Sailing the Blue Skies since 2001.
Retro compilations have become a quick way for publishers to get a ton of games out into the hands of retro hounds at a low price. These collections offer up a ton of excellent history on how the gaming industry's earlier days. However, which collections are the best for your dollar? That is what this feature is set to answer. This will focus on collections I have played, and the GC/PS2/Xbox/GBA eras to now.
Note - A * next to the system is the one I have. Also, Nester has begun chipping in some second opinions. I've put our names into the comps we are both covering.
Capcom Classics Collection V.1 (PS2*, Xbox)
Current Cost - $19.99 or less
Game Count - 22
Listing - 1942, 1943, 1943 Kai, Bionic Commando, Commando, Exed Eyes, Final Fight, Forgotten Worlds, Ghosts N Goblins, Ghouls N Ghosts, Gun.smoke, Legendary Wings, Mercs, Pirate Ship Higemaru, Section Z, Son Son, Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Ghouls N Ghosts (SNES), Trojan, Vulgus
Bonus Material - Art, music, character bios, remixed music for some games, tips, history
Capcom's first collection offers up a lot of great classics from their early arcade days...but rarely delves deeper into less explored territory (Volume 2 remedies that issue). Three Street Fighters (all available on SF: Anniversary, somewhat), three Ghosts N Goblins, three from the 194X series, three (technically) from the Commando series, and 10 other titles to round it up does feel a bit...undiversifed. However, that's not to say that this disc isn't worth playing. Highlights include:
Pirate Ship Higemaru - Capcom's third game is a charming take on the maze game concept, starring some rather adorable pirates. As a sailor, you must K.O. the other pirates using barrels, which isn't quite as easy as it sounds. I think Zack & Wiki took some inspiration from this...
Forgotten Worlds - This intense shooter took the lessons learned from Capcom's earlier attempts (Sector Z and Side Arms) and pushes them to the limit. Great gameplay mixed in with loads of challenge make for a thrilling shooter.
Ghouls N Ghosts - Out of the three GnG titles on the disc, this is probably the most balanced. Trust me, it's still one of the most difficult games ever made, but it feels a bit more fair than the other two.
Adding to the solidness of the collection is the low amount of games that haven't aged so well. Only Vulgus, Capcom's first game and a very simplistic shooter, and Trojan, which is crippled with a chunky control scheme that reacts too slowly to your commands, aren't all that fun. Otherwise, though, it's a great comp that is well worth the money.
Capcom Classics Collection V.2 (PS2*, Xbox)
Current Cost - $19.99 or less
Game Count - 20 (23 counting Three Wonders' three games and the Quiz & Dragons Capcom remix)
Listing - 1941, Avengers, Black Tiger, Block Block, Captain Commando, Eco Fighters, King of Dragons, Knights of the Round, Last Duel, Magic Sword, Mega Twins, Quiz & Dragons, Side Arms, Street Fighter, Strider, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Speed Rumbler, Three Wonders, Tiger Road, Varth
Bonus Material - Art, music, tips, history, Quiz & Dragons Capcom remix, Super SFII Turbo Tutorial videos, ability to save progress, cheats
The second volume features a wide array of arcade titles, focusing primarily on beat-em-ups, shooters and a few platformers. There's more clunkers on this disc than the first, but the good games more than make up for them. The highlights are:
Strider - This classic platformer is tough as nails, yet is a cool take on the genre. Hiryu is a little sluggish to control, but the game rarely pushes that aspect to be a thorn. Plenty of inventive platforming and combat to be had here, plus some comical spoken dialogue.
Three Wonders - These three games are among the freshest on the disc, and drip with visual delight. They all control well, and each offers up their own unique take on an established genre (the first being a run-n-gun platformer, the second a horizontal shooter, the third a tricky puzzler).
Eco Fighters - This horizontal shooter has a rotating arm mechanic to make it stand out, and it also looks great. You can start seeing Capcom really showing off their 2D sprite knowledge here.
Alas, while the gems on this collection are exceptional, there's a few sour titles as well. The original Quiz & Dragons is quite tedious and dated (the Capcom remix is better), Avengers showcases why topdown beat-em-ups didn't succeed all that well, and the original Street Fighter is a pain to try to accomplish much of anything. With some practice it can be done, but its later-off sequel is a much more playable, enjoyable choice. The bonus features have been paired down some, with very little remixed music to unlock (only Strider offers up remixes from what I remember), and the character bios from CCC are MIA. Cheats do replace them, and being able to plow through some of the more challenging games with invincibility is a nice option. I don't regret the money spent on this. It's well worth $20, and it's likely less now.
Capcom Classics Mini-Mix (GBA)
Cost - $9.99 or less
Game Count - 3
Listing - Strider (NES), Bionic Commando (NES), Mighty Final Fight
Bonus Material - None.
Capcom Classics Mini-Mix is a solid compilation of Capcom NES hits, as long as you don't expect any bonus frills. The port work, from what I can tell, is very good, with no major differences or alterations (outside of adjusting the screen ratio for the GBA screen, that is). However, Capcom put in no extra effort into these games. Don't expect the Save functions of some of Nintendo's NES Classic series here. Here's a breakdown of the three games:
Bionic Commando - The NES update of Capcom's arcade title is a blast. The hero, Ladd Spenser (arguably the raddest 80's name ever!...), cannot jump. However, that doesn't stop him from getting around the dastardly BADD's HQ. Thanks to his nifty bionic arm, Ladd can swing, climb and even stun foes with ease. The gameplay in BC is among the NES's finest. The music as well is great stuff, perfect for the atmosphere.
Strider - It is NOT a port of the arcade classic, but instead a completely new game - a retelling of the manga the whole Strider saga comes from. For a NES game, the game has a solid enough plot (despite, you guessed it, more typos!). It's not modern RPG worthy or anything, but it does motivate a little. The music is also fairly catchy here. Strider borrows a little from RPG's through acquiring powers as you hack through enemies...which is nice, but it's still pretty limited in its functions. It also takes a little bit of arguing with the controls to get them to work the way you want to. Strider is not as smoothly programmed as BC by any means. That being said, the game has some good mechanics - the fact that the game recognizes you're running downhill and picks up the speed is quite novel. It's still a good title, though, despite its glitches.
Mighty Final Fight - This is the weakest game on the cartridge overall. It's nice that it's there, but it's not up to the same quality of the original Final Fight (or the other two games on the cartridge, for that matter). For one, MFF only allows one player to tackle Mad Gear, and beat-em-ups tend to be more fun with more players. That said, Haggar, Guy and Cody are all playable here (which does top the SNES port), the game offers up some nice RPG-like move upgrades as you punch enemies in the face, the graphics are all right, and it's kind of lengthy. Problem is, the gameplay is pounding the B button ad naseum. With no 2-player option and, from what I got through, nothing other than constant enemy entanglements and some barrel dodging, it gets old fast.
All and all, it's great Capcom took a chance and released this package. Despite the lack of bonuses or saving, considering the Virtual Console's pricing for NES games to be around $5 each, this works out great, plus it's portable, too. I recommend it!
Note - This may be the only way to get the NES Bionic Commando on a modern Nintendo system, since Ninty's denying the Virtual Console of its goodness. *sigh*
Mega Man Anniversary Collection (GC*, PS2, Xbox)
Cost - $19.99 or less
Game Count - 10
Listing - Mega Man 1 - 8, Mega Man Power Battle 1 - 2
Bonus Material - Art, remixed music, G4 Heroes segment on Mega Man, ability to save progress, Navi hint system
Wildcat - This is such a boon for MM fans. Shame they had to reserve the buttons for shooting and jumping. Only the GC port suffers this fate. Along with that, the GC rev is missing a lot of the remixed tunes the PS2 and Xbox versions feature. So I would say no to the GC port...but I'll update this when I get my hands on the PS2 one. But as for recommendations:
Mega Man 3 - I love MM3. For me, it's the sweet spot of the series. It feels more balanced than the other MM games with its difficulty (the first two are harder, while the rest of the NES titles became easier), level design and the addition of Rush. I also love the music.
Mega Man 2 - But you can't go wrong with MM2 either. Many consider this the pinnacle of the MM series, and with its tight gameplay and excellent tunes, they've got a good argument.
Some knock the later MM games, and I guess I've got a soft spot for them, because I don't mind MM5 or 6. MM4 is probably my least favorite, but it's still fairly fun to play through. Still a good comp, and I really do wish Capcom and Atomic Planet didn't muck up the button scheme. *shrugs*
Nester - I highly enjoyed this collection, and I have to say that I, personally, didn't have a problem with the reversed buttons. It does go against the standard, but if you're one of those people who can "reprogram" themselves to press one button instead of another, then don't be afraid of the Gamecube version.
I think every single game in this collection is enjoyable. As Wildcat mentioned, Mega Man 2 and 3 are the classics. Mega Man 7 and 8 for the SNES and Playstation, respectively, are also quite excellent, and the two arcade games are surprisingly fun diversions. Mega Man 4, 5 and 6 may tend to blend together, but even then, they're still entertaining. Only the original game feels a bit on the archaic side, but I don't think it's bad by any means.
Unless you just hate Mega Man, you really can't go wrong with this package.
Mega Man X Collection (PS2*, GC)
Cost - $19.99 or less
Game Count - 7
Listing - Mega Man X 1 - 6, Mega Man Battle & Chase
Bonus Material - Hints, images, music.
Wildcat - Eh, I just can't get into these. For some reason or another, these just don't feel like Mega Man to me, and I don't really know why. I suppose I'll just stick with the NES originals.
Nester - Overall, I have to admit that the X Collection isn't as solid or appealing as the original, but I still think it's worthwhile.
The real treasures here are X 1 - 4. The first three are in the tradition of Capcom's many other excellent action-platform games for the SNES. X4 adds 32-bit graphics and sound to the equation. X5 is sloppy, but I think it can be fairly enjoyable if you give it a little time and patience. X6, on the other hand, is just too poorly designed to be fun, in my opinion. The one unlockable game, Battle & Chase, is interesting, but it didn't really hold my attention.
A lot of classic compilations are hit and miss, so I can't really knock this one for it. For me, there's still plenty of fun to be had here.
Taito Legends (PS2*, Xbox)
Cost - $14.99 or less
Game Count - 29
Listing - Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part II, Bubble Bobble, Jungle Hunt, Elevator Action, New Zealand Story, Plotting, Rastan, Operation Wolf, Operation Thunderbolt, Rainbow Islands, Phoenix, Colony 7, Electric YoYo, Zoo Keeper, Great Swordsman, Gladiator, Exzisus, Plump Pop, Super Qix, Battle Shark, Continental Circus, Volfied, Ninja Kids, Space Gun, Thunderfox, Tube It, Return of the Invaders, Tokio
Bonus Material - Descriptions, Creator Clips for certain games, hints, history of Taito
Taito has released many games in the arcade, and this, one of the largest retro comps available, brings several of their earliest hits to the PS2 and Xbox. Some of the legends on the disc are:
Elevator Action - This simple action game requires careful strategy to succeed - your character is a special agent seeking out secret plans, and you must utilize the building's elevators to weave you way through the building. Enemy agents are out to stop you, but you can blast them, squash them with the elevator, or pummel them with the overhead lights! A clever concept.
Bubble Bobble - One word describes Bubble Bobble - adorable. This game offers up some puzzling challenges and some tense platforming, and still is fairly engaging to play today. A 2 player mode is also a plus.
Space Invaders - This game is a legend in terms of sales, and is considered one of the most successful games of all time. It still retains some of that addictive gameplay today, although it has been outclassed by future shooters like Galaga. That said, it's still worth a play to see the shooter genre's roots.
While there's plenty of history to be found here, there's also a lot of games that have not aged well. Rastan, Jungle Hunt, Great Swordsman, Space Gun and Continental Circus are all rather stiff to try to play today. But still, it is a nice mix of arcade classics, and it is cheap.
Taito Legends 2 (PS2)
Cost - $9.99 or less
Game Count - 39!
Listing - Alpine Ski, Arabian Magic, Bonze Adventure, Cameltry, Chack'n Pop, Cleopatra Fortune, Crazy Balloon, Darius Gaiden, Don Doko Don, Dungeon Magic, Elevator Action II/Returns, The Fairyland Story, Hat Trick Hero, Front Line, Gekirindan, Grid Seeker: Project Storm Hammer, Growl, Gun Frontier, Insector X, KiKi KaiKai, Kuri Kinton, Legend of Kage, Liquid Kids, Lunar Rescue, Metal Black, Nastar, Puchi Carat, Bust A Move Again, Qix, Raimais, Space Invaders 95, Space Invaders DX, Super Space Invaders 91, Violence Fight, Wild Western, Balloon Bomber, G-Darius, RayStorm, Syvalion
Bonus Material - Favorite List, tips
The second Taito Legends is the largest retro comp available. 39 games ranging from 1979 to the mid 90's await you here, and the mix is much better this go-around than the last. There's still some games that haven't aged well, but the great game ratio is also must higher. For example:
Elevator Action Returns - A brilliantly executed sequel to the original, with excellent spritework, engaging level design and responsive controls. This alone would be worth the price of admission, easily. It's become one of my favorites (just missed the cut on my shortened list).
Cameltry - Outside of the "lending-itself-to-perverted-jokes" name, Cameltry is a great game concept. It also can cause a bizarre sense of vertigo, since you rotate the screen, not the ball, to solve the game's puzzles. After the initial weirdness wears off though, the gameplay really shines. Very unique, and a bit tough, but fun nevertheless.
Qix - Another interesting idea, this game requires you to fill in a box with smaller boxes while avoiding the evil QIX and its spark minions. It sounds simple, but it's actually quite thrilling to squeeze out a box when QIX is moments away from killing you. Scary that a game made in 1980 is more frightening than some games today that try to be.
If you're a shooter fan, then you'll be happy here. A few decent beat-em-ups are also included, so fans of those will be pleased, too. And puzzle gamers will find a few titles that will hit their sweet spot. As I said, this comp has a great selection of titles. As for the duds, the Legend of Kage has not aged well...I'd even say it wasn't all that good when it came out. Violence Fight is a rip off of Pit Fighter with anime-styled sprites, and controls about as well (translation: poorly). Dungeon Magic's isometric perspective makes progression a little more annoying than it should be. And Syvalion is awfully hard to control. But for $14.99 or less, 39 games is a great bargain.
Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits (DS)
Cost - $14.99 or less
Game Count - 15
Listing - Contra, Gradius, Roc'N'Rope, Basketball, Time Pilot, Rainbow Bell, Horror Maze, Scramble, Circus Charlie, Rush N Attack, Pooyan, Track & Field, Road Fighter, Yie Ar King Fu, Shao-Lin's Road
Bonus Material - Sound Tests, Dip Switch control, Library, Wireless Multiplayer, Replay Saves
Wildcat - For a portable comp, this is loaded with games, features and other cool stuff. Konami has let gamers use the touch screen to manipulate dip switches, which is a pretty neat idea (one the developers, M2, would carry over to Namco's DS Museum later). The game count is nice, with a few notable Konami game series (Gradius, Contra and Track & Field), as well as several other games that are not as well known (I dig the tense Horror Maze, whose limited control makes it all the more engaging, and Time Pilot's a fun shooter that was one of the first to let you roam freely on a screen). The variety is nice, but I felt that Basketball was an unnecessary addition (no Double Dribble?), Rush N Attack has too small an attack range (some people may enjoy it, but I don't like one hit death situations where you have to be right on top of an enemy to kill them most the time), and Circus Charlie too broad in scope and not tight enough in execution. But maybe I just suck at it. :p But for the DS, this is the best you can get.
Nester - Classic game compilations usually rely on nostalgia for success. At first glance, many of the games in Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits may not be too recognizable, thus eliminating the appeal of the package. However, I think it's actually a fairly strong collection for a couple of reasons.
First, the presentation is very impressive. The emulation of the games included is flawless as far as I can tell, especially compared to other arcade compilations that get sloppy in this regard. The number of options available for each game is detailed and versatile, from control and screen configurations, to direct dip switch management. It makes me wonder why more compilations don't provide this level of customization. On top of that, there's also single-card multiplayer, the ability to capture replay videos, a jukebox, and various other frilly but fun extras. As far as I'm concerned, the presentation is top notch.
Second, I think the game selection is really better than it first appears. Even without the charm of nostalgia, if you're just a fan of the simplicity of classic arcade games, then I think there are several games in the package that are worthwhile if you take the time to get into them. Personally, I do have fond memories of some of the more obscure titles here, like Time Pilot and Roc'n Rope, but I had a lot of fun discovering games I was less familiar with, like Circus Charlie and Rainbow Bell. Overall, I'm very impressed with Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits, and I hope we get to see another package of this type. It would be great to see Frogger, Gyruss, Salamander, and many other classic Konami games get this treatment. In the mean time, if you're a retro arcade fan, I can easily recommend this compilation.
SNK Arcade Classics V. 1 (PS2*W, Wii*N)
Cost - $19.99 (PS2), $29.99 (Wii)
Game Count - 16
Listing - Art of Fighting, Baseball Stars 2, Burning Fight, Fatal Fury, King of the Monsters, Last Resort, Magician Lord, Metal Slug, Neo Turf Masters, Samurai Shodown, Sengoku, Shock Troopers, The Next Glory: Super Sidekicks 3, King of Fighters 94, Top Hunter, World Heroes
Bonus Material - World Heroes, Move lists, art, music, videos, saving at checkpoints
Wildcat - SNK's first NeoGeo comp brings many of its familiar hits, some obscure titles and a solid amount of bonus content to unlock. 16 games is decent I suppose, although it is skimpy compared to most of the other efforts above and below. This title also negates downloading most of the Wii's NeoGeo library. :p The highlights include:
Baseball Stars 2 - Probably the best retro baseball game I've played, it's got a ton of personality, fairly tight controls and huge, well-animated sprites. The AI is cheap, but with a second player, I'd imagine this would be a blast.
Magician Lord - Fans of the Ghosts N Goblins series will probably dig this title, which has many of the same traits as Capcom's punishing franchise. The ability to transform into other creatures is well executed here, and the game isn't quite as cruel as GnG is.
Samurai Shodown - The best fighter on the package, SS's legacy began quite well. A little loose compared to Capcom's fighters, but still manageable and fun to play. It has solid character designs, too, a plus with fighters.
World Heroes is probably the biggest flop on the disc. It controls horribly, has poor animation and just isn't all that fun. Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting are decent fighters, but their (very) limited character count hurts them. To me, KoF 94 has been quite overshadowed by later games in the series, but it's still an okay fighter. But all and all, a solid enough package. Not as rich with quality as others on this list, but still worth picking up.
Nester - SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 on the Wii is a robust and somewhat ironic package. It's well done for what it is, but you may not find yourself spending the most time with the games you think you will.
The emulations of the 16 included games are solid with virtually no technical problems (I've heard otherwise about the PS2 version). [Wildcat's Note - I've noticed no major issues, myself] It offers your choice of four controller methods: Remote, Remote+Nunchuck, Classic Controller, and Gamecube controller. All four methods are fully configurable (and in case you're wondering, you can use the d-pad on the Gamecube controller), and there's no motion control used anywhere.
The selection of games is where the irony comes in. While it contains the first installments of many of SNK's well-known series, like Art of Fighting and King of Fighters ’94, not all of them have aged so gracefully. Instead, it's some of the more obscure one-offs that shine through as the true gems. Top Hunter is a quirky and charming platform game. Shock Troopers is a highly underrated run-n-gun (which I used to play in the arcade, myself). Even the R-Type derivative Last Resort is surprisingly high quality. I also have to admit that I really enjoyed Neo Turf Masters despite that I have no interest in golf.
Not that all of the “classics” are terrible, however. For me, many of them can still be enjoyed on some level, and frankly, Metal Slug holds up just fine. But this may be a case where you come for Fatal Fury, and end up staying for Shock Troopers. In any event, I think it's easy to overlook the bad games, like Burning Fight.
The package is rounded off with a medal system that rewards you with unlockables for completing various goals within each game. The rewards consist of move lists, art, soundtracks, and gameplay videos. You also have to unlock World Heroes at first, but it's fairly easy to do.
In the end, I certainly enjoy this compilation enough to give it a solid recommendation, and I hope that SNK Playmore follows through with its plans to make a volume two.
Sega Genesis Collection (PS2)
Cost - $19.99 or less
Game Count - 33!
Listing - Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Altered Beast (Arcade and Genesis versions), Bonanza Bros., Columns, Comix Zone, Decap Attack, Ecco the Dolphin, Ecco: The Tides of Time, Ecco Jr., Flicky, Gain Ground, Golden Axe, Golden Axe II, Golden Axe III, Kid Chameleon, Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III, Phantasy Star IV, Ristar, Shadow Dancer: Secret of Shinobi, Shinobi III, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Super Thunder Blade, Sword of Vermilion, Vectorman, Vectorman 2, Virtua Fighter II, Future Spy, Tac/Scan, Zaxxon, Zektor
Bonus Material - Unlockable games, interviews with Sega staff, Museum with history, art and tips, In-Game Saving, Cheat Sheet, Trailers for other Sega games
Sega's Genesis comp is huge. Loaded with popular and obscure games from Sega's side in the 16-bit war, you get a fairly diverse range of titles, ranging from platformers, RPG's, puzzlers, beat-em-ups and action games. Some huge exceptions are missing from this lineup (where's the Streets of Rage series? Treasure's excellent games? Fan-favorite Herzog Zwei?), and some titles are quite debatable for their inclusion (the Genesis port of Virtua Fighter 2?), but on the whole this is a good mix of games. Highlights:
Shinobi III - An excellent action game with excellent music, sprite work and controls. Add in some great level design and you've got yourself a wonderful experience full of challenge.
Comix Zone - A rather innovative beat em up from Sega's US branch, this game puts you into the world of a comic book. It takes you from panel to panel, and even has some nifty ideas for interacting with the environment. Tough, but well worth the time to play.
Ristar - Made by Sonic Team, this glowing example of a platformer is colorful, tight and throws Bionic Commando-esque gameplay into the mix, making it a very fun title to play through.
I haven't played the Phantasy Star titles yet, so I'll refrain from commenting about them for now.
The downers in this collection are a bit higher than some of the other comps I've discussed. Virtua Fighter 2 is an awful port of the 3D classic, stripping out practically everything the series prides itself on. Super Thunder Blade is a clunky mess. Ecco Jr. is a edutainment exercise in boredom. Altered Beast is terribly bad in just about all aspects. I didn't see the appeal of Alex Kidd - the randomness of rock paper scissors for boss fights and transactions makes no sense to me. Maybe the Master System titles are better? And Golden Axe III just is not fun. I didn't care for any of the Golden Axe games on here, but III is the worst. And of course, the inclusion of Sonic and Sonic 2 when the Sonic Mega Collection is available is a bit redundant (I sold my Sonic Mega Collection since my two favorite Sonics are on here). Sega did put together a nice package here, but it feels like some of these titles might have been better left behind for others to appear in their place.
Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (GC*, PS2, Xbox)
Cost - $19.99 or less
Game Count - 16
Listing - Bosconian, Dig Dug, Dragon Spirit, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man, Pole Position, Pole Position II, Rally-X, Rolling Thunder, Sky Kid, Xevious, Pac Mania (unlockable), Galaga '89 (unlockable)
Bonus Material - 2 unlockable games...um...80's songs for the menu?
I have to admit, Namco really dropped the ball with their collection (considering that it's their 50th Anniversary celebration disc!). A skimpy number of titles, many of which are constantly rehashed in their collections, and no bonus material to speak of outside of unlocking two more games is very pathetic. Most of the standouts are, unfortunately, the titles they usually recycle:
Ms. Pac-Man - The maze game's champion, Ms. Pac-Man continues to be an excellent arcade game to play through, with plenty of challenge and incentive to get the perfect score.
Dig Dug - I've always enjoyed Dig Dug. Not quite sure why, but it is fun to play, and offers enough challenge to keep you engaged.
Rolling Thunder - One of the better scrolling arcade shooters I've played, there's plenty of run-n-gun gameplay that controls fairly well to enjoy here.
On the merit of the games alone, Namco's collection is fairly decent. I didn't like Dragon Spirit's large hit box, which made playing the game a bigger chore than it ought to be, Pac Mania is really hard to control thanks to the isometric perspective, and I don't care for Pole Position or its sequel all that much. Shooter fans will be pleased with the high amount of shooters on the disc, but on the whole, out of all of the collections I have, this is the most disappointing. If you like Namco's arcade games (like I do), you may shrug off the lack of extra content, but it's definitely the least impressive comp I own, and if a better one comes along, I will sell this in a heartbeat.
Midway Arcade Treasures V.1 (PS2*, GC, Xbox)
Cost - $19.99 or less
Game Count - 24
Listing - 720, Blaster, Bubbles, Defender, Defender II, Gauntlet, Joust, Joust II, Klax, Marble Madness, Paperboy, Rampage, Rampart, Roadblasters, Robotron: 2084, Root Beer Tapper, Satan's Hollow, Sinistar, Smash TV, Splat!, SpyHunter, Super Sprint, Toobin', Vindicators
Bonus Material - History, interviews, galleries and/or trivia per game
Midway's first collection is excellent, rich with many legends of the 80's. Many of the games on here set precedents for others to follow, and many of them are still fun to play today. The extras are a little lopsided, with the big games like Defender, Robotron or Gauntlet getting the majority of the attention, but it's still better than Namco's effort by a long shot. The menu design is a little bizarre (what does a pyramid have to do with any of these games?), but I do like the hieroglyphics approach for the menu, using recognizable sprites as the symbols. Anyway, this collection is loaded with great games, including:
Robotron: 2084 - The definition of a twitch shooter, Engene Jarvis' insane overhead shooter is one of the most stressful games I've played. Throwing you into a plethora of robotic menaces and mines, you must blast your way through all of the foes and attempt to rescue the last family on earth in the process. Very intense, and a lot of fun, especially since there's two analog sticks to play it the way it's supposed to be played on the PS2 pad.
Joust II - I have to admit, Joust is a game that I really did not understand when I was a kid. Nowadays, though, I do finally get it, and it's a joy to plow into enemies just right. The sequel is even better, with more diverse environments to battle on.
Smash TV - This game is downright goofy, but it's a perfect arcade shooter. Not as extreme as Robotron (but still challenging enough!), this over-the-top title is well worth a playthrough.
The dud content is quite low, too. Root Beer Tapper is pretty boring, and it's the kid alternative to the usual licensed beer version (so clearly, you need to be drunk to like it :p ). 720's isometric perspective (and lack of a trackball) makes it a bit tricky to accomplish much. And Klax is just...downright weird. But on the whole, Midway's first foray into unearthing their retro catalog is a success.