Midway Arcade Origins

Midway Arcade Origins

I remember some of my favorite PS1 games being these types of collections.  Honestly, I didn’t grow up in the arcade era, as my first gaming addiction was the Super NES.  A far retreat from spending the entirety of a Friday night down at the “local joint” with a few rolls of quarters.  But I feel like the legendary status garnered to those older experiences ring home as a “right of passage” for all gamers.  You simply must play Pong to call yourself a gamer; that type of thing.  Case in point, practically everyone I knew who had a Playstation also possessed a copy of Namco Museum Vol. 1, myself included.  Why?  I don’t know, just felt like the right thing to have.  In the current generation, you’re much more likely to have DLC versions of ’80s and ’90s ports.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but often playing those gets relegated to “mop up duty” while you wait for the rest of you “bros” to hop on Big Team Infinity Slayer or Black Ops II Zombies.  Whatever you disc tray is occupied with will get your full attention.  And sometimes it’s cool to mentally jump in a modified DMC-12, reach 88mph, and spend hours button mashing through a “simpler time” in gaming.

Origins has 31 games in it’s library, and is split into different categories:

Gauntlet (1985)
Gauntlet II (1986)
Pit-Fighter (1990)
Xenophobe (1987)

A.P.B. (1987)
Championship Sprint (1987)
Spy Hunter (1988)
Spy Hunter II (1987)
Super Off Road (1989)
Super Sprint (1986)
Toobin’ (1988)

Bubbles (1982)
Joust (1982)
Joust 2 (1986)
Marble Madness (1984)
Rampage (1986)
Root Beer Tapper (1984)

Defender (1980)
Defender II (1981)
Rampart (1990)
Robotron 2084 (1982)
Satan’s Hollow (1981)
Sinistar (1982)
Smash TV (1990)
Total Carnage (1992)
Vindicators Part II (1988)
Wizards of Wor (1980)
Xybots (1987)

720 (1987)
Arch Rivals (1989)
Tournament Cyberball 2072 (1989)

As groupings go, one or two or three stand out from the rest.  Gauntlet is one of my favorite arcade titles ever, so I was thrilled when it and it’s sequel showed up.  Unfortunately, there is no PSN multiplayer available for any selection, so local play is the only option to get the full experience.  Character strategies (Warrior fights the most, so needs the most food; Wizard is best with potions, ect.) and maze memorization make the replay value quite high.  Spy Hunter kind of defined a new way for the driving crowd.  Instead of circling lap after lap or trying to beat the clock, there is an action and danger theme at play.  Guns on the car?  AWESOME!  Going fast and having control are coupled with a need to blow up the bad guys.  Super Off Road is a top notch top-down racer.  The rugged “rally” feel of your race truck is unlike the twitchy finesse it takes to win in Championship Sprint.  Keep the hammer down and find the best route around.  And the prize money turned into upgrades between events adds another layer to this game.  The platformers have the most range in terms of control schemes and styles.  Root Beer Tapper (or as our EIC Nathan points out, was originally just Beer Tapper) is quite different from, say, Rampage.  In the former, you continue to fill mugs to lines of awaiting and thirsty customers.  Quick reflexes and being mindful of the “customer queue” are crucial to continuing on to the next stage.  I hadn’t played it before Origins, and I’m not good at it, so needless to say I have some practicing to do.  On the other hand, the latter is another “personal fav.”  Jumping from building to building and haymaking the side of it until it topples, all the while munching on National Guardsman and helicopters is monster-sized fun.  And gets even better with two others in co-op.

The shooter gallery is the most crowded, with 11 titles on it’s shelf.  Defender is one of the more classically popular available.  Sci-fi side-scroller as you pilot a fighter ship hell bent on eradicating the extra-terrestrial threat (raise your hand if you happen to know a game or two that could easily employ that description). Sinistar is another space flight shooter, but this one is a top-down/nonlinear in nature as you must quickly destroy planetoids to collect crystals.  The crystals are used for developing Sinibombs, the only known weapon that can blast away the deadly Sinistars.  In terms of gameplay, this is just okay.  But it’s worth playing for the voice over aloneTotal Carnage falls in the same vein as Smash TV.  Here you control a John Rambo wannabe in a two stick frag fest with different enemy types and even intermittent boss battles.  This is super fun and was my top choice in the category.  The last heading is sports.  Sadly, only three made the disc, but all of them are unique from one another.  Arch Rivals is a two-on-two full court basketball-er comparable to NBA Jam.  No fouls means punching opponents to generate steals and fast break dunk opportunities.  But don’t expect any awesomely outrageous commentary (which is a bummer). 

In terms of overall gameplay, I was pleased.  It’s always difficult to translate the cabinet joystick/button layout to our new console pads.  But the gestures seem appropriate.  Using the thumbstick for movement in arcade ports usually spells frustration laden disaster (Sonic the Hedgehog anyone?).  But with Origins, the folks at Backbone did a really good job with each game to ensure this felt precise and natural.  There are two different “modes” per game.  One is Free Play, which allows the opportunity to set the options to your liking (difficulty, lives, first bonus/additional life bonus score mark, ect.) and affords “unlimited quarters” for certain games (technically, you’re invincible in a game like Gauntlet because you can repeatedly press Select and give yourself more health).  Score Attack locks the settings so you can earn Trophies and fight for positioning on the PSN leaderboards.  Each game has decent presentation.  The box art claims “HD” which in this case simply means things have been “buffed out” a bit.  Deeper color contrast and more defined “lines.”  Just don’t get your hopes up and think all of these got the Pac-Man Championship Edition DX treatment.