Publisher: Digital Eclipse
Release Date: February 17, 2006
The era of the retro-gaming compilation is under way as we speak. With technology advances slowly coming to an impasse, companies ranging from big-shots like Capcom and Sega (remember Sonic Mega Collection? That was a retro compilation) to smaller, more understated (but certainly no less famous) companies like Namco and Tecmo are pumping out collections CDs with their most famous and most influential games from the 1970s, '80s, and recently, early '90s. Judging by the recent popularity of arcade game emulation – everything from bootleg compilation machines to home PC emulation being as popular as sliced bread – folks really, really want to play older games from their childhoods.
Naturally, most of those compilations have come out for console systems. The market is at an all-time low for PC games that aren't first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, or massively multiplayer ordeals, whereas action titles, like the games most often included in these compilations, are the very backbone, the very life and soul of console systems, regardless of generation. In addition, many fans of said arcade games already have them emulated in a form which probably takes up a fraction of the space of an official game. Therefore, compilations on PC are seen as a financial mistake.
I have a point with this, yes, and that point isn't just to see how many times I can toss the word "compilation" into the review before my editor beats me up.
The point is, after Midway's original Arcade Treasures compilation came to the PC, flying under absolutely everyone's radar, the company decided on a new tactic: bundle up their Arcade Treasures 2 and 3 in one snazzy-looking case and sell it at bargain-bin price. The PC version of Midway Arcade Treasures Deluxe Edition was born.
Essentially, the review could end there, as that's entirely what Arcade Treasures Deluxe is: a compilation of compilations. If you already have Arcade Treasures 2 and Arcade Treasures 3, then this set is exactly what you already have in your game case. For those who had been already eyeballing the two collections but hadn't made a purchase yet, there are two questions here: Is it a collection of worthwhile games, and how did they take the transition to the home computer?
Answer to the first question brings about a resounding "maybe." Most of Midway's absolute best (not most famous) got shoved into the original Arcade Treasures, leaving Arcade Treasures 2 to wallow in sequels and obscure games, and leaving Arcade Treasures 3 as a mere showcase of racing titles. There are gems there, such as Gauntlet II, Total Carnage and Xenophobe, but by the same token, there are games that make you wonder who in Research and Development at Midway got fired for the decisions: Kozmik Krooz'r, Pit Fighter and APB. You can love or hate Timber as you please – a game about chopping down trees and dodging beehives? Oh rapture – but it's hardly a title that brings a tear to a grizzled, nostalgia-laden gamer's eye, unless, of course, it's a grizzled, nostalgia-laden gaming lumberjack ... who may or may not look like Mario.
In addition, the games Midway has chosen to truly sell the title – Mortal Kombats 1 through 3 and Hydro Thunder – are popular in arcades for reasons other than gameplay. Mortal Kombat has always been popular primarily for its over-the-top violence and often-imitated-never-duplicated goretastic Fatalities. Hydro Thunder's biggest claim to fame was more that it inspired Offroad Thunder (also in this collection) and Arctic Thunder. The true "Treasures" in Arcade Treasures Deluxe are the games heralded behind the scenes, games that retain their original luster after so many years. Super Off Road is a blast to play, even well into 2006, as are classics such as Total Carnage and Rampage (Even though the more contemporary World Tour edition that is included in the set is seen by many as a travesty of the original, introducing even looser controls and pointless T&A).
Now, how do the games survive the move to Windows? Some copy perfectly, others with significant flaws, and a choice few are left utterly unplayable, if they weren't to begin with. Racing games like Hard Drivin' and Race Drivin' suffer most, losing any and all of the already-horrid steering coherency they had in the arcades, becoming exercises in losing miserably. Aside from those two, controls are exactly as sharp and refined as they were in the arcades. Don't celebrate yet, as that's a double-edged sword; games like Hydro Thunder and Total Carnage may allow you to stop on a dime and react instantly, but playing any of the Mortal Kombat games is like moving through molasses in the dead of winter ... uphill ... both ways. Just like you remember!
Graphics are identical to their arcade counterparts, dated as that may be, and naturally how well the more graphically advanced games play is based on how good your system is. With a 1.67GHz Athlon XP, GeForce 4, and 512 megs of RAM, most of the games ran flawlessly, although there were a few instances of slowdown in the San Francisco Rush games. Unfortunately, sound seems to have suffered hideously. A patch has only recently become available to fix missing music in many of the Arcade Treasures 2 games, and games throughout both compilations have incredibly scratchy and crackly sound, which, due to occurrences in Gauntlet II and Badlands, cannot be attributed to having a rig too flimsy to support the technology.
How does Arcade Treasures Deluxe stand up? The games suffer a bit in the transition to PC, particularly in the sound and control departments. Caveat emptor, as well, for there's a copy protection program packed in the games that slows things down enough that I was afraid there was some spyware packed in the discs. No real snoop-programs in the game, but it's still an enormous black mark to have to wait a good 30 seconds when switching games or even starting up. Aside from that, you really can't get any better bargain. The console editions of Arcade Treasures 2 and 3 still cost as much as both titles on the PC, so if you're looking for the quickest retro-arcade fix you can get, Midway Arcade Treasures Deluxe is plenty of bang for your buck. There are enough flaws in the compilation, however, that a purchase can't be truly recommended.
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