Retro arcade game collections have become a serious fad in the gaming industry, with multiple entries from companies such as Midway, Namco, and Capcom, to name a few. Temco Classic Arcade is the latest to enter this arena, and it includes 11 arcade games from gaming's yesteryear. The games are all emulated quite well, but aside from the couple of big-name titles featured, many of the games included in this suite are simply not worth playing.
Of the titles included in the Tecmo Classic Arcade, Tecmo Bowl and Rygar are likely the most recognized, but the arcade versions aren't the versions that made the names famous. For those foggy on your Tecmo Bowl arcade history, the game features only two teams--the Wildcats and the Bulldogs (blue and red, respectively), and no official NFL licensing of any kind. What it does offer, however, is pure arcade action with lots of furious shifting and rotating of the control pad as you try to break free of tackles. Active interceptions are the norm in Tecmo Bowl, and while the CPU may arguably be easy, multiplayer is where this game really shines--the Xbox version retains the same four-player simultaneous play of the actual arcade version. Rygar is a much more straightforward action title, which has challenging side-scrolling gameplay only and none of the isometric viewpoints or additional characters and plots from the NES version. This does not make these games bad by any means, but simply different; those unfamiliar with the original arcade versions should take note that neither of these games are the same as their NES counterparts.
The other nine titles in this collection are somewhat less well known, but a few were popular during their time. Bomb Jack is a single-screen platformer in which you must collect bombs while avoiding enemies. Strato Fighter is an early-'90s R-type-esque scrolling shooter that offers two-player simultaneous play and the ability to flip your ship in the other direction--a rather unique feature in scrolling shooters. Solomon's Key is a game made famous on the NES, but the arcade version is not too far off from the home version--figuring out the best way to get the key to open the level exit door and escape is the basic premise here. Tecmo Cup is a soccer game along the lines of Tecmo Bowl, but not nearly as high in quality. Since Tecmo Cup was a tabletop game, the text that appears onscreen for the two-player or CPU side will be upside down--true to the arcade version, but sort of odd when playing at home. Star Force is a rather generic vertical shooter, and NES fans might remember its follow-up, Star Soldier, from their gaming youth (though it was equally generic). Pinball Action is a dull pinball game, with rather plain table designs as well as questionable ball physics. Swimmer is another relatively banal title, in which you must avoid logs and pick up fruit and bonus items while the level scrolls along. In 1982 there may not have been a huge selection of games, but Swimmer wasn't really worth playing even then. Senjyo is a moderately bad "space tank" simulator that, even while sporting a rather unique 3D environment, really offers nothing to the collection other than another title for the menu slot. Tecmo's very first arcade release, Pleiads, is also included. It features a gameplay mixture made famous by space shooters such as Centipede and Space Invaders as well as some boss fights, but it doesn't really stand out from the crowd. While that sums up the included games, we can't help but notice that some obvious choices like Silk Worm and Ninja Gaiden, two of Tecmo's more famous and popular arcade titles of that era, were strangely omitted from this collection.
Despite the fact that some of these games may not really be worth playing, they are all emulated well. No glaring bugs or gameplay issues were initially obvious, and the sound effects and music seemed to stay true to the original arcade versions. The gameplay is solid from title to title, and even though some games, such as Tecmo Cup, originally used a trackball, they still translate over to the control pad reasonably well. Most performed as expected during heavy action scenes, although we did notice a tiny bit of slowdown during the two-player mode in Strato Fighter, when a ton of enemies and bullets were on the screen.
Like many other classic compilations, Tecmo Classic Arcade has a pretty basic "screen settings" option, which lets you not only center and adjust the screen, but also zoom it in or out. All of the games will play in a decorated border by default--presumably to keep the aspect ratio exact to the arcade original--but you can zoom the game in as far as you want, even if it results in portions of the game being offscreen. Each game can have its screen individually adjusted, but you don't have to worry about messing things up--they can easily be reset to the default locations with the touch of a button. As with the game options, these screen adjustments can only be done before you load up the specific game.
The control scheme is pretty standard across all of the games: The A and B buttons are the primary action buttons, and the X button feeds credits and/or time into the game. The Y button functions as the pause and menu button to exit back to the main screen, which can take a little getting used to, since the standard convention of using the start button to pause and access menus does not apply. The start button functions simply as it would on the arcade machine. Heavy button mashers may find themselves hitting the Y button by mistake during hectic gameplay, and unfortunately there is no option to remap the buttons in any fashion.
Since these games are all the arcade originals, credits and/or time can simply be added at any time by hitting the X button; but don't be fooled--many of these games are still rather brutal, even with nearly endless continues. Strato Fighter, for example, will set you back a screen or so when you continue in single-player mode--so you can't simply blow through boss fights with mere credits alone. Another thing to note is that games such as Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Cup require adding coins to get additional game time, so when you play with two or more players, you'll have to remember to punch the coin button on each controller a few times before starting, or the game may eventually drop you out of play after a few warning beeps.
Although all of the games will save your high scores locally, there is no online scoreboard or online multiplayer of any type. Since the point of many of these retro games is simply to get the highest score, it's disappointing that there is no type of competitive scoring available.
No retro collection would be complete without a little bit of bonus content, and Tecmo Classic Arcade is no exception. The gallery mode here features a few pages' worth of arcade flyers, marquees, cabinet art, advertisements, and the like, all of which can be zoomed in on and scrolled around on the screen easily with the control pad. This is the only form of bonus content, however, so those expecting interviews or video clips may be a little disappointed; but the interface is decent enough to make it worth looking at. Additionally, while there is virtually no load time when playing or loading any of the games, there is an unexpected lag when initially selecting a picture from the gallery to view. There's nothing major though, and it shouldn't detract from enjoying the various pieces.
Clearly, the biggest draw in this set is Tecmo Bowl, but with only 11 games in a collection that is priced higher than others with much more content--as well as the omission of a few popular Tecmo titles such as Ninja Gaiden--it's hard to recommend this to anyone but the most hardcore retro gamer. But if you just can't go another day without playing the arcade version of Tecmo Bowl on your Xbox console, then this collection may be satisfying enough.