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PSP Review - 'Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play'

by Joe Keiser on Jan. 26, 2006 @ 12:07 a.m. PST

Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play is a massive compilation featuring 21 retro Midway arcade titles featuring select games from both Midway Arcade Treasures and Midway Arcade Treasures 2.

Genre: Arcade/Retro Compilation
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Release Date: December 13, 2005


Even on the sequel-rich game shelves in today's stores, it's hard to find a quantity more known than a Midway's Arcade Treasures title. As soon as you see that name on the box, you know what's inside it: a fairly large collection of accurately rendered, weatherworn change-munchers with which to fritter away your time. Just check out the game list and, if enough of them bring to mind the heady years where you asked for your allowance in quarters, you pay the low asking price and come out nostalgically richer. It's pretty much a science at this point.

Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play, for better or for worse, messes a little bit with the formula. It's not that the games are different – the only entry here that hasn't graced a console version of these sets is the original Mortal Kombat, and that was in the special edition of Mortal Kombat: Deception. No, the only major difference here is that this time, the so-called "treasures" of Midway's classic library are playable on PSP. This fact brings with it all the obvious advantages, but some fairly major issues managed to creep in during the move.

It's the positive aspects of this transition that really stand out, however. Arcade games, with their simple rules and minutes-long play sessions, lend themselves perfectly to the pick-up and put-down nature of portable formats. It's because of this snug fit that Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play justifies its existence despite having no classic content it can call its own. Of course, the PSP brings with it other niceties like wireless multiplayer, which is implemented on most of the games in this set. These two features alone make this set particularly compelling.

But it doesn't all come up roses when you port to PSP, apparently even if what you're porting is over a decade old. While most of the games are pretty accurate from a gameplay standpoint, some of the details are flubbed; this is particularly egregious in the later Mortal Kombat games. In these games, which were clearly meant to be the showcase titles of the set, frames appear to drop, audio is imperfect, and load times abound. Slowdown didn't just occur in menus (where it arguably should not occur) but also occasionally in battle (where it absolutely cannot occur). It's extremely frustrating, and if having these games portable and perfect was the sole reason for you to buy this compilation, you should seriously reconsider your stance, because that's not what you're going to get here.

Mortal Kombat purists are right to deride this set, but for all its failings, this Midway Arcade Treasures still doesn't invalidate itself. The Mortal Kombat games are still playable - that's saying a lot, given that I think load time ruins games in general. The long load times that occur when you leave a game to return to the menu is aggravating as well; given the plainness of the menu system and the lack of options it provides, it doesn't feel like it's justifying the amount of time you have to wait, making it especially unwelcome. The loads to get into most games aren't bad though, and once you're actually in you get an experience that provides a reasonable facsimile of the game you played in arcades.

There are great games, like Rampart, Defender, and Joust. There are middling games that show their age too easily, like Xybots and Arch Rivals. The less we say about tired old nags like Championship Sprint and Toobin', the better, but I find it difficult to believe they were of appreciable merit even in their time; at least there's always time for Klax. There's not a great deal to say about these games, unfortunately. They've now appeared in several other recent retail packages, meaning it's difficult to single out any one game for being terrible again, and it's ever harder to point out any specific hidden gem (though, if you haven't played Rampart, you must; it's a brilliantly devious puzzle/action hybrid that has the slightest hint of resource management, all in a simple package). The best games you've played already, and the worst games – well, you'll never play the worst games, whether you pick up this package or not.

Most of these games sound all right and look decent. They're largely stretched to fill the PSP's screen – Mortal Kombat being the obvious exception, as that would have made all the muscle-bound actors look like fatties – and while some games benefit from this, some of the titles came off looking awful. Joust in particular suffered from this decision, as it not only made the game look bad, it bamboozled the game physics. Fortunately, Midway released a code that allowed players to change screen size to retain the original aspect ratios of the games – a nice gesture that fixes some major issues, but it would have been much better to make it an easily-accessible menu option. Even better than that, an option should have been implemented to flip the graphics to take advantage of the long aspect ratio of the system. This is the default for the execrable Toobin' and would have been a welcome mode in some of the other games, any one of which could be played with the analog stick and the five buttons on the PSP's left side. They mostly play fine with the PSP's controls in the modes in which they are presented, in any case.

Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play is not a collection meant for arcade purists. If you count yourself among their number, and even if you loved the console iterations of this franchise, this PSP iteration will infuriate you with its lack of polish and clumsy emulation. For those of us who aren't so worried about the details, however, Extended Play has a lot to offer. A couple of the presentation decisions, like the bare menu and the hiding of the graphics resizing option, are confusing no matter where you're coming from. For more of us however, this is a package that contains a large number of fun, classic games that play well enough to pass for whatever qualifies as "accurate" in our aging minds. To justify that value further, it lets us play them whenever we have a few spare minutes. For all of its imperfections, that's actually enough value to justify its inexpensive asking price and have it fill the retro niche in your PSP's library.

Score: 7.3/10

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