Retro game collections are nothing new for Capcom. The company has re-released its arcade classics on nearly every major system, so seeing the Capcom Arcade Cabinet collection isn't a big surprise. What is new is how Capcom has chosen to sell the games within the collection. Whereas past collections have been sold as a whole, most of the games in the Capcom Arcade Cabinet can be purchased piecemeal. The only major exception is the first game pack, which must be purchased as a whole on Xbox Live Arcade.
At first glance, the 1.2 GB download size might seem a bit large for only three games, but that's because the initial download actually contains the Capcom Arcade Cabinet front end as well as all 17 games in the collection. Later games are simply unlocked upon purchase, while the two "bonus" games, 1943 Kai and Vulgus, are unlocked for free once all the other games have been purchased. Yes, it's "on-disc DLC" in a download-only game.
As far as the included games are concerned, the first pack includes 1943: The Battle of Midway, Avengers and Black Tiger. It's also the cheapest of the individual game packs, priced at only 400 MSP ($5 USD).
For shooter fans, 1943 is easily the strongest game of the initial set and a solid reason to purchase. While it isn't the first game in the 19xx series (that would be 1942, which is set to be released in a later game pack), 1943 is a great introduction to the franchise. As for the game's title, don't put too much thought into it. After all, the date isn't the only liberty the game takes with the Battle of Midway.
Set in the Pacific theater of World War II, 1943 has you manning a P-38 Lighting, the iconic twin engine fighter, in an all-out battle against the opposing Japanese air and sea forces. The game starts with the near-destruction of an Allied aircraft carrier. With your crippled carrier listing in the water, it's up to you to ensure the Allies emerge victorious.
One intriguing aspect of 1943 is the fact that the player has a fuel bar rather than a predetermined number of lives. You consume a small amount of fuel just from flying and a larger amount if you use a super attack. Taking damage also consumes fuel. If the tank runs dry, it's all over. This "life bar" style approach forces a certain level of strategy, as players are forced to choose between restoring energy and upgrading a weapon when a power-up appears on-screen.
Upgraded weapons can pack a mighty punch. The shotgun can even destroy incoming enemy bullets, making it ideal for close-quarters combat. In addition to weapons, 1943 also features a loop move that functions as a dodge.
If you don't feel like taking on the enemy armada alone, the game supports two-player simultaneous play. One neat trick here is the ability for players to transfer fuel between them. All they have to do is hover over each other, and fuel automatically transfers from the one with more to the one with less.
Avengers, the second game in the group, isn't nearly as impressive as 1943. A top-down brawler, Avengers is interesting from a historical perspective, as it is one of the early beat-'em-ups, but in terms of gameplay, it is rather shallow. You have three primary attacks (punch, kick and roundhouse) and a limited number of power-ups that can be found in the environment. The goal is to fight through each area of the city and rescue the hostage. Once you've rescued all six women and defeated Geshita, the city will be safe for all.
The final game in the package is Black Tiger. A side-scrolling dungeon crawler, Black Tiger may seem tame by today's standards, but upon release in 1987, it introduced a number of new elements to arcade games. The most notable of these was a shop system, which offered players consumable items as well as permanent upgrades. Customizing a character may be the norm in current games, but a quarter-century ago, the idea was pretty novel for an arcade game. It's also required if you want to have any hope of succeeding.
Unlike other games, Black Tiger starts you off as a powered-up hero. You've got a decent attack and solid armor. Much like other Capcom arcade games of the day, however, Black Tiger is also quite hard. The game throws enemies at you left and right, so if you don't upgrade your character, you're going to be eating dirt long before the end of the game. The trick is learning where the shops are located and knowing exactly how much money you'll need for a specific item before entering. Why? You can only go into a shop once. If you're short on cash, there are no second chances.
Once you learn the location of the shops and the attack patterns of the enemies, Black Tiger becomes a more manageable experience. Those first forays into the dungeon are bound to bring forth a bounty of curse words as enemies surprise you and traps spring at the last second. This is a pure arcade experience, designed to suck as many lives (and quarters) as possible from unsuspecting youngsters.
Given the foregoing, whoever decided to unlock Black Tiger as a trial game on the XBLA version of the Capcom Arcade Cabinet certainly has a devious personality. Unlike the other two games, which cut out after the first level while in trial mode, Black Tiger allows you to play through the entire game. The catch is that it does not allow for continues while in trial mode. Unless you purchase the first game pack, you only get one credit for Black Tiger. At game over, it's back to the start.
In terms of emulation quality, what's here is top-notch thanks to developer M2, who is best known among emulation fans for its accurate work on the SEGA Vintage Collection releases. When you sit down to play, the games look and feel just as they should.
Each game features a number of configurable video options, allowing you to adjust the aspect ratio, apply smoothing or emulate CRT scanlines. You also have the option to rotate the screen, which is ideal for vertical shooters like 1943. Simply rotate your monitor, and you can use all of your screen real estate.
On the gameplay side, each game offers both the original Japanese ROM image as well as the international ROM image, so you can choose which version to play. Individual game settings, such as difficulty and number of lives, are also available if you want to tweak the setup.
Perhaps the smartest move of all is the inclusion of a Casual mode. These are games that are known for being difficult, so you're not likely to draw in a non-gaming friend or significant other with the standard settings. Casual mode turns down the difficulty and increases the player's power level, making each game a breeze. The hardcore won't use it, but it means non-gamers can also get some enjoyment out of the collection.
Other gaming options include a score attack mode, where you compete under specific settings to earn a spot on the leaderboards, and a training mode, which gives you the ability to play specific levels to improve your performance. Both Avengers and 1943 also offer online co-op play via Xbox Live.
Playing through each game multiple times unlocks artwork in the gallery mode. This can be a new background for the overlay or various pieces of advertising and concept art. Replays can also be viewed, with additional options such as input display and frame-by-frame playback. Individual screenshots can be uploaded to Facebook, but there is no option to share video, which seems like a missed opportunity.
Finally, there is the sound player, which serves as a jukebox for each game. Think of it as including the entire game soundtrack, with each loop available as a separate track. There is a default playlist for each game that includes all of the tracks, but you also have the ability to create your own playlist. You can mix-and-match tracks between games (up to 100) when creating a custom playlist.
As collections go, the first Capcom Arcade Cabinet game pack isn't a bad deal. Avengers might be a bit of a dud, but both 1943 and Black Tiger offer plenty of entertainment for the price. If you have any interest in the other titles in the collection, you're better off waiting to buy. Capcom has announced an all-in-one purchase option for 2,000 MSP ($25 USD) will be available on May 21. That's a much better deal than purchasing each of the five packs individually.
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