Game Review: Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium

Last year, I reviewed the rather awesome Capcom Arcade Stadium. A collection crammed with coin-op classics from Capcom. It was easily one of the best arcade collections around, with plenty of options to tailor each of the 32 games to your personal tastes. Well, this year, Capcom are back with the sequel Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium. Time for me to delve back into some classic arcade titles as I cover each of the games for another very lengthy review.

I’m doing the same with the review as I did for the previous one, I’ve not looked at the game list and I’m going through them in chronological order. I’ll be playing each game and just offering a quick overview of them and then sum up the whole collection at the end. Well, here we go with another 32 classic Capcom arcade hits. Something I didn’t do with the previous review, I’m going to link to playthroughs of the games (if I can find any), so an advance thanks to anybody’s videos that I do link to.

“Capcom is taking you back to the stadium with another collection of your favorite classic hits!
Come see what’s changed, and what’s completely new, in Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium!

Just Like the Good Old Days
From 3D-rendered arcade cabinets to scanline filters, there’s everything you need to recreate that arcade atmosphere. Fully customizable display settings let you craft your own personal experience and truly relive the glory days of arcade gaming.”

The Games

SonSon (1984) is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up… with a little bit of platforming thrown in. Constantly scrolling from left to right, you shoot the numerous enemies, pick up items for points and stop off for the occasional boss fight… well fortress thing. Jump up and down between the platforms and do your best to stay alive. I remember playing this one years ago and it’s still good fun now. Simple, basic but very playable.

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Savage Bees (1985), a vertical-scrolling shooter that plays very similar to Capcom’s Vulgus. You know the kind of game, loads of enemies shooting loads of bullets at you and you doing your best to dodge and weave while taking everything out. The occasional power-up to give you more firepower, that doesn’t last long because this is a tough game. For an early shoot ’em up like this, it is pretty good.

Gun.Smoke (1985). For those in the know, this was (technically) the original Red Dead Redemption but I’m not getting into that history lesson here. A vertical shoot ’em up with a Wild West theme and multi-directional shooting. Definitely one of Capcom’s finest and still bloody great to play these days. Really hard, but still great.

The Speed Rumbler (1986) kind of reminds me of Mad Max. A top-down shoot ’em up involving a lot of vehicle-based action. Though you can jump out of your car (and would have to, if you took too much damage) and face the danger on foot. I could never get on with this back in the day and still can’t now. The controls always felt a bit too stiff and trying to line up your car to shoot the many enemies was always imprecise.

Hyper Dyne Side Arms (1986) was another Capcom shooter, they certainly liked their shoot ’em ups in the 80s. It was also a really good one. Weapons that could be selected on the fly, power-ups aplenty, lots of frantic shooting action, with the ability to shoot both forwards and backwards. I have a lot of love for Side Arms and it is still great fun to play now.

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Hissatsu Buraiken (1987) is one of the few Japanese-only games in this collection. No idea why though as my research tells me that it was released outside of Japan as Avenger(s). Anyway, this is a top-down, scrolling beat ’em up. Think of this as Capcom’s Commando… but with punching and kicking instead of bullets. Oh, and not as good either. I really could not get on with this one at all. The controls feel horrible, hit detection is way off, your character continually gets stuck on scenery and more. I never played this back then and playing here is my introduction to the game. So far, the worst game in the collection.

Black Tiger (1987) and now we are talking. This is one of my all-time favourite Capcom titles. When it didn’t make it into the first collection, I was really disappointed. So to have it here put a big ‘ol smile on my face. It’s kind of like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, only with a bigger emphasis on platforming, exploration and a good shop/upgrade system. Black Tiger is a tricky-dicky game indeed and will test your skills but it’s also massively rewarding and wonderfully playable.

Street Fighter (1987) yup, the original Street Fighter. I actually know someone who didn’t know that Street Fighter II was a sequel… despite the II in the title. The original is a nice addition to this collection for history’s sake, but it is bloody horrendous to play. Very sluggish, moves aren’t fluid and the whole game is just terrible and clunky. This is not an age thing either, it was terrible back in 87 too. The sequel was just a massive leap forwards in terms of quality that most people have blanked the original out of their minds. A horrible, horrible game but I am glad it is here though.

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Tiger Road (1987) is another title that puts me in mind of Ghosts ‘n Goblins… but now with an ancient China vibe. A scrolling platformer-shoot ’em up thing that is actually rather good. An interesting variety of enemies and stages, some really good weapons thrown into the mix and you have a pretty damn good game. Very playable, very tough, very Capcom.

1943 Kai: Midway Kaisen (1988) is another Japanese-only title and this one actually was too. Obviously part of the 194X franchise of vertical shooters. As far as I can tell, this is basically a remake/update of the original 1943 game that was released the year before this one. Improved graphics, sound and weapons but still very much 1943. A good shooter as pretty much all of the 194X games are.

Last Duel (1988) gives us more vertical scrolling shoot ’em up action, only with a vehicle twist. Controlling a car (though it looks more like a bike) you blast your way through waves of enemies, nab power-ups, all the usual guff. This one does mix things up a bit as your car/bike transforms into a ship at the end of the first level and the game becomes a more traditional scrolling shooter. It then flips between the two as you progress through the game. A decent little game.

Rally 2011 LED Storm (1989) from what I understand, was never commercially released. It was a prototype that was eventually reworked and released as LED Storm… which isn’t included in this collection. The main differences are that you had a car that could transform into a bike, the story and main characters were different too, as was the setting. This is a top-down racer that is pretty hard but still good fun. Why they didn’t include the released LED Storm along with this unreleased one, I have no idea. It would’ve been great to have had both of the games as a comparison.

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Magic Sword: Heroic Fantasy (1990) is a scrolling hack ‘n slash game with a bit of RPG thrown in for good measure. You only control one character, but can enlist the help of ‘assistants’ via AI-controlled allies found behind locked doors. Each of the allies have various attacks and they kind of work like power-ups in a shoot ’em up. For an arcade game, this is pretty lengthy and has around 50 levels (excluding secrets) and even multiple endings. A playthrough from start to end can take over an hour, which for an arcade game is pretty lengthy. Magic Sword is a great title, perhaps a bit repetitive at times but still great.

Three Wonders (1991) is a bit of a curio, because it is actually three games in one. First up, there is Midnight Wanderers: Quest for the Chariot. A scrolling platform-shooter with multi-directional shooting, some good boss fights and a lot of fun to play. Chariot: Adventure Through The Sky is the second title here. This one is more like a traditional horizontal scrolling-shoot ’em up. Waves of enemies, power-ups and so on. You play as the same characters from the previous game here and there is a story link too. And finally, there is Don’t Pull, and this one really is very, very different because it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the previous two games at all. This is a maze-puzzle game very similar to Capcom’s Pirate Ship Higemaru. It’s very odd that you have two games that are clearly linked by theme, tone and even story, and then one that is completely on its own in this trilogy of titles. Still, it’s actually a good little package overall.

The King Of Dragons (1991) is a wonderful hack ‘n slash style beat ’em up. Five characters to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. A basic experience system will see the characters level up through the 16 stages that the game has to offer. One of the best Capcom beat ’em ups and immense fun with its 3-player co-op mode. Glorious and well worth a playthrough.

Block Block (1991), basically Capcom’s updated version of the classic Arkanoid… which was an updated version of Breakout… which was an updated version of Pong. You know the type of game, you control a bat-thing at the bottom of the screen and hit a ball at coloured blocks at the top. Clear the screen of blocks and move on to the next level. Some of those blocks will drop power-ups and bonuses. Simple and basic stuff but still very playable and enjoyable.

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Knights Of The Round (1991) is another very typical Capcom beat ’em up and very similar to The King Of Dragons, only set around the legend of King Arthur. Smack enemies with your sword, pick up treasure for points, occasionally mount a horse and take on bosses. There is a  blocking mechanic with this one that becomes pretty vital as you progress. And all with a basic EXP/levelling system too. Capcom were pretty much the kings of the beat ’em up in the 90s and this is a fine example of how good they could be.

Saturday Night Slam Masters (1993) was Capcom’s take on pro-wrestling, which was getting more and more popular at the time. Not licenced, so no big names here and instead, Capcom used original wrestlers. There are even a few names from the Street Fighter and Final Fight franchises. Pretty much your standard one-on-one tournament fighter but with a wrestling spin. A good little brawler for quick blasts of punching action.

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Eco Fighters (1994) is a game that I had not heard of before playing this collection. As the title suggests, this one has a bit of an eco-friendly vibe. A horizontal scrolling shooter that very much put me in mind of Irem’s R-Type, which is a good thing because R-Type is awesome. You control a ship which has a shield/weapon thing on the front, which you can rotate around your ship for multi-directional firepower. Power-ups and all that, plenty of big bosses to take out too. All wrapped in a ‘save the planet’ narrative. A really good shooter and in typical Capcom fashion, bloody hard too.

Pnickies (1994) is another game that I had not heard of before. This is one of those Tetris-like puzzle games. Falling blocks, or colours in this case, match them up and connect two or more stars of the same colour to remove them. Bigger formations before you remove them earn more points. The more you play, the faster and more difficult the game gets. It’s okay, not my cup of tea at all but will please fans of the genre.

Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors (1994) is a fan-favourite that was sorely missing from the last collection. It’s great to see it included here. A classic one-on-one fighter with a horror look and aesthetic. You know what to expect here as two characters punch and kick the crap out of each other in a best of three rounds fight. Special moves and all that.

Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge (1995) is… wait for it… the sequel to Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors. A few new characters and a handful of gameplay mechanic updates. But still just more of the same. This one looks nicer and does play better than the previous game.

Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams (1995) is a sequel to the original Street Fighter, but a prequel to the mighty Street Fighter II. You know what to expect by now, right? It’s a Street Fighter game.

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Mega Man: The Power Battle (1995) and I didn’t even know that Capcom made any Mega Man games for the arcade. I was really looking forward to this, some top-notch action-platforming action. Classic Mega Man, but with an arcade twist, just imagine something like Black Tiger but with Mega Man. Then I loaded it up and it was (basically) Street Fighter with shooting. This is another one-on-one fighter and it plays like one long boss rush mode as a whole game. You might get a kick out of this if it is your kind of thing, I just found it massively underwhelming.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996) and now we have a sequel, to a sequel, that was a prequel. Yet even more Street Fighter and I’m running out of things to write. It’s a good Street Fighter game… but it is still just Street Fighter.

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (1996) is a Tetris-like puzzle game with characters from Capcom’s Street Fighter and Darkstalkers games. Match the coloured blocks and destroy them with a specific smash gem of the same colour to take out your opponent. Simple puzzle stuff and I actually quite liked this one. The little fighting animations in the middle of the board are pretty amusing.

Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters (1996) is (of course) the sequel to Mega Man: The Power Battle. More of the same with a one-on-one, boss rush/fighter thing. I still didn’t enjoy it very much. ‘Nuff said.

Vampire Saviour: The Lord Of The Vampire (1997) is yet another one-on-one fighter and is Darkstalkers 3. I have nothing more to say here, the latter part of this collection is basically the same game with a different skin, repeated multiple times. More punching and kicking, special moves and so on. It’s still Street Fighter with vampires.

Capcom Sports Club (1997) is fucking awful. Much like the previously covered Three Wonders, this is three games in one. Only now sport-based. Smash Stars is Capcom’s take on tennis and for an arcade tennis game, it’s not too bad. Kick Stars is football, or soccer for the Yanks. This is one of the worst arcade football games I have ever played. Very stiff controls and cumbersome gameplay. Super Sidekicks it most certainly is not. Dunk Stars is the same game, but now with basketball. Same stiff and cumbersome gameplay too. Of the three games, tennis is the only one that is slightly playable, the other two are just awful.

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Super Gem Fighter: Mini Mix (1997) is a Street Fighter and Darkstalkers crossover only massively simplified and ‘cutied’ up. Even though this is yet another one-on-one beat ’em up, it is different enough to stand out from all of the others so far. Fight, collect gems, power up moves, unleash over-the-top and often comical attacks. Good, silly fun and well worth a play.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998) and now we have a sequel to a sequel, that was a sequel and a prequel. Has anyone actually tried to map out the Street Fighter game’s timeline? I think you’d need some kind of PhD in metaphysics, or similar. Look, I ran out of things to say about Street Fighter and the one-on-one fighter genre several games back. This is a good fighter, I have nothing more.

Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition (2003) oh what a surprise, more Street Fighter and another one-on-one beat ’em up. Probably the most ‘complete’ version of Street Fighter II ever. All of the fighters, all of the various options and rule-sets from the many different versions of the game through the years. This is kind of like a ‘greatest hits’ take on the classic game and arguably, the best version of Street Fighter II around. Not a bad way to end this collection at all… if you haven’t had enough one-on-one beat ’em ups yet.


Overall

My comments here are going to pretty much mirror what I wrote about the first Capcom Arcade Stadium, the same praises and the same disappointments. In terms of the overall package, nothing has really changed. You get the same options for the games, the same controller support, the same many, many variables and so on. This is actually a good thing because, quite frankly, Capcom put an amazing package together with the first collection and as the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Each game can be tweaked in many ways until you find a setting that suits your playstyle. Change the game’s speed, the difficulty setting, full button customisation, loads of display options, a rewind feature and more. The Capcom Arcade Stadium POints (CASPOs) are back too. Play the games, take part in challenges, earn CASPOs and unlock various cosmetics for your arcade.

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Another thing I have to praise is how you buy the games. With Capcom Arcade Stadium, you initially had to buy the games in packs (though they added individual game purchases later) and if you already owned some of them from previous collections, tough. With Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium though, you can buy the games individually. However, I’m taking that praise back instantly because the games are priced at £3.29 each! When bought in the packs from the first one, they worked out at a little over £1.20 each. Yup, that is quite a massive jump in price per game. To buy all of the 31 games individually (you get SonSon free), that’s a price of £102. If you bought all of the packs from the first game and its 31 games, it only cost £32 as you got a discount for buying all three packs in one. From £32 to £102? So yeah, the option to buy the games individually is great… but fucking hell, Capcom are taking the piss with the individual prices here. But, if you buy Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium as a complete package with everything… it only costs £33. I really do not understand the pricing here. How can the exact same game cost either £102 or £33? Basically, if you are tempted by this, buy Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium as a whole package because going for individual games, you’ll need to take out a bank loan.

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Just before I do move on from the whole price thing, please let me do a little more maths for you. If you were to buy both Capcom Arcade Stadium and Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium as whole packages with all the available games right now, it would cost you £32 for the first one and £33 for the second. That is a grand total of £65 for both of these, fully loaded with all 64 games. But buying Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium alone and purchasing the games individually costs £102… how?

There is still no online play. A lot of these Capcom classics are multiplayer and co-op, but local only. I love a bit of couch co-op as much as the next man. But we are living in an Internet world now and I’d really like to play some The King Of Dragons with my two brothers, who both live nowhere near me… but I can’t. The last game didn’t have online play and it is disappointing that it’s not here either.

There’s a massive imbalance in terms of the games you do get. Just look at the last third of the collection and all of them are mostly one-on-one beat ’em ups. Three different versions of Street Fighter Alpha…but no Street Fighter III, which came out before most of the Alpha games? Including the original game, there are five Street Fighter games here. Six of you want to include Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Seven if you throw Super Gem Fighter: Mini Mix in there. I do love a bit of Street Fighter but come on… five games and three of them from the same sub-series? Capcom Arcade Stadium had an issue where there were way too many shoot ’em ups (mainly the 194X titles) and with Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium, it’s beat ’em ups that are taking over. You’d think that after 1994, Capcom only released beat ’em ups.

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Also sadly missing, no histories on any of the games. This was something I mentioned with the last collection too. Each of the games has an instruction manual to help teach you how to play. But there is nothing on the histories of any of the games, how they were made, who made them and so on. I love gaming history and would seriously love some background info on the games. Some of the concept designs and so on. Both of these Capcom Arcade Stadiums are wonderful arcade collections, but neither of them really celebrates the history of the games themselves. Hey Capcom, I write about gaming history (a lot). If you do a 3rd one, I’ll let you hire me to cover all of the games.

But still, just as with the previous game, this is a fantastic package and a big recommendation from me. The oversaturation of one-on-one beat ’em ups is a bit disappointing. The stupid pricing of the individual games is an utter piss-take as they are around three times what they cost in the first collection or even if you just buy the whole collection in one go. I would’ve loved to have seen some more obscure titles and even previously unreleased titles such as with Rally 2011 LED Storm. The lack of online play is another letdown too and I would’ve loved to have seen the option to import games from Capcom Arcade Stadium into this and have all 64 games in one place. Niggles aside, this is another winner of a collection for arcade fans.