For all whom have taken on the challenges the Ghost and Goblins-series has provided, many of us will remember the terror of one specific red gargoyle. How he even got his own game is a mystery to me. Nevertheless: Capcom released Gargoyle’s Quest in 1990 for the Game Boy and it got a re-release for the 3DS E-shop in 2011. Is this still the hidden gem it once was?
Saving the ghouls and demons!
“A long time ago, the Ghoul Realm barely escaped great peril. A large army of Destroyers came from a neighboring universe. The creatures of the Ghoul Realm were no match for the powerful Destroyers. Just when everyone had given up hope, a great fire swept over the Realm, wiping out the Destroyers’ army. Several hundred years have passed and the Realm is threatened once again…”
This is the text you are presented with at the start of the game, before a couple of NPCs die in front of Firebrand, our playable hero. The story is a simple one where you are the hero who must save the demonic realm, with minor plot-reasons to move the story forward. It is simple, quickly told and forgettable. The towns and NPCs try to give it some atmosphere, with even the passwords being “resurrection-spells” to be remembered. However, the dialog is poorly translated and the NPCs do not have the broadest vocabulary. The grander ones, such as the kings and the bosses have some flavour-text that tries to be royal-material or intimidating, and it comes off as adorable. I enjoy the setup, but can’t really call this a great story. It is admirable for a Gameboy-title if nothing else.
Story Score: 6/10
Taking to the skies
Gargoyle’s Quest is a unique platformer for many reasons with one of them being of course how Firebrand traverses through the stages. Having the ability to cling to walls, using his wings for a short time to hover and jump, makes for simple, but unique way for platforming. Those stages vary a lot from huge areas that can be explored for hidden goodies, to tighter areas that are almost like small labyrinths. Each stage complements the use of our hero’s abilities, such as hovering over obstacles to cling onto moving platforms. The layout always changes, so you have to be ready for what’s up ahead. The designs of the stages aren’t the only thing to be aware of however, since the enemies are varied both in style and behaviour. Some seek you out as soon as they spot you, others have shields they carry around and some throws their heads at you, giving you a good reason to remember the enemies’ patterns. To defend against these creatures, Firebrand can shoot projectiles from his mouth. They can be shot at a good range either to left or right, and some that are obtainable later on, might even have a second use to support the platforming.
Mixing in RPG-elements with the unique take on platforming, is an interesting concept. Besides getting upgrades for health, wing-power for the length of your hovering, higher jumps and different types of projectile-weapons throughout the story, there is also a traditional overworld map to traverse on. Similar to other traditional JRPGs, the overworld-map will be served to visit other towns, dungeons and battles, both random and not.
The dungeons are the aforementioned 2D-stages, where you must get from point a to b, with maybe a boss to fight against. The bosses are always different and a treat, making you platform while fighting them and them being a dangerous foe. Even the random battles takes you to small 2D-stages where you must kill a couple of enemies. They are quick and can yield some vials, the ingame currency, but can be a bit tedious. The towns work similar to the overworld map, except they have people to talk to, passwords to acquire and they offer the only use for vials: trading them in for extra lives.
This game is challenging and is even pretty brutal in the beginning when you have little health to be of support. Later on, it has a good difficulty-curve, but the first stage threw me really off since it expects you to be on your toes right away. Luckily the game has a decent checkpoint-system, lives are easy to acquire due to many vials to find, no levels are cheap and health regenerates after the stages. There is also the aforementioned password-system which is good to have, however the game will only take about 2 and a half to 3 hours to get through.
With unique platforming and small RPG-elements being mixed in, Gargoyle’s Quest is a fun ride to be had. The random battles can be a bit of a drag and the game is really short, but it is a sweet journey nonetheless.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
As charming and creative as a black and white movie
With no colors except for black and white, it is impressive how much was crammed into the small cartridge. All the enemies and bosses have great designs to them, with Firebrand stealing the show and being well animated. They all have a gothic aspect to them, but also a cute design, like a halloween-costume. The dungeons and castles all have their own unique feel, with the background and layout differing visually, making each location memorable. However the 2D-parts have slowdowns and the graphics can flicker, especially when there is a lot going on on the screen.
The overworld map is not as beautiful, with a lot of mountains and trees taking up most of the view. The towns aren’t much better, due to them being really similar to each other. It is technically good for the system, but more creativity, such as with the 2D-stages, would have been much welcomed.
Since this is a gameboy-game, we can expect the traditional chiptunes and they are a blast. From composer Harumi Fujita (known for Chip and Dale on NES and Tomba for PS1 to name a few) and Yoko Shimomura (known for many, including the Kingdom Hearts-series), we can expect a memorable and amazing soundtrack and it delivers with dark notes and a tone of solace. Talking to NPC’s, however, isn’t really a delight since their sound-effect tries to simulate grunts, but it comes off as repetitive when it is used for every word.
Presentation Score: 8/10
While there is not much to come back to after the 2-3 hours of play-time, it was such an enjoyable time that this will definitely be revisited. With such a unique concept, fun platforming and a memorable world, this spinoff is worth owning and a welcome addition to the Game Boy-library.