Tecmo Classic Arcade Hands-On

We keep it real with Tecmo's old-school game compilation.

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Tecmo Classic Arcade is the upcoming collection of retro games from Tecmo for the Xbox that spans the established company's formative years. Though the game is similar to Tecmo's Hit Parade, which was released late last year for the PlayStation 2 in Japan, there are a few notable differences between that game and this new Xbox compilation. Arguably the most notable element is the game's developer, Team Ninja. It seems that the veteran developer took on the project to show respect for the games that make up the company's early years, back when it was known as Tehkan. Team Ninja head Tomonobu Itagaki offered us some hands-on time with a work-in-progress version of the classics compilation, which retains that special 2D magic of yesteryear.

It's a cavalcade of fond memories with Tecmo Classic Arcade's 11 old-school games.
It's a cavalcade of fond memories with Tecmo Classic Arcade's 11 old-school games.

The compilation will feature 11 titles in all. You'll find Tecmo Bowl, Rygar, Star Force, Solomon's Key, Bomb Jack, Tecmo Cup, Pinball Action, Pleiades, Senjyo, Swimmer, and Stratofighter. These games offer a unique tour of Tecmo's roots, as well as a nice map of the evolution of arcade games. Tecmo Bowl is likely to be the most familiar game in the pack. The Tecmo Classic Arcade incarnation of this beloved game is based on the 1987 arcade release, which kept football fast and simple with colorful side-scrolling action. Rygar is a conversion of the 1986 side-scrolling fighter that cast you in the role of a barbarian armed with a deadly yo-yo of doom. Starforce is a top-down space shooter from 1984 that had you blowing up anything that moved and avoiding bullets while you collected powers to increase your ship's firepower. Solomon's Key is a 1986 arcade puzzler that armed you with a magic wand that could create or destroy blocks. Your goal was to navigate enemy- and hazard-filled rooms in order to reach a key and get to the exit.

Bomb Jack was another puzzler, this time from 1984, which cast you as a costumed collector of bombs. Your task was complicated by assorted enemies that moved in unique patterns. Tecmo Cup is the first in the company's popular soccer series, which began in the early '90s. Pinball Action is the 1985 arcade game that offered a virtual pinball experience. Pleiades is the old-school shooter from 1981 that was worked on by Tecmo's current company head back in his salad days. Senjyo is a 1983 sprite-based tank shooter that featured pseudo 3D. Swimmer is a 1982 action game that recalls the surreal nature of early arcade games. The game's Frogger-like premise challenges you to swim upstream, while gathering fruits and avoiding assorted water-bound pests and obstacles, such as logs of varying sizes. Finally, 1991's Strato Fighter is a horizontal-scrolling shoot-'em-up. In addition to the playable games, you'll also find a gallery filled with assorted artwork for each classic, such as placards for the arcade cabinets or manuals.

The games look and run fine on the Xbox, even in Classic Arcade's unfinished state. The visuals are all on par with their old-school incarnations and are on full pixelicious display. Though the Xbox isn't being pushed by any stretch of the imagination, we're pleased to see the conversions run well, which admittedly isn't always the case for retro compilations on modern consoles. The same holds true for the audio, which has a simple charm that can't be denied. As far as control goes, it's pretty hard to muck up the simple one- to two-button mechanics of these classic gems. Though Itagaki noted that the team was still fine-tuning the handling of the games, what we played was already good and responsive.

You can get your nostalgia on for a budget price this fall.
You can get your nostalgia on for a budget price this fall.

Even though the compilation is a bit bare bones in terms of extras (it appears the gallery is about all you'll get), Tecmo Classic Arcade is certainly worth a look given its status as a budget title. The game certainly offers a unique picture of Tecmo's early years and comes packing a hefty dose of nostalgia. But above and beyond the warm fuzzies that many players will get from seeing Rygar and Tecmo Bowl running on their Xbox, we expect anyone who isn't familiar with some of these older games to be pleasantly surprised by how well they hold up. Tecmo Classic Arcade is currently slated to ship this fall for the Xbox.

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