In essence, the creed of arcade game design in the 80s was “Make lots of money”. Given that the player paid per credit, the way to do this was to make addictive but cheap experiences, whereby the player was faced with a skill-based challenge, but said challenge was loaded with unfairness and booby-traps. Such practices are frowned upon in modern game design, but modern game design makes all of its money up-front. Is this old arcade philosophy still palatable to anyone but the dedicated retro gamer? Capcom hope so, as they release a collection of 80s arcade games in Capcom Arcade Cabinet.
It seems that the initial download has all of the games already in it, owing to the fact it is 1.4GB and the individual games are just unlock keys. The purpose of this model is to allow demos to be slowly released through the platform, as is currently the case with the games from pack two available to play in trial format with a download of the platform. It’s also worth noting that Black Tiger is currently free so that you can test the Cabinet experience for yourself.
Each game has various options to customise your arcade experience. The standard arcade mode is where you can set difficulty options to your whims, enable or disable continuing and so forth. Score attack is a closed system in which you play by its rules with one credit, in the hopes of beating the world at the game. As scoreboards were one of main competitive elements in arcades, it is vital that they are represented here.
While purporting to represent the complete arcade experience, each game is sorely lacking its own custom border, based on its original flyers and marquees, which I honestly expected would be part of the package. A sorely missed opportunity to make the overall package something that little bit more special. Such materials are unlocked for viewing by completing challenges, however, so it’s not that they’re missing, they’re just not where they would feel truly at home – on the side of the screen.
The Playstation 3 version features uploading of replays to Youtube. Here’s my test of that functionality:
There’s also a Casual Mode. In this mode, each game is toned down quite heavily to make just getting to the end a lot easier. In essence, it tries to consolise the game in question. In practice, however, what it mainly seems to have achieved is the removal of all challenge entirely, making what’s left sparse and quite a bit duller than was necessary.
Pack 1 contains the following three Capcom arcade games from 1987: Avengers, 1943 and Black Tiger.
Essentially, this is Streets Of Rage from the top down, but without most of that game’s personality. The player can punch, kick and throw weapons at his foes in eight directions. A two player option is available, which makes the game rather more manageable. Movement feels a little stiff, and given that success usually requires fairly precise spacing of your character so that your foot hits the tip of the enemy, this can eventually grate.
Enemies come from all around the screen to ambush you, usually in packs of three, but never in truly creative ways. There are some unique enemies, but it is mainly down to the bosses to make you vary your play. There’s a 360-degree kick to sweep away crowding enemies but it’s slightly too slow to be truly effective. It requires patience to get through effectively due to some cheapness, but it delivers competent, simple beat-em-up fun.
1943: Battle Of Midway:
A very challenging vertically scrolling shooter which uses an energy bar instead of lives. This means that one hit does not kill you, but it also allows you to get stuck in extremely precarious situations and just get comboed to death. Adding to this, the energy bar is also your fuel gauge, and as such slowly creeps down as you progress through a stage. The overall speed of enemy planes and bullets is fast, meaning quick reflexes and clean killing of enemies is required. If you’re willing to dedicate the hours to memorising and formulating a gameplan, a rewarding experience can be had.
Expect to credit feed in a big way on your first pass through, though. Note that if you don’t destroy enough of a boss ship the first time around, you have to go back and face it again. After the second time, you automatically clear the round. You at least have access to a barrel roll, which can avoid enemies and bullets. The game is pretty long, with sixteen increasingly claustrophobic stages.
A sidescroller with more than a shade of Makaimura (Ghosts and Goblins to give it its English title) to it. With your mace and projectiles, you force your way forwards through various beasts while constantly choosing from multiple paths. When armoured, you can take a few hits, but once the armour’s gone, you’re left defenseless and the next hit will finish your journey.
Rescue monks (I think they’re monks) to get bonus money and buy weapons / life upgrades, affording a light RPG element to proceedings. With only three lives to work with, staying alert and being dextrous are key. It features some absolutely superb FM music, which is worth the price of the frustration you may feel when surrounded by enemies.
The three games on offer are entertaining diversions in and of themselves, and as such if you fancy a history lesson in what gaming was in the 80s, this is a great place to start. Just don’t come complaining that the games are too hard. That’s the whole point. How’s an 80s arcade to make money otherwise? Just put another virtual credit in.