Retro Renegade: Ghostbusters (Genesis, 1990)

There’s no denying the impact Ghostbusters, the loveable supernatural comedy, had when it first debuted in 1984. Starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson and directed by Ivan Reitman, Ghostbusters was practically bound for success thanks to its dream team cast and crew.  Not surprisingly, Ghostbusters quickly became a smash hit, catching the world by storm with its iconic characters, quirky humor and fun scares.  It became such a hit that several different adaptations were made including a cartoon, comic books and video games.

Ghostbusters for Genesis is commonly considered the best video game of the retro era, not to be confused with the Nintendo version by the same name. Ghostbusters is a mission-based run-and-gun platformer, which lets you control cartoony versions of three of the four Ghostbusters (it puzzles me why Winston never made the cut). The game tasks you with clearing out four haunted buildings where you’ll find multiple ghosts to hunt and plenty of loot.  In addition there are a few shops with a wide range of power-up items and weapons to check out as you accumulate money. One of the earliest Genesis releases, Ghostbusters was pretty impressive considering Sega was still figuring out the console’s capabilities.  It was never anything groundbreaking, but it did attempt to replicate Ghostbuster’s charm, even with limited resources.

Ghostbusters’ exploration is probably its most winning feature thanks to its non-linear level design and steady flow of bizarre enemies.  I can see how someone just jumping into the game might find the non-linearity to be a pain, but I think it helps differentiate itself from other games in the genre. The maze-like design was more appealing the more you played and opened up more gameplay possibilities.

The game’s range in motion and weapon variety are a few other welcome additions, and add a greater sense of immersion even when the game got frustrating.  Mind you, Ghostbusters is never excruciatingly difficult (compared to some other Genesis games at the time) and is pretty easy to pick up after a few tested playthroughs (just check out all the awesome speed-runs and you’ll see just what I’m talking about).

The music and graphics are nothing to be wowed over (don’t even get me started on the butchered Ghostbusters theme song), but there are a few nice moments peppered here and there.  Some of the boss battles animations were pretty impressive and the boss music really set the hectic mood, particularly later on in the game.  And let’s not forget the awesome Stay Puft boss battle, that was pretty memorable at the time.

By no means is Ghostbusters a great game, but it did make a good attempt for its time. The weapon variety, non-linearity and range in motion are some of the biggest highlights the game has to offer, even during its more jarring, sloppy moments.  While it probably didn’t win hearts the way other Ghostbusters adaptations did, it was certainly the best in the video game franchise at the time (seriously, don’t even bother touching Ghostbusters 2). Is it a must-have?  Not unless you’re a die-hard Ghostbusters fan, but if you’re looking for a fun run-and-gun platformer this might be worth checking out.