Capcom Arcade Cabinet – 1984 Pack
By Joseph K. Saulnier
The eighties are back, and now you can experience them all over again on the PlayStation 3. The Capcom Arcade Cabinet is a free downloadable platform that, by some mysterious force (that doesn’t involve midichlorians), is able to house 15 classic 8-bit titles that debuted from 1984-1988. Each of the games are available either individually, in a series of packs, or in an all-in-one bundle. If you purchase all 15 titles, in whatever fashion you like, and two bonus games will be yours.
Perhaps the best part of these games making a comeback is the fact that you’re not simply playing a port of the original. The Capcom Arcade Cabinet makes a plethora of enticing features available for games that could have otherwise had some interesting gamer-rage moments. The platform includes two player online co-op, leaderboards, a music player, the option to select international versions of games, and the ability to capture and share a replay on YouTube, and you’ve got quite the value that isn’t readily seen in classic collections released today.
Up for review today is the 1984 Pack, which includes 1942, Pirate Ship Higemaru and SonSon, all of which, as you may have guessed, were released in the year 1984.
1942 is easily the most recognized title in the pack, if only for the name alone. In the game, you control a plane in a World War II on a mission to destroy the Japanese fleet. This top-down scrolling shooter stretches over 32 continuous levels in which you must shoot down enemy planes, avoid their bullets/missiles, and survive until you reach the next level. The gameplay holds up pretty well, especially for such a classic title, and is forgiving as you continue from nearly where you left off when you are destroyed. And if you are anything like me and you use up all your lives and get to that point where you would need to plunk another coin in the machine, you are allowed to virtually insert another coin to continue. Though, the drawback to this is your score is reset and you lose any power-ups you may have collected along the way. The controls are a little sluggish when moving around and evading is crucial, but it doesn’t take anything away from the fun. The game does have online leaderboards, but sadly does not include online co-op functionality.
Pirate Ship Higemaru is an action puzzle game where you control a sailor who utilizes surrounding objects to take out pirates moving around the level. You throw things like barrels and oversized coins at enemies in order to take them out, and the level is completed once all the bad guys have been hit. Bonuses are plentiful in each level, and there are even invincibility bonuses for a set number of barrels destroyed. Controls are still an issue with this game, as moving around any level can feel sticky and unresponsive. The game has been updated to include an option to automatically pick up objects and throw them. This title is also lacking any online co-op option, but like 1942, does have a local second player option to take turns.
SonSon is the best game included in the 1984 Pack, I would say. SonSon really takes you back to greatness with a classic 2D side-scrolling platformer done right. You control a monkey boy on a quest to save his friends. What makes this game challenging is the combination of auto-scrolling levels and the controls. For example, simply pressing up or down makes your character jump. The only button mechanic you have is for shooting, which you must use in conjunction with the left/right and jumping movement to either take out an enemy or avoid them completely. There are probably way more power-ups than you can use, but with the amount of obstacles you must overcome in any given section, the game really knows how to encourage you along. The controls are actually pretty fluid for an almost 30 year old game, and it really shows how some modern side-scrollers have toned down the difficulty by allowing you to decide the pacing of the level. SonSon provides a solid challenge and it allows you to play cooperatively with a second player on-screen. A mechanic that allows for the second player to jump on top of the first player and allow for shooting in both directions again shows something else the developers got right so many years ago. I feel that this may be the inspiration for some newer games such as New Super Mario Brothers (pick one, Wii or Wii-U). Top this off with the inclusion of online co-op over PSN with others, and the addictiveness of the game simply trumps the other two titles in the pack.
Overall, the 1984 Pack really provides three great titles that show how well these classics provided the foundation for the great games that exist today. The music and sound effects feed that hunger for old school gaming nostalgia, while the graphics prove that classic games can look sharp on the HD screens of today. These may not be the best of the 15 titles available for the Capcom Arcade Cabinet, but they are definitely worth checking out.