Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Capcom Arcade Cabinet in brief, Pt. 1

at 5:26 PM
Capcom had a nice XBLA sale a few weeks ago (sorry, you missed it) and I managed to pick up the entirety of their Arcade Cabinet for $15 - a seemingly decent price for 17 games, and a far more convenient means of playing them than emulation or the similar Capcom Classics Collections for PS2. The collected games are mostly from Capcom's pre-console days, so while there might be a few familiar faces (Marvel vs. Capcom 2 players will know SonSon and we're all friends with Sir Arthur Lonely), most of these games probably rank as "obscure". So, have they been forgotten for good reason, or is this finally the reincarnation they've always deserved? Come on, I'm not gonna make that conclusion till the end! Don't you dare scroll down there! First you need to sit through 17 mini-reviews, which are less 'reviews' and more 'impressions', as I haven't finished almost any of them. Most of these games are pre-coin-feeding, meaning no continues - every "clear" is inherently a 1-credit-clear, because the game immediately resets if your allotted tries run out. 

Vulgus - Capcom's very first game! Vulgus is a looping vertical shooter (the first of many) that simply spawns semi-random patterns of enemies until you die. It's got a lot more going on (just in terms of sheer sprite-count) than its similar contemporary Xevious, but I prefer the structure introduced in Exed Exes and later games. It's hard to imagine going back to this, especially because of the woefully poorly chosen color scheme which makes discerning bullets a serious strain on the eyes. Still, it's no worse than today's most popular mobile/Facebook/Flash/Ouya games.

1942 - We've all played this one. It's a decent vertical shmup that incorporates land and air enemies of varying strengths and patterns into a scrolling environment with full vertical motion. It probably wasn't the first meeting of Xevious and Galaga, but it's one of the most memorable. Unlike the earlier Vulgus (and Xevious itself), the game has proper stages instead of looping infinitely. I perfer the NES version solely for nostalgia, but this one is very similar - just harder and faster. And with less sexual innuendo than I just inadvertently laid down. It's a familiar game, but worth mastering.

Black Tiger - If Ghosts n' Goblins had been the forefather of modern platforming instead of Super Mario Bros.Black Tiger would be an everyday platformer. It makes use of the same rigid jumping mechanics, surprise-spawning enemies, long range attacks, and slow pace of Goblins, so much so that it feels like a spinoff. Where Tiger differs is in adventure elements that feel pulled straight outta Wonder Boy in Monster Land - there are optional dungeons, prisoners to rescue, and items and equipment to buy with the currency thus obtained. It's certainly more rewarding and expansive than Goblins (easier too), but is always held back by its position as an arcade game. It doesn't really want you to explore - the extra areas are more intended as bonus challenges, as evidenced by the decision to restrict the player to one try to complete them. Something that's always niggled me about Tiger is the protagonist's dual weaponry, a chain combined with throwing knives. Not only do they look arbitrary and stupid when combined (how is he throwing two knives at a time when he's using both hands on the chain?), they also fire at different speeds, meaning you'll be tapping the attack button much faster than he swings his chain. It's just a weird and unnecessary disconnect - the game really doesn't feel designed around the knife weapons, they have to have been added later. This one makes for a fun playthrough, even if GnG fans may be turned off by the lack of difficulty.

Commando - One o' them primitive top-down eight-way shooters a la Ikari Warriors and Jackal, this is the first game in the series better known for Bionic Commando (though gameplay-wise it's unrelated). It's extremely tight playing area makes me once again (maybe for the first time in this post, but once again) lament the unnecessarily narrow ratio of Capcom's cabinet's screens (the ratio is like 1:2 or something, which looks horrendous on a 16:9 TV). Commando is a bit tedious to play single-player, as it lacks the aim-lock strafing feature of later eight-way shooters like Shock Troopers - you'll find yourself wandering in circles quite often. I dunno. This game is so short and basic that I find it hard to imagine it drawing anyone away from the next generation of military shooters, like Metal Slug.

1943: The Battle of Midway - A little more refined and varied than its precursor, this one sports a health/fuel bar and various weapon power-ups. The pick-up mechanics are the game's greatest strength - each time an enemy leaves behind a power-up, it'll alternate between fuel and ammo. Since both fuel (life) and ammo (power) deplete over time, you'll need a constant stream of both pick-up types to stay alive and strong. It's up to you to decide which is more valuable at any given point in time. Amid the glut of vertically scrolling shooters on this collection, 1943 is probably the best - it offers the speed necessary to catch the interest of latter-day shmuppers weaned on Gunbird 2 and Battle Garegga, even if it's perhaps not varied enough to keep their interest long.

That's enough for now - we've got 12 more games to go, including Avengers, Hyper Dyne Side Arms, and that other thing.

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