Cons: Three Street Fighter games; bad selection; terrible aging problems
The Bottom Line: And where the hell is Mega Man?
I originally wrote the following review for Netjak. It was first published there on February 7, 2006. This is part of my effort to preserve my Netjak reviews so they don't disappear again. And make a few royalties off them.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. It’s amusing in certain cases, like when you and your friends parody your younger selves for laughs by throwing MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” into your CD player or renting the DVD version of Super Mario Bros. to wonder why you ever liked those things in the first place. Video games, for one reason or another, just don’t work like that. There may be bad games which you liked when you were younger, but you can’t just throw Mortal Kombat into your Super NES for kicks because games are interactive, you’re more experienced, and after 13 years which saw the releases of Tekken and Virtua Fighter, Mortal Kombat seems even clunkier and more frustrating than ever. The point is, video game nostalgia works better through memories alone because your fond, wistful memories can’t be dampened when the myths of “good” games can’t be shattered by reality.
That brings me to the curses that I collectively refer to as Nostalgia Packages. Those are compilations games for the latest consoles that developers use to introduce some of their older treasures to younger console generations. Or at least that’s what certain developers would like you to believe. In Capcom’s case, it feels more like an attempt to make a few quick dollars off the company’s dirty little secrets. They pack in a handful of their flagship games for you to get nostalgic over, but does Capcom really think that anyone would be able to get worked up about exact replicas of Gun.Smoke or Son Son?
Thing is, Capcom has historically been one of the most consistent developers of high-quality games. They introduced Street Fighter II, which brought the experience of arcade gaming to its pinnacle, along with the Ghouls n’ Ghosts series, the Breath of Fire series, Final Fight, and the Resident Evil series. But even I didn’t realize the incredible extent of Capcom’s influence until I took a look at the list of games offered by Capcom Classics Collection: 1942, 1943, 1943 Kai, Bionic Commando, Commando, Exed Exes, Final Fight, Forgotten Worlds, Ghosts n’ Goblins, Ghouls n’ Ghosts, Gun.Smoke, Legendary Wings, Mercs, Pirate Ship Higemaru, Section Z, Son Son, Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts, Trojan, and Vulgus. There’s bonus material for each game, but most of it is unlockable and it’s all filler material anyway.
Are you all swept up in a wave of nostalgia yet? If so, save your memories and pennies. The vast majority of games in Capcom Classics Collection have aged terribly. Even the actual classics in this collection reveal more gameplay flaws than should be allowed in a classic. Final Fight, one of this collection’s biggest selling points for me, was a game I treasured playing it in the arcades many years ago. Back then, I was able to overlook the unbalanced damage system, lousy hit detection, and gameplay quirks which allowed the enemies to corner me and pound me into submission without ever giving me breathing room to mount an effective counterattack. Playing the superior Streets of Rage has spoiled Final Fight for me.
At least Final Fight aged decently enough to remain thoroughly playable and enjoyable, which is more than I can say for the Ghouls n’ Ghosts series. Ghouls n’ Ghosts has become a legend among gamers for its staggering difficulty level. What many who remember this series fondly overlook is the difficulty being a result of numerous cheap shots the games like to take at you. The games are also plagued with clunky controls which are most evident in Sir Arthur’s jumping skills: Arthur isn’t exactly Shaq, and the games rob you of the ability to control him at all the second his feet are off the ground. In turn, you can’t escape your landing point if it suddenly turns dangerous (which is often the case) and you can’t jump over enemies whom you would prefer not to engage. The games grant no forgiveness for anything other than pinpoint perfection, which is sometimes difficult to attain considering the legions of bad guys streaming at you from out of nowhere. Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts grants Arthur the ability to double-jump, but why have such a secondary ability to perform the function the primary ability is supposed to perform? It’s like the designers threw it in as an afterthought but couldn’t actually bring themselves to admit they screwed up. This is not good game design, Capcom.
Neither is Bionic Commando, for that matter. In Bionic Commando, the ability to jump is basically replaced with the ability to use a big claw to pull yourself up to new ledges. It sounds innovative, but poor level design rears its ugly head again when you are unable to cross gaps that don’t have other ledges in range of your claw. Son Son and Trojan are also throwaways because of bad design. Son Son is a scrolling platformer where you constantly move to the right and shoot at things. The graphics will remind TurboGrafx-16 fans of the grossly underappreciated Parasol Stars, but the game is just a long row of platforms that you jump between. Trojan... It would take an entirely separate review to say all the bad things I want to say about this pain-inducer. Not only is it the worst game on the disc, it’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Horrible levels, bad graphics, the worst hit detection I’ve ever seen, clunky controls, and a setting which backs every stereotype ever conceived about early (pre-32 bit era) games combine to make your TV attempt suicide. Should you accidentally play Trojan and choose to assist it, remember a sledgehammer is not only most effective, its range means less chance for you to get hit with shards of glass from the screen.
Clunky controls deserve a special section of their very own. Many of the games on Capcom Classics Collection are plagued with them. Perhaps I’m being a bit too liberal about using the word “clunky” here, considering that my problem in many of these cases is whatever sprite I happen to be controlling at the time isn’t moving nearly as fast as I’d like it to. This would be the case in 1942, 1943, 1943 Kai, and I’ll generalize the rest by saying every shooting game on the disc with the exception of Forgotten Worlds. The firing rate is another thing that could stand to be boosted considerably, but I can overlook that since it was the norm for such a long time. In most of the remaining games, the controls just feel restricted. In Bionic Commando, for example, your claw has a very limited range and it only fires in three directions: Left, right, and up. Pirate Ship Higemaru makes you practically jam the d-pad before your character begins to move in his specified direction. And jumping in every game that allows jumping was covered in my paragraph about the Ghouls n’ Ghosts games. It’s like that all across the board - low, short-ranged, quick, and close to useless for purposes of self-preservation. Son Son has the opposite problem: Its jumping controls are a bit too tight, and there are times when you’ll switch platforms without meaning to.
One less practical problem which will not escape the hardcore gamer is just how much certain games resemble each other. First, there is the obvious: Did we really need to see THREE versions of Street Fighter II? This is less an attempt to preserve the infants of the series than it is an example of Capcom’s infamous overkill. If they included the original version and its eight playable characters, then added Champion Edition to show the way they expanded that number to twelve, what kept Capcom from going all the way and including Super Street Fighter II and its sixteen playable characters? Or what kept them from giving us the first Street Fighter game, or even Fighting Street for that matter? Sure those games were lousy, but I still would have appreciated the novelty of having them instead of three versions of Street Fighter II. Capcom added more repitition by including its three 1940s games, which just don’t differ enough to warrant the inclusion of all three. Commando and Mercs also bear a strong resemblance to each other in their style of design, as do Exed Exes and Vulgus.
The majority of the games on Capcom Classics Collection are shooters. Unfortunately, playing most of the shooters will only serve to remind you just how far shooters have come. Many are of the very early type, slow with simplistic weapons. Among the shooters is the awful Gun.Smoke, which breaks every unwritten law regarding video game shooters. It features a cowboy walking up streets in the old west, blasting bad guys as he goes. While your cowboy’s guns are semi-independent of each other, your bullets often aren’t able to hit enemies lurking in the windows. To see just how vast the expanse was between those very early shooters and “later” shooters, however, the disc provides you with the awesome Forgotten Worlds. The best and best-aged game on the disc, Forgotten Worlds is an action-packed shooter with speedy characters, 360 degrees of weapon rotation (the right analog is useful), fun rapid-fire weapons and dozens of things to use them on. To top it all off, it finds a unique balance in sci-fi and mythology. Legendary Wings has a mythological theme and a balance between shooting platform levels, but while the novelty may make it fun for a go-round, it wears off when the game’s age grows on you.
The rest of the games differ. You get many types of action, but most of them just aren’t that good. Pirate Ship Higemaru - which is more of a puzzler - is fun and has moments despite clunkiness, but the only action game really worth playing is Mercs. The action is fast and the weapons are fun, and the game holds a resemblance to the old arcade and NES game Heavy Barrel. Commando is Mercs without the steroids, so you might be able to squeeze just a bit of enjoyment out of that game too, but it just isn’t as good. Most of the other action games, as already stated, are just poorly designed and poorly aged.
Yeah yeah, I know you’re waiting, so here it is: All three editions of Street Fighter II in this nostalgia package have aged well, even though they’re just as cheap as they always were. But the inclusion of Street Fighter II at all is a bit of a letdown. Yes, it had significant influence during its heyday, but the series has lacked relevance for so long now that Capcom has anniversary editions out for the original Playstation. Even if you never owned any Street Fighter II games in your life, you can go to virtually any video game store and find a perfectly good edition of a later version of the game for less than the $20 Capcom charges for this collection. Besides the Street Fighter II games, only the slightly aged Final Fight and the jewels Mercs and Forgotten Worlds will warrant more than one playthrough. Maybe Pirate Ship Higemaru, depending on your tastes. Perhaps the real crime isn’t what’s in Capcom Classics Collection but what isn’t in it. This is a Playstation 2 disc - surely room could have been made for one of the Super NES Breath of Fire adventures! Strider is absent, as is Resident Evil and any number of fighting games which could have been used in place of two of those editions of Street Fighter II. Darkstalkers would have made a fine addition.
The technology in Capcom Classics Collection obviously varies from game to game, but do remember that these are ports of much older games, graphics, sounds, and all. The best-looking games are the Street Fighter II games and Forgotten Worlds with its Roman, Egyptian, and Japanese mythological influences. Same with the sounds, though this is often a bad thing. The Ghouls n’ Ghosts series brings a combination of the silly and the spooky, but most of the game soundtracks are flat-out annoying. The voices in Street Fighter II and Forgotten Worlds in particular haven’t been cleaned of their scratchiness. Sound in general is generic and boring.
You’d have to be a completely die-hard old school-head to really squeeze anything out of Capcom Classics Collection. Sure Street Fighter II is here, but if you’re a hardcore gamer, you probably already own at least one version of that. That means the number of actual, playable classics on this disc is reduced to just Final Fight, Forgotten Worlds, and Mercs. Do you really want to buy this disc just for those three?
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Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
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Capcom Classics Collection takes players back to the days of break dancing and waiting in endless arcade lines to see how long they can make their coveted quarter last. Spanning over 10 years of Capcom history, this anthology contains hundreds of hours of gameplay with treasured favorites including the WWII-style plane assault of '1942', defeating Metro City street gangs in 'Final Fight', rescuing Princess Guinevere against zombies and demons in "Ghosts 'n Goblins', the unforgettable title 'Commando', plus 18 other classics that everyone grew up with! All of these titles can be played in either single or two player modes while experiencing a bountiful of bonus features such as remixed soundtracks, original art and playing tips, just to name a few.