Ghostbusters, NES/Famicom

The Nintendo Entertainment System version of David Crane‘s Ghostbusters is known for being a bit of a mess, compared to all the other versions.

It was initially released in Japan in 1986 and later in North America in 1988. Why the two year delay? Probably something to do with the fact that the game is terrible…

The NES version of Ghostbusters is similar in some respects to the Sega Master System version, particularly the driving sections, although it does have a few other differences to the original game. Like the fact that the shop is located at the top of the city map screen and that you have to visit it first, before you can really do anything… Which is ridiculous. There’s also a Gas Station on the map which you need to use to keep your car filled-up with fuel (again: pretty ridiculous in the context of such a simple game).

The basic aim of Ghostbusters is the same as all the other versions: you’ve got to make money by catching ghosts – specifically: to earn more money than you begin with – before the city’s PK energy levels reach 9999.

Ghosts called “Roamers” gravitate towards the central building on the city map and you can stop them by moving your Ghostbusters cursor over them, then driving out to vacuum them up with your special ghost vacuum cleaner.

Buildings that flash red on the map have a “Slimer” haunting them and these must also be dealt with.

Driving to a haunted building cuts to a separate screen where you must line up your Ghostbusters and use their beams to shepherd the ghosts into the jaws of a trap. In the NES version of Ghostbusters – just like in the Sega Master System version – for some reason the designers decided to use vertical beams instead of diagonal ones (like in the original), and I think it ruins the game. It is still possible to catch ghosts, but it’s not as much fun and it just looks and feels wrong. I don’t know what the designers were thinking to be honest. “Let’s take this thing from the original that isn’t broken and let’s break it in our game…”

Actually: let’s be honest here. This game has got a bad reputation because it is incredibly badly designed and executed – not because it is misunderstood. The designers who made Ghostbusters for the NES made some inexplicably bad decisions during development and everyone who worked on it should hang their heads in shame.

Whoever decided that the gas station should be included deserves a swift kick up the back bottom… And don’t get me started about the stairway to Zuul – the ‘legendary’ penultimate level where you have to run up Zuul’s staircase, by button-bashing, in order to face him. Honestly: it’s ridiculous. The final battle with Zuul is nigh on impossible too. For all the wrong reasons.

There isn’t much I like about Ghostbusters on the NES to be honest…

I’d read about this version of Ghostbusters before playing it and I wondered if it was really that bad. Well… Yes. Yes, it is. It’s an insult to the intelligence of any gamer.

If you want to play Ghostbusters as David Crane intended: try the C64 or Atari 8-bit versions instead.

Ghostbusters on The King of Grabs:
Commodore 64, Apple II, ZX Spectrum, Atari 800, Atari 2600, MSX, Amstrad CPC, PC Booter, NES, Sega Master System.

More: Ghostbusters on Wikipedia

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