12/31/2012 – I’ve decided to let this feature lie. These comps are great, but their release is getting near 10 years ago, and I don’t know if the information in here is worth updating anymore. I won’t remove it, but I won’t be making any further updates to it.
Last generation, retro compilations became a quick way for publishers to get a ton of games out into the hands of retro hounds at a low price (now, they’d rather nickel and dime you on PSN, Xbox Live and the Virtual Consoles :p ). These collections offered up a ton of excellent history on the gaming industry’s earlier days. However, which collections were the best for your dollar? That is what this feature attempts to answer. This will focus on company-wide collections I have played for systems for the last two generations (i.e. no Namco Museums from the PS1). Franchise specific comps will be highlighted here.
Note – A * next to the system is the one I have. Also, Nester has chipped in some second opinions on comps he owns. I’ve put our names into the comps we are both covering.
Capcom Classics Collection V.1 (PS2*, Xbox) *under construction!*
Current Cost – $19.99 or less
Game Count – 22
Listing – 1942, 1943, 1943 Kai, Bionic Commando, Commando, Exed Eyes, Final Fight, Forgotten Worlds, Ghosts N Goblins, Ghouls N Ghosts, Gun.smoke, Legendary Wings, Mercs, Pirate Ship Higemaru, Section Z, Son Son, Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Ghouls N Ghosts (SNES), Trojan, Vulgus
Bonus Material – Art, music, character bios, remixed music for some games, tips, history
Capcom’s first collection offers up a lot of great classics from their early arcade days…but rarely delves into less explored territory (Volume 2 remedies that issue). Three Street Fighters (all available on SF: Anniversary, somewhat), three Ghosts N Goblins, three from the 194X series, three (technically) from the Commando series, and 10 other titles to round it up feels a bit…samey. However, that’s not to say that this disc isn’t worth playing!
1942 – To come
1943 – To come
1943 Kai – To come
Bionic Commando - Before Nathan “Radd” Spenser took over the reins of this spin-off from the Commando series, Super Joe was slinging around his bionic arm in a far less graceful manner. The cool concept is there, but just isn’t executed all that well for this first effort.
Commando – One of the first overhead shooters ever made, Commando shows its age on its bullet-raddled sleeves. It’s a little clunky and slow-paced, but it isn’t a terrible game. Gun.smoke and Mercs completely outclass it, though.
Exed Eyes – This is an early vertical shooter that works a bit like 1942, but features alien insects and a lot of geometric designs as the boss lineup. Simple, but has its moments of fun.
Final Fight – The only beat-em-up on this disc (the second volume ups the ante considerably), Final Fight remains entertaining, although it’s not my favorite beam-em-up of Capcom’s. It suffers from progression in the genre, making it more archaic than it ought to feel. Fun, but dated.
Forgotten Worlds – This intense shooter took the lessons learned from Capcom’s earlier attempts (Sector Z and Side Arms) and pushes them to the limit. Great gameplay mixed in with loads of challenge make for a thrilling shooter.
Ghosts N Goblins - Time has not made this game any easier. You can see Arthur has not evolved much from his roots replaying this – he’s still slow, not agile and is constantly surrounded by asshole demons. :p Gamers in need of a challenge will eat this up, but it’s too frustrating for me to enjoy more than a few minutes.
Ghouls N Ghosts - Out of the three GnG titles on the disc, this is probably the most balanced. Trust me, it’s still one of the most difficult games ever made, but it feels a bit more fair than the other two.
Gun.smoke – This particular game is one of Capcom’s better early efforts. It riffs on its western theme quite nicely, controls better and smoother than a lot of their predating work, and it’s a lot of fun. A definite gem on this disc.
Legendary Wings – A radical experiment that combines vertical shooting with sidescrolling action, I think Legendary Wings had the potential to be a wonderful game if it had more development time and focus. The motif is unique for its age – a cyber-Greek world with angels toting laser rifles blasting up bizarre enemies and lizardmen…but its execution is a little too gummed up in its controls to truly shine. I’d love a revisit!
Mercs – A much more playable marine-based overhead shooter, with three players able to join the action and much more intriguing gameplay and setpieces compared to Commando. I prefer Gun.smoke more, but this isn’t a slouch, either.
Pirate Ship Higemaru – Capcom’s third game is a charming take on the maze game concept, starring some rather adorable pirates. As a sailor, you must K.O. the other pirates using barrels, which isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. I think Zack & Wiki took some inspiration from this…
Section Z – A horizontal shooter that runs with an alphabet concept shoots weird on paper, but the bizarre level design and constant enemy menace makes the game shine pretty well. It’s not as neat as Forgotten Worlds, but it’s decent.
Son Son – Capcom’s design skills improved a ton from Vulgus to Son Son. This is still a very straightforward, rudimentary game, but it manages to be quite a bit of fun to run around as Son Son and dodge/blast the myriad of foes. It also shows the earliest sign of that special Capcom “style” they honed more and more as they got more games under their belt.
Street Fighter II – The first SFII is pretty barebones, especially compared to its two included sequels, but it did revolutionize the genre as something viable…so it’s nice to have.
Street Fighter II Champion Edition – Champion Edition’s claim to glory was adding the bosses in as playable characters (without much tweaking) and letting players choose the same character. Turbo does this and more, so it’s pretty easy to lean in its favor.
Street Fighter II Turbo – The best of the trio of SFII titles on this disc, Turbo is the most perfected blend of the games, with new techniques, crazy speed and refinement all around. It’s easy to see why the franchise became so huge playing these in progression.
Super Ghouls N Ghosts – The sole non-arcade title on either Capcom disc, Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts adds a couple of tricks to Arthur’s arsenal (double jumping, new weapons) but continues to pummel the poor knight (and player) with masochistic glee. I prefer Ghouls of the three here, but this is a close second.
Trojan - This early action title is crippled with a chunky control scheme that reacts too slowly to your commands, souring what could be an otherwise okay dystopic romp. I’ve never quite understood this one.
Vulgus – Capcom’s very first game is this extremely simplistic shooter that doesn’t offer much beyond a neat feeling playing the game that launched the company.
To sum up, this is one of my favorite comps that I own, and I heartily recommend it.
The extra content is fairly ample for this set, with most games featuring at least tips, music and concept art to unlock. Some include bios for the game’s cast, others include remixed tunes, and all of them have a brief history lesson on the game.
Capcom Classics Collection V.2 (PS2*, Xbox) *under construction!*
Current Cost – $19.99 or less
Game Count – 20 (23 counting Three Wonders’ three games and the Quiz & Dragons Capcom remix)
Listing – 1941, Avengers, Black Tiger, Block Block, Captain Commando, Eco Fighters, King of Dragons, Knights of the Round, Last Duel, Magic Sword, Mega Twins, Quiz & Dragons, Side Arms, Street Fighter, Strider, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Speed Rumbler, Three Wonders, Tiger Road, Varth
Bonus Material – Art, music, tips, history, Quiz & Dragons Capcom remix, Super SFII Turbo Tutorial videos, ability to save progress, cheats
The second volume of Capcom’s arcade catalog features a wider array of titles, focusing primarily on beat-em-ups, shooters, and a few platformers. There’s more clunkers on this disc than on the first, but the good games more than make up for them.
1941 – Forthcoming
Avengers – This top-down beat-em-up is a decent idea, but the concept falls flat on its face in execution. You can’t really see what you’re doing in this game, and the perspective doesn’t make it any easier to pummel enemies. Cheap enemy rushdowns don’t aid the situation. Skippable.
Black Tiger – Considering its age, this is a fairly unique hybrid of action, exploration and a dash of mild RPG leveling. I really like this game – it has its own crazy vibe to its world and enemy design that appeals to me somehow, and while it can be relentless on the player at times, it seems more fair than Ghosts N’ Goblins and its sequels do. I’d almost have preferred this to have gotten more sequels, to be honest. :p
Block Block – This is a rip-off from Taito’s Arkanoid/Atari’s Breakout style of puzzler, although Capcom did spice it up a little with some power-up gathering and the borrowing of songs from other arcade hits of theirs. Despite very little creativeness, it’s an enjoyable game to run through if you like this sorts of game.
Captain Commando – A beat-em-up with some batshit weirdness in its design philosophy. Capcom’s designers were really letting their hair down on this one, with some of Capcom’s zaniest heroes, enemies and locales in any of their games. I like its brazenness a lot. It controls a little stiffly, but the surreal factor evens it out nicely. A highlight of the many beat-em-ups on here.
Eco Fighters – This horizontal shooter has a rotating arm mechanic to help make it stand out from the pack, and it also looks great in action. You can witness Capcom really showing off their 2D sprite knowledge here. Happens to be a fair amount of fun, too.
King of Dragons – The first of two medieval themed beat-em-ups, this one predates the later (and superor) Dungeons and Dragons coin-ops. It’s decent, but it’s fairly rudimentary. It reminds me a lot of Golden Axe, but with Capcom sensibilities and a mild RPG flair in that it allows you to level up. If that’s your thing, you may enjoy this. As for me, Golden Axe isn’t my favorite in the genre, and neither is this.
Knights of the Round – This is a King Arthur-infused beat-em-up with, hey, RPG leveling up aspects. It has fewer characters than King of Dragons, but it’s a little more refined than its similar cousin. Matter of preference.
Last Duel – Forthcoming
Magic Sword – This is a great game. One of Capcom’s finest action games in their arcade glory days, you fill the shoes of The Chosen One, who slashes his sword and rescues allies to take on all sorts of monsters and demons in a huge castle. Again, there’s RPG elements, but this is a wonderful game that is almost worth price of admission by itself.
Mega Twins – A cute platformer with a touch of beat-em-up action, the charming visuals help make this a underrated gem. It’s a little clunky at first, but once you find its groove it’s a blast to play.
Quiz & Dragons – A question board game? Aye, with plenty of dated trivia and slow-as-hell gameplay to slowly whittle away your time from good games on this collection. :p Nice spritework, though. The Capcom-themed bonus is more fun, in my opinion.
Side Arms – Forthcoming
Street Fighter – Neat to experience if only to see where fighting’s biggest name got its start, but after a round or two you’ll wonder how the sequel was greenlit. Seriously – it’s leagues away from Street Fighter II. It’s got ONE playable fighter, Ryu (two if you can submit a friend to join you, and it’s a perfect Ryu mirror in Ken’s body), clunky controls and a strange playstyle that is not what you’d expect if you’re adjusted to later games in the series. A curio, but that’s about it.
Strider – This classic platformer is tough as nails, yet is a cool take on the genre. Hiryu is a little sluggish to control, but the game rarely pushes that aspect to be a thorn. Plenty of inventive platforming and combat to be had here, plus some comical spoken dialogue.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo – Arguably the finest moment in the five SFII titles, this game introduced supers into the formula, polished its sixteen combatants (plus the hidden Akuma…who isn’t polished and is quite cheap :p ), and is probably the smoothest to control and execute combos in this bunch. Worth some time.
Speed Rumbler – Forthcoming
Three Wonders – These three games are among the freshest on the disc, and drip with visual delight. They all control well, and each offer up their own unique take on an established genre (the first being a run-n-gun platformer, the second a horizontal shooter, the third a tricky maze-puzzler). Invest some time in all of these!
Tiger Road – This reminds me of Trojan. If you recall, I did not have nice things to say about Trojan, and the only discernible difference I found was that the game is set in a kung-fu setting, not a dystopic future like Trojan’s (and you don’t have a shield here). Not all that gripping.
Varth – Forthcoming
All and all, despite a greater ratio of unimpressive titles, this is another winning comp from Capcom thanks to its diversity and the quality of the good games outweighing the poorer ones.
The bonuses have been paired down some from its predecessor, with very little remixed music to unlock (only Strider offers up remixes from what I remember), and the character bios from CCC are MIA. Cheats do replace them, and being able to plow through some of the more challenging games with invincibility is a nice option.
Capcom Classics Mini-Mix (GBA)
Cost – $9.99 or less
Game Count – 3
Listing – Strider (NES), Bionic Commando (NES), Mighty Final Fight
Bonus Material – None.
Capcom Classics Mini-Mix is a solid compilation of Capcom NES hits, as long as you don’t expect any bonus frills. The port work, from what I can tell, is very good, with no major differences or alterations (outside of adjusting the screen ratio for the GBA screen, that is). However, Capcom put in no extra effort into these games. Don’t expect the Save functions of some of Nintendo’s NES Classic series here. Here’s a breakdown of the three games:
Bionic Commando – The NES update of Capcom’s arcade title is a blast. The hero, Ladd Spenser (arguably the raddest 80′s name ever!…), cannot jump. However, that doesn’t stop him from getting around the dastardly BADD’s HQ. Thanks to his nifty bionic arm, Ladd can swing, climb and even stun foes with ease. The gameplay in BC is among the NES’s finest. The music as well is great stuff, perfect for the atmosphere.
Strider – It is NOT a port of the arcade classic, but instead a completely new game – a retelling of the manga the whole Strider saga comes from. For a NES game, the game has a solid enough plot (despite, you guessed it, more typos!). It’s not modern RPG worthy or anything, but it does motivate a little. The music is also fairly catchy here. Strider borrows a little from RPG’s through acquiring powers as you hack through enemies…which is nice, but it’s still pretty limited in its functions. It also takes a little bit of arguing with the controls to get them to work the way you want to. Strider is not as smoothly programmed as BC by any means. That being said, the game has some good mechanics – the fact that the game recognizes you’re running downhill and picks up the speed is quite novel. It’s still a good title, though, despite its glitches.
Mighty Final Fight – This is the weakest game on the cartridge overall. It’s nice that it’s there, but it’s not up to the same quality of the original Final Fight (or the other two games on the cartridge, for that matter). For one, MFF only allows one player to tackle Mad Gear, and beat-em-ups tend to be more fun with more players. That said, Haggar, Guy and Cody are all playable here (which does top the SNES port), the game offers up some nice RPG-like move upgrades as you punch enemies in the face, the graphics are all right, and it’s kind of lengthy. Problem is, the gameplay is pounding the B button ad naseum. With no 2-player option and, from what I got through, nothing other than constant enemy entanglements and some barrel dodging, it gets old fast.
All and all, it’s great Capcom took a chance and released this package. Despite the lack of bonuses or saving, considering the Virtual Console’s pricing for NES games to be around $5 each, this works out great, plus it’s portable, too. I recommend it!
Note - This may be the only way to get the NES Bionic Commando on a modern Nintendo system, since Ninty’s denying the Virtual Console of its goodness. *sigh*
Taito Legends (PS2*, Xbox)
Cost – $14.99 or less
Game Count – 29
Listing – Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part II, Bubble Bobble, Jungle Hunt, Elevator Action, New Zealand Story, Plotting, Rastan, Operation Wolf, Operation Thunderbolt, Rainbow Islands, Phoenix, Colony 7, Electric YoYo, Zoo Keeper, Great Swordsman, Gladiator, Exzisus, Plump Pop, Super Qix, Battle Shark, Continental Circus, Volfied, Ninja Kids, Space Gun, Thunderfox, Tube It, Return of the Invaders, Tokio
Bonus Material – Descriptions, Creator Clips for certain games, hints, history of Taito
Taito has released many games in the arcade, and this, one of the largest retro comps available, brings several of their earliest hits to the PS2 and Xbox. Some of the legends on the disc are:
Elevator Action – This simple action game requires careful strategy to succeed – your character is a special agent seeking out secret plans, and you must utilize the building’s elevators to weave you way through the building. Enemy agents are out to stop you, but you can blast them, squash them with the elevator, or pummel them with the overhead lights! A clever concept.
Bubble Bobble – One word describes Bubble Bobble – adorable. This game offers up some puzzling challenges and some tense platforming, and still is fairly engaging to play today. A 2 player mode is also a plus.
Space Invaders – This game is a legend in terms of sales, and is considered one of the most successful games of all time. It still retains some of that addictive gameplay today, although it has been outclassed by future shooters like Galaga. That said, it’s still worth a play to see the shooter genre’s roots.
While there’s plenty of history to be found here, there’s also a lot of games that I didn’t get into all that much. Rastan, Jungle Hunt, Great Swordsman, Space Gun and Continental Circus were all difficult for me to like for their stiff controls. But still, it is a nice mix of arcade classics, and it is cheap.
Taito Legends 2 (PS2)
Elevator Action II/Returns
Cost – $9.99 or less
Game Count – 39!
Listing – Alpine Ski, Arabian Magic, Bonze Adventure, Cameltry, Chack’n Pop, Cleopatra Fortune, Crazy Balloon, Darius Gaiden, Don Doko Don, Dungeon Magic, Elevator Action II/Returns, The Fairyland Story, Hat Trick Hero, Front Line, Gekirindan, Grid Seeker: Project Storm Hammer, Growl, Gun Frontier, Insector X, KiKi KaiKai, Kuri Kinton, Legend of Kage, Liquid Kids, Lunar Rescue, Metal Black, Nastar, Puchi Carat, Bust A Move Again, Qix, Raimais, Space Invaders 95, Space Invaders DX, Super Space Invaders 91, Violence Fight, Wild Western, Balloon Bomber, G-Darius, RayStorm, Syvalion
Bonus Material – Favorite List, tips
The second Taito Legends is the largest retro comp on the PS2 (that I’m aware of), and in my view, it’s arguably the best. 39 games ranging from 1979 to the mid 90′s await you here, and the mix is much better this go-around than the last. There’s still some games that are terrible, but the great game ratio is also much higher. For example:
Elevator Action II/ Returns – A brilliantly executed sequel to the original, with excellent spritework, engaging level design and responsive controls. This alone would be worth the price of admission, easily. It’s become one of my favorites (just missed the cut on my shortened list).
Cameltry – Outside of the “lending-itself-to-perverted-jokes” name, Cameltry is a great game concept. It also can cause a bizarre sense of vertigo, since you rotate the screen, not the ball, to solve the game’s puzzles. After the initial weirdness wears off though, the gameplay really shines. Very unique, and a bit tough, but fun nevertheless.
Qix – Another interesting idea, this game requires you to fill in a box with smaller boxes while avoiding the evil QIX and its spark minions. It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite thrilling to squeeze out a box when QIX is moments away from killing you. Scary that a game made in 1980 is more frightening than some games today that try to be.
If you’re a shooter fan, then you’ll be happy here. A few decent beat-em-ups are also included, so fans of those will be pleased, too. And puzzle gamers will find a few titles that will hit their sweet spot. As I said, this comp has a great selection of titles. As for the duds, the Legend of Kage is way too spastic for my liking. Violence Fight is a rip off of Pit Fighter with anime-styled sprites, and controls about as well (translation: poorly). Dungeon Magic’s isometric perspective makes progression a little more annoying than it should be. And Syvalion is awfully hard to control. But for $14.99 or less, 39 games is a great bargain. This may be my favorite of all of these.
Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits (DS)
Cost – $14.99 or less
Game Count – 15
Listing – Contra, Gradius, Roc’N'Rope, Basketball, Time Pilot, Rainbow Bell, Horror Maze, Scramble, Circus Charlie, Rush N Attack, Pooyan, Track & Field, Road Fighter, Yie Ar King Fu, Shao-Lin’s Road
Bonus Material – Sound Tests, Dip Switch control, Library, Wireless Multiplayer, Replay Saves
Wildcat - For a portable comp, this is loaded with games, features and other cool stuff. Konami let gamers use the touch screen to manipulate virtual dip switches, which is a pretty neat idea (one the developers, M2, would carry over to Namco’s DS Museum later). The game count is nice, with a few notable Konami game series (Gradius, Contra and Track & Field), as well as several other games that are not as well known (I dig the tense Horror Maze, whose limited control makes it all the more engaging, and Time Pilot’s a fun shooter that was one of the first to let you roam freely on a screen). The variety is nice, but I felt that Basketball was an unnecessary addition (no Double Dribble?), Rush N Attack has too small an attack range (some people may enjoy it, but I don’t like one hit death situations where you have to be right on top of an enemy to kill them most the time), and Circus Charlie too broad in scope and not tight enough in execution. But maybe I just suck at it. :p But for the DS, this is the best you can get.
Nester – Classic game compilations usually rely on nostalgia for success. At first glance, many of the games in Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits may not be too recognizable, thus eliminating the appeal of the package. However, I think it’s actually a fairly strong collection for a couple of reasons.
First, the presentation is very impressive. The emulation of the games included is flawless as far as I can tell, especially compared to other arcade compilations that get sloppy in this regard. The number of options available for each game is detailed and versatile, from control and screen configurations, to direct dip switch management. It makes me wonder why more compilations don’t provide this level of customization. On top of that, there’s also single-card multiplayer, the ability to capture replay videos, a jukebox, and various other frilly but fun extras. As far as I’m concerned, the presentation is top notch.
Second, I think the game selection is really better than it first appears. Even without the charm of nostalgia, if you’re just a fan of the simplicity of classic arcade games, then I think there are several games in the package that are worthwhile if you take the time to get into them. Personally, I do have fond memories of some of the more obscure titles here, like Time Pilot and Roc’n Rope, but I had a lot of fun discovering games I was less familiar with, like Circus Charlie and Rainbow Bell. Overall, I’m very impressed with Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits, and I hope we get to see another package of this type. It would be great to see Frogger, Gyruss, Salamander, and many other classic Konami games get this treatment. In the mean time, if you’re a retro arcade fan, I can easily recommend this compilation.
SNK Arcade Classics V. 1 (PS2*W, Wii*N)
King of the Monsters
Cost – $19.99 (PS2), $29.99 (Wii)
Game Count – 16
Listing – Art of Fighting, Baseball Stars 2, Burning Fight, Fatal Fury, King of the Monsters, Last Resort, Magician Lord, Metal Slug, Neo Turf Masters, Samurai Shodown, Sengoku, Shock Troopers, The Next Glory: Super Sidekicks 3, King of Fighters 94, Top Hunter, World Heroes
Bonus Material – World Heroes, Move lists, art, music, videos, saving at checkpoints
Art of Fighting
Wildcat - SNK’s first NeoGeo comp brings many of its familiar hits, some obscure titles and a solid amount of bonus content to unlock. 16 games is decent I suppose, although it is skimpy compared to most of the other efforts above and below. This title also negates downloading most of the Wii’s NeoGeo library. :p The highlights include:
Baseball Stars 2 – Probably the best retro baseball game I’ve played, it’s got a ton of personality, fairly tight controls and huge, well-animated sprites. The AI is cheap, but with a second player, I’d imagine this would be a blast.
Magician Lord – Fans of the Ghosts N Goblins series will probably dig this title, which has many of the same traits as Capcom’s punishing franchise. The ability to transform into other creatures is well executed here, and the game isn’t quite as cruel as GnG is.
Samurai Shodown – The best fighter on the package, SS’s legacy began quite well. A little loose compared to Capcom’s fighters, but still manageable and fun to play. It has solid character designs, too, a plus with fighters.
World Heroes is probably the biggest flop on the disc. It controls horribly, has poor animation and just isn’t all that fun. It’s also the bonus game to unlock, which hurts. Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting are decent fighters, but their (very) limited character count is punishing. To me, KoF 94 has been quite overshadowed by the later games in the series, but it’s still an adequate fighter. But all and all, a solid enough package. Not as rich with quality as others on this list, but still worth picking up.
Nester – SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 on the Wii is a robust and somewhat ironic package. It’s well done for what it is, but you may not find yourself spending the most time with the games you think you will.
The emulations of the 16 included games are solid with virtually no technical problems (I’ve heard otherwise about the PS2 version). [Wildcat's Note - I've noticed no major issues, myself...maybe I'm lucky?] It offers your choice of four controller methods: Remote, Remote+Nunchuck, Classic Controller, and Gamecube controller. All four methods are fully configurable (and in case you’re wondering, you can use the d-pad on the Gamecube controller), and there’s no motion control used anywhere.
The selection of games is where the irony comes in. While it contains the first installments of many of SNK’s well-known series, like Art of Fighting and King of Fighters ’94, not all of them have aged so gracefully. Instead, it’s some of the more obscure one-offs that shine through as the true gems. Top Hunter is a quirky and charming platform game. Shock Troopers is a highly underrated run-n-gun (which I used to play in the arcade, myself). Even the R-Type derivative Last Resort is surprisingly high quality. I also have to admit that I really enjoyed Neo Turf Masters despite that I have no interest in golf.
Not that all of the “classics” are terrible, however. For me, many of them can still be enjoyed on some level, and frankly, Metal Slug holds up just fine. But this may be a case where you come for Fatal Fury, and end up staying for Shock Troopers. In any event, I think it’s easy to overlook the bad games, like Burning Fight.
The package is rounded off with a medal system that rewards you with unlockables for completing various goals within each game. The rewards consist of move lists, art, soundtracks, and gameplay videos. You also have to unlock World Heroes at first, but it’s fairly easy to do.
In the end, I certainly enjoy this compilation enough to give it a solid recommendation, and I hope that SNK Playmore follows through with its plans to make a volume two.
Sega Genesis Collection (PS2)
Ecco the Dolphin
Cost – $19.99 or less
Game Count – 33!
Listing – Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Altered Beast (Arcade and Genesis versions), Bonanza Bros., Columns, Comix Zone, Decap Attack, Ecco the Dolphin, Ecco: The Tides of Time, Ecco Jr., Flicky, Gain Ground, Golden Axe, Golden Axe II, Golden Axe III, Kid Chameleon, Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III, Phantasy Star IV, Ristar, Shadow Dancer: Secret of Shinobi, Shinobi III, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Super Thunder Blade, Sword of Vermilion, Vectorman, Vectorman 2, Virtua Fighter II, Future Spy, Tac/Scan, Zaxxon, Zektor
Bonus Material – Unlockable games, interviews with Sega staff, Museum with history, art and tips, In-Game Saving, Cheat Sheet, Trailers for other Sega games
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sega’s Genesis comp is huge. Loaded with popular and obscure games from Sega’s side in the 16-bit war, you get a fairly diverse range of titles, ranging from platformers, RPG’s, puzzlers, beat-em-ups and action games. Some huge exceptions are missing from this lineup (where’s the Streets of Rage series? Treasure’s excellent games? Fan-favorite Herzog Zwei?), and some titles are quite debatable for their inclusion (the Genesis port of Virtua Fighter 2?), but on the whole this is a good mix of games. Highlights:
Shinobi III – An excellent action game with excellent music, sprite work and controls. Add in some great level design and you’ve got yourself a wonderful experience full of challenge.
Comix Zone – A rather innovative beat em up from Sega’s US branch, this game puts you into the world of a comic book. It takes you from panel to panel, and even has some nifty ideas for interacting with the environment. Tough, but well worth the time to play.
Ristar – Made by Sonic Team, this glowing example of a platformer is colorful, tight and throws Bionic Commando-esque gameplay into the mix, making it a very fun title to play through.
I haven’t played the Phantasy Star titles yet, so I’ll refrain from commenting about them for now.
The downers in this collection are a bit higher than some of the other comps I’ve discussed. Virtua Fighter 2 is an awful port of the 3D classic, stripping out practically everything the series prides itself on. Super Thunder Blade is a clunky mess. Ecco Jr. is a edutainment exercise in boredom. Altered Beast is terribly bad in just about all aspects. I didn’t see the appeal of Alex Kidd – the randomness of rock paper scissors for boss fights and transactions makes no sense to me. Maybe the Master System titles are better? And Golden Axe III just is not fun. I didn’t care for any of the Golden Axe games on here, but III is the worst. And of course, the inclusion of Sonic and Sonic 2 when the Sonic Mega Collection is available is a bit redundant (I sold my Sonic Mega Collection since my two favorite Sonics are on here). Sega did put together a nice package here, but it feels like some of these titles might have been better left behind for others to appear in their place.
Note – Sega has recently released a new retro comp for the Xbox 360 and PS3, titled Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. It has a lot more games on it, including the Shining Force Genesis titles, the full Streets of Rage trilogy and all of the Sonic the Hedgehog games featured on Sonic Mega Collection, but I’ve heard the emulation is more hit-or-miss from my Sega compatriots, and there’s some games missing (the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on games, Ecco Jr. [which is not a major loss], Shadow Dancer: Revenge of Shinobi, Sword of Vermillion, Virtua Fighter II [another one that won't be missed], Future Spy, Tec/Scan, and Zektor). Here’s the Wikipedia page on it if you’re curious.
Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (GC*, PS2, Xbox)
Cost – $19.99 or less
Game Count – 16
Listing – Bosconian, Dig Dug, Dragon Spirit, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man, Pole Position, Pole Position II, Rally-X, Rolling Thunder, Sky Kid, Xevious, Pac Mania (unlockable), Galaga ’89 (unlockable)
Bonus Material – 2 unlockable games…um…80′s songs for the menu?
Ms. Pac Man
I have to admit, Namco really dropped the ball with their collection (especially considering that it’s their 50th Anniversary celebration disc!). A scant number of titles, many of which are constantly rehashed in their collections, and no bonus material to speak of outside of unlocking two more games is pathetic. Most of the standouts are, unfortunately, the titles they usually recycle:
Ms. Pac-Man – The maze game’s champion, Ms. Pac-Man continues to be an excellent arcade game to play through, with plenty of challenge and incentive to get the perfect score.
Dig Dug – I’ve always enjoyed Dig Dug. Not quite sure why, but it is fun to play, and offers enough challenge to keep you engaged.
Rolling Thunder – One of the better scrolling arcade shooters I’ve played, there’s plenty of run-n-gun gameplay that controls fairly well to enjoy here.
On the merit of the games alone, Namco’s collection is fairly decent. I didn’t like Dragon Spirit’s large hit box, which made playing the game a bigger chore than it ought to be, Pac Mania is really hard to control thanks to the isometric perspective, and I don’t care for Pole Position or its sequel all that much. Shooter fans will be pleased with the high amount of shooters on the disc, but on the whole, out of all of the collections I have had, this is the most disappointing. I sold mine because I just thought it was silly to hold onto it…
Note – Namco’s released a better comp on the Xbox 360, this one entitled Virtual Arcade. It comes with two discs, with the first featuring their 9 Xbox Live Arcade titles and 3 Rearranged versions, while the second disc has 22 unique arcade titles. You can click here for the Wikipedia article.
Midway Arcade Treasures V.1 (PS2*, GC, Xbox)
Cost – $19.99 or less
Game Count – 24
Listing – 720, Blaster, Bubbles, Defender, Defender II, Gauntlet, Joust, Joust II, Klax, Marble Madness, Paperboy, Rampage, Rampart, Roadblasters, Robotron: 2084, Root Beer Tapper, Satan’s Hollow, Sinistar, Smash TV, Splat!, SpyHunter, Super Sprint, Toobin’, Vindicators
Bonus Material – History, interviews, galleries and/or trivia per game
Midway’s first collection is excellent, rich with many legends of the 80′s. Many of the games on here set precedents for others to follow, and it helps that many of them are amazingly fun, too. The extras are lopsided, with the big games like Defender, Robotron or Gauntlet getting the majority of the attention, but it’s still better than Namco’s effort by a long shot. The menu design is a little bizarre (what does a pyramid have to do with any of these games?), but I do like the hieroglyphics approach for the menu, using recognizable sprites as the symbols. Anyway, this collection is loaded with great games, including:
Robotron: 2084 – The definition of a twitch shooter, Engene Jarvis’ insane overhead shooter is one of the most stressful games I’ve played. Throwing you into a plethora of robotic menaces and mines, you must blast your way through all of the foes and attempt to rescue the last family on earth in the process. Very intense, and a lot of fun, especially since there’s two analog sticks to play it the way it’s supposed to be played on the PS2 pad.
Joust II – I have to admit, Joust is a game that I really did not understand when I was a kid. Nowadays, though, I do finally get it, and it’s a joy to plow into enemies just right. The sequel is even better, with more diverse environments to battle on.
Smash TV – This game is downright goofy, but it’s a perfect arcade shooter. Not as extreme as Robotron (but still challenging enough!), this over-the-top title is well worth a playthrough.
The dud content is quite low, too. Root Beer Tapper is pretty boring, and it’s the kid alternative to the usual licensed beer version (so clearly, you need to be drunk to like it :p ). 720′s isometric perspective (and lack of a trackball) makes it a bit tricky to accomplish much. And Klax is just…downright weird. But on the whole, Midway’s first foray into unearthing their retro catalog is a success.
Data East Arcade Classics (Wii)
Cost – $19.99 or less
Game Count – 15
Listing – Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja, Burger Time, Burnin’ Rubber, Caveman Ninja, Crude Buster, Express Raider, Heavy Barrel, Lock ‘n’ Chase, Magical Drop III, Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory, Secret Agent, Side Pocket, Street Hoop, SRD: Super Real Darwin, Wizard Fire
Bonus Material – Arcade flyers, cabinet marquee images, artwork, music, Special Mode (harder difficulty)
Wildcat – I was incredibly ignorant of Data East’s back catalog before this game. I had limited exposure to Burgertime (mostly through the NES), and I’ve played Karnov, Karate Champ and Cobra Command on the NES, but never before had I had the chance to really dig into the arcade lineup to see if it was worth my time. This set remedies that with a mostly solid collection of Data East’s titles from their heyday.
A comp is made or broken by its emulation, and as far as I can tell, the games represented here were excellently converted. Lock n’ Chase has some weird musical glitchiness to it, but I’m not sure if it was present in the original release or not, so I’m not going to knock it. There’s also a nice mix of titles here, with a little bit for everyone. There’s something here for puzzlers, sports titles, action games, shooters, racing and maze game fans, and if you like more than one genre, you’ll be happy!
Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja – If you like Sega’s arcade original of Shinobi, you will probably enjoy this, too, as it’s quite similar (and not quite as cheap). I got a big kick out of this as I punched and kicked my way through heaps of ninja, and I was a bad enough dude to save the president.
Burgertime – An interesting variant on the maze game, this game requires a bit of strategy and quick reflexes to master, and I am quite captivated by it. As the one game I had previous familiarity with before trying this comp, I’m glad to say that it meets my memories of it quite well.
Burnin’ Rubber – A racing game with a little more action than most in this period – you control a buggy that can leap high, and you need to knock out your rivals with well placed bumps or by landing on them. Pretty fun, but I can’t see myself playing it for too long at a time.
Caveman Ninja – Nice spritework is the distinctive part of this Ghosts N Goblins-esque action/platformer. Joe and Mac can charge up their attacks by holding down the throw button, and it’s tough, but much more merciful than Capcom’s series. A fine take on this kind of game.
Crude Buster – This game has potential, but it doesn’t quite meet the grade due to its somewhat awkward animation and loose controls. It also has terrible voice repetition problems (muttering “What a Day” every time you get knocked over? Why?). Sort of a shame its gameplay isn’t up to par, as the post-apocalyptic aspect is well done, and the bosses are interesting designs.
Express Rider – A cowboy western spin on Karate Champ (notably absent from here), the first level has you tackling lumberjacks (well, maybe not, but they look it) with well-timed blows in a contest of wills (who will be defeated first?). It’s pretty dated, and didn’t really gel with me.
Heavy Barrel – A top-down shooter like Commando, with the ability to turn and shoot 8 ways as well as move thanks to two sticks. I found it a little sluggish, but I’m not huge on games like this, so it may just not be my thing.
Lock n’ Chase – A rip-off of Pac-Man, with the ability to lock up your pursuers with walls. I didn’t quite get this one, but I’ll update this when I play it some more.
Magical Drop III – Anyone who’s played Puzzle Bobble will be clued off as to Data East’s inspiration, but their take on the bubble popping concept has plenty of its own merits. Unlike Taito’s, which has you shooting bubbles, your clown collects them (and more than one at a time, as long as they are the same color!) and throws them back up, which is a much cleverer mechanic. I definitely give the edge to Magical Drop for this type of puzzler. The nice anime-styled Tarot card characters acting up in the background gives the game a visual advantage, too. Good fun (and I’m not huge on puzzle games, so when one clicks with me, that’s a fantastic bonus).
Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory – A half-baked sequel that loses a lot of what made Burgertime so great, this one is not all that fun to play. The level designs don’t work as well, the new way of interacting with the primary goal (knocking ice cream scoops off of the side of a platform) is more cumbersome, and Peter’s newfound jumping talent gets him into more trouble than it does good. A disappointment.
Secret Agent – Built from the bones of Bad Dudes, Secret Agent refines the engine to a higher polished gem of an action game. Riffing off of James Bond (complete with both a Jaws and Oddjob derivative and a Golden Gun to collect) successfully, adding in a gun to the mix makes foe fighting all that more fun, and the mix-up of stages with dives, motorcycle rides and a freefall is great. A very pleasant surprise.
Side Pocket – Best pool video game I’ve played! I’ve really been enjoying this. The gameplay is straightforward but deep, and the only knock is the constant coin continues I have to make because I’m trying to learn how to best shoot the cue ball. Excellent!
Street Hoop – AKA Street Slam, this NBA Jam lookalike is a lot of fun, too, with crazy dunks and flaming three-pointers of its own. The ambiance is better than Jam’s, and you have an extra player on the court to help aid you out. Responsive and engaging, another winner here.
SRD: Super Real Darwin – A vertical shooter with a nifty evolution mechanic to power up your ship, I was pretty impressed with this. I am horrendous at this kind of game, but I was so intrigued by the ship upgrading that I didn’t really mind dying a ton. Your mileage may vary, but I think this is a neat game.
Wizard Fire – Lastly, the gorgeous Wizard Fire reminds me of Gauntlet, but with an isometric view and much livelier backdrops. It’s a tough one, but I was enjoying the awesome visuals and laughable voice work too much to really be bothered by the constant slaying of my elf.
In short, I am really satisfied with this comp. It has many excellent games and only a few duds, and it turned out to be much better than I was expecting. It’s sad that we didn’t get to see some of Data East’s other notable games, like Karnov, Atomic Runner, Karate Champ, Fighter’s History or Congo’s Caper, but considering that Data East’s library is spread out between four different studios (with the majority held by G-Mode, whose titles are included here, and Paon, made up of former Data East staff), it’s a good beginning. I hope the possibility of a second set comes true!
Nester – I loved going to arcades in the 80’s and 90’s. However, I never really played many of Data East’s games in the arcade, so I’m largely unfamiliar with their catalog. Thus, playing Majesco’s Data East Arcade Classics on the Wii has been an educational experience for me.
The collection includes games from the early 80’s to the late 90’s, and it spans a wide variety of genres. There are brawlers, sports games, shoot-em-ups, puzzle games, and so on. It’s likely that you’ll find at least a few games that will appeal to your personal gaming preferences.
The emulation of the games works decently without any major glitches or distortions that would significantly interfere with the experience. However, the scaling causes some rippling when the screen scrolls, and the text can look a little strange and be a little hard to read sometimes. Overall, it’s not really anything I haven’t seen in other arcade compilations, and frankly, I’ve seen worse.
Controls support the Wii Remote held sideways, the Remote+Nunchuck, the Classic Controller, and the GameCube controller. The buttons for all controllers are configurable, which is a good thing because the default button layouts can be a little awkward. I also appreciated that there was a button used for coin dropping, but I would’ve liked even more controller options. A rapid-fire option would’ve been nice for the shooting games.
The menu screen for the collection includes some other strange options. It will save your highest score for each game, and you can tie that score to a Mii. Saving and loading data for each game must be done manually. However, it also saves your controller configuration, so if you forget to save or accidentally overwrite your old save, then you have to reconfigure your controller again.
As a means of providing replay value, each game also has five goals to achieve. As you accomplish them, you’ll unlock arcade flyers, character art, soundtracks and other miscellany, which you can access from the menu. Accomplishing all five goals for a game unlocks a “Special Mode”, which, according to the manual, is simply the game with the arcade settings configured to make the game harder.
This brings me to my biggest complain with the collection: other than the Special Mode, you can’t manipulate the arcade settings at all. Something I enjoy about arcade collections is the ability to micromanage the original arcade dipswitch settings and customize the games to my own personal liking. Data East Arcade Classics really disappointed me in this department.
As with most retro compilations, it’s easy to think of games that should have been included, but weren’t. With Data East Arcade Classics, one of the most noticeable omissions is Karnov, of which the title character was even used as the company’s mascot for a while. The reason it was not included is because all of the Data East games included on this collection were licensed from G-Mode. G-Mode currently owns most – but not all – of Data East’s classic properties, and Karnov is not among them. Instead, it currently belongs to Paon. It would’ve been nice if Majesco had worked out a deal with Paon in order to create a more complete Data East collection, but perhaps that will be the case if there is a follow up to this compilation.
Overall, Data East Arcade Classics doesn’t do anything particularly notable as far as retro compilations go, but it’s a solid package for what it is. I enjoyed discovering the games that I was unfamiliar with, and was even pleasantly surprised by a few of them. I’ve also learned a few things along the way. I’ve learned more about Data East’s arcade legacy. I’ve learned that I am a bad enough dude to rescue “Ronnie.” And of course, winners don’t use drugs.