I Got A Pocket Full Of Quarters And I’m Headed To The Arcade
Compilations are a dime a dozen these days. Compilations of arcade or retro classics even more so. So is there anything that really sets this latest compilation apart from the ones that came before it. If you already have those past compilations, not really. And if you don’t, hey, you’re getting 31 games for $29.99 CAD. That’s about 97₵ per game, which is considerably less than some of us older gamers have probably spent plunking quarters into these various titles over the years. But is it good? Well, that depends on how old—or retro inclined—you are.
I’m The Defender. A Mutant Ender.
In many ways, the Midway Arcade Origins collection is one of the more comprehensive around. That “Midway” in the title is not entirely accurate as there are games here from arcade giants of the 80s and early 90s such as Atari and Williams in addition Midway itself. So you’re not just getting Spy Hunter and Root Beer Tapper, you’re also getting games like Gauntlet and Defender.
As to be expected, you’re not buying this collection to see your respective console pushed to the absolute limit of its performance envelope. These are 80s arcade games designed to be short, unfair experiences that gobble your quarters. High definition doesn’t enter into the equation with games that can barely speak recognizable words, let alone require gradients in their colours. The presentation of the actual games is faithful to their original arcade ancestry, with the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio of the monitors retained and art applied to the bars on each side to simulate arcade cabinet art.
For people that were hoping for a more comprehensive look at the past of these games, prepare for disappointment. Despite such interviews and other archival materials gathered for collections of the past, such as Midway Arcade Treasures which actually proved to be a real boon for enthusiasts that wanted to learn more about the production of their favourite arcade classics, there’s no supplemental material here whatsoever. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that licensing rights of some sort prevented the re-appearance of that old material, and cost prevented the creation of new material for this collection.
While all of these games look and sound the way they should, the big problem here is that they don’t always play the way they should. That’s down to the practical limitation of only having one controller in your hands. Games like 720º used unique joysticks on rotational discs, while others such as Marble Madness used trackballs. For these games that used more specialized controls, there’s a definite lack of authenticity when playing these games. On the other hand, twin stick shooters like Smash TV and Robotron 2084 feel right at home. There’s multiplayer as well, of course, though it’s strictly of the local sort, so if you want a full crew for a Friday night nerd marathon of Gauntlet or Xenophobia, you’ll have to make sure you’ve got four controllers available. As far as an online component goes, there is an online leaderboard for high scores, but people with delicate egos who are used to being the best Defender player in the neighborhood are advised to stay away from this; when you’re going up against the rest of the world, you quickly find out you’re not as amazing as you’d like to think.
By now most gamers know what they’re getting into when they buy a collection like this. The question becomes, “Do you want these games again for your Xbox 360 or PS3?” Many of these games existed in previous compilations for past consoles such as the GameCube, Xbox and PS2. There’s a chance you may very well still have those discs lying around, though perhaps now lack the means to play them. If you’re the sort that needs to have these games handy so you can fire them up on occasion on your flat-panel TV, then you can safely buy this collection for the sake of peace of mind. For others, past collections have been more comprehensive (this one lacks titles like Primal Carnage, Moon Patrol and Mortal Kombat) and other collections have had better ancillary materials to inform and educate. While it’s a nice touch that the menu interface for this collection features imagery of the original arcade cabinets, it’s hardly the same thing.
Still, you’re paying 97₵ per game for 31 games. That’s cheaper than a lot of apps these days, so it’s not like this collection is hard on your wallet.