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Midway Arcade Origins (PlayStation 3) artwork

Midway Arcade Origins (PlayStation 3) review

"If you grew up around arcades, Midway Arcade Origins is likely to disappoint you because many of the games simply donít control the way you remember. Home conversions did a great job of making the classic arcade titles function on inferior hardware, and yet these new releases abandon that refinement in favor of ill-advised faithfulness to old code that no longer matches contemporary hardware."

I grew up playing Marble Madness on the NES, with a controller. The d-pad turned out to be the perfect control mechanism for that game, and thatís almost entirely due to the excellent work Rare did with the port. I didnít realize at the time just how much modification must have been necessary.

Years later, Marble Madness arrived on consoles again, this time as a selection offered on the first title in the Midway Arcade Treasures series. Sadly, that later release stripped away the improvements that once made for the NES release such a treat. The game controlled awkwardly because it had been coded with the assumption that players would be using a trackball. I donít know if youíve noticed, but most game controllers donít actually come equipped with a trackball. An analog stick might seem like a decent replacement, but itís really not.

Midway Arcade Origins for PlayStation 3 had the potential to rectify old issues and offer a proper new conversion. Armed with the knowledge that straight arcade ports are generally a bit of a mess, the developers in charge of the new effort could have included versions of the games that modified old code to suit todayís hardware. Such an approach could easily have breathed new life into yesteryearís classics. Instead, the compilation clings to the past and tosses any potential onto the rubbish heap.

If youíve played the first volume of Midway Arcade Treasures on PlayStation 2, youíve already experienced many of the most enjoyable of the 31 titles included on the Midway Arcade Origins disc. Splat!, Klax, Blaster, RoadBlasters, and Paperboy are missing from this new bundle, but in their place youíll find stuff like Xybots, Xenophobe, Total Carnage and Super Off Road that previously was only available on the second and third Midway Arcade Treasures discs. Depending on your preferences, you may actually prefer the first volume from the previous compilation series, despite the slightly expanded roster of classics that youíll find included here. The question you might ask is why Warner Bros. didnít gather the games from all three of the older compilations and cram them onto a single disc. There had to have been sufficient space available. Presumably, the answer to that question is ďto make more money by eventually releasing a second volume,Ē but itís hard to say whether most gamers will even care to risk a second purchase after they experience this sloppy first attempt.

I say ďsloppyĒ because in some ways, the PlayStation 2 releases were actually superior to this latest attempt at emulation. Consider Marble Madness once more. On the PlayStation 2, a menu preceded the game and listed controls that allowed you to slow the marbleís movement speed by pressing and holding the Circle button. Thatís a useful option because the analog stick and d-pad cause the marble to move too quickly by default. The updated PlayStation 3 version features no such option, however, which is tragic because it leaves you without the means to move slowly through treacherous areas that require precise movement once made possible by a trackball. Because the marble is now overly sensitive, the version of Marble Madness that is included on this compilation is easily the worst one that I have ever played.

My complaints donít end with Marble Madness, either. Thatís just one of the 31 included titles, so I was prepared to ignore its deficiencies and have fun with the remaining selections. Unfortunately, a lot of those other titles didnít fare much better than Marble Madness did. Touchy steering controls meant that I suddenly couldnít make slight corrections while playing Championship Sprint (I kept careening wildly between walls as my opponents lapped me), for instance, and the same held true when I turned my attention to Super Off Road. I recognize that Iím not the worldís most skillful gamer, but Iíve played a number of these titles many times in the past and I always managed much better performances than I can when I play them on the PlayStation 3.

If you find something to appreciate in Midway Arcade Origins, itíll most likely be the support for trophies and leaderboards, or perhaps the cabinet artwork. From the main menu, you can press buttons to browse arcade machines that are modeled after their real-life counterparts, which is kind of cool. Some of the impact is lost the minute you look at the screens and realize that theyíre not animated, but at least the attention to detail is otherwise sufficient. Then when you play the actual titles on a high-definition screen, the visuals are sharp and crisp and thereís appropriate artwork to either side of the central screen. It can look quite nice.

As you might fear, though, good news is drowned out by bad news. Midway Arcade Treasures was cool because it not only presented the classic titles, but it also offered players a glimpse at rare pamphlets (including sell sheets that were used to entice arcade owners to purchase the original cabinets) and artwork from the era. Some of the text was difficult to make out, but Midway Arcade Origins could have included fresh scans that were easier to read, or perhaps even interviews or brief documentaries. Instead, you get essentially nothing. Even the instruction manual is lackluster, offering none of the interesting trivia that was available last time. Itís a real shame.

If you grew up around arcades, Midway Arcade Origins is likely to disappoint you because many of the games simply donít control the way you remember. Home conversions did a great job of making the classic arcade titles function on inferior hardware, and yet these new releases abandon that refinement in favor of ill-advised faithfulness to old code that no longer matches contemporary hardware. That worked out okay when Midway released the Midway Arcade Treasures trilogy, but this newest release makes some mistakes that older compilations didnít. The resulting package feels like a cash grab, not the affectionate tribute to early arcade gaming that its title implies. If this is the best that todayís publishers can do with the classics we know and love, maybe they should just leave them aloneÖ


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 22, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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