If you were born in the 1970s or ‘80s and gained an affinity for video games, there’s a good chance you spent some time in an arcade. I have many fond memories of playing beat ‘em ups with friends, but sometimes I feel like I’m recalling those times with rose-tinted glasses. Arcade cabinets are hard to come by nowadays but when I do find them, usually at the beach or at gaming conventions, I rarely get that same feeling of excitement. There’s always a feeling of nostalgia, but one of the biggest aspects I enjoyed about the arcade experiences of my youth was the discovery of new games that I had never heard of. In today’s hyper-connected world where almost any game is only a few clicks or button presses away, it’s hard to find a way to replicate that feeling. The nostalgia is in full swing in Capcom’s latest arcade collection, Capcom Arcade Stadium, and I was also somewhat surprised to get that feeling of discovery as I started trying out some of the games that I had never heard of before.
Many of the classics are here such as Ghosts ‘n Goblins and its sequel Ghouls ‘n Ghosts; as well as the 1940 series. It also includes mainstays like Strider, Bionic Commando, Final Fight, Captain Commando, and three distinct versions of Street Fighter II (The World Warrior, Hyper Fighting, and Turbo). All together there are 32 games featured in the collection. There are three packs with ten games in each and they are grouped chronologically: Dawn of the Arcade (‘84-’88), Arcade Revolution (‘89-’92), and Arcade Evolution (‘92-’01). Ghosts ‘n Goblins is a separate $2 purchase and 1943 The Battle of Midway is free for everyone. A bundle with all 32 games is also available which will save you a few dollars. The games are ordered chronologically in the arcade, although there isn’t any indication in the menus as to their exact year of release which would have been an easy and appreciated addition. They can also be viewed by genre: Action, Shooter, and Fighter. You can also cherry-pick the ones you like the most and create a favorites section. Most games give you the option of playing the English Rom or Japanese Rom, which is pretty cool since sometimes there are differences between the two versions. In a sense, there are actually close to 60 games featured.
The two games that I probably spent the most time playing in this collection as a kid are Street Fighter II and Forgotten Worlds (the majority of which was on home consoles). I’m not really into fighting games anymore, so Forgotten Worlds was one of the first ones I tried. I don’t know if the Sega Genesis version was easier or something, but the arcade version here is hard. Fortunately, Capcom implements many of the quality of life features into Capcom Arcade Stadium that are now common in most classic game collections such as rewind, save states, and of course infinite continues. They add in a few extra components such as the ability to speed up and slow down gameplay. Some of the games also have a difficulty slider that ranges from very easy to very hard. All the games have remappable control schemes that can be saved for future use, and most of the games have a turbo attack button so you don’t have to mash the regular attack button repeatedly unless you want to.
The games are visualized in a 3D space using the RE Engine and each game has its own cabinet. There are multiple cabinet styles, such as the big American cabinets as well as smaller Japanese-style ones. Each game can be set to a specific cabinet style and there are a number of frames that can be assigned to each one as well. When playing the games you can choose to remain in a 3D view which is kind of unique because you can see the cabinets on either side, and the joystick on the current cabinet moves as you move your controller’s stick. I found myself switching most of the games to 2D view so the gameplay area would be a little bigger. In the 2D view you can pick from a handful of frames to give the normally black border space some flair; unfortunately, the most interesting ones are a paid DLC. There are also multiple scan line options as well as some that give the screen the slightly curved look of old TVs. Overall the games look just how I’d expect; I love pixel art and it’s wonderful to see the progression in styles and detail from the earlier games to the more recent ones. You can set the games to full-screen mode which stretches out the picture but to me, that just doesn’t look right.
Capcom has implemented a meta points system to encourage the repeated play of all the games. CASPO(Capcom Arcade Stadium POints) are earned every time you play a game and they contribute towards a leveling system called Classes. For the most part, they are earned from the in-game score you earn each session, but there are a few extra ways to earn points that also contribute to the replayability of the collection as a whole. If you are a talented player then the best way to earn points is to play one of the challenge modes. Each game has a basic Score Challenge or a Timed challenge that can be attempted from the menu any time you start up that game. The Score Challenge disables rewind and saves and tasks you with earning as much in-game score as you can before you either get a game over or beat the game twice (I don’t know how anyone is good enough to do that, but I guess some people still have that ‘80s muscle memory). As an added incentive, if you score over a set amount your in-game score will be posted to the global leaderboards. The Timed Challenge is a little more forgiving, you simply have to play through the game as quickly as possible and your final time is posted to the leaderboards – rewinds and continues are allowed in this mode but not saves. The shoot ‘em ups and fast-paced action games tend to have the Score challenges, while the beat ‘em up games and the fighting games usually have timed challenges, but that’s not always the case.
The final and most interesting type of challenge are the Special Challenges. About five or six games get assigned a Special Challenge and they rotate every week. Some are just slightly different Score or Timed Challenges, but a few of them are pretty unique and really change the playstyle of the games. Currently, Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ Special Challenge sets the game speed to very fast making an already challenging game close to impossible for mere mortals. 1943 The Battle of Midway’s special challenge flips the view upside down, I thought I was smart when I changed the viewing presentation around so it was right-side-up again, but the controls were still backwards… maybe next time I’ll try sitting upside down on the couch. I look forward to seeing what Capcom does for the future challenges; hopefully, they are creative and not just similar variations of the two current ones.
I brought up the aspect of discovering new games earlier, so I thought I’d try to sell you on the three that I found the most interesting. Tatakai No Bamka is one of the few Japanese-only Roms. It plays like a Ghosts ‘n Goblins action game with enemies seeming to spawn in at random, but it takes place in what looks like a post-apocalyptic setting of a ruined city. One button controls your sword, one button lets you jump, and the third button lets you use your shield to block attacks, which was a nice addition to the otherwise familiar gameplay. Dynasty Wars is a beat ‘em up taking place in Han Dynasty China where you are constantly riding a horse (I had no problem convincing my girlfriend to play that one with me).
The final game I had never heard of that really stood out is Battle Circuit which is also a beat ‘em up and seems sort of like a spiritual successor to Captain Commando. You play as bounty hunters in an alternate future earth setting. A lot of the characters have overly comical designs, like one of the playable characters who rides a pink ostrich and the colorful gang of thong-wearing bikers who drive back and forth across the screen trying to run you down until they are defeated. Perhaps the coolest thing about Battle Circuit is the special moves that each character can buy in between levels which are activated by pressing a button combination like in a fighting game.
In order for this to not just be another “Collection”, Capcom needs to up the ante a bit. There are a few things that need to be done in order for this to be the ultimate collection. First, Capcom needs to curate and add more bundles/games. They have a ton of arcade games not featured in this collection and they need to keep adding more games (and achievements). I was kind of disappointed to see three versions of Street Fighter 2 but no Darkstalkers. Second, the level up rewards are pathetic, there are twenty levels/classes and less than half of them feature some sort of cabinet art unlock. If it’s not evident by now people like being rewarded for everything they do. Each level should unlock something, which ties into my third suggestion. Where’s the concept art? One of the best things about their Mega Man Collections are the concept art galleries. While they’re looking for the concept art, they should keep an eye or rather an ear out for a sound test option. These games have tons of great, catchy chiptune tracks, wouldn’t it be nice if you could listen to them at your own leisure instead of only during certain levels?
The final suggestion is probably the least likely since the game is already released, but why is there no online co-op play? That would cement this collection as one of the best around. Arc System Works was able to implement online co-op into their individual throwback releases. I’m sure setting it up for dozens of games would be much more complicated, but Capcom is a huge company, so I think they could have figured it out. One more idea that could really take this to the next level and up the replayability would be some sort of combined play challenge or gaming decathlon, where you play one level in multiple games in a set order, and of course, you would be rewarded in glorious CASPO and leaderboard recognition. It is a stadium after all so some extra alternative “events” would make sense.
If I had to recommend just one of the three packs I would most likely go with Capcom Arcade Stadium Pack 2: Arcade Revolution (’89-’92). It has the widest variety of games and a good balance of difficulty. The first pack’s games feel like you’re fighting with the controls just as much as the enemies, but the second pack seems to hit a sweet spot. Most of them feel like full-fledged games whereas a lot of the games in the first pack seem like they’re just quarter vacuums. If you like fighting games and shoot ’em ups the third pack would also be a good choice.
If want to get back to your arcade roots and experience some of Capcom’s exemplary arcade games spanning over three decades then Capcom Arcade Stadium is a no-brainer. The quality of life additions allow players of all skill levels to enjoy the games, and the multiple leaderboards for each game will have the veterans competing for fame and glory. Some audiovisual galleries would have been nice, but as long as Capcom stays active with challenges and hopefully adds more games then the Stadium will remain standing room only for some time to come – but really how else would you play at the arcade?Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.