This day belongs to one of the most enjoyable videogames ever created, the famous Ghouls 'n Ghosts by the mighty Capcom! Released to arcades in 1988, this was the sequel to one of the more notably harder games out there on the scene..
Ghouls improved on it's predecessor, Ghosts 'n Goblins, in nearly every way. It looked and sounded much better, it was more properly balanced, a much better assortment of weapons (and now they could be powered when the player acquires the Magic Armor!) More dynamic levels, more interesting end-of-round bosses- and, a decent player could actually finish the damned game, unlike the first...!
The story is simple- you are Arthur the Knight. Legions of the Undead have kidnapped your sweetheart, and only you can wrest her back from their unholy clutches. I mean hey - what else are you gonna do? You must don your armor, grab your trusty spear, and head out to destroy the armies of skeletons, vultures, jumping turtles, ghosts, vomiting pigs, enormous leeches, and disembodied eyeball clouds - among other things - all trying to obliterate you.
The game was quite a sensation when it released, at least in the videogaming community. I've always felt Capcom programmed the first GnG as an answer to Nintendo's Mario series (where Mario was fun and easy to pick up, Capcom's game was - punishing - but just as rewarding in it's technique). Sadly the franchise never got the mass-market love it truly deserved, but it did have it's day in the sun as THE game to get during the US' Sega Genesis launch period. This game was hyped in all the mags (EGM gave it their first 9 9 9 9 rating!) and though I'd never seen it before, it was the title that convinced me that I NEEDED to have a Sega Genesis. Who cared about Altered Beast and Thunder Blade when you could play this!
I'll never forget bringing this game home during Thanksgiving Break in 1989, my friends Josh and Mike and I just tore into the game and handed it it's ass that weekend - we made short work of it, but we LOVED it, and I have completed it so many times to this day. Throughout, the entire game is a just a tour-de-force showcasing what the early 16-Bit titles would have in store for us, the next few years.
Sadly, the game is mostly forgotten now as Generations have passed and though people still play the offspring of it's "brethren," such as new Mega Man and Castlevania games, we've seen little in the way of further installments in this equally deserving series. Maybe someday, Capcom..