All this recent talk of a possible new Ghostbusters video game for modern consoles has me thinking of the old games based on the franchise that I played as a child. It would be far too easy to praise the fantastic Ghostbusters game for the Commodore 64 that I played relentlessly once upon a time, so instead the time has come to share the story about how I acquired what has to be the absolute worst game in my Nintendo Entertainment System library.
I was devoted to the Ghostbusters franchise in my youth. I got my start with The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and somewhere around the age of six or so I found out that there had been an actual Ghostbusters movie that preceded the cartoon. My parents had kept that little fact from me for quite some time, concerned that the film would be too frightening for someone of my young age. Eventually the movie turned up on television one Saturday night, and since all movies are edited for broadcast, they decided to let me watch since the truly frightening stuff would have been removed or toned down. After seeing the film I became even more hooked on the franchise. I started reading The Real Ghostbusters magazine every month, and it was in an issue from late 1988 I learned of the film's upcoming sequel, Ghostbusters 2. As you can imagine, euphoria set in.
I began to amass all kinds of Ghostbusters merchandise. I had the action figures (and their vehicles!), the slime in a can, the plastic drinking cup (still have that, actually), the novels based on the films, the Ghostbusters 2 activity books, the stickers, the pins... all kinds of things. While thumbing through the other magazine I subscribed to at the time, Nintendo Power, my paranormal interests collided with my Nintendo obsession in a mention of an upcoming Ghostbusters 2 video game for the NES. Predictably enough, rapture set in.
The Nintendo Power blurb wasn't very descriptive. The two paragraphs of text spent more time talking about the upcoming movie than the game itself, and the lone screenshot revealed the Statue of Liberty swimming in the Hudson River. Once I saw the movie in the theater on opening night (which, I admit, turned out to be too scary for me at times) I eagerly awaited the full Nintendo Power blow-out on the game that I knew just had to be coming. So I waited. Waited a long time, in fact. No additional word ever came on the game beyond a brief mention in the "Pak Watch" list of upcoming games (where it was marked as coming in open-ended "future"). I had my allowance saved up and set aside for the game, and considering how amazing the original Ghostbusters game had been, I expected nothing but greatness from the sequel.
Sometime over the summer of 1990 while browsing the shelves at Wal-Mart I came across the game. It had been released silently as far as I was knew, as Nintendo Power had not mentioned it again, nor had The Real Ghostbusters magazine offered up any useful information. Still, there it was, hanging on the rack up for grabs. True to form, I grabbed it. Fifty dollars later I was gleefully headed home to play. As it turns out, that moment would mark the most enjoyment I would ever get out of Ghostbusters 2 for the NES.
The game was a disaster. The basic structure of the film was retained, but the soul was missing. The game was a side-scrolling platformer that lacked platforms. Ghostbusters moved from right to left across levels based on locations from the film, such as Van Horne station under the subway and the courtroom of Judge Wexler. Ghosts flew overhead at times, and shooting them with slime from the slime blower could slow them down. Dropping a ghost trap with the Start button sucked in any ghost that happened to fly overhead down into defeat. The main issue, however, were the many random objects that bounded and flipped across the level. For some reason things such as errant cowbells and flying irons dive-bombed our heroes, and neither slime blower nor ghost trap could slow them down. Essentially, the characters spend the game being pummeled by unavoidable junk. A single hit costs one life, meaning that the game was unbelievably unbalanced.
Levels that involved driving the Ecto-1A to the next destination faired no better, and the Statue of Liberty levels were a sub-par shooter trapped in a shoddy platformer game. If our heroes somehow made it to the museum level, each individual Ghostbuster must traverse the level to make it to Vigo the Carpathian's painting. Yes, that's right: in order to win the game I would have had to complete the same frustrating level four times in a row, each time with a different Ghostbuster. I never have finished the game. As a kid I grew far too frustrated to continue the madness, while now as an adult I find that I no longer care.
There is a happy ending to my Ghostbusters obsession, thankfully. In 1999 I bought my first DVD, and of course it had to be the fifteenth anniversary edition of the original Ghostbusters film. All those years later I finally saw the movie uncut and in widescreen for the very first time. The franchise may have stalled, but the good times and happy memories are far from dead.