Ever since Sega released Mega Games I for the Megadrive in 1992, taking advantage of increased cartridge capacity, the 'game collection' has been an enduring product from various developers. Be they labours of love combined with out and out value for money (see Valve's incredible Orange Box and Konami's near-perfect Metal Gear Solid HD Collection) or hurried, overpriced cash-ins (Nintendo's recent reboot of Super Mario All-Stars was essentially a SNES rom on a Wii disc), there is nary a gamer without at least one such collection in their stash.
With their latest Digital Collection, arcade giants Capcom have put together eight (actually nine, more on that later) of their top rated Xbox Live releases on one disc. Harking back to the plug-and-play style of old, collections such as this can offer a bit of welcome down-time between mammoth sessions of, say, Skyrim or Mass Effect 3, delivering a retro fix with the added bonus of being a bit cheaper than a 'proper' release (£24.99 in this instance). Of course given the myriad of tat available on XBLA, the games also have to be good. With that in mind let's take a look at what we have under the hood.
First up is Final Fight: Double Impact, named so because it comprises of not one but two games – an updated version of the original Final Fight and, hidden within it, sword 'n' sorcery side scrolling beat-em-up, Magic Sword. Instantly comparable to later console releases Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, these games ruled the arcade with a lead pipe and steel sword respectively, circa 1989.
While both games are top notch, Final Fight is the main event here and longtime fans will be glad to hear that this updated iteration strikes the perfect balance of respect for the original release with added bells and whistles for today’s market. The near-perfect gameplay of the ’89 arcade version is left largely untouched (save for the fact that you won’t be pumping endless 50p coins into a machine – continues come free here), the feeling of those darkened smoky halls evoked with an arcade cabinet border surrounding the action. Like most aspects of the game, this can be tweaked with a number of options such as expanding to 16:19, zooming in to various degrees and even adjusting the curvature of the monitor.
This level of customisation is apparent across the board, the most welcome addition being the ability to choose between the nostalgia-inducing original soundtrack and a downright brilliant remastered one. The developers’ respect for fans of the title is evident, with a whole host of juicy unlockables available, such as concept art and comic panels. Lastly, the pièce de résistance - local and online multiplayer. Gone are the days of having to sidle up to a potential comrade in the arcade, with two player action only as far away as somebody pressing start on a second pad or dropping into an online game, and it works perfectly. This is without a doubt the best title on the collection – a class act from beginning to end.
Next up we have Super Street Fighter II: Turbo HD Remix and baby brother, Super Puzzle Fighter II: Turbo HD Remix. These Ronseal names are pretty much self-explanatory; definitive releases of the two long-standing titles with sumptuous updated visuals.
Regarding Street Fighter II, the controls feel tighter than ever before and the eye-popping visuals complement an updated soundtrack, ensuring that this classic straddles the worlds of nostalgia and relevant modern gaming wonderfully. The option is there to fully rewind to 1993, with the original graphics and soundtrack just a few menu options away. However, when the newer versions look and sound this good, it is unlikely that you will want to stray. Aside from these updates (as well as online multiplayer and slightly more balanced battles) this release doesn’t differ too much to the original release, which is no bad thing. Stripped down to its bare bones this is the kickass gameplay we all know and love at its best, with graphics your ten year old self could only have dreamed of.
Puzzle Fighter has always been an altogether stranger affair, albeit with many die-hard fans. For the uninitiated, it is essentially a take on classic brick-dropper puzzlers such as Tetris and Columns, based around the idea of pulling off various combos to fill your opponent’s screen with bombs, KO-ing them. Addictive and refreshingly different, it is a welcome addition to the roster of games in this collection, although the ‘HD Remix’ aspect of the title is something of a misnomer – while the backgrounds and gems are presented with gorgeous updated visuals, the characters appear comparatively blurry. This glaring error aside however, SPFII: Turbo HD Remix is a unique puzzler with plenty of added game modes to keep those who like a bit of punching with their Tetrominoes happy.These big hitters (pun not intended) out of the way, the rest of the Capcom Digital Collection is something of a mixed bag.
Quirky puzzler Flock! looks pretty, but the gameplay is awkward and clumsy. The player assumes the role of an alien rancher in charge of a UFO, the Flocker, charged with the task of rounding up various farmyard animals and bringing the aboard the mothership, or ‘Motherflocker’ (oh, my sides). While it may sound like good silly fun, in actuality the game mostly feels like an uphill struggle due to clunky controls. When the player is successful in their goal of abducting hapless critters, it usually feels like a stroke of sheer luck, rather than the employment of any level of skill.
Elsewhere, 1942: Joint Strike offers some throwaway top-down shooting action. While it might be fun to pick up and blast through for an hour, this remake of the seminal WWII shmup has no further longevity. In fact, it is possible to complete the campaign in half this time. In some ways, this collection might be seen as the perfect place for a title such as this, given that the XBLA asking price of 800MS points (£6.80) is rather steep. When regarded as a neat little shooter that happens to come with some better titles on the same disc, Joint Strike is quite fun. Just don’t expect any real depth.
The inclusion of platformer Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 in this collection instead of its superior predecessor is somewhat baffling. Where the previous title was a near perfect reboot of the NES title, this sequel falls flat of the mark. Furthermore one can’t help but think that the mediocre run and gunner Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 and top down shooter Rocketmen: Axis of Evil would have been better replaced with the excellent Mega Man 9 and 10, conspicuous in their absence. It is not that these games are particularly dreadful, but comparatively middle of the road compared to other similar XBLA titles and not a patch on the aforementioned exploits of the man in blue.
The Capcom Digital Collection doesn’t always hit home, and the omission of a few obvious titles keep it from reaching greatness. Furthermore, the package as a whole feels somewhat rushed – when exiting one game, the player is booted out to the Xbox dashboard instead of the main menu; a small but irritating flaw. That being said, even if you just play a handful of titles on this disc, it is great value for money, offering something for arcade fans young and old.