With such a huge back catalog of classic arcade games in its vaults, it's no surprise that Midway has released another compilation of some of its old games. This new collection, called Midway Arcade Treasures 2, contains 20 games that span over 15 years of games from Midway, including Atari Games, which Midway acquired in 1996. As with most classic arcade compilations, the games here tend to hold up pretty well, and for the most part, they're very close to the arcade originals.
The 20 games in the collection deliver across several genres. Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3, both fine entries in Midway's long-running fighting game series, are probably the most popular games on the disc. But there's more to this package than those two classics. APB is a driving game with a police-oriented twist. Arch Rivals is the no-rules basketball game that set the table for the NBA Jam series. Championship Sprint is the 1986 update to the old black-and-white driving game. Cyberball 2072 is the robotic football game that turned the ball into a bomb and eventually led to other robot-themed futuristic sports games. Gauntlet II was the follow-up to the popular four-player dungeon crawl, adding new levels, the ability to have multiple players playing as the same character class, and dragons. Hard Drivin', released in 1989, was a polygonal driving game that was ahead of its time. Kosmik Krooz'r is a little-known shooting game that was originally released in 1982 and has a sort of "Frogger, but you can shoot" feel to it.
NARC is an ultraviolent side-scrolling shooter that has you, as an armor-clad cop, blowing apart drug dealers, PCP addicts, and a gigantic skull in the name of saying no to drugs. Pit Fighter is a digitized three-player fighting game that, well, isn't very good at all. Primal Rage is a dinosaur-based fighting game with claymation-based graphics. Rampage World Tour is a follow-up to the original Rampage. This version adds a lot of depth to the series, but doesn't seem to quite capture the same magic of the first Rampage, either. Spy Hunter II is a pretty terrible sequel to the original game, ditching the top-down perspective for a behind-the-car view and split-screen multiplayer. Timber is an obscure log-cutting game that has a similar style to the old Midway classic, Tapper. Total Carnage is the Gulf War-themed follow-up to one of the greatest games of all time, Smash TV. Wacko stars the same little alien that appears in Kosmik Krooz'r, but this time it's an alien-matching game. Wizard of Wor is the oldest game in the package, and it has you play as a suited-up little guy who has to blast monsters in a maze. Xenophobe is a three-player alien-blasting game that lets you play as a character with a duck head. Xybots is a very cool 3D maze game from the creator of Gauntlet.
The included games are a good mix of proven hits and more obscure titles, but some of the inclusions and omissions are a little weird. For example, including both Kosmik Krooz'r and Wacko makes sense since they seem to run on similar hardware. But, then, why is Mortal Kombat 3 included, when the markedly superior upgrade, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, is missing? The difference between the two games is rather minor (from a hardware perspective), and if you're a fan of UMK3, you'll find going back to just plain old 3 is a little difficult.
An arcade game compilation lives and dies by its accuracy to the original games, and it's here where Midway Arcade Treasures isn't quite what it could have been. The Xbox version seems to be the best at keeping up, though on all platforms, Mortal Kombat II has flickery shadows and Mortal Kombat 3 has flickery shadows and muffled sound. In Mortal Kombat 3, music continues playing during and after a fatality, which just sounds sloppy, and more importantly, it isn't accurate to the arcade original. Wacko is missing some sounds. Also, there appears to be something weird going on in all three versions of Hard Drivin', because in a couple of instances our car freaked out, lifted into the air, spun around a few times, and then blew up. As you go down to the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, you'll notice some frame rate trouble here and there, even in the oldest game of the bunch, Wizard of Wor. Also, on the PS2, Hard Drivin' is significantly slower, Pit Fighter runs strangely faster than it should, and MK3's sound is even more muffled and irritatingly trebly. The GameCube versions of MKII and MK3 keep up reasonably well, but the GameCube's button configuration simply isn't well suited for either game. Additionally, Wizard of Wor on the GameCube plays all the wrong sound effects, and some games look slightly blocky when compared to the other two versions. While these all sound like nitpicky issues, this is a package of games for people who want the original games in their original state. And Midway Arcade Treasures 2 comes close, but it doesn't quite meet that goal.
Aside from the aforementioned glitches, the games in the package mirror their arcade counterparts well. The graphics and sound are right on, and more often than not, the games run at the proper speed. Kosmik Krooz'r even manages to mimic the spinning ship model that was reflected onto the arcade game's screen to give it a unique look. The sound is, by and large, just fine, too, and the games control pretty well.
With other older fighting games hitting console with online play, it's hard not to be at least a little disappointed that Midway Arcade Treasures 2's online support is limited to scoreboards in the Xbox version only. Online play for games like Total Carnage, the Mortal Kombat games, and Primal Rage is a real missed opportunity, making something that could have been a really special compilation feel merely like the budget-priced collections that they really are. Considering other budget-priced products like Guilty Gear X2 #Reload are shipping with full Xbox Live support, this feature isn't totally out of the question. Additionally, the high score support is somewhat suspect. In games that just keep score, it will work fine, but considering MKII and MK3 simply keep track of versus mode wins, it'll be easy for any knucklehead to spam up the scoreboard by playing two-player matches against an empty controller to run up the win count.
Like any good retro compilation, Midway Arcade Treasures 2 provides a few bonuses. Each game has a brief description, which often relays some historical facts about the game's development. Many also have small collections of artwork, usually sell sheets that were sent to arcade operators in an attempt to get them to put the games at their locations. Some also have video, and some of this video consists of interviews. Mortal Kombat 3 has a ton of fascinating making-of footage. Mortal Kombat II has the "launch kit" video, which was sent out to arcade operators. The launch kit is inadvertently hilarious, as it's a very sales-oriented look at the game that constantly hammers home the game's earning potential, going so far as to say that the game is "a raging inferno of profit."
Midway Arcade Treasures isn't perfect. It has its little glitches and problems here and there, but the bonus material is nice and most of the games are nearly identical to the arcade originals that they're trying to duplicate. The budget price, combined with a lot of great games, makes Midway Arcade Treasures 2 worth owning if you're a fan of Midway's back catalog.