For a retro gamer like myself, this iPhone app from Capcom should be a dream come true. Over the years, Capcom have produced some of the best known and most loved arcade games. Thanks to massive advances in technology, these once impressive and high spec games can now be crammed onto the (relatively) humble iPhone.
Capcom clearly recognise that this app is most going to appeal to retro gamers and lovers of the whole arcade experience and this is reflected in their presentation. To hold the whole thing together, there is a pleasingly retro style title screen, accompanied by cheesy 80s style arcade music. The selection screen for the games themselves takes the form of the entrance to a gaming arcade and will instantly deliver a blast of nostalgia for those of us who spent far too much time (and money) in such places.
Collections like this often fall at the first hurdle through poor or lazy emulation. This can result in buggy sound, lags in play or simply poor definition to the graphics and sound. Capcom, though, have got it spot on. The presentation and games are generally glitch free and all the titles in this collection look good. True, the play area (which only takes up half of the iPhone's screen) is a little cramped, but this is not actually as much of a problem as you might expect and all the graphics are generally clear and easy to see, despite their reduced size.
Sound is also generally well-emulated and the original tunes and effects from the arcade original are reproduced well, enhancing that blast of nostalgia. I have experienced the odd glitch where the sound sometimes cuts out for a few seconds, but this is relatively rare and doesn't detract from the games too much.
Of course, the emulation is a critical feature, but both the choice of games and the way they have adapted for the iPhone is just as important. Here, Capcom is taking no chances and has started off the collection with some of its biggest names. Here's a lowdown on the games available to date:
Street Fighter II
Sadly, this is possibly the weakest title in the collection. The impressively large characters that so wowed arcade-goers over 20 years ago look nowhere near as impressive when shrunk down to fit the iPhone's much smaller screen. As a result, Street Fighter II feels very cramped and cluttered. Time has also not been particularly kind to the game play or graphics generally, which look very dated.
The controls don't help matters either. The 8 way virtual joystick used to control movement and the multiple attack buttons prove too cumbersome to use and are nowhere near as intuitive as a set of physical controls, so that you never quite feel fully in control of your character. Not a good start.
A scrolling shooter where you control a lone commando, as he has to make his way up the screen, fighting hordes of enemy soldiers. The graphics and sound inevitably look dated when compared to today's ultra-realistic titles, but the tiny sprites have lots of character and are nice and clear. However, the cramped screen again affects playability, making it tricky to spot enemy bullets, and you will often find yourself howling in frustration as you are cut down by a bullet you never even saw.
As with most of the games in this selection, the controls are based around a virtual joystick to control movement and a button for throwing grenades (your gun is set to autofire). Sadly, once again, this control method lets the game down and it can be a little temperamental or unresponsive (moving diagonally is particularly tricky). As a game, Commando requires a lot of precision - just being a fraction out of position can result in you dying - and the virtual joystick just doesn't give you the same amount of control over your character. The core game play is still as addictive as ever, but the shoddily implemented controls limit the fun to be had from this title.
Easily the best game in the pack, in 1942, you control a single fighter plane which has to fly up the screen over enemy territory taking on the might of its airforce. As with all the other titles in this selection, the game is crammed into the top part of the screen, but here it doesn't matter, since it always feels as there is plenty of room in which to manoeuvre.
More importantly, the controls on this one work extremely well, making your plane highly responsive and easy to manoeuvre out of tricky situations. As with Commando, your guns are set to autofire, whilst movement of your plane is achieved simply by dragging your finger across the screen in the direction you want to move. The controls are fast and responsive and it makes you wonder why a similar approach wasn't taken with the other titles.
A slightly more forgiving difficulty level also makes this game more appealing, and it's the one game in the pack I do return to.
Ghosts & Goblins/Ghouls &Ghosts
I've lumped these two games together, since, barring a few gameplay tweaks, they are more or less identical (Ghouls is the sequel to Ghosts). In a departure from the games so far, they are side scrolling platformers in which you play a knight, charged with rescuing the princess from evil ghouls, ghosts and other foul creatures. Presentation-wise, the game has stood the test of time well: the graphics are varied and full of character, with dark colours presenting a sombre, spooky atmosphere; the monsters look and behave differently and the in-game music is suitably spooky.
Again, controls let it down a little, although not quite as badly as in some of the other titles. Once again, the virtual joystick rears its ugly head, with two separate buttons for jumping and firing your weapon. On this one, though, the controls are not too bad and it's easy to slide your fingers between the controls to get a reasonable degree of manoeuvrability. It's still not as responsive as a joystick, but at least the game remains playable, if a little frustrating.
As ever, though, the difficulty level is set incredibly high and many gamers will find themselves howling in frustration as a single game can sometimes last less than two minutes! This betrays the game's arcade origins when it's purpose was to gobble your credits and (as we shall see) this incarnation has a similar intention.
This brings us neatly onto the pricing structure which, quite frankly, sucks and (along with the slightly dodgy controls) is the reason for this collection's low score. The actual basic app is free to download which, on the face of it, looks like pretty good value for money.
Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story. The game works on a credit system. Each day you get three free credits; with every game you play costing one credit. If you want more than three games in a day, you have to purchase further credits at a cost of 59p each. When you consider that some of the games are incredibly difficult and can last a matter of seconds for the uninitiated, then 59p per game starts to look like very poor value for money. I despise the insidious nature of in-app purchases and the way it has been implemented here smacks of Capcom exploiting a loyal user base for every last penny it can.
In fairness, if you enjoy a specific title, you can buy it outright at a cost of around £1.79, which then gives you unlimited plays, leaving you to use your free credits for the other games. If you buy all of the titles in this collection outright, though, that "free" download price will suddenly cost you over £10 which is very poor value for money.
The possibilities for this title are almost limitless - Capcom has loads of games it could add to the collection - but unless Capcom addresses the serious control issues and poor pricing structure, it's not going to be particularly appealing, regardless of the games it makes available.
© Copyright SWSt 2011