Capcom has rereleased a number of their classic arcade games in a new format on PSN and Xbox Live. The first pack, which can be purchased for $5, contains enhanced versions of 1943, Avengers, and Black Tiger. Capcom has added tons of video options to these classics, including scan lines, aspect ratio, fake arcade cabinet wallpaper, and smoothing, not unlike the fighting-game packages that Iron Galaxy has been producing for Capcom. There are a variety of other options to customize your experience, including dipswitches that let you adjust game settings and a choice between the international and Japanese versions of each game. Additionally, there is a mix of multiplayer options. 1943 has online co-op while Black Tiger is local only. Brief histories of each game are included, but these are so short that you would be better served by going online to find information. All these options can be accessed from the main menu, where you launch each game separately.
1943 is a top-down shooter where you pilot an American fighter plane against Japanese forces in the battle of Midway. The game is pretty simple. You fly through each level shooting down enemy planes, and eventually engage with ships or larger planes. You can pick up power-ups as the game goes on that give you more stronger weapons or refill your health. There is also an option to drop a screen-clearing bomb that sacrifices some of your health. Of all the games in the package, it’s the most mechanically sound, but it still contains some issues. You are constantly losing health, and the difficulty ramps up very quickly. Of course, it is easy to brute force your way through the game because of the unlimited continues, but this reduces the game to a grueling slog. Unfortunately, this annoying characteristic is repeated in each game.
Avengers is a top-down brawler pitting your hero against a city of criminals. It’s also by far the weakest of the three games. Again, you move around the screen fighting enemies with punches and kicks, though the punches are almost useless without power-ups because their range is so short, and grabbing power-ups like throwable knives. At the end of each level is a boss, who you must defeat. The controls don’t feel as responsive as they should, and the enemies feel much harder to fight as a result. This is especially true of the regular enemies who grab you, and I found it quite difficult to escape. I doubt I would have enjoyed it much in an arcade, and removed from that setting, it’s even less satisfying.
Black Tiger was probably my favorite game in the collection. It’s a 2D side scrolling action-platformer where you explore a dungeon on your quest to defeat monsters and save the kingdom. There are two buttons: jump, which is fairly standard; and attack. The attack sends out a whip-like weapon as well as a series of knives. The combat is fun and the enemy designs are pretty cool. I particularly enjoyed the purchasable upgrades for both your weapons and armor, as they made the game feel like more than just a simple grind of increasingly difficult enemies and static abilities that the other games are. Unfortunately, the game still has the cheap deaths that are so problematic in games of this era, and the platforming leaves much to be desired. It’s still a fun game, but it could be a lot better.
It’s nice that Capcom is attempting to preserve a portion of the company’s product history. Unfortunately, the games just don’t update very well. The absurd difficulty curve and cheap deaths are a constant reminder that these games were designed to take as many quarters from players as possible. With that dynamic removed, much of the tension and fun is absent. There’s still some fun to be had in each game and the price is very low, but the ability to brute force you’re way through each one with unlimited continues means that only those who enjoy chasing their friends on leaderboards should purchase this first collection.