Although the current generation of game systems--both home consoles and portable systems--offer players a wide breadth of high-quality games to enjoy, this wasn't always the case. No, back in the era of the sprite and vector graphic, home consoles were cool diversions to play around with when you were stuck at home, but gamers looking for some graphical flash knew that arcades held the real hotness. A throwback to that era is the upcoming Capcom Classics Collection, a compilation of 21 arcade titles from the veteran developer's history that are a potent reminder of why, of the myriad of companies that made arcade games and are now gone, Capcom is still around. We had the chance to get an exclusive look at the upcoming PlayStation 2 and Xbox compilation and were mightily pleased at its offering.
In many ways, Capcom Classic Collection is akin to a grade-school-era or high-school-era snapshot of the publisher/developer; long before it was beloved for its Street Fighter and Resident Evil franchises, Capcom was known for some truly kick-ass arcade games. The compilation contains a total of 22 games, which span Capcom's arcade offerings between 1984 and 1992. The games cover the key genres from the heyday of arcade games: shooters, side-scrolling beat-'em-ups, and fighters. We've been cleared to talk about 13 of the titles in the collection--which include some of our personal favorites--and about how they play.
1942 is a World War II-themed shooter that appeared in arcades in 1984. The game has you blasting enemy planes out of the sky and collecting power-ups to upgrade your ship's weapons. Though the odds are daunting, you'll be able to perform loop-the-loops to avoid enemy fire; of course, you're limited to three per level, to keep things challenging.
1943, the sequel to 1942, followed in 1987 and features enhanced graphics and gameplay. You'll take control of a P-38 jet fighter packing six secret weapons. Besides being able to loop-the-loop, as in 1942, you're also able to make use of natural phenomena, including lightning, cyclones, and tsunamis, to help you.
Bionic Commando is the side-scrolling action game that appeared in 1987. You'll be charged with making the most of a bionic arm fitted with a wire-grappling hook and a gun as you set out to infiltrate the enemy's secret base, discover their top secret plans, and put a stop to them.
Final Fight is a side-scrolling beat-'em-up that hit in 1989. The game charged you with cleaning up the streets of Metro City by playing as one of three characters: Cody, Guy, or Mike Haggar. Rather than using social reform or the legislature, the three men fall back on the late-'80s/early-'90s style of peacekeeping: knocking the smack out of the criminal element with your hands, feet, and anything else that's handy.
Forgotten Worlds is a 1988 side-scrolling shooter that marked a milestone for Capcom, being the first title to be released on the developer's proprietary CPS arcade hardware. Besides having improved graphics, the game added some new elements not traditionally seen in an arcade shooter--namely, a shop.
Ghosts 'n Goblins is a side-scrolling platformer released in 1985 that cast you as Sir Arthur, a knight out to rescue his honey from the depths of hell. The game features a number of memorable elements, such as Arthur rocking boxer shorts when his armor is hit and a level of difficulty that makes grown men cry.
Ghouls 'n Ghosts is the 1988 sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins and finds Arthur back on the hunt for his special lady, who has wound up in hell again. This was a common problem back in those days; Mario was having similar problems with Princess Peach, who wound up with Bowser all the time. Gun.Smoke is a 1985 western-themed shooter that cast you as Billy the Cowboy, a bounty hunter who seemed to be OK with bringing in his targets more dead than alive. The game put a western spin on traditional shooter elements, such as power-ups from picking up boots, horses, bullets, and rifles. Legendary Wings is a unique shooter released in 1986 that combined vertical and side-scrolling action shooting. You'll play as Michelle Heart or Kevin Walker, a pair of humans empowered by the gods with the gift of flight. Of course, the gift has a price: You have to use your newly bestowed powers to defeat Dark, an evil computer wreaking havoc on the land.
Rescue the President
Mercs, the 1990 sequel to Commando, is a third-person action shooter that cast you as a mercenary sent out to rescue the president of the United States from kidnappers. The three-player cooperative game offered a more polished experience than its predecessor and featured plenty of different weapons and vehicles for you to play with.
Street Fighter II Championship Edition is the 1992 sequel to the original Street Fighter II. The new release offered better gameplay-balancing and the ability to play as the four boss characters, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison. The game was part of the wave of titles that marked both a change in the fighting genre and a shift in Capcom's forte, as this was the start of the developer's reign as the preeminent developer of 2D fighters.
Trojan is a 1986 side-scrolling beat-'em-up set in a postapocalyptic world; this game sent you off to defeat the evil king, who is oppressing the locals. The game armed you with a sword and a shield, which you could lose, forcing you to rely on hand-to-hand combat to stay alive.
Son Son is the 1984 side-scrolling shooter that marked Capcom's debut in US arcades. You'll take control of one of two brothers, Son Son or Ton Ton, who are on a quest to rescue their friends. As you would expect, much shooting and collecting of food ensues as they conduct their mission of mercy.
In addition to the above titles, Capcom Classics Collection will contain 1943 Kai, Commando, Exed Exes, Pirate Ship Higemaru, Section Z, Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Hyperfighting, Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts, and Vulgus.
The emulation on all the games appears to be quite good, thanks to developer Digital Eclipse's experience with previous classic compilations. Each of the games runs well, although we noticed some inconsistency in the audio in a few places, and each offers multiplayer support--if it was originally offered in the game. We also noticed some loading in Street Fighter II that we're hoping will be cleaned up. The compilation runs fine on both systems, although you'll notice that the Xbox version loads a hair faster. Visually, you won't be able to tell the difference between the two versions of the game.
In addition to offering all the games, Capcom Classics Collection lets you tweak the display in each game to suit your taste. The shooters offer an enhanced-screen option that removes the display information from the gameplay and moves it along the right side of the screen. The side-scrollers let you finesse screen size to fit your television. Control maps well to the PS2 and Xbox controllers for the most part, although we're sure purists will want to hop in and customize their button layouts. Best of all, you'll find a host of unlockable content in the bonus section of each game. By meeting certain conditions in the game, such as clearing a certain number of levels or earning a set number of points, you'll open up art, tips, music, and other content that will shed light on the individual games.
Based on what we've played, Capcom Classics Collection is shaping up to be a welcome bit of nostalgia. The selection of games offers a good sampling of the company's rich arcade heritage and touches upon most of the highlights. Not every game we wanted was included, but that just leaves ample room for a much-needed sequel. The only quibbles we have are a few sound hiccups that popped up intermittently, but they're on the "to-do" list of fixes that are happening as development wraps up. All told, whether you're a young'un who's curious about old-school games or a veteran player with a hankering for some old favorites, you'd do well to keep an eye out for Capcom Classics Collection. The game is slated to ship late next month for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.