The Many Sites, Sounds And Smells Of The Arcade

There’s a new game coming soon, based around the idea of running your very own arcade. Arcade Paradise, from Nosebleed Interactive and Wired Productions, is a game that I’ve had my eye on for over a year now. Fingers crossed, I’ll be reviewing it soon-ish too (#ShamelessFreePlug).

Anyway, my excitement for Arcade Paradise got me reminiscing over the good ‘ole days when the arcade was king. To the point where I decided to write an article to remember and celebrate those good ‘ole days of my growing up in and around the arcades of the 80s and 90s. This right here is that article.

Being born in the mid-seventies and growing up, as I did, in the 80s, allowed me to be in the midst of the arcade gaming boom. I began my gaming journey in the late 70s when we, as a family, got an Atari 2600. I may not have fully understood what gaming was back then as a young 4-year-old but I knew that I enjoyed it. Part of the mass appeal of the Atari 2600 back then was the fact it had several really good arcade ports. The likes of Space Invaders may not have been arcade perfect on the 2600, but the simple fact that we could play arcade games at home was awesome.

SPACE INVADERS 2600

See, I grew up in Birmingham, England, which is part of the Midlands. And it’s called the Midlands because it is slap bang in the middle of England. Being in the middle of the country pretty much made it as far removed from the seaside as you could get. This was an issue because, well, the seaside was where most arcades tended to be back then. Being a hundred or so miles away from an arcade meant I had to rely on the 2600 ports for me to get my arcade gaming fix. In fact, I played pretty much all of those classic arcade games on the wood-finished beast that was the Atari 2600. The likes of Frogger, Pac-Man, Asteroids, et al were all first played on our family 2600 before I ever played them in their natural habitat.

There was the rare occasion I would get to venture into an actual arcade though. We had family on the coast in Ramsgate, Kent. Now and again, we’d have a summer family holiday in Ramsgate and when I got bored of building sandcastles or crabbing, I’d venture into an arcade with my older brothers. I remember being quite envious that the arcade games always looked and sounded better than they did on our 2600. I was too young to understand hardware limitations and such back then. I just wanted to know why Galaxian looked so much better in the arcade than when I played it at home.

GALXIAN

Those early 80s of the arcade were where my love for gaming began to grow. As I got older, gaming quickly became my main hobby. Building sandcastles or going crabbing became secondary to visiting an arcade with each successive family holiday and with each year I aged. There was something special about the sounds of the arcade. You’d be walking along the promenade with some seaside fish & chips in your hands, then the all too familiar sounds of Pac-Man’s ‘wacka-wacka-wacka’ would call you into the nearest arcade, like a siren enticing a sailor… only not to your death but to your idea of heaven, an Arcade Paradise if you will (#StillAShamelessFreePlug).

I have a very vivid memory of walking around an arcade with my Nan while on a family holiday. As we walked among the many cabinets, Gorf called out ‘insert coin’, though the Votrax speech chip made it sound more like it said ‘insert cloin’. Anyway, when my Nan heard that, she just stopped in her tracks, looked at the cabinet and said: “Is that thing talking to me?”. She kind of sounded both surprised, impressed and insulted that a machine had dared speak to her. Those sounds of the arcade are little nuggets that have been inserted into my brain for eternity. I hear Pole Position say ‘Prepare to qualify’ now and the hippocampus and neocortex in my brain work together to pull a memory from 40 years ago of my older brother’s obsession with trying to get his name at the top of the high score table… then 6-year-old me would have a go, crash into a billboard and I’d think it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

POLE POSITION

1983s Dragon’s Lair was another game whose sights and sounds spark off memories too. It was the first time I ever heard my older brother swear. He would’ve only been about 12 himself at the time. But when we walked into an arcade and saw Dragon’s Lair… wait, technically we heard it first. There were the usual blips and bloops of the other arcade machines of the day. The occasional very rough speech sample that, in your memories, sounded crystal clear but when you hear them now, you realise how low-quality they were. Anyway, in among all of those very early 80s arcade noises was the always very loud, LaserDisc powered, perfect stereo quality speech of Dragon’s Lair. The booming voice of the announcer drew you to the cabinet, even when it was the other side of the arcade. Me and my brother walked towards the cabinet and the crowd that had amassed to gaze at the game’s beauty. When we saw those Don Bluth animations, that was when I heard my brother say “fucking hell” for the first time.

DRAGON'S LAIR

We also spent a lot of time in Barmouth, Wales for family holidays. That was amazing as there used to be three arcades all within walking distance right there on the seafront. Those three arcades were where my brothers and I would spend most of our holiday money. We’d pretty much live in them for the week we were there. In terms of arcade memories, Barmouth is where most of them stem from and where I played a lot of games for the first time. Paperboy with its handlebar controls and the music that I can still sing (or ‘do-do-do’ to anyway) beat for beat today. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was one of the games I would play often. I was a huge Indy fan back then, to the point that when I grew up, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. To be honest, I only ever really wanted to play the minecart chase bit of the game. I became a bit obsessed with it and I would purposely die when nearing the end of the level so I could stay on the minecart bit as long as I could.

TEMPLE OF DOOM

My brother would play Karate Champ and he was really bloody good at it too. I could never get to grips with the whole double joystick controls thing as a kid and would just jump around or pull off moves that were nowhere near a connecting hit, until I got knocked out or time ran out… and I lost. Then there was Ghosts ‘n Goblins. I didn’t understand at the time just how fucking hard that game was. The idea of a game being unbelievably difficult ever entered my mind back then, I thought I was just missing something and that was why I kept dying. On the first stage, very near the start, there’s a bit where you can go up a ladder and there is a plant that shoots at you. To the left was (what I thought was) a shield pick-up. I got it into my head that you had to grab the shield to help you against the projectiles that the plant shot at you. So I’d spend most of my time trying to perfectly time the climb up the ladder and run to the left to grab the ‘shield’. Of course, it was just a bonus pick-up for extra points and all you had to do was shoot the plant. But my younger brain refused to accept that and I kept dying trying to nab that ‘shield’. I never did get past that part of the game, even after pouring stupid amounts of 10ps into it.

OutRun, I can’t explore my growing up in arcades without mentioning OutRun. I was obsessed with this game as a kid. For me, this Sega classic is still one of the greatest games ever made. It is arcade racing perfected and rarely ever beaten. I loved Ferraris as a kid (who didn’t) and I used to have a big Testarossa poster on my wall, one daydreaming that I’d own one when I was older. Being in the arcades circa 1987 was the only way I could experience driving around in a Ferrari Testarossa back then. Everything about that game just clicked. The graphics, the sense of speed, the sunkissed scenery and of course, that immortal music that you can hear in your head no matter where you are. Being on a summer holiday made playing OutRun just that little bit more special too. There is something that can be said for playing a nice sunny game on a hot summer day that adds to the feeling of the game. And if you were lucky enough to find one of the deluxe sit-down cabinets with the hydraulics and all that. Man, that was the only way to play OutRun properly.

OUTRUN

Double Dragon, I really must give this game a name-check here as it was the first arcade game I ever finished. It was hard too as I didn’t know of the old elbow spamming trick back then. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many 10ps I had to put into this one before I got to the end. There was actually a little bug/trick during the big fight before the credits. You could get hit/thrown up to the area where the big boss would stay while his henchmen would beat the crap out of you. But while you were up there, the enemies couldn’t hit you and the big boss was ‘technically’ out of the game, so wasn’t programmed to attack from there, you could just beat the crap out of him and he’d do nothing. Still, getting to that point was bloody hard. I’ve always had a soft spot for Double Dragon as it was the first arcade game I got to the end of.

DOUBLE DRAGON

There was one game that brought me and my two brothers closer together, whilst making us bicker and argue at the same time, Gauntlet. I still remember the first time I ever saw that 4-player monster of an arcade cabinet back in Barmouth as a kid. The stunning artwork on the sides with the four characters battling monsters. The four joysticks in front of the larger than normal screen was unreal. My oldest brother Rob, he’d always play as Merlin the wizard. Graham, the middle brother, favoured Thor the warrior and I’d play as Questor the elf. Nobody ever wanted to be Thyra the valkyrie. Even today, if I ever play the original Gauntlet, I just instinctively play as Questor. The fact we had to work as a team in the game made us appreciate each other as we played… the fact you could shoot the food caused many an argument, especially when the game was telling us that “Wizard needs food… badly”. This was unlike anything we had played before and a summer holiday in Barmouth just was not complete without us spending a large chunk of our holiday pocket money on Gauntlet.

GAUNTLET

Honestly, I could sit here and type thousands upon thousands of words about arcades in the 80s and yes, I know I’ve not named a great many fantastic games. But I need to move on as I still have the 90s to cover yet. But before I do, I really must mention Dayvilles. This place was an ice cream parlour famed for its amazing selection of ice creams, thirty-two flavours to be precise. Anyway, a Dayvilles opened up in my home city of Birmingham in the 80s and as great as the ice cream was, it was what was under Dayvilles that impressed even more… an arcade. My oldest brother discovered it one day as it wasn’t really advertised and if you were just walking past, you’d never know that underneath all of those thirty-two flavours of that ice cream was a basement arcade. This meant that I didn’t have to wait until the annual family summer holiday to get my arcade fix as this one was a 40-minute bus ride away. Whenever my bother would go into town, which was every weekend, he’d take me along with him and every weekend we’d go into Dayvilles, down the stairs and spend hours playing arcade games.

Being in the basement, the Dayvilles arcade was a very dark and grim place. There wasn’t a great deal of room down there either and the selection of games was a bit slim. I’d say they’d have maybe ten or so cabinets. But to us, it felt so much bigger. It lacked the sunny seaside appeal of going to a bigger arcade during a summer holiday but still, this little underground arcade in the middle of the concrete jungle that was Birmingham City centre was better than a swift kick in the nards. It was where I first played R-Type and my love for the series was born. By the time the latter part of the 80s rolled around, the arcade scene really began to grow too. More and more city arcades began to pop up and there was a handful in Birmingham where I grew up, arguably ‘better’ ones too. Still, there was something special about that Dayvilles arcade, the fact it was hidden away underground made you feel like you had discovered a secret only a few knew of.

R-TYPE

Anyway, the 90s. By now, gaming had exploded and the home market was quickly catching up with what the arcades could do. Home consoles such as the SNES and Megadrive were capable of giving us gamers almost arcade-perfect ports and sometimes with a few extra bells and whistles. I mean, the Megadrive port of Golden Axe was pretty damn great eh? Arcades had also grown and more began to appear too. The 90s was the point where gaming really began to be seen as less of a ‘dirty’ pastime. Oh don’t get me wrong, there was still a bit of a stigma attached to the whole gaming thing, but it was lesser than it used to be in the 80s. We used to take the family dog for a good run at a place called the Lickey Hills. It is this huge park in the middle of the countryside, a few miles away from the city centre of Birmingham. If you grew up in Birmingham in the 70s, 80s and 90s, then you knew of the Lickey Hills. We spent hours there as kids in the 80s and yet, it wasn’t until the very late 80s or early 90s when I learned that it had its very own arcade. This wasn’t some dark and dismal basement-dwelling either. The Lickey Hills arcade was huge, it was like the kind of arcade you’d find at the seaside… only not at the seaside. I’ve only just learned, while researching for this very article, that not only is the arcade still there (changed a lot over the years) but it has been there for a hundred years and has been owned by the same family for all that time too.

All those times that me and my brother would go into the city centre and spend hours underground cramped in at Dayvilles, there was this much bigger, more open arcade with many more games and only a few miles from where we lived at the time and where we often took the dog for a walk. I have no idea how we missed it for so many years. But I guess that was just how it was back then, arcades were not advertised and you only really know of them via word of mouth. Then there was the fact that arcades were most definitely more of a summer holiday thing. You’d expect to find an arcade when on holiday and on the coastline, but not so much a few miles from a major city near a big park in the countryside.

FLETCHERS

Fletcher’s Arcade (as it was called back then) was where I spent a lot of my teenage years. I turned 14 in 1990 and was well into my gaming by then and on my way to becoming an adult. This was where I first saw and played Street Fighter II. I remember it well because it wasn’t a ‘normal’ arcade cabinet, as is the standard kind of stand up arcade cabinet you’d usually see. It had a much bigger screen than the normal cabinet. Then it had an angled bench where you didn’t quite sit down, it was more a case of that you leaned back whilst standing up, resting your arse on the angled bench. It was glorious.

Street Fighter II is a perfect place to bring up the beginning of the death of the arcades, because it was when the home ports came out that we gamers realised that the arcades were becoming less and less of an attraction in the early 90s. I mean, the SNES port of Street Fighter II was so damn good that you really didn’t need to go to the arcade to play Street Fighter II anymore. This was the era when arcades had to do something bold that was hard or impossible to replicate at home.

Street Fighter II

8-player Daytona USA, as an example. I mean a home port of Daytona USA wouldn’t exist for a few years anyway and even then, it wouldn’t be 8-player. So yeah, the early and mid-90s was when the arcade tried to lure us console gamers back into the arcade with technology that you just couldn’t get at home. Sure the Terminator 2: Judgment Day home port was decent enough…. but you couldn’t match the awesome original arcade version with the 2-player, twin uzis. In a way, the early 90s of the arcade were going back a decade to the early 80s, by trying to entice people in with interesting cabinets and peripherals. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was basically Operation Wolf and while we may have had light guns at home, they didn’t have the force feedback as they did in the arcade. The sit-down racing cabinets of the 80s were now the multiplayer sit-down cabinets of the 90s. But it wasn’t just about rehashing old tech as new. Old game ideas were also being updated in an attempt to lure folk back into the arcades.

TIME TRAVELER

Sega’s Time Traveler was really nothing more than a more modern take on Dragon’s Lair… only now with holograms. It was the same (but improved) laserdisc technology, with the same QTE styled gameplay. But instead of hand-drawn animations, it was now ‘live action’ actors displayed using 3D holograms. I mean, both Dragon’s Lair and Time Traveler were designed by the same man, Rick Dyer. It was an interesting age of the arcade, seeing a lot of the older 80s ideas being brought back for a new audience. Sometimes, you could find a real beaut of an arcade cabinet too. Like the full scale Ridge Racer in Blackpool (I got to play this in its heyday). This truly was a thing to marvel at. You sat in an actual Mazda MX-5 (or Eunos Roadster if you’re from Japan) and the controls of the car worked to play the game on three massive screens. You used the actual car radio to select music, the gear-stick changed the gears and the air con threw air in your face as you raced. The full scale Ridge Racer was amazing and was a perfect example of what arcades were doing to try to keep people coming in.

FULL SCALE RIDGE RACER

Anyway, the great thing about Fletcher’s Arcade was that it sat between two pubs. As I got older, the family summer holiday gave way to hanging out with my friends, going to the pub for a few beers, popping in the arcade, going back to the pub for some more beers and rounding the day off with some more games in the arcade. But even so, around the mid-90s, it was fast becoming clear that the arcade was slowly dying out because the home market was not just catching up with the arcades but quite often exceeding it. Fletcher’s Arcade was great, it was big, it had everything covered. Older retro games and the latest cutting edge games too. I could pop in and play some Ghosts ‘n Goblins and still not finish the first level. To then go and play some Virtua Cop 2 just by walking a few feet. It really was the best of both worlds in terms of an arcade. But you know what it didn’t have? The likes of Resident Evil, WipEout and so on.

TEKEN

The ‘PlayStation era’, the 32-bit generation of home consoles, that was the nail in the coffin of the arcade. I mean, I could play Tekken at home now and with a load of extra stuff the arcade version just didn’t have. But I couldn’t play Final Fantasy VII or Grand Theft Auto in the arcade, could I? By the time 1995 rolled around, the home market had all but won. Sega had released its Saturn console and that was more than capable of playing all those great arcade hits. Sega Rally, Virtua Cop, Dead or Alive, RayStorm and so on. Tip-top arcade games that we could now play at home, why would you want to go to the arcade anymore? When the PlayStation became so dominant and popular, the arcade really didn’t stand a chance.

My visits to the arcade became less and less frequent as it was easier to stay at home and play arcade quality games (and more) instead. Of course, the arcade pretty much all but died out over the next few years in the latter part of the 90s. You could find specialist arcades though, the likes of Sega and Namco created their very own arcade entertainment venues to try and keep the arcade alive… but they just weren’t true arcades. They weren’t those dingy basement dungeons that felt secretive and as if you were an exclusive member, they weren’t the seaside escapes that you used to get away when you were bored of making sandcastles and crabbing. They were loud and brash ‘please look at me, I’m still an arcade… honest’ things that certainly had the games to keep you entertained, but they lacked the appeal of the 80s and 90s heydays.

SEGA WORLD

It’s kind of sad to walk along the beachfront here in the UK and see what passes as an ‘arcade’ these days. We took a little family holiday last summer just for a week to Torquay. Myself, my lass and our two young kids. Our daughter is now the age I was when I first got into gaming and arcades. I thought it would be great to take her to a classic arcade and show her the games I grew up playing from 40 years ago, the games I played as a teenager and the ones I played as a young adult in the mid-90s. Could I find one though? Nope. I found loads of ‘arcades’ with claw machines and all that crap. Those semi-fixed machines that spit out tickets, which you can then swap for a shit cuddly toy that you could just buy for £5 anyway. Man, it was depressing to think that crap is what is considered an ‘arcade’ these days.

Still, it’s not all depression though as there are some great retro arcades out there, if you know where to look. Most of them with the business model that you pay a fixed amount for a set time, and you are unleashed on many classic arcade cabinets (set to free play) from the good ‘ole days. They may not be the seaside attractions they used to be, but they do still exist.

ARCADE PARADISE

You see ladies and gentlemen, this is why I’m so looking forward to Arcade Paradise (#YupStillMostDefinitelyAShamelessFreePlug). It’s a chance for me to relive the glory days of the arcade, to revisit my youth and all, rather ironically, by not having to leave the house. Using the very method that killed the arcade in the first place to enjoy the arcade once more that I sorely miss. But seriously though gentle reader, if you are a fan of those classic arcade days, get Arcade Paradise on your radar, ‘cos it really does look awesome.

And if you enjoyed this little trip down gaming memory lane, grab yourself a copy of my book 66 Of The Most Important Video Games Ever! (According To Me) from Amazon. Look, if I’m going to plug Arcade Paradise for free and just because I think it looks amazing, I’m gonna plug my own work too.

Game Review: Capcom Arcade Stadium

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.

CAPCOM ARCADE CABINETS

The Games

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.

CAPCOM ARCADE GHOSTS N GOBLINS

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.

CAPCOM ARCADE FORGOTTEN WORLDS

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’.

CAPCOM ARCADE FINAL FIGHT

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, but 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.

CAPCOM ARCADE STREET FIGHTER I

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.

CAPCOM ARCADE 19XX

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.


Overall

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.

CAPCOM ARCADE GAMES

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.

CAPCOM ARCADE CASPO

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 seperate 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.

CAPCOM ARCADE PRICE

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…

Service Games is 75 years old! Part II

We left off with Sega struggling after the game crash of 1983 with declining profits, despite a decent arcade presence, and an underwhelming first attempt at a home console with the SG-1000.
In 1985, Sega released its second home console in Japan, the Sega Mark III.

MK III

Does not look very familiar does it?
Well for the North American & European launch, the console was redesigned and retitled.

master system

The Sega Master System hit the American market in 1986 and Europe in 1987. Released to compete with Nintendo’s Famicom/NES. The Sega Master System launched with Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Alex Kidd was Sega’s first attempt at a gaming mascot to try and match Nintendo with Mario. Despite Alex Kidd appearing in several games and spin-offs, he never really took off as a mascot.
The Sega Master System itself was technically superior to Nintendo’s NES, it could not match sales of the NES in Japan or North America. However, it did fair better in Europe.

With a moderate success in the home market with The Sega Master System, SEGA carried on to strengthen their arcade library in the mid 80’s with games like OutRun (1986), After Burner (1987) and Power Drift (1989).

1989 would also see Sega release it’s successor to The Sega Master System.

megadrive

The Mega Drive (Genesis in North America) did not fare well in Japan against its main competitor, Nintendo’s Super Famicom. But, it did achieve greater success in North America and in Europe. Helping this success were several ports of some of Sega’s best arcade games as well as the introduction of a certain blue hedgehog.

sonic title

In 1991, Sega first introduced the world to Sonic The Hedgehog. A superfast platformer styled game that took the world by storm and finally SEGA had a bankable gaming mascot.
Sonic went on to star in several sequels and spinoffs on the Mega Drive and is even still a relevant gaming mascot today.
Sonic helped to sell even more consoles and give Sega it’s first real home market success with the Mega Drive/Genesis. The Mega Drive/Genesis also had several addons released for the console like the Mega CD and 32X to help extend the life of the machine.

Sega decided to follow up on the success of the Mega Drive/Genesis and try to muscle in on Nintendo’s handheld console market share held by the Gameboy. Sega released the portable Sega Game Gear in 1990.

Gamegear

The Sega Game Gear was essentially as Master System in handheld form using much if the same hardware.
Due to problems with a very short battery life, titles mainly being lazy ports, and poor first party support, the Game Gear was unable to come close to the success of Nintendo’s Game Boy despite the Game Gear being technically superior. The Game Gear was succeeded by the Sega Nomad (a portable Mega Drive/Genesis) in 1995.

But while they started to gain ground in terms of home market sales, Sega still maintained a strong arcade library through the 90’s especially with it’s “Virtua” series with titles; Virtua Racing (1992), Virtua Fighter (1993) and Virtua Cop (1994).

The mid 90’s saw the release of Sega’s next home console.

saturn

The Sega Saturn first hit the home market in 1994 in Japan and then in America and Europe in 1995.
The console was a moderate hit initially, but sales started to drop off fast due to the release of Nintendo’s N64 in 1996 and the rising popularity of Sony’s first home console, The PlayStation.
Sega also never released a Sonic game for the machine, which many feel is part of the reason the sales for the Saturn soon dropped off. There was one in development called; Sonic X-treme, but it was ultimately cancelled.
The Saturn did benefit from some great arcade ports like; Sega Rally Championship, The House of the Dead as well as ports of Sega’s Virtua arcade series of games and their sequels, but the console was only a moderate hit worldwide.

Not content with just arcade and home console gaming, Sega even opened their own amusement style theme parks in 1994 called; Joypolis.

Joypolis

Joypolis opened in Yokohama, Japan. Several Joypolis were opened in various cities in Japan with the parks featuring arcade games and rides based on existing SEGA IPs. A total of 8 Joypolis theme parks were opened. However, as of writing only 3 of the parks are still open today.
Other similar Sega based arcades and parks opened around the world. SegaWorld opened in the United Kingdom, China, Australia and Japan, but only a handful still remain in Japan. Plus; GameWorks was a joint venture between Sega, Universal Studios, and DreamWorks.

I’ll end here, but part III will cover Sega’s (probably) most popular and loved home console…and their last, as SEGA end their hardware reign and become a software only devloper.

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Service Games is 75 years old! Part I

Service logo

75 years is a big milestone in the gaming world and one worth celebrating.
So join me as I take a brief-ish look back on Service Games from their initial roots to where they are today.

But wait, let’s back up a little here….who the hell are Service Games and why do you not recognise the name?
Well what about if I wrote it like this: SErvice GAmes…

Founded in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1940. Service Games began by distributing coin-operated slot machines and jukeboxes. In 1951, the company moved to Tokyo, Japan and began to distribute basic coin-operated machines to American military bases in and around Japan.

David Rosen, an American officer in the US Air Force, launched a photo booth business in Tokyo sometime in 1954 and the Rosen Enterprises company was born. In 1957, Rosen Enterprises began importing coin-operated games into Japan.
By 1965, Rosen Enterprises developed a chain of arcades, with Service Games its only serious competitor at the time, but instead of battling it out as rivals. David Rosen instead suggested a merger between Rosen Enterprises and Service Games and became chief executive of the new company: Sega Enterprises which derived its name from Service Games and Rosen Enterprises.
In 1965 the now world famous Sega was created from those humble beginnings originated by Service Games 20 years previously.

Original logo

1966 saw the release of Sega Enterprises first ever in house developed coin-operated game; Periscope.

periscope

Periscope was a simple game as this was very early in the life of arcades and games. The player looked through a simulated submarine periscope to launch torpedoes at enemy ships. The ships were made from cardboard and would be moved mechanically via a drive chain, and the torpedoes were represented by simple coloured lights.
This simple arcade game was a huge success in Japan and was then exported to America and Europe the following year, where it again met with success.
Periscope is often considered a turning point for coin-operated games and even arcades as a whole.

David Rosen sold Sega Enterprises to American conglomerate Gulf and Western Industries in 1969, but Rosen stayed on as CEO of the Sega division. Sega continued to grow and prosper under Rosen and flourished very well from the arcade gaming craze in the late 1970s, with income reaching over $100 million by 1979.
Along with the changes came a new and familiar logo.

SEGA logo

In 1982 Sega introduced gamers to the world’s first commercial stereoscopic 3D game; SubRoc-3D.

SubRoc 3D

SubRoc-3D used a display that delivers individual images to each eye via a special eyepiece, a viewer with spinning discs to alternate left and right images to the player’s eyes from a single monitor. This gave the illusion that the in game images were coming towards to player.

Due to the game crash of 1983, Sega saw its profits drop from $214 million in 1982 to $136 million by the end of 1983. Also in 1983, Sega released its first ever home gaming console the SG-1000.

SG-1000

The SG-1000 was released as a competitor to the hugely successful Atari 2600. But the SG-1000 hardly made an impact and was poorly received overall.

While Sega’s first attempt at cracking the home market met with less than positive admiration, Sega still maintained a good arcade game presence in the late 70’s and early 80’s with titles like Frogger (1981) which Sega published in the U.S. Zaxxon (1982) which holds the distinction of being the first ever arcade game advertised on TV. Astron Belt (1983) which is said to be the world’s first laser disc based game, as well as all time classics like Hang-On & Space Harrier (1985).

The failure of the SG-1000 coupled with the declining profits of Sega and the video game crash of 1983 lead to Gulf and Western Industries eventually selling the U.S. assets of Sega Enterprises to pinball manufacturer Bally Manufacturing.
However, the Japanese assets of Sega Enterprises were brought by a group of investors led by David Rosen, Robert Deith, and Hayao Nakayama. Nakayama was a Japanese businessman who owned an arcade game distribution company called; Esco Boueki.
Hayao Nakayama became the new CEO of Sega Japan, Robert Deith Chairman of the Board, and David Rosen became head of its subsidiary in the United States. In 1984, a multibillion dollar Japanese conglomerate CSK bought Sega and headquartered it in Japan. David Rosen’s friend, Isao Okawa, the chairman of CSK, became chairman of Sega.

Here ends the first part of my retrospective of Sega, join me in part II where we’ll see the company rise from the ashes of the game crash of 1983 to become one of the biggest and most recognised names in gaming.

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Pac-Man Part VII

Well here we are…finally, at the end of my retrospective look back at Pac-Man’s entire 35 year gaming life.
If you have managed to make it through my Pac-Man game overview as well as my Happy Birthday bio and even managed to get through the whole multipart retrospecive…well done and thank you for reading.

pac

Here in this final part, I just want to give mention to some of the other games I didn’t cover in the main retrospective.
First the various Pac-Man compilations:

Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga: Class of 1981
Release date: 2001
System: Arcade

Pac-Man Collection
Release date: 2001
System: Game Boy Advance

Pac-Man: 25th Anniversary Arcade Machine
Release date: 2005
System: Arcade

Pac-Man Power Pack
Release date: 2008
System: PlayStation 2

Namco All-Stars: Pac-Man and Dig Dug
Release date: 2009
System: Windows PC

Pac-Man’s Arcade Party
Release date: 2010
System: Arcade

Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions
Release date: 2011
System: Nintendo 3DS

Dual Pack: Pac-Man World 3/Namco Museum DS
Release date: 2012
System: Nintendo DS

Pac-Man Museum
Release date: 2014
System: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC

Next up are compilations that feature Pac-Man in games, but not in the title:

Namco Museum 64
Release date: 1999
System: Nintendo 64

Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary
Release date: 2005
System: GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox

Namco Museum Remix
Release date: 2007
System: Wii

Namco Museum DS
Release date: 2007
System: Nintendo DS

Namco Museum Virtual Arcade
Release date: 2009
System: Xbox 360

Moving onto iOS/Android games:

Pac-Man Remix
Release date: 2009
System: iPhone and iPod Touch

PAC-Match Party
Release date: 2010
System: iPod Touch and iPad

Pac-Chain
Release date: 2010
System: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

Pac-Attack
Release date: 2010
System: iPhone and iPod Touch

Pac’N-Jump
Release date: 2011
System: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android

Pac-Chomp!
Release date: 2011
System: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad , Android and Kindle Fire

Pac-Man Games
Release date: 2012
System: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

Pac-Man Kart Rally
Release date: 2012
System: Android and Kindle Fire

Pac-Man + Tournaments
Release date: 2013
System: Android

Pac-Man Dash!
Release date: 2013
System: iPhone, iPod Touch and Android

Pac-Man Monsters
Release date: 2014
System: iPhone, iPod Touch and Android

Pac-Man Friends
Release date: 2014
System: iPhone, iPod Touch and Android

Finish off with games Pac-Man has cameoed in:

Kick
Release date: 1981
System: Arcade

Mario Kart Arcade GP
Release date: 2005
System: Arcade

Mario Kart Arcade GP 2
Release date: 2007
System: Arcade

Space Invaders vs. Pac-Man
Release date: 2005
System: Mobile phone

QuickSpot
Release date: 2006
System: Nintendo DS

Body and Brain Connection
Release date: 2011
System: Xbox 360

Pac-Man S
Release date: 2011
System: Social facebook game

Everybody’s Golf 6
Release date: 2011
System: PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3

Street Fighter X Tekken
Release date: 2012
System: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita

Pac-Man Smash
Release date: 2012
System: Arcade

Mario Kart Arcade GP DX
Release date: 2013
System: Arcade

Namco High
Release date: 2013
System: Web Browser

Mario Kart 8
Release date: 2014
System: Wii U

Super Smash Bros.
Release date(s): 2014
System: Nintendo 3DS and Wii U

Galaga: TEKKEN 20th Anniversary Edition
Release date: 2015
System: iPhone, iPod Touch and Android

That just about covers every official appearance from Pac-Man aside from a few pinball machines that also featured Pac-Man.

Well, it’s been a long journey (and a long read/write). From 1980-2015, Pac-Man was the original gaming mascot that is still relevant, known and referenced even today. This ends Pac-Man’s 35th Birthday celebration on LBoG&M…and this also just so happens to be my 50th post.
It’s been a great 35 years with great games as well as not so great games. Pac-Man has appeared in various gaming genres from the simple maze running of the original, to platforming, to adventure games…and even a trivia based game.

Thanks for the memories Pac-Man.

Birthday pac

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