"Personal preferences are bound to vary, but it seems like a safe bet that the selection here wonít ultimately do much to please any but the arcade purists that likely already have a few game cabinets set up in their garage. Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits could have been something truly special with another 15 or so quality offerings, but in its current form itís just another of those compilations most will choose to avoid."
Buying any collection of old video games is risky business. For every fantastic anthology from Capcom or Midway, thereís another from someone else that just doesnít live up to what you remember from days at a friendís house or at the local arcade. You always run the risk that youíll get something that leaves a sour taste in your mouth, something like Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits.
To be fair, Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits does make a reasonable effort to be something special. There are 15 games here and you can tweak them all you like. Want to let the player continue when his game ends? Thereís an option for that. Want to slow down or speed up the flow of traffic in Road Fighter? It can be done. Thereíre even trivia cards and historical notes. Thereís just the one problem: most of the available titles arenít much fun.
Itís clear that this is a historical retrospective. What else could explain the presence of uninspired clunkers like Basketball? Itís such a stiff mess that youíll have a hard time moving the ball anywhere. Fun? Not even close. There are other stinkers, too, like Circus Charlie. In that game, you must work your way to the right, jumping through flaming hoops and over buckets of fire. Oftentimes, your jumps land you right in the middle of the latter and your game is over almost before it begins.
Horror Maze feels more substantial, but itís boring. Your goal is to run around a maze, grab a key, then exit without enemy contact. You can fire laser beams along horizontal lines, which is handy until you have to head up a corridor and an enemy above you brushes against you for an instant kill. Uninspired visuals combine with a frustrating experience to ensure that you wonít want to waste much time on the title.
Then thereís Track & Field, a one-time gem in Konamiís early library of releases. Here, it just feels pointless. You tap the ĎAí button to run to the finish ahead of your opponent, then go to the next event and tap the same button to build up speed before taking a long jump. Sports games have progressed well beyond anything youíll find in this compilation, which renders Track & Field nearly unplayable.
Rainbowbell is a vertical shooter that might be fun if your ship didnít move like the slowest vessel in Gradius. As you fly north, you can drop bombs on ground troops and shoot enemy fighters out of the sky. Sometimes you fly through a cloudbank and bells start floating in front of you. Shoot them for a bonusÖ then die because you couldnít avoid an approaching projectile. The whole experience just feels rough.
On the other side of the coin, but planted firmly in the same tedious spectrum, thereís a fighting game called Yie Ar Kung-Fu. You fight one opponent at a time, kind of like in Street Fighter II. Your fighter can kick and punch, but his adversaries can throw stars and seem to have little trouble staying out of range. So you jump toward them to deal a vicious attack, only you float way too far and land at the opposite end of the arena. Apparently, game developers hadnít figured out how to make controllable fighting games back in the 80s.
Rocín Ropeís controls also disappoint. You start at the bottom of a series of cliffs and your goal is to reach the top by swinging out ropes and flashing your adversaries with stun guns. The problem is that it can be difficult to judge what ledge your rope will stick to when you hurl it, and once you start using it to navigate a wide gap, an enemy can come up behind you and tug the rope so that you fall. The game is too hard and too imprecise for its own good.
The good news is that the other half of the compilation is actually enjoyable. Youíve probably already played Contra and Gradius, two simple games that work fine here except for the fact that the small screen sometimes makes it difficult to see approaching shots in Contra as well. Rushín Attack is more obscure and plays just fine here, except that itís pretty difficult. Enemies like to gang up on you and itís easy to fly through all of your lives even before completing the first stage. I would imagine that action veterans will like the game just fine, but by extension are unlikely to enjoy many of the other titles available on the compilation.
Time Pilot and Scramble are two more Konami favorites. They seem particularly well-suited for the handheld. Scramble is simple and straight-forward enough that youíll probably be able to enjoy it without wishing you were playing on the big screen. Time Pilot could benefit from an analogue stick, but is also quite enjoyable. The problem with both Time Pilot and Scramble is that theyíre already available on the Xbox 360 in superior form.
Ultimately, that leaves two titles to carry the anthology.
Shao-Linís Road is a rather uncomplicated game that finds you running around on platforms and kicking bosses. You can jump up or down to alternate levels. So can your foes. You have to watch out for bosses that take quite a bit more punishment and also move quickly enough that they might get in a few hits before you notice their presence. Level backgrounds and hazards change often enough to keep things fresh.
Road Fighter rounds out the collection and ends things on a high note. Think of a gun-free Spy Hunter. You must race through a gauntlet of winding roads before your fuel runs out, gathering refills on the way and avoiding collisions. Pleasantly, ramming into a vehicle does not spell instant doom. Sometimes youíll recover with only a slight hiccup, and sometimes youíll go spinning but can pull free of the destructive collision that awaits you if you slam into the back of a semi-truck or into a guard rail. Addictive and accessible, Road Fighter is perhaps the best of the lot.
Personal preferences are bound to vary, but it seems like a safe bet that the selection here wonít ultimately do much to please any but the arcade purists that likely already have a few game cabinets set up in their garage. Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits could have been something truly special with another 15 or so quality offerings, but in its current form itís just another of those compilations most will choose to avoid.
Staff review by Jason Venter (March 28, 2007)
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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