Man, there’s just something about playing games on an arcade cabinet that feels so gosh darn right. For gamers of a certain age, the nostalgia of pumping 50p after 50p into the latest arcade sensation is intense, as are memories of the playground bragging rights that could be yours for blitzing Final Fight on one credit or smashing through Street Fighter 2 to achieve a particularly high score. It is this experience that Capcom has sought to emulate in Capcom Arcade Stadium.
Capcom Arcade Stadium is essential a free app – or ‘a platform’ to use Capcom’s marketing jargon – that allows players to travel through time and play their favourite arcade classics of yesteryear. You get the still decent vertical shooter 1943: The Battle of Midway for free, but then you’ve got to stump up the cash to buy various packs to unlock any other games to play.
These game packs are organised and curated by age. There are four eras to currently choose from –1984-1988, 1989-1992 and 1992-2001 – with each pack retailing at £11.99 or, if you’re feeling flush, £32.99 for the lot. This particular purchasing structure certainly has its flaws for discerning gamers. The bundles force feed you some utter dross that has not aged well in order to get to the classics, and since the packs aren’t organised by genre, you may well end up with a bunch of shoot ‘em ups you’ll never play just to relive Captain Commando like its 1991. Not having the option to just buy the arcade game you actually want to play feels a bit cheeky to me.
There are some brilliant classics to be re-experienced here – or, perhaps, to be experienced for the first time. Final Fight is still a fantastic side-scrolling beat ‘em up, even if its success does mean that pretty much every other beat ‘em up in this collection is essentially the same game with different skins. Street Fighter 2 and its various iterations still holds up magnificently well and is a must for fans of fighting games, while Ghouls n’ Ghosts is still a mighty good (and mighty hard) action adventure.
There’s also a bunch of stuff on here that, if you didn’t play games at the time, you’d be hard-pressed to understand what all the fuss is about. The Dawn of the Arcade Pack in particular is hampered by a few games that just aren’t much fun to play anymore. Also, there’s some curious omissions that will cause a few arcade aficionados to be disappointed. No Darkstalkers being included is a bit daft, as is not having a single game from the Marvel vs Capcom franchise – the sooner we can get play to playing the original games and forget about the mistake that was Marvel vs Capcom 3, the better, in this surly writer’s opinion. Also, on a personal note, I’d really like to play Rival Schools again. Capcom have suggested more Game Packs could be coming, so perhaps Batsu Ichimonji will one day fight again?
Regardless of what you play, you’ll soon be regaled by Capcom telling you all about their CAPSO system. It might sound like a special feature you’ll find on an upmarket vacuum cleaner, but CAPSO are actually points you can accumulate through playing and completing games. Gather enough and you’ll reach the summit of a worldwide online leader board. You’ll earn points through defeating each game with certain restrictions – having limited credits, completing score challenges or surviving with reduced life, that sort of thing – creating a trophy/high score hybrid. It’s a neat idea, and if you’re a high score chaser then this will surely be your next great love.
The CAPSO system would be pretty worthless if the standard of emulation wasn’t up to snuff, but it’s utterly glorious. Gameplay is smooth and responsive for each and every game, and Capcom give you carte blanche to display the game however they want. You can play it on a replica 3D cabinet, with side bars of various sizes and proportions, or just stick it on a fully screen display. Heck, you can even put the display upside down and make it look like Haggar and Cody are fighting street punks whilst living their best Inception life.
There’s even more tinkering to be had for those so inclined. Many of the games allow you to choose from the English or Japanese ROMs. Plus, if you’re really intent on recreating the arcade cabinet experience, you can opt to have fake scanlines on your screen. Capcom have clearly put a great deal of effort into the preservation and presentation of their games’ iconic history.
That hasn’t stopped them from significantly increasing the accessibility of these same games however. As anyone who ever played Strider in the arcade will know, these classics are eye-poppingly hard. Each game was a well-designed master class in how to rob an unsuspecting twelve-year-old of their pocket money in five minutes or less. It was rather pleasant to find that, not only are you granted with infinite credits and a robust save system, you can also rewind time or put everything in slow-mo. After all these years, I’ve finally seen the ending of Ghouls and Ghosts. Thank you, Capcom.