Ghostbusters (1990 Video Game)

System: Mega Drive | Publisher: SEGA

Developer: SEGA | Reviewed On: Mega Drive

The year is 1984. Los Angeles is set to host the Olympic Games & Apple released their first mass-produced personal computer to the public. It was also a big year for the box office; with the likes of Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, The Terminator & Gremlins being released. But one film would capture the hearts of many that year; Ghostbusters.

Starring Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver & Rick Moranis, alongside its writers, Dan Aykroyd & Harold Raims, Ghostbusters combined elements of sci-fi & comedy in a way that made for a thrilling & entertaining motion picture. Its theme song is easily one of the most recognisable & its brand alone would transcend into pop culture. With video games rising in popularity in the mid 80s, it seemed destined for our group of proton-packed pals to feature in a video game. While this did come to fruition, things did not start off so hot.

Two games would be released on several systems in the late 80s & they were received mixed to bad reviews. As we began to enter the 16-bit era, SEGA decided to throw their ghost trap into the floor & see if they could capture any success. Today, we’ll be taking the call & investigating the 1990 Mega Drive version of Ghostbusters. Let’s break it down!

Set after the events of the first movie, the Ghostbusters begin to experience a dry spell of reports linked with ghost-related activities. It appears that defeating Gozer inadvertently banished all the ghosts from the city & almost forces the team out of business! Luckily, reports begin to fly back in and the team are ready to fulfil their duties once more. However, their recent visits will start a turn of events that unleashes a horde of ghosts back into the city. It is the duty of the Ghostbusters to stand their ground, garner the courage & use their skills to defeat these entities, in order to once again save the city.

Playing as a side-scrolling platformer & spanning over six levels, you are tasked with defeating various enemies & ghosts, each finishing with an end level boss. For its initial stages, you can optimally choose which property you’d like to enter & you are rewarded with cash for successful completion. You can choose between one of three Ghostbusters; Ray, Egon & Peter. Each of them differ in speed and stamina, so you can choose which style suits you (or you can do like I did & just pick a favourite).

Each of the levels are comprised of several rooms and floors which you must traverse, in order to find and defeat these ghostly inhabitants. These feature a wide range of low-end enemies (both ground and flying types) that will try to attack you, including some environmental traps such as falling ice stalactites, rotational blades & table cloths that can incapacitate you until you break free. You must be careful, as you have a limited amount of health & lives, which I found myself being a lot more cautious than full-on guns blazing.

When it comes to the bosses, there are two varieties. The first are classified as mid-bosses, which are uniquely different and pose a different threat you must master their pattern, in order to escape harm & defeat them with a healthy dose of positronic power. When they are defeated, a ghost trap will be placed on the floor and a green ghost will appear; giving you an opportunity to capture it. I generally found that I only had a couple of attempts to reel them over the tap and capture them. Collecting them will earn you additional cash. Its end bosses act in the same way, but can be slightly more difficult to evade. Defeating them will end the stage, allowing you to move on to your next mission. We even get an appearance from Stay-Puft!

As always, the Ghostbusters are ful...well, let’s say adequately prepared to begin with. You start off with a single-shit positron gun & several bombs, which can be thrown to deliver an ample amount of damage. During the game, you’ll earn cash from completing levels, finding money bags & capturing the additional green ghosts from its mid-bosses. This can be used to acquire new items. General items range from health boosts to more bombs and infra-red goggles; helpful in one of the game’s darker stages.

The weapon upgrades feature a number of energy-based upgrades such as a larger tank, energy regeneration & increases in the quantity and strength of your shots. The disadvantage is that these upgrades are very expensive, so you will need to be a top-tier Ghostbuster to unlock these over time. There are also a rare sprinkling of 1UPs in various levels so if you see one, grab it while you can.

Overall, my playthrough was fun but that mainly consisted of trial and error. Once I got used to the patterns of certain enemies, I found I was more effective at evading but still a task to try & attack, landing shots whenever I found the opportunity. The game is not one you can breeze through & requires both a level of patience and accuracy, plus earning cash is essential for weapon upgrades which will make future encounters a little easier. On the other side of the sword, there were some moments where I felt the hit detection was a little sensitive & required me to be accurate with my jumps or shots. Some refinement of its obstacles would been more effective here.

I also felt the general structure of the levels were a little basic, but they are fun to explore & the game actively encourages this to ensure a successful completion. Finally, there’s no Winston. I’m not sure why he wasn’t included but it wouldn’t been nice to feature all four of them. The comprise here is that we can still play as either Ray, Peter & Egon.

From a presentation standpoint, the game has a nice visual tone. The levels feel ominous & whilst the scenery that unfortunately lacks a distinct atmosphere, but acts more as a simple background for its vibrant & detailed bosses. It was a bit strange at first to see our characters in bobble-head form, but this artistic choice doesn’t come off as a negative; in fact, quite the opposite.

The music in this game is generally good too. The songs used in the Apartment and Castle levels were of my favourites, alongside the 16-Bit rendition of Ray Parker Jr’s title track that is played during the intro of the game. Sometimes, I just felt like letting it play a couple of times before entering a game.

Final Verdict

Ghostbusters for the Mega Drive provides a challenging platform experience that honours the core principles of the team. Its bosses and enemies kept me on my toes during my several playthroughs & whilst there were minor disappointments with level design and the steepness of the weapon upgrade path, I still thoroughly enjoyed the game & it proved that the prospect of being a Ghostbuster is exciting, but certainly not as easy as it looks in the movies.

Unfortunately, the game has not been ported to any consoles or compilations since its release (likely due to licensing) & prices for a boxed copy have returned to its original retail price over the last few years. This certainly held the crown of being the best Ghostbusters game before Terminal Reality showed “this prehistoric b***h” how they do things in 2009. However, this definitely set the bar for this franchise in the video game world at the time & still holds up 30 years on.

It's a fun experience with our favourite group of scientists and would recommended this to anyone who is a fan of the movies or Sega platform games, as it will certainly satisfy on both sides. The only thing I can’t confirm if my experience was enhanced whilst eating Twinkles...but I’m sure you can conduct this experiment yourself, if you should be so inclined to do so.

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