If there is one legit crime that should be levied against game developers when I was a kid, it was that there was not ONE good Ghostbusters console game. To this day, it’s still hard for me to believe that developers took a concept so natural and easy (dudes blowing up ghosts with laser beams) and fucked it up, time and time again. It would be like telling a bee to make honey, and instead of what it does naturally, it went to the grocery store and bought you a bag of Bit-O’-Honey. I JUST WANTED HONEY, BEE. NOT SOME SHITTY PLASTIC CANDY THAT RIPS TEETH OUT. WHY COULDN’T YOU HAVE JUST MADE ME HONEY LIKE YOU WERE BORN TO DO? This was what it was like to want a Ghostbusters game in the 80s. From the too-terrible-for-words NES games, to everything that followed for upwards of two decades, not ONE developer could take the simple task of using the Ghostbusters to make a good console game.
But note how I said console there. Because believe it or not, there did exist a good Ghostbusters game. It’s just that the only way to find it was to trek to your local arcade to even play it. Yes, it just so happened that Data East of all people ended up with the multi-million dollar Ghostbusters license (still not sure how that happened. I imagine heavy blackmailing to be the only way that deal went down), and decided to make an arcade game with it. While common sense would dictate that anything Data East would ever make would just be some variation of Bad Dudes, it actually ended up being the definitive Ghostbusters experience for the era.
In all honesty though, there is almost nothing about arcade Ghostbusters that has anything to do with the actual Ghostbusters. I mean, besides the fact that you can pick your Ghostbuster, and use your proton pack to kill and catch ghosts, there is almost nothing else that even resembles The Real Ghostbusters. But that’s just it: THAT’S ALL YOU NEEDED. Data East’s cheap cash-in was by default the best Ghostbusters game of the time simply based on the fact that you could bust ghosts, and that it was actually fun to do so. Who woulda’ thunkit’? Now by no means is this game some amazingly awesome experience. The game essentially boiled down to being a top-down shooter that you and a few friends could play together. But this was LEAGUES ahead of playing Sim Ghost City on the NES:
Or searching endlessly through mazes on the Genesis version of the Ghostbusters:
No, the arcade game sat your ass down, gave you a Ghostbuster, and told you to blow the everliving fuck out of everything on screen with your nuclear-powered positron backpack. But there was one crime that Data East committed with the game that will always completely strike me deaf and dumb every time I think about it:
It was never ported to home consoles.
In a time where even Tiger Heli can find a port to a home console, the mightiest of mighty Ghostbuster games was NEVER ported to any console, left to sadly languish in shady arcades forever. To this day, it has never been ported to anything. No game collections, no retro-themed throwbacks, not even a shitty iPhone port. Nothing. In fact, I had to look for videos on Youtube just to make sure I didn’t imagine the damn thing. But there it is, in all its glory. Though the taste is still just as bitter in my mouth as it was then. I guess I should be happy that at least one Ghostbusters game did the basics right, and supplied me with hours of childhood enjoyment.
Or at least until I ran out of quarters.
Fuck you, Data East.
Jeremy is a quiet, steadily mortified man hailing from Indianapolis.
Contact him this way: firstname.lastname@example.org (hint: it’s email)