"Remember storming fortresses in Bionic Commando, then advancing toward enemy ranks in that cool overhead perspective? Remember swooping into a bay in 1943: The Battle of Midway to customize your plane? Those were some of the great moments of 8-bit gaming, and after that there were the 16-bit ports with their stunning visuals and digitized voices. I expected to relive all of that now, except I knew the games would look even better. The thing is, the games do look better… but they’re not as much fun."
I was extremely excited by the announcement of Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1, because I remember loving the home console versions of many of them. Remember storming fortresses in Bionic Commando, then advancing toward enemy ranks in that cool overhead perspective? Remember swooping into a bay in 1943: The Battle of Midway to customize your plane? Those were some of the great moments of 8-bit gaming, and after that there were the 16-bit ports with their stunning visuals and digitized voices. I expected to relive all of that now, except I knew the games would look even better. The thing is, the games do look better… but they’re not as much fun.
Some of you probably think this is because I’m not nostalgic enough and that I just don’t appreciate a good game. Well, I’m as nostalgic as they come. That’s part of the problem. The other issue is that the arcade versions weren’t always superior to the versions we got at home. It’s shocking, I know, but it also happens to be true.
Consider Bionic Commando. When you play, you’ll be impressed by the level of detail here. No, I don’t mean in a “Oh my, these look better than Viewtiful Joe!!!1” sort of way, but rather in a “Well, these looked better than I suspected when I played the NES ports” sort of way. There’s good color variety and the sprites are larger, a theme that you’ll find constant throughout pretty much game in this compilation. So yeah, visuals throughout are pretty tight, and faithful to their source material. But here’s the kicker: there’s no overhead map.
So you play Bionic Commando and you’re Super Joe. You run around a tree level, swinging your arm and grabbing handholds, then making like Tarzan as you fly over to another ledge. There, you duck quickly to avoid enemy bullets, then fire a quick shot of your own. It’s still cool but the focus is on action, not exploration and the thrill of adventure. It’s just explosions, robots and more explosions. Everything is designed to kill you, instantly if possible. Remember, these games were made to suck quarters. That’s fine in some ways. Skillful players love the challenge. However, it’s quite frustrating for the rest of us.
Then there’s 1943. In any of its forms (you get the original and the ‘Kai’ versions), it’s inferior to the NES release. You can’t customize your craft. Instead, you fly through one mission after another, sometimes catching hidden items like cows or dragonflies but never ducking into a bay to tweak your aircraft. The lack of strategy is disappointing, as it’s one of the things that made the home conversion so darn cool. Worse, shooting at ‘POW’ signs is tiresome. It’s too easy to cycle past the particular upgrade you want, then not collect anything at all. Alternatively, because the screen is full of shrapnel and other airplanes, you could easily find yourself dropping toward the ocean, a blazing inferno. Again, it’s frustrating.
Now, the compilation isn’t all bad. You get the original arcade versions of Street Fighter II, for example, complete with the opening animation you remember from the arcade version (it was stripped from the SNES release, and even from Capcom’s recent Anniversary Edition compilation). The thing is, the Street Fighter II games here count for three of the twenty-two games on the disc, and you don’t even get Super Street Fighter II, with Cammy and others. Again, it’s easy to fill cheated.
Then you remember all the other games on the disc and it begins to regain some of its sheen. Games like Section Z and Legendary Wings fare better than their NES counterparts, as do Trojan and Commando. Besides that, you get to enjoy favorites like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Ghosts ‘n Goblins in all their original arcade glory. I definitely approve.
I also happen to approve of the inclusion of Son Son, which was Capcom’s first North American release. It’s a fun little platform game where you run from left to right, battling monsters and grabbing fruit icons as you bounce from one ledge to another and try to keep your score climbing. Even though you’re shooting a lot, it feels like a nice refresher course after pure bits of adrenaline like Forgotten Worlds (an airborne shooter that also lets you stop by shops to pick gun upgrades) and Mercs (the sequel to Commando).
Another unique title is Pirate Ship Higemaru, in which you roll barrels to defeat evil pirates while grabbing treasures like fruit and fish. It’s pretty challenging, but a lot of fun if played in short spurts. I wasn’t familiar with this game, but it still was fun even without the help of nostalgia. That’s true of most of the games on this disc. This leads me to think that Capcom may truly have a disc full of classics. No, it’s not perfect. It’s far from it, actually. Even so, what’s here is great fun for those of us who remember “the good old days,” and it’s priced well enough that I’m already saving my $20 for the next volume. I’m excited all over again.
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 02, 2005)
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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