Developed by:
Williams
Published by:
Midway
Official website

Genre: Arcade
Number of Players: 1-2
ESRB: Everyone


7

Graphics:....................6/10
Sound:.........................7/10
Documentation:.........8/10
Getting Started:.........7/10
Gameplay:..................8/10
Value:..........................7/10

The Good Press:
Perfect reproduction of six arcade classics.

The Bad Press:
Other compilations had as many as 30 games on one CD, as well as interviews with game designers, which aren't to be found here.



Review
08/04/2000
Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits: Volume 1
Reviewed by Robb Guido

It's the classics, just as they were, but maybe not as good as you remember them.

Nostalgia is a good thing. It makes you remember things as being better than they actually were, and ensures that you'll enjoy them that much more the second time around. Case in point: not too many years back, I saw the movie Goonies. As I giddily watched a bunch of kids tussling on a pirate ship and sang along with Cyndi Lauper's title track, my friend, who somehow had lived 20 years without seeing this great flick, slumped in his seat, clearly wishing he could be transported elsewhere.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "No way! Goonies was great!" And more than likely, you're speaking as a person who saw Goonies back when it came out, or at least when you were a kid. Your memory of it is a melange of scenes from the movie and snapshots from your youth, which makes the movie so much better than it truly is.

Fortunately, or unfortunately then, I harbor no such nostalgia when it comes to the games compiled on Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits: Volume 1. I'm sure that you spent hour upon upright hour toggling the arcade controls for Defender, and nearly burst with excitement the day Defender 2 came out. But truth be told, these games aren't as good as players usually remember them to be. They're challenging. I'll give them that. But it's a frustrating kind of challenging, as in how long can I stay alive until my thumb finally gives out? Still, in respect of other people's nostalgia, I gave all the games on this six-in-one anthology a full and thorough play in hopes of reliving a tiny bit of what players got so excited about way back when.

I do like the way the games are presented to you. All six original arcade cabinets are lined up, and you can switch games by highlighting the cabinet of your choice. The main menu contains all the sounds of these games, throwing you back into an arcade circa Tron.

Four of the games were quite popular, including Defender, Defender 2, Robotron 2084, and the immortal Joust. The other two, Bubbles and Sinistar, don't exactly stand out in the annals of video game history. [Editor's note: poor, young, soul. Sinistar was the ultimate quarter sucker.] All the games are rather simplistic, and for the most part, remain unchanged from their original forms, for better or (in most cases) for worse.

One excellent addition to these notoriously trying games is a menu screen for each game that lets you set the difficulty, as well as boost your number of lives. Giving yourself what amounts to unlimited lives does eliminate some of the frustration, exposing you to levels you may never have seen a specter of otherwise.

You're also given the option of playing with one or two players, but only Joust can be played cooperatively, and let's face it, there are probably other games you'd rather share with a buddy. Unless, of course, you're a hopeless retro gamer, in which case these games are wired into your motor memory.

Defender, which is quite possibly the granddaddy of all shooters, puts you in control of a pixely little ship, against a pitch-black background. The only semblance of a setting is the red outline of mountains in the background.

During the course of the game, alien spacecraft (green blips) emerge from the sky in an attempt to snatch flailing humans and take them (gasp!) offscreen. It's your job as defender of the planet to shoot down these aliens and rescue the civilians they may drop, safely delivering them back to earth.

The concept here is pretty fun, but you're hindered by an inability to shoot and fly backward at the same time. Still, after playing Defender for just a few minutes, it's easy to see where games like Gradius came from. And playing Defender will send you running for Gradius and the likes.

Defender 2, meanwhile, affixes warp zones, spewing volcanoes, and very little else to the Defender formula--the beginning of a long-standing tradition of releasing a polished version of an original and trying to push it off as a sequel. I think we all owe Williams a debt of gratitude in this respect. (Note the sarcastic tone.)

Joust remains somewhat fun, simply because two humans can play at a time. The main goal here is to flap around on your ostrich, colliding with other ostriches, all in an attempt to knock the other guy off his bird. Little eggs appear in place of fallen foes, which you can collect for points (which were vitally important in bygone games). In two-player mode, gamers work in tandem to dispense the opposition, which translates into a whole lot of foul onscreen at one time.

Bubbles is about as straightforward as they come. It's like Pac-Man in a sink with a soap bubble, but without the cool mazes and invincibility pellets. Your float around the sink, cleaning up dirt and little spiders, all while avoiding big spiders and scrubbers. Your bubble gets bigger as you eat up grime, which allows you to take hits, though you'll shrink in size when you do.

Sinistar is somewhat deeper than the other games, with more detailed graphics and more to do than the other games in the collection. You're still a puny ship in the black recesses of space, but now, there's a reason for obliterating asteroids. The asteroid pieces are used to build smart bombs, which you'll need to defeat Sinistar--a strange monster-faced ship that resembles the multifaced Octacons of Transformers yore. As you fight off annoying flying turrets, the game is basically a race to build enough smart bombs before Sinistar can build itself. Sinistar is a bit more compelling then the other offerings, but it's still plagued by micrographics and out-of-control controls.

Finally, we have Robotron 2084, which Crave tried (rather unsuccessfully) to remake for the N64. Robotron plays like the precursor to the Smash TV that it is, at least in my mind. Maybe you remember Smash TV from the Super NES days? It stands to go down as one of the great "shoot everything in sight" games in the history of gaming. Or maybe I just remember it that way. It just goes to show that nostalgia goes a long way in saying what was good--and what wasn't.

Tips:

  • You can adjust your number of lives on the option menu for each game. Go for it.
  • In Sinistar, avoid contact with Sinistar himself until you've constructed enough smart bombs.



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