Wednesday, June 02, 2021
Originating from the Greek words 'nostos' and 'algos' – literally meaning ‘return home’ and 'pain’, or, rather, pain for the past – nostalgia is a powerful phenomenon. It's why there's a booming market for remakes and remasters of old games, and why Capcom has once again released an exhaustive collection of its most celebrated arcade classics. While we've been here countless times before, there's something genuinely magical about the way in which Capcom Arcade Stadium has been presented, offering a virtual amusement arcade, cabinets lined up in a row, inviting you to pump an unending supply of coins into their slots.
A rare sight, primarily on seafronts these days (in the UK, at least), amusement arcades are now places where you can maybe discover an old gem or two, if you're lucky. It's the home that's become the repository for nostalgia and beloved arcade games, real hobbyists even building their own cabinets to relive past glories, but anyone without the time, patience, expertise, or general wherewithal to do so can still have their own collection conveniently housed on a console. Journeying deep into Capcom's retro back catalogue is a particular treat, however, given the breadth of titles it offers.
Capcom Arcade Stadium (in its entirety) includes no less than thirty games, spanning the company's history from 1984 – 2001, and for every version of Street Fighter II that you've probably already played ad nauseam there's an offbeat shmup you've probably never heard of or seen. There's something innately comforting about playing a vertically scrolling shoot 'em up like 1942, but it's even more interesting to use that nostalgia as a springboard to discover the rest of the series iterations and spin-offs that Capcom has crammed into its latest arcade compendium.
Furthermore, the voyage of discovery is made all the more enticing by online 'Score Challenge', 'Timed Challenge', and 'Special Challenge' options, which give you a single credit (recalling a childhood where I'd have to beg, borrow or steal some change to chuck into whatever coin-op happened to be nearby) and a high score or target time to beat. As was the case with the slew of collections before it, I immediately found myself drawn to the games I know and love in Capcom Arcade Stadium's virtual arcade, like Final Fight, Super Street Fighter II, Ghosts 'n Goblins, and Strider, before dabbling in the slightly more obscure selections.
With a handful of Japanese ROMs, including curios like Chiki Chiki Boys, mech brawler Powered Gear, 2D scrolling hack ‘n slasher Tatakai no Banka (aka Trojan), Senjo no Okami II (released in the west as Mercs) and JP versions of western releases, you're guaranteed to uncover a new experience of some kind, albeit an old new experience. I always assumed I had an aversion to scrolling shmups like 1942 and Forgotten Worlds, but delving into titles like Giga Wars, Progear, and the plethora of 1942 spin-offs and sequels stuffed into the Capcom Arcade prompted a mild addiction, exacerbated by the lure of the Score Challenge and the desire to rack up an impressive tally of points. Before too long, I'd fallen into a bullet hell hole, dexterously weaving between little deadly glowing blobs of pixel, blasting aircraft carriers, enemy planes, tanks, aliens, or whatever other thing flew into the path of my powered-up laser beams, triple-firing projectiles, and smart bombs.
As far as discoveries go, Capcom Arcade Stadium also brought home a sad, dawning realisation that I'm no longer anywhere near as good at Street Fighter II as I used to be, and that my reflexes have become increasingly dulled over the years. Not once have I attained the high score necessary to earn the requisite 'CASPO' (Capcom Arcade Stadium Points) for a place on the leaderboards, despite repeated attempts – I fear it may be well beyond my capabilities. Arguably, it's better to experience the wealth of old arcade titles offered here in the standard way, clicking in the right stick to deposit coins into each machine (thankfully none demand forty quarters like The Simpsons' Waterworld game - “what a rip!”).
Simply playing notoriously difficult old-school games, like Commando or Ghouls 'n Ghosts, is infinitely more palatable with an inexhaustible supply of digital currency, save states, and a rewind feature for when you screw up - goodness knows it's a damn sight better than trying to feed a bank note into one of those fussy change machines. Perhaps that's why the amusement arcade as we know it today is a rare novelty, a relic of a time when video games were less readily available, when huge cabinets offered unique experiences with blaring speakers and big, garishly coloured peripherals. Arcades remain the reserve of the full-size motorbike you can straddle, a carseat or cockpit you can climb into, or a massive lightgun that kicks like a mule, but for a shot of retro arcade purity, it's all laid out in front of you now, right in your living space. Turns out, you can go home again.
Friday, June 04, 2021 @ 11:34 AM