Before we start the game, we have to pick our control method, and lucky for us, Sega decided to make it so confusing that you really need the manual to play with the Light Phaser. The game even tells you to consult it before you start! If you want to play with the Light Phaser, you have to pull the trigger on the title screen but press Button 1 or 2 on the controller screen above. Pulling the Light Phaser's trigger here will cause the game to not work at all- you can fire but nothing will happen. Lord knows why it operates this way- it might be because Laser Ghost is one of the few Light Phaser games to allow for both the gun and the controller as separate control methods (the others are Operation Wolf and Space Gun)- but in any case, you need to select your control method.
Now, using the pad might seem like a good idea if you don't have an old CRT TV for the Light Phaser, but it doesn't work out very well. When playing with the controller, your crosshairs will always reset to the centre of the screen when you're not moving. Needless to say, this makes hitting moving targets like the bats almost impossible, and you can forget placing the crosshairs in a key location to pound away at something, because they'll constantly lurch back. The scrolling nature of the game makes this even more disorientating, so while you might have to get an ancient TV to use the Light Phaser, it's definitely the best way to play the game. Unless you emulate and use a mouse.
Anyway, once you're ready...
... Here's the intro, in the form of
Paul Ross's Big Black Book of Horror a book on Ghost City with an infinite number of pages.
Catherine's soul stolen, yadda yadda yadda, help her get it back, you get the idea.
And now we can start- the game begins in the basement of White Manor, where Catherine is being held prisoner.
Mow, when I said you need to learn to use the Special Shot right off the bat, I wasn't kidding- after strolling peacefully for a few moments, the first thing to attack Catherine is a swarm of bats. They're too fast and too numerous to shoot normally, so you'd better be ready with that Special Shot, otherwise you're going to get hit. This is Sega's idea of a learning curve, battering you with a colony of bloody bats right from the start. Even worse, the bats are the most relentless enemy in the game, as once they've hit you once, they'll go back for a second go, and a third, and a fourth... blow 'em away with a Special Shot, please. Fortunately, the rest of this section is pretty easy-going, and you'll doubtless notice some of the background details you can interact with- in particular, blast through the incredibly-obvious cracks in the walls for extra items, and shoot enough of the candles to kill the lights. Spoooooky. Of course, using the Special Shot destroys all the candles anyway, so...
Shoot the door at the end of the corridor to open it, where the same bat-swarm attacks you again. Hell of a difficulty curve, eh?
In the second corridor, there's another door- shoot it before Catherine walks by and you'll enter what I think is the only optional area of the game.
I highly recommend going in, as it's a treasure room full of Special Shots and Heart items. Best to stock up, you know?
Whether you enter the treasure room or not, straight afterwards Catherine walks into what I suppose is the first boss fight of the game- four suits of armour that spring to life and jump around the screen erratically. This battle highlights one of the flaws of Laser Ghost- sometimes it feels a little out of your control, and Catherine is going to get hurt no matter what you do. At the start of the fight, the knights essentially cover the screen- if you're not careful one of them will even enter the fight on top of Catherine so she'll be hurt immediately- and while the Special Shot is useful for clearing some space, there's a slight delay between activating it and hitting enemies, so it's not ideal here. Fortunately, once the fight is underway things get a little easier as the knights disperse... Just a few shots each should send them on their way into the afterlife.
Just a little further down the corridor and this stage is over...
But the lights keep flickering. I hope there's no obnoxious traps down h-
Ah, spoke too soon. There's a series of walls that slam down from the ceiling- if Catherine gets hit by them, it takes at least a full heart away. You can, if you're quick and accurate, shoot them before they hit her, but unless you're really on the ball, you'll miss and Catherine will go flying. The best approach is to use your Special Shot as soon as one comes into view- hopefully your other trigger-finger (or foot, if you're doing this Time Crisis style) is fast enough, otherwise these brick walls will probably kill you! And so early in the game, too. You don't want that to happen.
Up the stairs we go, ending Chapter 1. Here's the results screen- you get bonuses based on time and health remaining, and a general stage bonus.
Chapter 2 is the manor itself, and has what is probably my favourite boss in the game.
Things are a wee bit different here- for a start, the stage scrolls from right to left, and almost all of the enemies- mostly haunted paintings and bits of furniture, as this part of the house is haunted- try to attack you from behind rather than head-on. The most annoying enemy is still- of course- the bat, although they don't attack in the same ferocious numbers- instead, they spawn fairly slowly from already-smashed windows, but they're still fast little buggers so when a pre-smashed window appears, get ready to send them packing. Of course, the windows that aren't already broken hide items, so do make sure to 'open' them. Aside from that, this is a pretty short stage without too many surprises. Just make sure to shoot the tables, chairs and vases as soon as they appear- the vases will rumble before they try and attack you, but the tables and chairs won't, so take them out before they become a threat.
As I said, the boss here- the haunted portrait of someone's nan- is one of the highlights of the game. The portrait starts the fight perched over a fireplace (check out the fire's reflection in the wall, a neat little detail) that spews out flames- they fly to the top of the screen, then drop on Catherine's head. Fortunately they move pretty slowly, so you've got plenty of time to shoot them (I didn't know bullets worked against fires, who says video games aren't educational?) but while you're doing that, try shooting the portrait. Granny will start to go a bit mental and fly off the wall to try and smack some sense into Catherine- shoot her quickly to make her back off. It's a great boss fight because the flames add just the right level of difficulty- challenging, but not too frustrating. Also, Granny's expressions are hilarious.
Repeat this process a few times and she'll give up, amusingly landing on the floor upside-down, like a deceased arachnid.
Chapter 3 is the Demon Woods, and... Hey, is that one of the skeletons from Golden Axe? I hate those guys!
Before the skeletons, though, we're going to have a nice stroll in the woods... Sadly, we must now face the evil blue ghosts. Even faster than the bats, these guys swoop in from the right side of the screen (so if they hit you, you're sent backwards) and if you don't fire before they even appear then Catherine's going to get knocked about. You're probably better off catching them with the Special Shot rather than trying to actually hit them, especially since at one point three of them appear on-screen at once (fortunately, there's plenty of gravestones that you can desecrate for extra Special Shots). If you're daring, you can try shooting the right-side of the screen repeatedly. Once you find the right spot, you'll take them out before they get near Catherine. This is, of course, a terrible way to play a lightgun shooter, but, well, Laser Ghost is no ordinary lightgun shooter. It plays by its own rules!
The game gives you a bit of a rest afterwards as Catherine walks past a bunch of apple trees. If she's uninterrupted for a few moments, she'll start running (this is the only part of the game where she can do this, as far as I'm aware) but as she runs past the apples, they go a little off, shall we say, and try to lodge themselves into her back. A couple of Special Shots should sort 'em out in case you can't be bothered shooting the lot of them, but it's not that difficult, especially since Catherine's finally taking some initiative and running for once. They're quite slow, and while they're not the biggest targets in the world, you have to be really trying hard to avoid hitting at least one of them.
And then straight after that, the bats come back.
Shoot before they even appear- it's the only way to be sure.
And now, it's boss time. Catherine Vs. Army of
The boss encounter starts with a row of six gravestones- handy for stocking up on Special Shots and hearts- then it all goes a bit dark as Catherine stumbles about. Suddenly, skeletons! Unlike the knights from Chapter 1, they never really crowd you- they spawn from the left and right edges and never in the middle, and they get knocked back when hit- but once shot, their heads detach and swerve up and down across the screen. The main problem you'll have here is that the heads tend to launch while the bodies are off-screen, so you won't quite know they're coming for you. Still, you'll definitely have a few Special Shots left (even if you blew them all on the bats and blue ghosts, the gravestones have some for you) so if a skull catches you off-guard, you can still take it out. Just make sure Catherine doesn't get knocked into a crowd of skeletons, otherwise she'll get thrown all over the shop. If you do die- and let's face it, after fighting off those blue ghosts and bats, Catherine might be worse for wear- then fortunately you restart at the beginning of the boss fight.
The swamps of Chapter 4 are now the only thing standing between Catherine and Ghost City!
What lies in store for Catherine on the next page? Corpse dismemberment, of course!