Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play Review
On the disc are 21 games that span the full length of Midway's formative years, from the early 1980's on up to the mid-1990's when Mortal Kombat and its successors ruled the arcades. There are even a few games included from the Atari catalog that Midway acquired the rights to years ago. Some fan-favorites are missing, but the overall selection of games is excellent. You've got classics, such as Defender, Joust, and Gauntlet; quirky games, like Marble Madness, Klax, Rampart, and Toobin'; and arcade favorites, such as Paperboy, Rampage, Spy Hunter, and the first three Mortal Kombat games. That's a ton of games packed onto one disc. Furthermore, all but five of them support local multiplayer play, which is certainly a plus for anyone that wants to crawl the dungeons in Gauntlet with three friends or get some 1-on-1 going in Arch Rivals.
Why were Smash TV, Robotron 2084, and NARC left out? Why did they include Mortal Kombat 3 and not Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (which has a larger character roster)? We'll never have answers to those nagging questions. Perhaps Midway hates me personally. In any event, 21 games is 21 games and that's a ton of value no matter how you do the math.
Midway and developer Digital Eclipse didn't put a ton of care into this collection, as evidenced by some of the oopsies that made it into the final product, but the majority of games are still very playable and faithful to their original arcade counterparts. The clouds are missing in the temple background in Mortal Kombat II. The diagonals rarely work in 720 or Marble Madness. The controls are a little sluggish in Rampart. Mortal Kombat III seems to be stuck on a "turbo" setting, and there is a brief load time before fatality animations. As you can see, some of these oopsies are minor and some are more significant. Regardless, the development team re-hee-healy should have ironed out all of these flaws before the game shipped.
Also, by default, many of the older games are stretched graphically to fill the PSP screen. A side-effect of this stretch is that the graphics are distorted. It's not a major problem in most cases, but a few games do suffer greatly from the consequences. Joust, Marble Madness, and Gauntlet are particularly ugly. Furthermore, the frame-rate in a number of games is choppy because of the stretch. How do we know that? Because Digital Eclipse and Midway recently sent out a code, which wasn't documented in the manual, that allows players to select between "Full Screen," "Fit," and "Original" display ratios. When you shrink the display down to the original aspect ratio, the graphics are no longer distorted and the major share of frame drops go away. It was the discovery of this code that helped improve my opinion of the disc, because the frame drops were the most rampant and prevailing problem plaguing the major share of games in the collection.
Unfortunately, no Easter egg is going to fix the audio issues that dog many of the games on the disc. The music and sound effects are clear and perfect in certain games, such as Cyberball 2072, Defender, Joust, Klax, Sinistar, and the Mortal Kombat games. However, in some games, the music is either hissy or lacking bass, as is the case with Arch Rivals, Rampage, and 720; or the sound effects are staticky, as is ear-shatteringly evident in games like Championship Sprint, Paperboy, Spy Hunter, and Wizard of Wor. There's no rhyme or reason as to why some games have audio issues and some don't.
Having had a full month to really dig into the game and sort things out, I can say with confidence that more than half of the games in the collection are spot on emulations or only "suffer" from minor flaws that don't significantly get in the way of playing or enjoying the games in question.
The Good - Arch Rivals, Cyberball 2072, Defender, Gauntlet, Joust, Klax, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Rampart, Sinistar, Spy Hunter, Wizard of Wor, Xenophobe, Xybots.
The Bad - Championship Sprint, Marble Madness, Mortal Kombat 3, Paperboy, Rampage, Toobin', 720-degrees.
Worth your $29.99? Most definitely, assuming you like a few of the games on the "good" list.
1/9/2006 Frank Provo