Nostalgia can be a double-edged sword, particularly for people trying to recapture their youth. On one hand, thanks to the Internet, you can probably find the movie, game or toy that you remember from your childhood, allowing you to stroll down memory lane. On the other hand, you may wind up paying hundreds, if not thousands of dollars acquiring this feeling. Fortunately for older gamers, Midway’s provided a doorway into the past with the sequel to their successful retro gaming collection, Midway’s Arcade Treasures 2.
Last year’s collection focused on some of the earlier gaming classics like Joust and Defender, most of which were memorable twitch arcade titles. The largest problem is that it was much harder to classify the games or the kind of titles included in the compilation. Arcade Treasures 2 avoids this in two ways: first of all, the majority of included titles fall into a number of categories. There are fighting games, action titles, sports games, driving games, shoot ‘em ups and a set of miscellaneous titles. Secondly, the majority of the included games featured relatively deeper gameplay than the previous installment.
Of course, with a widespread collection of classics pulled from the arcades, you’re going to wind up with a number of hits and misses. The blatant stars of Arcade Treasures 2 have to be the near flawless emulations of Mortal Kombat 2 and Mortal Kombat 3. These two games by themselves are worth the price of the collection alone, but then you also have classic sports titles like Arch Rivals (the precursor to NBA Jam and NBA Ballers) and Cyberball 2072 (robotic football). Other extremely popular titles include Total Carnage (A Smash TV “sequel” that focused on widespread destruction), Gauntlet II, Rampage: World Tour and Narc (one of the first titles that actually took Just Say No to heart).
Unfortunately, there are a number of weaker titles that winds up rounding out the list of games, such as the inclusion of the far inferior Spy Hunter II (a game whose design owed too much to Roadblasters than the original title), the obscurer Timber and Kozmik Krooz’r (along with its sequel, Wacko) as well as the positively ancient (by comparison) Wizard of Wor. Furthermore, the removal of the original Mortal Kombat, initially scheduled to be included in this title before the announcement of the Collector’s Edition of Mortal Kombat: Deception, slightly undermines the anthology itself.
Most of the included titles play exactly the same way they did in the arcades, with a few minor tweaks to accommodate today’s console pads. For instance, Total Carnage takes advantage of the two analog sticks to direct movement and fire, while the timing and combinations used for the two MK titles works just as well as they did in the arcades. The emulation of these older games is near perfect, and owners of the arcade cabinets may be a bit hard pressed to tell the difference between the original and these representations.
In a way, I’ll have to use part of what Thomas Wilde said earlier this year when he described the first Arcade Treasures: It’s almost impossible to try to cover every game in this one review, particularly with the control scheme, graphical presentation and other qualities. However, there were a number of very noticeable hiccups that I managed to find playing through each one of the 20 titles. First of all, some titles still suffer through a certain amount of slowdown or dropped frames, such as the chug that occurs in Total Carnage or in Rampage: World Tour. However, other titles seem somewhat sped up or significantly faster than I recall them being in the arcades. Pit Fighter and Narc are particularly faster than what I remember them as playing, which can be quite tricky to get used to, if you do at all. You may also discover that a number of the games don’t control particularly well thanks to the lack of cabinet-specific peripherals – Championship Sprint, Hard Drivin’ and A.P.B. are the two largest culprits of this, as the analog sticks don’t work as well as the steering wheel peripheral from the arcades. Finally, the limited inclusion of online play is truly criminal. I don’t necessarily care about online scoreboards (which is the only online feature); I want to take other players on in Arch Rivals or MK2!
As I said earlier, these titles are nearly identical to the games in the arcade, excluding a few minor visuals in the more graphically intensive titles. To that end, you may find grainy textures, dropped shadows or other image flaws pop up here or there. Video graininess also extends to some of the special features video clips, which in some cases haven’t withstood the test of time. While it’s an interesting feature on the whole, it’s just not cleanly implemented. Fortunately, the overall interface has been cleaned up substantially, and you’ll find a much simpler, easier to navigate “DNA” menu screen, as opposed to last year’s hieroglyphic screens. Similarly, you’ll find the same thing applies with sound files. Most of the music and effects included are just as they are in the arcades, although you will find some muted or shallow sound effects and music pieces here and there.
For you gamers who’re looking to experience a lot of classic and “only seen in arcades” gaming, Arcade Treasures is definitely the game for you. For 20 bucks, you’re getting 20 games, which is a great value. Plus, as I said earlier, the inclusion of nearly perfect emulations of Mortal Kombat 2 and 3 alone make this collection worth it for any fighting fan. It’s nice to see older titles get the attention they richly deserve, and hopefully other companies will take note of what Midway’s done.