Thursday, 23 May 2013

REVIEW (REVISED) - Capcom Arcade Cabinet (XBLA / PS3)

** Capcom Arcade Cabinet is now 2000 points for the entire selection of 17 games. I have heavily revised my original review to ignore the poor pricing policies up until this point - as well as the smack in the face to loyal fans who wanted to support Capcom and play these games from day one. I have also spent more time with each game to re-write my analysis of each.

You can still read the original review here **

After the unfortunate failure of the underrated Game Room service, the release of half hearted compilations such as Midway Arcade Origins and the total lack of anything from Taito (boo!), retro arcade games have had a bad run this generation. The exception to this might be the excellent Namco Museum - Virtual Arcade compilation, but even this had flaws. So, while still excited about the prospect of playing old Capcom arcade games on my 360 or PS3, I remained sceptical about what would actually be delivered. While there is disappointment to be had in the lack of certain titles, what's here is a pretty decent selection of Capcom's 1980's library.

The presentation is of a high standard, with plenty of options and 
modes to keep you interested, all in an easy to navigate format

First and foremost, here is the complete list of classic (and not so classic) coin-ops at your disposal:

  • 1942
  • 1943: Battle of Midway
  • 1943 Kai
  • Avenger
  • Black Tiger
  • Commando
  • Exed Exes (Savage Bees)
  • Ghosts ‘n Goblins
  • Gun.Smoke
  • Hyper Dyne : Side Arms
  • Legendary Wings
  • Pirate Ship Higemaru
  • Section Z
  • The Speed Rumbler
  • SonSon
  • Trojan
  • Vulgus

Fans (myself included) will bemoan the lack of games such as; Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, The Punisher, Willow, Bionic Commando, The Dungeons & Dragons games, Forgotten Worlds, Gigawing 1 & 2, King of Dragons, Ghouls & Ghosts, Mega Twins, Strider and 3 Wonders, but this package focuses on the earlier titles from the 1980's - besides, I understand the licensing for many of the franchises such as The Punisher and Alien vs Predator would be difficult to obtain these days.

*note - It has been announced that the two Dungeons & Dragons titles will be coming to XBLA as a standalone package at some point in the future

Ghosts 'N Goblins is a highlight. Great fun, but brutally difficult. It will 
kick your ass but keep you coming back for more

Capcom Arcade Cabinet's presentation is very good. The game boots up with a faux Arcade Rom boot, before crashing into an energetic display featuring well drawn cartoon imagery for each game. The menu system is accompanied by some laid back, almost elevator style, music and is easy to navigate and very user friendly. You can scroll left and right through the games, lighting up the silhouette that represents each one as you do so. Pressing X switches the display to a timeline, where the games are organised by year of release, where you can view a description of each game. While pressing A takes you into the game's main menu. Here you can look at the leaderboards, achievements earned, a gallery featuring art, music and saved replays. The options are also of a high standard, with plenty of screen customisation settings that allow players to fine tune their arcade experience. Presets include a classic look, complete with scanlines, a full screen mode (pretty ugly on large TVs), and a custom mode that allows you to pick and choose the exact size and filters you want. You can even choose which way around you want the view - I'm not sure how many people are willing to turn their HD TVs on their side to play vertical shooters, but it's nice to have the option to do so. Emulation on all games is spot-on and I was unable to spot any issues with graphics, sounds or controls. It is far superior to some of the emulation seen in the shoddy Midway package or on Game Room.

The vertical scrolling shooters, like Commando, offer the most 
replayability as they are great score chasers

Of course, the main draw here are the online leaderboards. Playing arcade games can be fun, but it is infinitely better when you are tasked with getting the highest score possible with one credit. With your results going onto an online scoreboard that can be compared with your friends, or the entire world. It really inspires you to get better at the game, rather than just dipping in to various games for a quick 2 minute go. I spent hours on Game Room playing titles such as Time Pilot, Shaolin's Road, Jackal, and Missing in Action, coming 15th in the world rankings on the latter title. It was immensely enjoyable and far more engaging than just playing them through the excellent MAME emulator. Here, you can also play the games via online co-op, meaning you can have a 2 player blast on old arcade games without the horrible inconvenience of actual human interaction.

Once you get past the awful music, Black Tiger is a pretty 
good fantasy platform game

The Games

Of course, online leaderboards are irrelevant if the games are not fun to play, so let's take a look at what we have here.

Black Tiger is a scrolling fantasy 'run & gun' game that swaps firearms for throwing knives. It tasks you with killing monsters, smashing vases and chests to gain money and power-ups, and rescuing old men that repay you with loot or, rather cheekily, a shop in order to sell you items. It looks a lot like Capcom's other fantasy sidescroller, Magic Sword, but is better due to the fact you are free to explore the stages and take multiple routes to the exit. Levels are well designed, the hack and slash combat is satisfying and the time limit keeps the pressure on you. It's a fantastic game, unfortunately marred by some truly hideous music, but this doesn't detract from what is one of the best games here.

1943 : Battle Over Midway, is a stone cold classic. The second in the 194x series, this installment does away with lives, giving you an energy bar instead. Aside from that, it's business as usual. Scroll upwards shooting anything that arrives on the screen, collecting power-ups, unleashing your smart bomb should you get overwhelmed, and face a boss at the end of each stage. It is still extremely enjoyable due to its simplistic, yet challenging gameplay, and is the best shoot-em-up here. 

1943 Kai is similar to regular 1943, but cranked up to 11. It has more detailed backdrops and far greater odds against you, so is really for those who have mastered the standard version. While it is an excellent game, I still prefer vanilla 1943.

1942 also appears but is not as good, as it really shows its age and has very annoying audio, so seems to be included for completion's sake only. 

Avengers is a hideous title, both visually and in terms of gameplay. A vertically scrolling beat-em-up featuring a cast of characters that resemble zombie clowns, requiring you to kick and punch a constant stream of goons. It is absolutely horrible to play, and I cannot think of a single redeeming factor. Avengers just makes me want to never play another old arcade game again.

Why Capcom feel the need to constantly include detritus 
like Avengers is anyone's guess

Ghosts 'N Goblins is a wonderful, and brutally hard, platformer set in a fantasy horror world. As well as its difficulty, it is also memorable for the hero, Arthur, being stripped down to his boxers when he is hit. Its cartoon horror graphics and catchy tunes are still charming today, and it remains a lot of fun to play. Due to its punishing difficulty it is incredibly satisfying when you finally beat a stage. Anyone who can get past level 2 on 1 credit deserves a medal and / or sexual gratification from the movie star of their choice.

Commando and Gun.Smoke are both vertical scrolling shoot-em-ups, set in a war and cowboy theme respectively. Commando allows you to move in 8 directions around the screen, only firing in the direction you are facing, and hurl limited grenades in an upwards direction. This is a game that really could have used twin-stick controls as seen in Robotron 2048. It is absolutely relentless and is one of the hardest games on here. Gun.Smoke is also brutally hard, but I prefer it due to the gunslinger scenario. It also works slightly differently to Commando in that you use 3 fire buttons, one to fire straight ahead, and the other two to fire forward-left and forward-right. If you can get to grips with the punishing difficulty levels in these titles, then they are ones you will keep coming back to.

Section Z and Hyper Dyne : Side Arms are two horizontal shooters that allow you to change which way you face in order to attack foes that appear from the left as well as right side of the screen. The only difference is that Section Z is great fun, while Side Arms couldn't be more bland and dull if it tried. 

Vulgus and Exed Exes are decent shmups that will keep you coming back to better your score. In fact, I would say that, while these titles seem fairly uninspiring at first, after a few goes you become hooked and will want to keep plugging away, learning the stages and enemy patterns and inching your way a bit further towards the final stages. Vulgus is probably my favourite, despite being the most basic looking, but they both offer some seriously addictive shoot-em-up action. 

Legendary Wings is another horizontal shooter that adds in a bomb attack for ground targets, as first seen in Xevious, as well as some extremely dire pseudo-platforming sections that are extremely slow and boring. The visuals are also a bit garish, making it hard to see what is going on. One to avoid.

Despite its basic appearance, Exed Exes (Savage Bees) is 
actually pretty good fun 

Trojan is a fairly bland 2D romp through a ruined city, whacking enemies with your sword and using strange 'jump' icons on the floor to propel yourself skywards in order to hit enemies in high places. It plays a little like Irem's Vigilante or the even older, Kung-Fu master, though with the fiddly jumping and constant need to block projectiles, I found it far less enjoyable than those two titles.

The Speed Rumbler is an overhead combat racer in which you control a machine gun clad car in a Mad Max style environment. It plays like Commando mixed with Konami's excellent Jackal, and is just as difficult as both of those titles. I want to like this game, but there is something about it that makes it quite irritating to play. Maybe it is the fiddly controls and enemies that are hard to hit, or maybe your slow firing gun that results in unsatisfying combat. Whatever it is, I can't really recommend it.

SonSon is an ancient looking, but nevertheless highly enjoyable, sidescroller in which you move between horizontal planes as the screen constantly scrolls right, shooting enemies and collecting fruit. It is the most 'Japanese' of the games here, even though it is based on a Chinese folk tale called Journey To The West, probably more famously known in the West from the camp 1970's TV show Monkey. It is a charming title with cute visuals and addictive gameplay. Using rapid fire is essential here, otherwise your hands will start to cramp up!

Pirate Ship Higemaru is a quirky maze game which has you throwing barrels at evil pirates. You can pick up any barrel that make up the maze walls, and roll them along the ground to take out enemies. It is actually fairly engaging, though not quite as good as the similar puzzle game, 'Don't Pull', one of the three games in Capcom's Three Wonders title, sadly missing from the line-up. Controls can seem a little off at times, but once you get used to it, it provides some enjoyable maze action.

Despite looking like one of the weaker titles, Pirate Ship Higemaru 
is actually pretty damn playable. 

1943 : Battle Over Midway is one of the best games here, 
still playing beautifully today

For 2000 points you are getting a large selection of classic 1980's coin-op games to play as you see fit. While some games are pretty weak, the vast majority of them will provide retro gamers with hours of entertainment and addictive score chasing. Of course, your enjoyment of these games depends on your feelings towards old arcade games in general - if you grew up playing some of the titles here, or just love retro gaming, then you will get your money's worth, and then some. But if you scoff at pixellated graphics, bleepy-bloopy sound effects, and simplistic (yet extremely difficult) gameplay, then this package won't be for you. For those of us who can't get enough of gaming nostalgia, Capcom Arcade Cabinet is a no-brainer. Go grab it now and enjoy classic gaming on a modern system. 

* May I also suggest purchasing a proper arcade stick as it enhances the experience no end. I am using the Hori Fighting Stick EX 2 which is bloody brilliant, and can be found pretty cheaply on Ebay.

The Good

  • Excellent presentation and options
  • Faultless emulation
  • Online Leaderboards & Co-Op play
  • A large selection of great games
  • Very addictive

The Bad

  • A few crappy games on offer
  • Many of the best games from previous Capcom packs are missing

Developer : Capcom Co. Ltd.
Availability : Xbox 360, PS3
Price : 2000 points / $14.99