At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve of the last decade of the 20th century
America's largest city is about to pay for the nastinest of its inhabitants.
When that day comes... when the slime starts to rise...
When ghosts start arrving by the boatload....
There's only one thing to do.
One of my fondest childhood gaming memories is playing the Commodore 64 version of Activision's game based on the first Ghostbusters film, so when I read about a game being prepared by Activision based on Ghostbusters II for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990, I was thrilled. After weeks of making phone calls I tracked down a copy, took it home, and popped it in the console. It's now over ten years later and I still want my $39.95 back. This game is one of the worst I've ever played, and I've explored some crappy game paks in my day. The game attempts to follow the storyline of the movie (a loose interpretation, at best) and succeeds in very few aspects. There are three types of levels, all side-scrolling: platformer levels (with no platforms), driving levels in the Ecto-1, and shooter levels from the Statue of Liberty.
The game opens with a picture of Vigo the Carpathian sneering and announcing that he will rule the world. Then we cut to a screen of a Ghostbuster being lowered into the Van Horn Pneumatic Transit System under the streets of New York. Now control is turned over to the player. The controls are straight-forward, at least. The A button shoots a blast from the slime blower, the B button jumps (but your character cannot jump high enough to do anything useful), the Up/Down parts of the Control Pad angle the shot, Left/Right move the character, and Start drops a ghost trap. The slime shots can only harm ghosts, and the subway tunnel is full of other bouncing and floating crap such as whistles, bells, and heads that the shots have no effect on. The only way to get past these is to either jump over them (but you can't jump high enough to clear the object, so don't bother) or drop a trap underneath the object so that it gets sucked out of the way. You must step underneath the vertically zig-zagging object to drop the trap, meaning you'll almost always take a hit while doing it. After three hits the game is over. Limited continues are available, and extra hits (there are no "lives" in this game) can be earned by shooting 20 Ghostbusters II logos that fly by in the middle of the chaos. Oh yes, and in the middle of all this a small crawling hand is slowly pursuing your character, and if it catches up to him the game is also over. This hand is to keep you moving through the level, presumably. This type of level is repeated in Level 3 (the court room), and Level 7 (the museum, in which each Ghostbuster - all four of them - must complete the level one at a time).
There are two Ecto-1 driving levels (Levels 2 and 4). These levels have you steering the Ecto-1 car through the city streets. Ghosts fly around shooting slime, barracades line the streets, massive stretches of road are missing (bottomless pits), tombstones fall from the sky, and other types of carnage drop in at the worst moments. A stray shot might occassionally drop a weapon or shield item, but these items are lost if the car takes a hit. Also, if the car falls down one of the holes in the road then you must begin the level from the start.
You control the Statue of Liberty in Levels 5 and 6 as it moves by itself through the river and the streets of Manhattan. Your control is limited to either shooting a vertical shot from the torch (you can angle the torch slightly if you blast a torch item in the sky) or using the B button to launch a giant book that blasts all the enemies on screen. Here the ghosts fly from all directions, drop slime, and cloulds zap lightning at the statue. If it takes a hit, it sinks beneath the waves and the game deducts one hit from your reserve amount of hits. At certain random intervals the statue will become invincible automatically - almost as if the creators of the game knew these were impossible segments to complete. There are also several bonus round segments where, instead of ghosts, the skies are filled with life-giving logos to shoot down.
The graphics and sounds in this game are some of the worst seen on the NES. Graphics are bland, lacking in color, and are unrefined. The Ghostbusters have square heads for goodness sake! Sprites also have no frames of animation to speak of. They simply fly around the screen in seemingly random patterns. There are only four background songs in the game - an evil sounding tune when Vigo's painting appears to taunt you, the original Ghostbusters theme song, a generic driving tune for the Ecto-1 levels, and a weak rendition of Higher and Higher during the statue levels. The only sound effects to speak of are the sound that shots make when fired, the sound of the Ecto-1 crashing into a blockade, and the sound of a logo being destroyed. Beyond that there are no sounds.
So, what do you get for surviving your way through this mess of a game? A shot of the Ghostbusters blowing slime onto the evil painting (which causes it to turn into a random array of garbage pixels), followed by a picture of a newspaper headline congratulating the Ghostbusters and then a blank screen with your final score is displayed before the credits scroll by. Incidentially, one of the credits is for a person who is listed under the title of "Technical Wizardry". I'm sorry, but there is no freakin' way that this title has anything "technical" to it, let alone "wizardry".
Let the record show that when playing this game without a Game Genie I can only complete the first statue level, and even then I've only done that once and that was years ago. If you want to get this game you can check the usual used game places (and get a Game Genie while you're shopping for it) or you can get the ROM for use in an emulator. Or, better yet, just get yourself a copy of the title that the European market received: a little something called The New Ghostbusters II. That game is actually worth playing, and I'll bet they didn't even need a Technical Wizard to create it.
Here's something to get the awfulness of the video game out of your mind and restore your interest in all things Ghostbusters. There are a few scenes from the Ghostbusters II film that were filmed but cut from the movie. These scenes are included in the novelization, and some of the material tossed to the cutting room floor pops up in the finished film during the montage sequence. Some of the cut material includes...
- During the scene where the Ghostbusters scan the Vigo painting looking for supernatural influences, Ray looks Vigo in the eye. They cut the part where Vigo taps into his mind and puts him into a trance. When the group leaves the museum, Ray volunteers to drive and he races like a maniac down the road, running over fire hydrants and into mailboxes before finally crashing into a tree. You can see part of this scene in the final cut of the film during the montage. Watch for the part where Peter Venkman is riding in the back of the car and turns to look forward at Ray with a surprised look on his face. The fact that Vigo briefly took control of Ray ties into the conclusion of the film where Vigo fully possesses Ray.
- Louis encounters Slimer in the firehouse and tries to catch him. He straps on a proton pack, leaves his lunch out for bait, and when Slimer appears, he shoots him with the neutrona wand. However, Louis has horrible aim, and he shoots the ceiling, causing it to fall. A part of this scene is seen in the closing credits with the "... and Slimer" credit is seen. This scene also explains why Louis recognized Slimer on the bus near the end of the film.
It's a shame that these scenes didn't show up on the GBII DVD. Maybe someday when they rerelease the films (c'mon, you know they will...).