I’m always genuinely taken aback when I encounter a 90s arcade game that I’ve never heard of; having frequented arcades on a regular basis back then and devoured all kinds of gaming magazines in which arcade games were featured, it seemed that there were few titles which escaped my notice entirely. Yet I’m increasingly becoming aware of games that, for whatever reason, were either very obscure or somehow didn’t come to my attention.

Avenging Spirit, which was originally released by well known video game developer/publisher Jaleco (whose SNES games in particular I have a real fondness for), came out in 1991 – but for the life of me I have absolutely no memory of it. Which is a real shame, because this Ratalaika Games console re-release shows that it’s a fun and original 2D run-and-gunner.

First things first: the premise of Avenging Spirit really sets it apart from other run-and-gunners, with a unique possession mechanic that sees your cute, blobby little ghost taking control of whichever enemy it can get to.

And the enemies are a varied bunch, with different levels of health, speed and jump height, along with different weapons or methods of attack too. On your quest to rescue (and possess) your kidnapped, still living girlfriend (yep, that’s the aim of the game!), there are more than 20 types of enemy to possess and control – with the more down to earth likes of gangsters and hitmen also joined by vampires, wizards and more besides.

It’s all very cheerfully weird, with some absolutely gorgeous examples of 90s pixel art visuals and sound. Level design can be just as bonkers as the possession-based gameplay, with some oddly labyrinthine buildings and exteriors hiding plenty of secrets.

Bosses are big and varied – and it’s here where the game really excels in its challenge. Usually, if your host dies, your little ghost has a bit of breathing room in finding a new target to possess – but die during a boss encounter and it’s all over.

Talking of challenge, this is no straight arcade port. Ratalaika have included a variety of difficulty levels and even an easier version overall alongside the arcade original. Also, save states and even a rewind feature are on offer, making the most challenging levels a bit more manageable despite the more punishing nature of the last few stages. Also, a tip: to get the true ending, you’ll need to get hold of three keys before reaching the end of the game’s six stages.

It’s an excellent version of a game that definitely deserves another chance to get noticed – and a very welcome addition to the increasing number of retro arcade games available on modern platforms. It’s a shame that Avenging Spirit didn’t really seem to have the success it deserved back in the early 90s, but hopefully this new incarnation will possess the hearts of a new generation of gamers.

Avenging Spirit is releasing on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Xbox One,  Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch, priced at 5.99 USD/EUR, on the 29th July 2022. Many thanks to PR Hound for providing me with a code for review purposes.

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