‘n Goblins was widely ported. The NES saw a port in both Japan and the US in 1986, as did the Game Boy. The Game Boy Advance also received a port as part of the Classic NES series in Japan. The Commodore 64, Commodore 16, Commodore Amiga, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari ST, and IBM PCs all received ports though with varying levels of successful translation to the medium. For example, the Commodore 16 release only features a simplified two levels and no music.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins also received a release for PlayStation in Japan and Europe as well as for the Sega Saturn in Japan as part of the Capcom Generations Vol. 2: Chronicles of Arthur compilation. This version was later put out in the Capcom Classics Collection. Another compilation to feature Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is the Capcom Arcade Cabinet for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Finally the Virtual Console saw a release of the NES version for both the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U, while the arcade version was released via the Wii’s Virtual Console Arcade.
Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark began a long-running franchise lasting nearly 25 years, and its influence helped shape the beginnings of the survival horror genre. The first game was followed by Alone in the Dark 2 in 1993 and Alone in the Dark 3 in 1994. After a 7 year hiatus, a pseudo-sequel/reboot, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, was developed by Darkworks and published by Infogrames for the PlayStation and Dreamcast, which were soon followed by ports to Windows and the Game Boy Color.
After Infogrames acquired the Atari properties owned by Hasbro Interactive and transitioned into Atari, Inc., two new games in the series was developed, also called Alone in the Dark. One version was developed by Hydravision Entertainment for PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii, while the other version was developed by Eden Games for Windows, PlayStation 3(under the name Alone in the Dark: Inferno), and Xbox 360. The most recent entry in the franchise is Alone in the Dark: Illumination, developed by Pure FPS for Windows as an online co-op title. Unfortunately the later games in the franchise have been poorly received, with Illumination rated as one of the worst games of 2015.
The Alone in the Dark series has also spawned two motion pictures, Alone in the Dark and Alone in the Dark II. The original was directed by infamous movie director Uwe Boll, who also produced the sequel but let Michael Roesch direct the second outing. While the second movie was considered better than the original, both were widely criticized.
More important than the series is the lasting impact is has left on video game history. Alone in the Dark is considered the forebear of the survival horror genre and a critical influence on later games and franchises such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and more. Its use of third person action, control style, puzzle design, and cinematic fixed camera angles helped set the standard for what would separate survival horror’s style from other horror-themed games such as Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet, D, Castlevania, and Blood. Without its influence, companies such as Capcom and Konami would have had very different histories, and the face of 3D gaming would be tremendously altered.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Ghosts ‘n Goblins served as the starting point for a series, which has led it to become Capcom’s 8th best-selling franchise. Games that followed included Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Choumakaimura R, Makaimura for WonderSwan, Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins., Gokumakaimura Kai, Ghosts n’ Goblins: Gold Knights, and Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Gold Knights II. One of the enemies in the GnG series, a demon named Firebrand, also received a series of his own known for its titular entry, Gargoyle’s Quest. These games include Gargoyle’s Quest, Gargoyle’s Quest II, Makaimura Gaiden: The Demon Darkness, and Demon’s Crest. Finally there is the Maximo 3D hack and slash platformer series for PlayStation 2, which is set in the same universe and consists of Maximo: Ghosts to Glory and Maximo vs. Army of Zin.
The property has also been developed into pachinko games, a puzzle game based on Sid & Al’s Incredible Toons, a trio of mobile phone games, and there is even supposedly an MMO in development in Korea called Makaimura Online. The character Sir Arthur has left a large footprint across Capcom games, such as inclusion of Arthur’s appearance in Breath of Fire or as a costume in Dead Rising 2, or serving as a playable character in Cannon Spike, We Love Golf!, the X Capcom series, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Firebrand also appears in the vs. series both as a playable character or as a reference.
Outside of video games, the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise has been referenced or adapted into manga. The series also appeared in Archie Comics Worlds Unite crossover story along with other Capcom and Sega franchises such as Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog.