Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium - Game Review - Anime News Network

2022-07-30 07:50:31 By : Mr. Wilson zhou

CAPCOM was born in the arcades. Yes, they made a name with Mega Man,Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and other titles created for home consoles, but before any of that CAPCOM put themselves on the map with arcade games. So the CAPCOM Arcade Stadium series is a welcome roundup of those groundbreaking and popular creations.

The first Arcade Stadium was, anyway. It had all of the big names: Ghosts 'N Goblins, Commando, Strider, Final Fight, the 1940s shooters, lots of Street Fighter II variations, and even CAPCOM's first ever title, Vulgus. This second entry has to dig a little deeper into the catalog, and so it's a mix of underrated gems, intriguing experiments, and some excellent games that dedicated CAPCOM fans likely own already.

CAPCOM Arcade 2nd Stadium's collection runs across two decades, dangling its earliest title, Son Son, as a free download. It's a cute but fairly difficult multi-level action game based on Journey to the West, and it's a cut above similar arcade titles of its day. Similarly enduring is Savage Bees (aka Exed Exes), a decent early vertical shooter that takes the Xevious formula in entertaining new directions.

Other entries revive CAPCOM titles that were once reasonably popular. Gun.Smoke (also listed here as Gansmoku and in its original katakana) is a Wild West action game with a novel approach to directional firing. Hyper Dyne Side Arms is a similarly solid mecha shooter with unique controls. The remake 1943 Kai enhances the original (available on the first stadium), while the side-scroller Tiger Road puts an ancient martial-arts atmosphere onto a side-scroller.

Yet the most interesting games are the ones seen far less often. Consider Three Wonders, a trio of games bundled as one title back in 1991. Two of them are connected: Midnight Wanderers: Quest for the Chariot has Lou and Siva, two stubby adventurers who look like gun-toting Smurfs minus the blue pigment, running through side-scrolling levels and shooting everything in their path. The second game, Chariot, finds them taking to the skies in primitive planes.

Both Midnight Wanderers and Chariot are unique in CAPCOM's catalog. While their gameplay reflects shooter trends of the day, their aesthetic is a striking mix of fantasy tropes, baroque backgrouds, and elaborately ghoulish creatures as one might encounter on some medieval European woodcut. The controls could use some refining (Midnight Wanderers really needs a diagonal-firing option), but they're solidly enjoyable action titles with few equals in visual style.

The third and seemingly unrelated part of Three Wonders is a puzzle game called Don't Pull. Aside from having the best title for an arcade game this side of Tinkle Pit, Don't Pull is a block-pushing (get it?) extravaganza in the tradition of Pengo and CAPCOM's own Higemaru. This being a game from 1991, Don't Pull expands on its pilfered ideas with varied power-ups and enemies, plus aggressively cute antics from protagonists Don the Rabbit and Pull the Squirrel. It's clear that CAPCOM packed Don't Pull into Three Wonders because they didn't think a block-shoving puzzler would sell on its own, but it remains an endearing take on a classic mold of arcade game.

Another standout is Eco Fighters. This side-scrolling shooter went largely ignored in 1993, when Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat overshadowed anything that wasn't also a fighting game, yet it's a creative and visually impressive delight. Players control ships with rotating arms capable of 360-degree firing, and angling your shots correctly helps you survive an onslaught of mechanical creatures sent by a pollution-minded interplanetary tyrant.

Built on CAPCOM's CPS-2 hardware, Eco Fighters has a pleasantly detailed look in both the backgrounds and robotic enemies, and it's a treat whether you're playing solo or with a second player. The game's Captain Planet message of environmental stewardship may be undone by the rampant destruction your fighter unleashes, but such quibbles are best left to Awesome Possum.

Some titles are in the midst of comebacks. Black Tiger rose from obscurity not so long ago when it made a prominent appearance in the embarrassingly over-nostalgic Ready Player One, but you shouldn't hold that against the game. It's a study in merging a straightforward barbarian side-scroller with some entertaining complexities. The protagonist smashes through goblins and snakes and other creatures just as in many arcade games of a 1987 vintage, but the various power-ups and branching stages grow more elaborate than most of Black Tiger's contemporaries ever considered.

Magic Sword has the same heritage, though it prefers a more hectic fantasy battle up a tower some 50 stories high. There's a lot to do along the way: apart from slashing through relentless enemies, the player upgrades weapons, gathers items, and frees other warriors and magicians to serve as sidekicks. It's a little repetitive—perhaps even disappointing—when you find that you can't directly control the supporting characters, but Magic Sword is a fun ride.

Other games are more interesting for what they attempt rather than what they accomplish. Avenger is listed here with only its Japanese title, Hissatsu Buraiken, presumably to head off Marvel vs. CAPCOM court battles, and it brings a unique yet clumsy perspective to the world of brawling street punks. Meanwhile, Block Block delves into the paddleball puzzle genre founded by Breakout and Arkanoid, but its handful of new ideas can't elevate it that far above its predecessor.

The Speed Rumbler (aka Rush & Crash) has bolder ambitions, Inspired by Mad Max, it sends its hero on a post-apocalyptic rescue mission where he can drive his heavily armed V8 Interceptor or leap from it (often in spectacular fashion) to roam on foot. It's a surprisingly complex game for a 1986 arcade title, although the game's insistence on swarming you with foes makes it hard to appreciate some of the more intricate details. Even so, it's worth playing through—and then lamenting that CAPCOM never revisited the idea in a sequel or the canceled home conversion.

More intriguing experiments lie in Last Duel, the recent Ridley Scott movie about the final officially recorded duel fought in…wait, no, this is CAPCOM's 1988 attempt at blending overhead racers and overhead shooters. Levels alternate between somewhat awkward futuristic speedways and more gruesome alien strongholds, with the player's vehicle transforming from racecar to jet fighter. The pure shooter stages come off better than the races, but it's a good find for the collection.

Connoisseurs of previous CAPCOM arcade game compilations will recognize a lot of the games here, but a few are making their first home appearances. Rally 2011: LED STORM attempts sleek future racing like Last Duel, but here it's without any shooter breaks. Players steer and jump through complex tracks, only failing if they run out of time, and it's a little more forgiving than similar arcade racers. While the controls aren't entirely smooth, it's nice to have the game in a modern format where one can appreciate the extensive computer co-pilot voice without being drowned out by arcade noise.

Pnickies is another home-system debut: a puzzle title where falling gems and matching colors directly recall the wildly popular Puyo Puyo (it supposedly shares some of the same staff), and it seems a precursor to Super Puzzle Fighter in some ways. CAPCOM Sports Club is equally obscure with its collection of colorful tennis, basketball, and soccer games. Technically, it's been available outside of the arcade before, having appeared on the expensive and obscure CAPCOM Home Arcade System in 2019 (along with the rarely seen Alien vs. Predator). But no one really bought that monstrosity.

The Mega Man series isn't known for its arcade outings, but 2nd Stadium gathered up both Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. The games pare down the Mega Man side-scrollers to boss rushes against an assortment of level leaders from earlier titles, and the big sprites and bright backgrounds are a treat for fans of the series—even if they also make the screen a little too cramped. It's also dated that the second game has Mega Man 8's Duo as a playable character instead of Roll or another series mainstay.

Saturday Night Slam Masters presents an alternative to CAPCOM's many fighting games. It's a wrestling title, offering more freedom of movement and a cast of stereotyped spandex superstars that includes Final Fight's Mike Haggar. It's a good time, though anyone who enjoys it will be disappointed in the absence of its upgrade, Muscle Bomber Duo, or its sequel, Ring of Destruction. Was there some rights issue with Tetsuo Hara's character designs?

On that note, CAPCOM diehards will spot other unfortunate absences. Quiz & Dragons, a clever twist on board games and trivia questions, is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps some of its answers were out of date. Also missing is Dimahoo, a great medieval-fantasy vertical shooter from the esteemed developer Eighting. As usual, CAPCOM's licensed arcade games are no-shows, whether you're looking for those side-scrollers based on Little Nemo and Willow or the brawlers based on Alien vs. Predator and Cadillacs & Dinosaurs.

Instead, CAPCOM Arcade 2nd Stadium pads itself with some excellent games readily available elsewhere. CAPCOM's three main Darkstalkers fighters are fantastic concoctions of humorous, highly detailed animation and complex play mechanics, but they were already on the CAPCOM Fighting Collection released just last month. The same goes for the delightful Super Gem Fighter, the options-laded Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition, and the endlessly enjoyable Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.

The Street Fighter Alpha games fall along the same lines. They're all notable in some way: the first game's cartoonish animation dragged the Street Fighter name out of mid-1990s stagnation, the second polished up the concept and introduced fan-favorite Sakura, and the third added even more characters and diverse fighting styles. And the trilogy is already available on CAPCOM's recent Street Fighter Anniversary Collection along with another 2nd Stadium inclusion: the awkward but undeniably influential original Street Fighter.

Knights of the Round and The King of Dragons are also reused: they appeared on the CAPCOM Beat 'Em Up Bundle years ago. Neither is at the top of the brawler catalog, though they show off some ideas later borrowed by CAPCOM's superior Dungeons & Dragons titles.

Both the CAPCOM Fighting Collection and the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection have online play, but that's strangely missing from CAPCOM Arcade 2nd Stadium. Players can upload their high scores to worldwide leaderboards and other competitions, but they can't jump in with other players for quick games of Puzzle Fighter or Last Duel or any other title. It also must be reiterated that these are the arcade versions of the game, so don't look for any extra characters or features from their older home-console equivalents.

Even so, CAPCOM Arcade 2nd Stadium doesn't want for options. Players can adjust everything from screen orientation to scanlines to the curvature of the picture when it comes to displaying the games, and each title has rewinds and save features. Also impressive is the general presentation; like the first Arcade Stadium, the games appear as a gallery of sit-down cabinets. It captures the kid-in-a-candy-store feel of wandering an arcade and jumping from one machine to another, sampling everything from simple early 1980s shooters to weird little marvels you'd never see on home systems. Or you can emulate those unfortunate afternoons where you ran out of quarters and just watched the demonstration footage of each game over and over. Don't be ashamed; we've all done that.

It's easy to fall into a morass of simple nostalgia with CAPCOM Arcade 2nd Stadium, but the majority of it holds up well even without any fond memories. For every weak offering there's a solid classic like Darkstalkers 3 or entertaining obscurities like Three Wonders or Eco Fighters. The lack of online multiplayer will grate at some, while the exclusion of certain cult favorites will sting others even more acutely (I still long for Alien vs. Predator in a reasonable home version). Yet there are few other faults with the games here or the way the collection serves them up. It's a fun journey through arcade culture and a convincing argument as to why CAPCOM succeeded there.

+ An assortment of excellent arcade games and fun oddities − No online play, some notable absences