Well, this is going to be a big one. I’ve been given a review code for Capcom Arcade Stadium, a collection of classic Capcom games from the arcades… A total of thirty-two Capcom arcade titles in one amazing package. And I’m going to go through all thirty-two games to review this pretty impressive collection, as well as take a look at the overall bundle and see just how well put together it all is. There’s a lot to cover here and I’ll be going through all the games in chronological order (which I’ve not previously looked at, so doing this blind) and as there are so many, I’ll just gloss over each one. With thirty-two games to cover, I had better crack on.
Vulgus (1984). A top-down, vertical shooter. This one is really rather simple compared to other similar shoot ’em ups. There’s no ending and you just keep going for a high score until your lives run out. No actual weapon upgrades or anything like that. For an early shooter, it’s pretty average.
Pirate Ship Higemaru (1984). A top-down maze game. Imagine if Pac-Man and Bomberman had a baby, you’d get Pirate Ship Higemaru. Playing as a deckhand, you pick up and throw barrels at attacking pirates. Clear the screen of all the pirates, move onto the next stage. Simple stuff, but pretty good, simple fun.
1942 (1984). One of the all-time classic shooters. The first in the long-running `194X games, and there are more to come in this collection too. It doesn’t have most of the features and refinements of later games in the franchise, but 1942 is still a very playable shoot ’em up regardless.
Commando (1985). I think this may have been the first-ever Capcom game I ever played in the arcade. It’s another classic shooter and one that was always a very tough challenge. Great shooter even if it is bloody hard.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins (1985). Speaking of hard, this is often described as being our generation’s Dark Souls. A fairly apt descriptive I guess… Even if Dark Souls was much easier than Ghosts ‘n Goblins. This really is some tip-top platforming-shooter action. And yes, it really is ‘effing difficult, even on the easiest setting. Utterly brilliant though.
Section Z (1985). A really interesting multi-directional shooter where enemies come from all sides. With a nice gimmick where, at the touch of a button, you can change the direction that you are facing. Really handy when the screen starts to fill with enemies. I don’t recall playing this back in the day, but it’s a pretty decent shooter.
Tatakai no Banka (1986). This one was Japanese only, no English version. I assumed it was only ever released in Japan, but a quick check says it was released as Trojan in the west. Not sure where there is no English version here then? A side-scrolling beat ’em up kind of thing that was just a bit too dull. I played as if Double Dragon had raped Ghosts ‘n Goblins and neither was happy with the end result, very okay-ish.
Legendary Wings (1986). Another game I think I missed originally. This is a vertical-shooter with a twist, as at certain points, the game changes to a side-scrolling platform-shooter. Basic power-up stuff here, but it plays pretty well and does get extra points for mixing up the gameplay styles.
Bionic Commando (1987). This was one of my favourites growing up, I spent so much coinage on this bad boy as a kid. A multi-directional scrolling platform-shooter with a brilliant gameplay mechanic… A grappling hook. Well, a grappling arm to be more accurate. Shoot bad guys, get power-ups and swing from platform to platform using your grappling arm. I don’t think I ever played this ‘properly’ back then, I just used to love swinging about the levels.
1943: The Battle of Midway (1987). The next entry in the 194X franchise and this one is so much better than the original 1942. One of my all-time favourite shooters as it took what was great about the previous 1942 and sprinkled it with just the right amount of spice to heat things up.
Forgotten Worlds (1988). Another side-scrolling shooter, but with some great bells and whistles. It plays a bit like the previously covered, Section Z with its multi-directional shooting, only if it had swallowed the kind of steroids WWE wrestlers use (allegedly). Wonderful bold late-eighties graphics, top shooting action and a nice weapons upgrade shop too. Oh and some awesome, huge boss battles.
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1988). Okay, this collection is seriously spoiling me now. One of my favourite sequels, only bettered by the sublime SNES version. This is what happens when a dev team gets together and says ‘that Ghosts ‘n Goblins really need to be harder’. More rock-solid platforming-shooter action with some of the toughest stages in any arcade game ever… And I love it.
Strider (1989). When it comes to iconic Capcom games, I think that Strider is high on the list. Hack ‘n slash, platforming action with a ninja-type bloke who has a plasma sword. Strider really is one of Capcom’s finest arcade titles. Fast and frantic gameplay with some really creative level design.
Dynasty Wars (1989). Get ready for some side-scrolling horseback riding. This is a scrolling beat ’em up, kind of thing with some light RPG elements. Smack people in the face with a large weapon as you scroll through each stage, pick up orb for experience and level up. I was never really a fan of this one back then, not a real Capcom classic for me. An okay game I guess.
Final Fight (1989). Now we’re talking! One of the finest scrolling beat ’em ups ever made. Big chunky graphics, a lot of punching people in the face, an all-time classic and a real coin muncher. This is what arcade gaming was all about. Best to play the Japanese version of this due to ‘reasons’.
1941: Counter Attack (1990). More 194X action and what I love about these shooters is how they evolved over the years. Yes, it is more scrolling shooty action, but these game get better with every instalment to the franchise. Loads of enemies, loads of bullets to dodge and some pretty epic boss fights.
Senjo no Okami II (1990). No English version of this one, which is strange as it was released in the west as Mercs. Plays pretty much like the classic Commando (it was a direct sequel) but now with multi-directional scrolling and weapon power-ups. A rather tough shooter but great fun to play.
Mega Twins (1990). Another game I’ve not been familiar with before. A platforming, hack ‘n slash thing with some very cute graphics. Not a great title, not my cup of tea at all.
Carrier Air Wing (1990). This is the follow up to U.N. Squadron (missing from this collection). A classic bit of side-scrolling shooter, using fighter jets. Pick one of three jets, and go shoot some bad guys out of the sky. There’s a weapon upgrade shop between levels. This is a damn good shooter.
Street Fighter II (1991). Does this game even need an introduction? One of the greatest beat ’em up and greatest games ever made. This is the standard, vanilla version of the game, great for purists. No frills, just great Street Fighter and iconic action.
Captain Commando (1991). Capcom made some great scrolling beat ’em ups and this was one of their best. Crazy characters and bold graphics. Plays very much like Final Fight, but for me, I always thought this was the better game.
Varth: Operation Thunderstorm (1992). A vertical shooter that really wouldn’t be out of place in the 194X franchise. Nothing remarkable about this one and it plays a good shooter regardless. Scroll up the screen, shoot enemies, grab power-ups, kill end of level bosses. Standard stuff, but still very playable.
Warriors of Fate (1992). The follow up to Dynasty Wars, and for me, the better of the two games. Still yer standard scrolling beat ’em up stuff. But this one feels much more robust and playable all round. A decent and a very satisfying brawler, with that familiar Capcom feel.
Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting (1992). More Street Fighter II and this one offers some tweaks over the original. Different colour costumes, slightly altered special moves and the ability to play as any of the four bosses. It’s Street Fighter II with some minor bells and whistles.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo (1994). Of all the different versions of this game, this is probably the best. The original eight characters, the four bosses and four new characters too, with new stages. More costume choices, variable speeds, the addition of the super meter to pull off awesome super combos. Plus, this was the game that introduced Akuma to the franchise. If you’re going to play some SF II, then this really is the best version.
Powered Gear (1994). Another Japanese only rom here, which once more is strange as it did have a western release where it was called Armored Warriors. Anyway, this is another scrolling beat ’em up… Only in mech-suits. A really good game that feels very ‘chunky’ as you stomp around in your mech. Some nice little touches, like being able to walk over little peeps before they can get in their own mechs. A lot of crunching metal as mech fights mech and everything plays and feels great. Proper arcade action.
Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness (1995). This is actually a spin-off from the previous Powered Gear (Armored Warriors) game. Whereas that was a scrolling beat ’em up, this is a one on one fighter. This really wasn’t too bad. Chose a pilot and then select a mech, the combo of which actually affects how the story and even gameplay pans out. Some great destructible scenery and the fighting feels really ‘meaty’. Perhaps not as great as Street Fighter II as a beat ’em up, but still very much worth playing.
19XX: The War Against Destiny (1995). Yup, another in the long-running 194X franchise… Only this is 19XX. You already know the score by now. Vertical scrolling shooty-shoot action. This one really is a marvel and is rock solid hard, goes from pretty tricky to serious bullet hell within a couple of levels. Seriously great shoot ’em up and one not for the faint of heart.
Battle Circuit (1997). More scrolling beat ’em up action, and this one is beautifully crazy. With a very cartoony-like art style and featuring some pretty insane characters and enemies. Really OTT action with a penchant for the WTF… You fight an Elvis impersonator. Cracking good fun
Giga Wing (1999). If there was one thing that Capcom were fantastic at, that wasn’t the beat ’em up, then the shoot ’em up was that thing. This is another vertically scrolling shooter, kind of like the 1944 series… Only not actually part of it. Rather unusual for a vertical scroller, this uses a horizontal screen. Different planes to fly, each with different weapons sets and power ups. Plenty of action and some really great level designs.
1944: The Loop Master (2000). How many of these 194X games are there? Like the previous Giga Wing, this is another vertical shooter that uses a horizontal screen. Lots of shooting, power ups and big bosses to take out. Pretty standard stuff, but a good shooter nonetheless.
Progear (2001). The last game in this collection… And it’s another shoot ’em up featuring planes. Capcom really liked that motif eh? At least this is a side-scroller just to be a bit different. This is a serious bullet hell of a game, really great to play too. A steampunk-esque slant to the graphics and the best shooter in this whole collection.
As a gamer in his mid-forties now, I grew up in and around the arcades of the eighties and nineties, so this collection is right up my street. Presentation-wise, Capcom Arcade Stadium is a sheer delight. Each of the games in this collection are represented via their own 3D rendered cabinets and all of the games are loaded with plenty of options. Multiple display settings with scanlines and more, screen sizes (full screen, arcade cabinet view and more), screen orientation (great for those with a rotatable monitor to play vertical shooters in the correct aspect ratio). Then there’s the game settings, where you can change the difficulty, time limits, speed (if your reactions are not as great as they once were), extra lives frequency and more. Plus, you can fully customise the controls and even use a rapid-fire mode for all those shooters. With different games having multiple different settings. So you can really tailor each game to suit your very own playstyle.
There are things like score and special challenges, with scores being uploaded to the interwebs and the global leaderboards. You can read each of the game’s manuals for a quick lesson on how to play. There’s even a save/load games states feature too… Pretty handy for some of the harder titles, or if you just want to take a break for a while. Plus, a rewind feature, so if you mess up, just rewind and try again. You can even choose to play the original Japanese or English ports, seeing as some of the western releases were censored over the original Japanese ones, this is a nice feature to have. And there’s local multiplayer options, depending on the game. Honestly, in terms of options and variables, you really are spoiled here. You can tweak and refine each game to suit just how you want to play. Perhaps you can finally get to the end of some of those arcade classics that have eluded you for many years now? I mean, I actually finally finished Ghosts ‘n Goblins after thirty-six years.
Now, Capcom Arcade Stadium is actually free to download, but you only get two games with it (as of writing anyway). 1943: The Battle of Midway and Ghosts ‘n Goblins (I believe that G ‘n G is a promotional offer and is normally paid for). Two classics for sure and both worth it for nothing. But you do have to pay for the other games in this collection, and they come in pre-set packs. The three packs that you can download for all thirty-two games, Dawn of the Arcade (1984–1988), Arcade Revolution (1989–1992), and Arcade Evolution (1992–2001), come in at £11.99 each. So, for the whole game with all thirty-two titles, you’re looking at spending £35.97 (though that is just over £1.20 a game). Still, that is a pretty big chunk of cash for a lot of decades-old games… Some better than others. Then there’s the fact that Capcom have said they may add even more games in the future, so more money to spend? And as far as I can tell, you have to buy the packs for the games, you can’t pay for games individually, which I think is a mistake. I mean, there are three versions of Street Fighter II in this. Do you really need three versions of the same game? I feel it would be better if there was an option to just buy the individual games that you want, then you could tailor create your very own arcade. On the surface, forking out £36 on two and over three decades old games does seem a bit steep.
Emulation wise (cos that is how these games run), everything played fine and dandy. I didn’t come across any graphical or audio glitches in any of the thirty-two games. The controls felt responsive using a standard Xbox pad, but Capcom Arcade Stadium does support arcade joysticks too, in fact, there’s a specific option for arcade sticks. So if you have one, I’m sure these games will feel far more authentic using a ‘proper’ controller. Oh and the more you play, the more you earn Capcom Arcade Stadium POints (CASPO), this is basically experience points. The more you play, the more CASPO you earn, you level (class) up and unlock some cosmetics such as background wallpapers, etc.
So I guess the big question is, is it worth paying for? This is a bit tricky to answer, given the fact that there have already been several Capcom arcade bundles in the past. The likes of Capcom Arcade Cabinet or Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle does mean that several of these games have previously been released over the years and you probably own a few of the titles already (I know I do). So it may not seem worth paying again for games that you already own. The fact you have to buy the packs and can’t buy games individually is a definite downside too, as separate games would make perfect sense for those that have previously bought similar collections and already have some of the games. Still, for everything, all the games, all three packs, £35.97 isn’t a bad price. Or you can buy a bundle of all three packs in one, which is slightly cheaper at £31.99 (around £1.07 per game). Then you have to add all the extra features, options and variables for all the titles too. You do get a lot for your money, even if £35 (or £32) seems a big price tag for 30-year-old games, I think it is worth it in all honesty. I’ve spent more than that on recent AAA games and not got as much gameplay out of them as I have here. Seriously just buy the triple bundle collection for £32 and enjoy some awesome Capcom arcade greatness.
I do have a few niggles. Personally, I’d like to have seen some history on the games. Some background info on who made them, original release dates. Maybe a gallery, concept art, a jukebox to listen to some of the amazing Capcom music. I’m a big fan of gaming history and to see a lack of actual history about the games here is a tad disappointing. They could have even put it all behind unlockables, complete certain challenges in the game to unlock artwork, music, etc. Would’ve added some extra gameplay value. As great as the games in this collection are, there is a real lack of celebrating their history in gaming. There are some glaring omissions from this collection of games (Black Tiger, Gun.Smoke, Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors), but as I already mentioned, Capcom will be adding new titles in the future. I doubt we’ll see any of Capcom’s licensed games, The Punisher, Alien vs. Predator, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, etc. There is local multiplayer, but no online multiplayer, which is also a bit of a disappointment.
For me, I think as far as these arcade collections go, that Capcom Arcade Stadium is one of the very best (if not the best) on offer right now. The sheer amount of options for each game is amazing, and you really can find the perfect difficulty for each and every game to suit your own style. It’s clear this collection has been put together with a lot of love and not just a quick cash-grab (shame about the lack of histories though). Of the thirty-two games here, there really isn’t a bad one in the lot. Sure there are few average ones, but there are many more brilliant titles. Plus there are a few only released in Japan ones or titles I didn’t know about and were fun to discover for the first time. I’m not sold on three versions of Street Fighter II though, I’d rather they just had one of the later versions (Super Street Fighter II Turbo) and then two other games instead, perhaps even one of the Street Fighter Alpha titles? Still, if you have the cash and really want some classic Capcom arcade hits, then you really can’t go wrong with Capcom Arcade Stadium. It’s a wonderful collection with plenty to keep you coming back for more. Highly recommended, buy it now with all three game packs. Just need Konami to put a collection together and as well made as this now…