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Data East Arcade Classics (Wii) artwork

Data East Arcade Classics (Wii) review

"Menu and presentation issues don't end with ridiculous button configurations, either. You'll see a lot of menus as you decide what game to play, both when the game first starts up and then when you select the one that you actually want to play. Load times are surprisingly lengthy, especially given the size that some of the included games surely occupy on the disc or anywhere else. The whole experience is surprisingly awkward every step of the way. That prevents the collection from being the joy that it might have been."

The title Data East Arcade Classics is a bit of a misnomer. Data East was an active developer and publisher in the arcade days, certainly, but the "classics" part is a bit of a stretch. Most gamers my age can perhaps name two or three titles from the company that we saw in the arcades and no-name convenience stores that once dotted the streets of rural America (Karnov, Bad Dudes and Burger Time for me), but beyond that things get hazy. Given that limited history, this compilation's promise of 15 classics is bound to feel a bit mysterious.

For a few reasons, the promise is also going to feel like it has been broken. For starters, there's no Karnov. That's a surprising omission, given how many gamers like myself still associate that game so strongly with the 'Data East' brand. Other potential favorites are missing in action, as well. Considering how unlikely it is that there will ever be a second volume to follow this first compilation, each worthwhile title that got excluded stings a bit. That's especially true when you consider some of the stuff that made the cut.

The proper roster is as follows: Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, Burger Time, Burnin' Rubber, Caveman Ninja, Crude Buster, Express Raider, Heavy Barrel, Lock 'n' Chase, Magical Drop III, Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory, Secret Agent, Side Pocket, Street Hoop, Super Real Darwin and Wizard Fire.

Some of those titles may be familiar to you if you owned an NES back in the day or if you've emulated a lot since then. Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja was released as simply Bad Dudes. Burger Time, Side Pocket and Heavy Barrel came home without name alterations. Burnin' Rubber made it to the system as Bump 'n' Jump and Caveman Ninja reached the Super Nintendo as Joe & Mac, one of the more memorable action titles available on the console during its early years. What you might not realize or appreciate until you try those titles here is that the home conversions weren't straight ports. Minor differences made them better games on the home consoles, but those improvements aren't in place here. For instance, the world map that you may recall from Joe & Mac that let you plot your course is once again non-existent, plus the difficulty level of the arcade original is much higher than you may anticipate if you spent years forming fond memories of bashing dinosaurs on Nintendo's gray and purple box.

The lack of depth, features and convenience that prior console adaptations provided isn't the only concern, either; the versions included here also tend to control horribly unless you're using the proper configuration. If you play them with a Nunchuk plugged into the bottom of your Wii Remote, prepare to manually adjust the controls for each game you play. The people at the development house responsible for this port seem to believe that somehow you'll feel natural pressing the 'c' button on the Nunchuk to jump, rather than the 'A' or 'B' buttons that are so easily pressed on the Wii Remote. The default mapping for some games is hilariously inept and it leaves me wondering how such a blunder slipped through quality assurance. You can re-map the buttons however you like, but you'll have to do so for each individual title. You're better of just making sure that you don't have the Nunchuk active or--better yet--that you play with the Classic Contrller (which, along with the GameCube one, is thankfully supported and intelligently mapped).

Menu and presentation issues don't end with ridiculous button configurations, either. You'll see a lot of menus as you decide what game to play, both when the game first starts up and then when you select the one that you actually want to play. Load times are surprisingly lengthy, especially given the size that some of the included games surely occupy on the disc or anywhere else. The whole experience is surprisingly awkward every step of the way. That prevents the collection from being the joy that it might have been.

Really, the only real sign that the team responsible for this port expended any real effort is the available selection of 'Goals' that you can complete as you play through titles. These work about like Achievements would on an Xbox Live Arcade title. There are five per game and they're quite appropriate to their respective titles. For instance, you need to score 10,000 points in the 'Challenge' mode within Magical Drop III and Burger Time will reward you for trapping 4 enemies with one drop. You'll likely have little difficulty earning the goals for each title if you find yourself engaged with a given selection to play it more than a few minutes, but little touches like this seem to be a new standard for retro compilations and they're certainly not unwelcome.

While I found myself annoyed by an excluded title or two and got sick of the menus and crummy control configurations, I fortunately was able to get past each of those objections to the game. That provided me with the leisure to consider the merits of the individual titles. Unfortunately, Data East Arcade Classics runs into trouble there, as well. As I've already implied, some of what's here isn't really worth your time. I have difficulty imagining that most potential consumers will care to play through even half of the selections more than once.

The problem, of course, is that some games age well and some don't. Data East Arcade Classics is filled with the latter. I can still go back and play Mrs. Pac-Man or Space Invaders or Moon Patrol or any number of other classics and have a blast, but many of Data East's efforts were nothing more than clones of better games. Street Hoop, for instance, feels like NBA Jam without any of the mid-court depth. Lock 'n' Chase is Pac-Man without the memorable ghosts, Super Real Darwin feels like a lackluster Capcom vertical shooter and Wizard Fire has suffered enough in the 18 years following its release that being a pretty Gauntlet clone is no longer anywhere near enough. Even Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory is a clone--of Burger Time, no less--that doesn't feel anywhere near as solid as its inspiration.

For the retro junkie who doesn't care to utilize MAME, Data east Arcade Classics is a welcome addition to the Wii software library that should provide a few hours of fun at a reasonable price. Those who are willing to adapt to the controls and who don't mind that some of the games feel like artifacts instead of classics will be thankful for the opportunity to acquaint themselves with long-forgotten quarter munchers. Others may enjoy the package if they just want to laugh at the sort of stuff that used to pass for great graphics and amazing level design. If you're hoping for something that will rekindle your passion for arcade treasures, though, look elsewhere. Trips down memory lane shouldn't be this inconvenient.

Rating: 4/10

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (March 09, 2010)

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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bloomer posted March 13, 2010:

I thought I was down with Data East, but reading your review made me realise that my memories of them are both as confused and hazy as your own are just hazy.

For instance if you said 'Data East' to me before this review, I would say 'Ikari Warriors, Heavy Barrel...' uh, then I'd retract Ikari Warriors realising it was a mistake. I'd add Dragon Ninja. Then I'd stare blankly.

Some games listed in this wii thing I knew (like Lock'n'Chase, Burger Time and Express Raider), but didn't know they were Data East. Especially the first two.

So it's been educational.

I totally agree with the control criticisms. This has always been an area where developers generally seem to do a crap job with these retro comps, and they seem to do a particularly bad job on the Wii.

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