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Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play
  opened by paleface at 02:40:35 01/10/06  
  last modified by paleface at 20:43:08 01/15/06  
  paleface [sys=PSP; cat=Action_Variety; loc=NA]
Digital Eclipse bangs out another retro compilation. I think they're starting to slip, though, as even I am noticing graphic and sound problems (the scrolling sound on the main menu screen even freaks out once in a while) in the ports here. Also, it's very annoying that you can't change most of the options inside the games themselves; and the options screens off the main menu are laid out in very annoying ways that make it easy to make changes and then cancel them accidentally. Even some of the older, smaller ROM games still have noticeable loading times here. Oh, and the game autosaves every time you leave an options or game screen, even if you didn't change any options settings or get a high score. Grr.
The real problem, though, is that there are absolutely no options to scale the graphics. It seems that Digital Eclipse basically decided that they would scale the graphics as they felt best, and you'd just have to live with it. On the one hand, they sure put in a lot of effort into redesigning some of the games to take advantage of the PSP screen; this is no simple drop-in-a-ROM port job. On the other hand, it would have been far preferable, in my view, if they had left the original ROMs alone, and just provided standard screen-scaling options; Namco Museum Battle Collection (entry 872) is a perfect example of how to do this the right way. Digital Eclipse did not do it the right way.
I've only tried two of the games multiplayer via Ad-hoc WiFi so far--Joust and Mortak Kombat--and they both worked a treat.
Anyway, there are a lot of games, 20 to be exact, arranged alphabetically, so let's get to it:
720 (1986, 1-player)
Ah, those halcyon days of my youth, when skateboarding was all the rage, and even crappy games did okay as long as they had skateboards in them. This seems like a pretty solid port, with no really bad stretching, and no horrific sound problem. But it's still a sucky game, and it's actually a relief when you run out of time between the four skate parks and they send the deadly swarm of bees (the ancient nemesis of skaters!) to put you out of your misery.
Arch Rivals (1987, 2-player)
This two on two basketball game has a dated but fairly handsome graphic style, but I can't say I was ever too fond of it, and it doesn't translate easily to the handheld controls, because the more advanced commands require you to hold one button while tapping the other. The PSP's widescreen format fits the game nicely, at least. I've had a loud burst of static come out of the speakers when starting a new game. The most annoying thing here is that the game will prompt you to insert a token at a seemingly arbitrary point midway through a match, even if you're ahead.
Championship Sprint (1986, 2-player)
This is one of those games that I used to admire in the arcade, but didn't actually play that much. While it's neat seeing the entire course onscreen in a big bird's-eye view, with tiny little cars racing through the tracks, it gets pretty frustrating to steer the car through the ridiculous little twists and turns once you get to about the third track. For what it's worth, the analog nub does a pretty good job of filling in for the arcade steering wheel. But they stretched the graphics horizontally to fill up the PSP's wide screen, so your car goes "faster" north/south than it does east/west, and this just feels wrong. I got another nasty burst of loud static when starting this game.
Cyberball 2072 (1988, 2-player)
I'm usually pretty bad at football games, but this one has nice simple 1-button control, and only four plays to worry about per "down," although, this being the future, you don't really have "downs"; instead, the ball starts to overheat until you reach a certain "cool down" point on the field, and if it explodes before you get there, you lose possession. Anyway, I like it more than I thought I would, and while the graphics are again stretched to fill the wide screen, they don't look all that bad here. Got another nasty burst of static at the start of the darn game.
Defender (1980)
I always liked Defender, and it's nice to have it here without the insanely complicated arcade controls (where turn and move horizontally were separate buttons). The horizontal shooter format fits the PSP perfectly, in fact I think Digital Eclipse, instead of stretching the graphics out, widened your screen view a bit, so you get to see more of the planet than you have previously. And no burst of static! Man, I forgot how hard this game was.
Gauntlet (1985, 4-player)
Gauntlet is not a game that translates well outside of the arcade. The whole point was simply to get through as many levels as you could per-quarter, preferably with some friends along to stab you in the back and steal your food, but that point is entirely lost in a home conversion where you can just pump yourself constantly with as much health as you want, free of charge. You'd think this would be a great thing, but really it just goes to show how empty this game is without the quarter-pumping compulsion. It's not like you can play it for score or anything, and it's not like there are cool things to see on the later levels. No, you're just going through more levels, taking out more endless monster generators. Also, in the sound isolation of the home, you can hear just how crappy the sound really was. Brilliant for the arcade (I don't think I want to know how much cash thing game raked in in its day), not so good on the home front. At least they didn't screw with the aspect ratio of the graphics here.
Joust (1982, 2-player)
No bad sound problem here, but not only did they scale up the graphics to fit the screen height, so you get some pixel line flickering as sprites move around (oh, this is really bad on the tiling backgrounds in Gauntlet, incidentally), they also stretched it horizontally to fill the PSP screen, resulting in the game sprites being all elongated and weird-looking. How can anyone who claims to have respect for these old games warp them in such a way? Guh! Other than that it plays fine, but...geez.
Klax (1989, 2-player)
Didn't run into any sound trouble here, and the screen ratio isn't messed with, at least--the sides are just widened out. Still, Klax is a crappy game; I just hate those tiles endless marching downscreen at me, insisting that I catch them on a little paddle thing and drop them into row or stacks. Screw you, tiles! You aren't the boss of me! Also, the screen colors are garishly awful, and the sounds are very annoying.
Marble Madness (1984, 2-player)
I always kinda liked Marble Madness (there was a pretty good port of it on C64), and the nice music and analog ball-rolling control translate well here. What's not so nice are the scaled-up, horizontally stretched graphics, whose flat, gridded backgrounds which have a lot of shimmering and aliasing when the screen scrolls along. Also, there's no continue feature in the game, which is a bit of a hard knock for us pampered gamers these days, especially in a game this tough.
Mortal Kombat (1992, 2-player)
Mortal Kombat's big, digitized characters and copious blood made a big splash back in the arcade, and the graphics come through brilliantly here--no aspect ratio problems to be seen. I had the Amiga home version of this game, and liked it, 'cause I could play it with my joystick controller, and it only used one button! This here's a pretty faithful port of the arcade version, though, so you've got five buttons to worry about, including the dreaded "Block" button that I just can't seem to get the hang of. So, I'm not very good at this, and probably never will be; I really wish there was a "back to block" option. I also wish there were move lists in the game, because I don't remember the special moves at all. So this is me bitching about how I suck. Isn't it funny how the AI doesn't jump-kick? As with other fighting games I've tried to play, I can't really control them very well with the d-pad; in fact, I seem to be getting worse, as I can hardly diagonal-up to side-jump in this game. I'm a bit better on the analog stick. In theory, the controls for this game should be quite suited to the PSP's iffy d-pad, at least as far as fighting games go, since there are hardly any diagonals required. Anyway, it seems like a pretty good port.
Mortal Kombat II (1993, 2-player)
The framerate is noticeably lower here, and there's a nasty load time getting to the character select screen--which you have to go through every time you continue.
Mortal Kombat 3 (1995, 2-player)
See my comments for MKII. :p At least there's more going on graphically to start to justify those downsides. The AI learned to jump-kick something fierce in this game, though! Which pretty much kicks my only "strategy" in the jimmies.
Paperboy (1985)
This game's incredibly detailed graphics (I think it was a resolution thing) always attracted me in the arcade, even if I sucked at the game. And wouldn't you know, I still do, but I still kinda like it anyway. The aspect ratio is a little wider than it should be, but not extremely so, and the detailed graphics come through nicely on the PSP screen. There's some nasty slowdown when encountering street traffic, which is a shame.
Rampage (1986, 3-player)
I've always liked Rampage, even if it was one of the real quarter munchers--your big beasties can't possibly avoid all those wee little bullets being shot at them from every angle, slowly chipping away their health. But smashing buildings and eating pedestrians is just so much fun, who cares about the quarter munching? Seems to run fine, and the graphics, which were always very detailed--again a unusually high resolution for the time, I think?--look pretty good, even though they're a bit stretched horizontally.
Rampart (1991, 3-player)
Never cared for this game, and I certainly don't now that it's been stretched horizontally. Aiming at the ships is okay, but trying to place blocks to repair your castle is an extremely fiddly process with either the d-pad or analog stick, and it just feels like you're fighting the controls rather than playing the game. Maybe it felt like that in the arcade, too... I just plain don't like how you have to get bombarded every turn, and there's nothing you can possibly do to avoid taking at least a good many hits--unless I'm missing something. Bah.
Sinistar (1982)
Wow, I hate this game. I've read of people who were blown away by the digitized speech of the "Sinistar" mothership thing, but I really can't stand the bouncing around while trying to mine almost invisibly small "crystals" from asteroids, and then being snarked up by this huge ship that just blasts in and swallows you, while insulting you. What fun! But why did they choose this to be the game that didn't get any aspect ratio screwjob?
Spy Hunter (1984)
I've always dug Spy Hunter, but oh I wish they had done it better here. Like, turning the screen vertically would have helped. Instead, the narrow arcade screen is smeared wide across the PSP screen, so all the cars look really fat. It's just not right at all. The music cuts out almost all the time--the arcade wasn't that bad, was it?--and I even had the machinegun fire sound get stuck looping once, so the sound was going even after I stopped firing and crashed. How can any self-respecting gamer put out a port like this?
Toobin' (1988, 2-player)
Well what do you know, they actually did a game justice graphically, or at least fairly close to it. Toobin' plays with the PSP turned sideways, and the aspect ratio is probably a little long, but at least their hearts were close to the right place this time. The default control layout is pretty decent, with the four face buttons being paddle left/right forward/back sorta, although that leaves the "throw can" button on the shoulder, which is a little awkward. Still, it looks almost good, and runs well, and I always did like Toobin'.
Wizard of Wor (1981, 2-player)
This was never a really great game, and it doesn't help that it's scaled up and nasty pixilated here, or that there's constant static playing in the background. Blargh! Hunting beasties with a laser rifle in a crude maze is kind of fun, I guess, until you get to stage 5 or so where they just come around the corner too fast for you to get a shot off. The digitized speech sounds awful (but might have in the arcade version for all I know).
Xenophobe (1987, 3-player)
They got really creative with the graphic distortion here. Since Xenophobe was originally triple horizontal split-screen, at fairly high resolution, on the PSP they made it so that when you pick which of the three you're going to play, it zooms that part of the screen up a bit, squishing the others down. It's weird, and the graphics are a little blurred, but at least they're the right aspect ratio in the active part of the screen. Xenophobe, as a game, is a weird little critter, as you just find yourself as a duck-headed humanoid wandering slowly around alien-infested starships, picking up odds and ends (I'm sure this chemistry set will help!) while fighting off an endless horde of aliens with a very ineffective laser pistol. It's got the quarter muncher thing of Gauntlet and Rampage going: you lose health in little bits off your meter, and restore it by adding quarters. There's really no way not to get hit with great regularity, so, you just put in quarters until you run out. Whee! But I still like it for its wacky setting.
Xybots (1987, 2-player)
I was a big fan of Xybots back in the day, and it comes through pretty nicely here, especially since the slight horizontal screen stretch just makes the quarter-screen view feel a tad more spacious. There's a really nasty crackling and popping as the title screen comes up though, so you might want to have your sound turned down when starting the game. Other than that, though, it seemed to run peachy, and the controls, which let you move in four directions, while facing any of the four cardinal directions, adapt quite well to the PSP.
  paleface 02:48:13 01/10/06
Wow... "Mortak Kombat." Go me!
· Midway Arcade Treasures (GC)
· Midway Arcade Treasures 2 (PS2)
· Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits Volume 1 (DC)

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