Another year goes by, and another game publisher has a notable birthday. This year, Capcom is celebrating the formation of its business 30 years ago, in 1983. To mark the occasion, they’re releasing a series of classic arcade titles on Xbox Live Arcade. We assume that when their 35th birthday rolls around during the next generation, they’ll release them all again then, too.
That may seem like a very negative thing to say whilst one of gaming’s behemoth is blowing out the candles on their cake, but it’s true, nonetheless.
Capcom Arcade Cabinet is a confusingly packaged selection of titles, to say the least. Each week, three titles will be released that slot in to the main Arcade Cabinet application, with each bundle costing 400 MSP. As well as the three in this initial pack – 1943: The Battle of Midway, Avengers, and Black Tiger – you can look forward to games such as Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Gun Smoke, Section Z, Exed Exes, The Speed Rumbler, Side Arms, Commando, Legendary Wings, Trojan, SonSon, Pirate Ship Higemaru, 1942, and some unannounced bonus titles that are unlocked only if you’ve bought all of the others. If you want to save some money, the entire set will be available for 2000 MSP once all the individual packs have been released.
Each title is available for play with the classic arcade settings and if you find those to be too difficult (which 95% of players who didn’t grow up on titles like this will) and need to practice, you can do so in “Casual Mode” which rolls the difficulty down. A score attack mode is featured, that tasks you with getting as high a score as possible without using any credits past your initial one. Leaderboards are available for each difficulty setting here, and for each version of the game, since some titles have the international edition and the original Japanese version available. On top of that, a nice feature is the ability to save a replay of your entire run through a game, for playback later on. A gallery mode is on hand too, and players can unlock gallery items as they play. Aspect ratios can be changed so that you can play in full screen mode or in a more traditional resolution, and scanlines can be added. You can even change the orientation of the screen, so that if you feel like putting your TV on its side somehow, you can get a slightly more authentic arcade experience in some games.
But with all of these nice additions, the games themselves are what matter. If the machine that’s being replicated is terrible, nobody will want to set any high scores, or play past their initial run-through. Something that’s frequently forgotten, is that not all arcade games in the 80s were actually any good. Some – the majority, in fact – were either average, or downright awful, and those games were ignored by arcade-goers on the whole. Things haven’t changed in that respect. So, looking back through the rosiest of rose-tinted spectacles won’t do anything for two-thirds of the initial bundle, with the side-scrolling RPG-lite Black Tiger being an average game at best, and the top-down Double Dragon-styled Avengers being an absolute stinker of a game.
Yet, Capcom have decided to include them anyway – in the launch package, no less.
1943: Battle of Midway is the saviour of the set, given that it really is easily one the finest top-down shooters of all time. Frantic action is on hand here, and you’ll come back time and time again to try and sink those Japanese carriers as the bullets fly and the screen fills with enemies, with the difficulty ratcheting up at every turn. Having unlimited continues in the classic arcade mode is nothing but a boon, and given that very little has changed when it comes to shooters of this type over the years, the game stands up very well.
What we just can’t understand are some of the omissions from the collection as a whole of some booming Capcom titles. Yes, some have succumbed to licensing issues, but where are Mega Twins, or Strider? How about Tiger Road, or Knights of the Round? What happened to Mercs, or even Capcom Bowling? And let’s not forget one of the most popular videogame series of all time – Street Fighter. The original wasn’t a patch on the sequel, but it would be a “nice to have” title if included in the set. Also, did they all HAVE to be arcade titles? How about celebrating Capcom’s anniversary by rolling out some of their fantastic back catalogue of 8 and 16-bit titles?
There are missed opportunities here, but the collection as a whole is nicely presented and at the end of it all, the quality of the games is all that matters when you’re considering compilations such as these. As such and as always, your mileage will vary based on how much you love or loved the available games. At half the price, Capcom Arcade Cabinet would have been a bit of a steal for all players. For the price that's being charged though, only really hardcore fans of the titles on offer will feel like they've spent wisely.