Review: Capcom Arcade Stadium – SENSES

Capcom releases a collection of arcade classics on Switch, which will make retro fans rejoice.

Retro is huge. The generation that was the first to grow up with computer and video games (the 70s) has become parents and middle-aged adults with (hopefully) good salaries and what could be more fun than nostalgia and to be able to relive the children and youth for a while? Like many songs and movies, not all old games age with age, but some of the arcade classics in Capcom Arcade Stadium lasts well 20-35 years later. And it has never been so easy to experience so many of them as now – nor so varied.

Capcom Arcade Stadium select game
Move between 32 virtual arcade machines and play your favorite classics. Photo: Nintendo

Capcom Arcade Stadium is a kind of portal for Capcom’s arcade games from mainly the 90s, but also the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 2000s. Everyone who downloads the basic program, which is free, gets it 1943: The Battle for Midway (from 1987) to get started with free of charge. Recently, Capcom licensed several of its games to Koch that gave us the excellent Capcom Home Arcadehardware with 16 game classics, which unfortunately never became any more (official) releases. Capcom Arcade Stadium doubles the number for games to 32 and at the time of writing is only available for the Nintendo Switch (it will also be released for PS4, Xbox One and PC, but it is unclear when). Here you buy either individual games for SEK 40 each, a package with ten game games from one of the time periods below for SEK 150 or the entire collection for SEK 400. An affordable price for owning all these classics in licensed versions and in addition, the developers have thrown in some bonuses: in addition to the fact that you can in the usual order put in endlessly with virtual “coins” and run unlimited with continues, you can also here select ROM version of each game: either the US or Japanese version. Some games are only available in Japanese and the ROM versions may contain small, local differences that you can read about around each game (different sounds, details in tracks and more).

The games at Capcom Arcade Stadium

1943: The Battle of Midway (1987) (free)

“Dawn of the Arcade” (1984–1988):
Vulgus (1984)
Pirate Ship Higemaru (1984)
1942 (1984)
Commando (1985)
Section Z (1985)
Trojan (1986)
Legendary Wings (1986)
Bionic Commando (1987)
Forgotten Worlds (1988)
Ghouls’ n Ghosts (1988)
Ghosts’ n Goblins (1985) (bonus)

“Arcade Revolution” (1989-1992):
Strider (1989)
Dynasty Wars (1989)
Final Fight (1989)
1941: Counter Attack (1990)
Mercs (1990)
Mega Twins (1990)
Carrier Air Wing (1990)
Street Fighter II (1991)
Captain Commando (1991)
Varth: Operation Thunderstorm (1992)

“Arcade Evolution” (1992–2001):
Warriors of Fate (1992)
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992)
Super Street Fighter II Turbo (1994)
Armored Warriors (1994)
Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness (1995)
19XX: The War Against Destiny (1995)
Battle Circuit (1997)
Giga Wing (1999)
1944: The Loop Master (2000)
Progear (2001)

It’s like you see a lot of games, and you who are old AmigaAnd Atariowners get to know lots of them, especially from the Dawn of the Arcade and Arcade Revolution collections as Ocean and US Gold made various good efforts to convert to 16-bit home computer format. Each game is set to the difficulty level in eight steps – from non-existent to extreme and you can also set the speed the game moves at and your own strength, something that was impossible on the arcade where the aim was to keep the players just long enough to get them to continue feeding coins, but not so long so that everyone in the queue went home out of boredom. All games are basically pay-to-win schemes, as you can continue to enter virtual coins and harrow indefinitely and you can of course both save and rewind, something that has become standard in collections with classic retro games on mini-consoles among otherwise (but if you “cheat” your high score online does not count)

Among the games that stand out as the very best, we have Battle Circuit, which holds up well as a side-scrolling beat’em-up with humor even today, the bullet hell classic Giga Wing and Progear, of course Super Street Fighter II Turbo (which is the game everyone learns to own in the vast majority of copies across all formats as it is practically included in all retro collections) and the personal favorites from the Amiga era Mega Twins, Final Fight and the odd, but nibbling good bird Strider. Street Fighter 2 reappears in no less than three incarnations of the same part (all slightly different) and 19xx-the games are quite similar, but still worth playing through all by themselves.

Capcom Arcade Stadium Battle Circuit
Battle Circuit. Photo: Capcom

Of course, the Nintendo Switch hardware works without problems for this collection of classics, which at the time they went running on hardware that basically runs calculators today. They have chosen to emulate the original ROMs exactly, so they keep all the flaws such as lost frames and slow-downs that the arcade machines had, including any graphics bugs. We are a bit divided about this – yes, from a purist point of view it is correct, but like an old film that you can polish up scratches and dust grains in and offer new, better sound, it would have been nice to avoid the old nostalgia about how inadequate technology was 30 years ago.

Capcom Arcade Stadium 3D arcade mode
The “Arcade” mode may be a fun thought, but it gets infinitely sketchy in portable mode on the Switch. Photo: Nintendo

You can also turn on filters and graphic effects, such as watching the games in a drawn arcade cabinet that should give a bit of a “3D” feel. This mode is quite deplorable in some games, if you drive portable, because they become so tiny that you can barely see what is happening (1943 for example). It is possible to turn the image and controls, but it is very cumbersome. The games work best on a large TV with the right picture format (nothing extended to 16: 9) and you can set most things from breaks, to emulating the curved edges of the picture tube TV and fill in the edges with colorful frames.

It’s fun that the games support local co-op 2-4 players, depending on the title. But it is also a pity that this is not supported to be done online, as the games themselves are not very demanding. It would have been perfect now in corona times.

Capcom Arcade Stadium Strider
Strider. Photo: Capcom

Capcom Arcade Stadium is undeniably a love letter to retro players and arcade fans, which will surely be appreciated by the target audience. If it will mean as much to those who are not related to the game classics, however, is less certain. Side-scrolling arcade games can be experienced – quite rightly – as repetitive and the times that have passed are perhaps very much about regaining the feeling of standing there in the arcade hall, bowling alley or local video store, with a couple of pennies in your pocket and hoping to play a quick round without anyone in charge seeing one (there was a 15-year limit on arcade machines, so just in time for many to turn 15 years old so these arcade machines disappeared in favor of ever better home formats). Today, our game consoles run revolutions around these games, in every way, not least in terms of presentation, scope, playability and variety.

Capcom Arcade Stadium Forgotten Worlds
Forgotten Worlds. Photo: Capcom

But – if you were at the time it went, or ever owned one Commodore 64, Amiga 500, Atari ST, SNES or Mega Drive – do yourself a favor and download the basic program on your Switch and test some classics you recognize. Forgotten Worlds and Street Fighter 2 were much better at arcades than they ever were at home formats from that time.