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David Crane Reflects On Bringing The Ghostbusters To The Commodore 64

GhostbustersOne of my very first computer games was Ghostbusters for the Commodore 64, and being a fan of the animated The Real Ghostbusters (at age six, I hadn't seen nor did I even know there was a movie yet!), I eagerly played the game to completion many times over the years until my parents sold the C64 in favor of a Windows 3.1 PC from Gateway 2000.  It's a tightly structured game that allows players to start their own Ghostbusters franchise and is just as much about money management and inventory than it is about zapping and trapping ghosts.  There's even sections devoted to driving the Ecto-1 around New York City while vacuuming up ghosts.  Here's a video of the game from start to finish to check out if you're unfamiliar with it.

Back in 2007, developer David Crane discussed the making of the game in an interview with Next Generation, although that article has since been lost to time.  I even covered it here on PTB.  I happened to come across it again via the Wayback Machine and thought it was worth bringing back around now that there have been several new Ghostbusters games produced since it was published. 

But a team wasn’t enough on its own – it also required a head start. Happily, at the time the licence came his way, Crane had been hard at work on a game called Car Wars. It was this title that would help Crane crystallise the unusual design concept for Ghostbusters.

“In Car Wars you customised a car with weapons that you would use while driving around the city. Sound at all familiar?” says Crane. “There was no hope of finishing a new game in time without using work already in progress, so I had to tie the driving sequence to the Ghostbusters concept. And what better way than to change the weaponry on the car to ghost-catching tools? Of course, at no point in the film do the actors drive through the city vacuuming up ghosts, but why not? Let’s add a ‘ghost vacuum’ to the car and suck up wandering ghosts.”

I think the reason this game works so well is that it mirrors what the original film did.  The game is essentially a business simulator with some shooter elements, and even director Ivan Reitman said that the movie is more of a "going into business" story than it is a straight sci-fi horror tale.  It's a relatable touchstone that brings players in more than just shooting at ghosts and calling it a day.  It's not enough to stop Gozer; you need to watch out for the bottom line, too.  Crane didn't work on the many ports of the game to other computers and game consoles, and it definitely shows.  The Nintendo Entertainment System version added more ghostbusting tools, but also tried to fix what wasn't broken and created a lesser experience.  The Sega Master System version sticks closer to the source material and looks better, but is still just an imitation.  There's some definite magic in that C64 version that wasn't duplicated anywhere else.