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Interview: Yoshiaki Hirabayashi Talks Ghosts ‘N Goblins Resurrection

“The whole team, including the director, felt that including multiple difficulty modes was not ‘making the game easy’, but having categories of experience that could be enjoyed by players of different levels of proficiency,” Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, chief producer of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection tells me. “That experience is always a marriage of the setup of elements of the game and of the user’s ability, which defines what level of difficulty is just right for the game to be challenging but still give a sense of satisfaction. So the existence of multiple difficulty modes with varying levels of challenges isn’t something that I think is a bad thing, but just a way to increase player satisfaction. Beating the game on the difficulty level that suited them best is an achievement that each player can be proud of.”

Video game difficulty discourse is like Christmas in the games industry, if Christmas came seven times a year and instead of Santa bringing presents, it’s YouTubers bringing rage at how other people play games. Rather than tinsel on Christmas trees, the difficulty discourse Santas like to decorate the word ‘journalism’ with delightfully sarcastic air quotes.

Despite the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins being renowned for its difficulty, Hirabayashi doesn’t feel anything is lost by adding more options. In fact, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is benefitting. “Accessibility was an essential part of the game design,” he says. “There were two sides to accessibility in this case: one was making the game so it could match the level of experience each player has with the Ghosts series, while the other was designing the stages so that players would be inspired to form their own strategy on how to play and progress. The former was achieved by including multiple difficulty settings tuned appropriately, while the latter was achieved through adding a variety of customisable weapons and magic. I think both of these in combination are key to letting all kinds of players enjoy the game.”

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrected launched for the Nintendo Switch back in February, to celebrate the franchise’s 35th anniversary. On June 1, the game will launch on PS4, Xbox One, and PC as well, and Hirabayashi has some advice for newcomers to the franchise. “I would invite first-time players to take on the challenge so that they can experience that sense of pride that awaits them on the other side!” he says. “There is a selection of difficulty modes suited to all levels of experience, and there are customisable magic spells and skills that you can use strategically to get through each stage. All in all, I think Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection will be a great place to test out your gaming skills!”

35 years on from the original, Ghosts ‘n Goblins has stuck close to its roots, and Hirabayashi explains that the core of the game is what makes it so popular, so the team opted against tinkering too much. “There are two concepts that are in the DNA of the original game and that haven’t changed since the series’ inception,” he says. “The uniquely structured stages that are like a ‘horror theme park’, and challenges that seem very difficult at first but that you can get through if you try and reach a place of achievement and satisfaction. That combination has been what players of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series have enjoyed over the years, and what new players have waiting for them. The biggest challenge for us was to develop this game in such a way that each player can experience that satisfaction from the challenge at hand, and how to express that theme park concept at the same time using the latest technology.”

To do that, the game had to maintain its consistent tone. “Our goal was to create the atmosphere of what we called a ‘horror theme park’ – spooky rather than outright scary, with a comical undertone,” he says. “We felt that 2D was the best way to bring a touch of analogue warmth when expressing that. I hope that you can appreciate when playing the game that it shows how much depth can be brought to a 2D game!”

While Hirabayashi was chief producer of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, he’s best known for his work on the Resident Evil franchise. Since we knew he would have already been asked every question under the sun about his work on Resi, we threw a curveball. Had he seen Shaun of the Dead, and did he know that it came about after director Edgar Wright fell asleep playing Resident Evil? “I have seen it! But I had no idea that Resident Evil was an influence on it. Wow!”

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection releases on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on June 1. It’s available on Nintendo Switch now.

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