Reviewed: May 2, 2007
Released: March 27, 2007
One of the many reasons I enjoy playing video games so much is that at some subconscious level it keeps me feeling youngÖat least until Konami releases a game like Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits that gives me 15 reasons to feel very old.
Letís face it, retro gaming is all the rage right now on consoles and handhelds, although while the PSP and GBA have received more than their fair share of retro compilations, the NDS has only been tainted with Atariís ill-fated attempt at a trip down memory lane. Thankfully, Konami is here to not only let you relive your misspent youth without the burden of a pocket full of tokens, but also to show developers that retro gaming can be done, and done right on the NDS.
Konamiís Arcade Hits brings 15 of some of the more legendary arcade hits from the 80ís to your small screen in all their former glory. This DS compilation allows players to relive their greatest gaming memories with new dual screen presentation, support for wireless multiplayer and a wealth of rare unlockable materials that provide an insiderís view of these classic titles. The only thing youíll have to adjust to is the smaller screen and the smaller buttons, especially when you want to pound your way to victory in games like Track and Field.
Rather than present you with 15 mini-reviews for each of the games, Iíll just cover the titles in general and the scope of their presentation and technical prowess. Letís face it, none of these games would garner a second look as anything remotely playable these days, even on a cell phone, but once you stamp them with the ďretroĒ moniker you can get away with anything.
Here is a brief summary of all 15 titles included in Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits:
Horror Maze: (aka Tutankham)
Track and Field:
Yie-Ar Kung Fu:
Admittedly, games like Contra, Gradius, and Time Pilot have already made recent appearances in other compilations and some have even been turned into dedicated remakes on Xbox Live Arcade. But there is no denying the appeal to have a collection like this in your pocket. There is almost certainly a game in this compilation to fit any mood of any gamer at any time.
As with any collection of games, youíll certainly gravitate to a few personal favorites. I was a big fan of Tutankham back in the arcade days, and not much has changed other than the new title, Horror Maze. This is classic 2D Indiana Jones arcade action. Scramble and Time Pilot would have been much more fun for me if I hadnít already played them on XBLA, and Gradius just had a huge re-release on the PSP.
I ultimately found myself irresistibly drawn to Track and Field, a game responsible for as many broken arcade cabinets as blistered thumbs back in the 80ís. And while the DS was able to technically recreate this game right down to the digitized sports announcer voice, you just really canít mash on those DS buttons like you need to in order to nail those world records. But it sure is fun trying.
As you progress through each game, players can record and save replays of high scores and impressive feats which can then be shared with friends via local wireless connection on the Nintendo DS. A selection of games that featured multiplayer play in the arcades can be enjoyed wirelessly with a friend on the Nintendo DS, and players can also wirelessly send demo versions of all 15 games to other users within range.
Possibly even more fun than playing the games is all the historic information that Konami packs into this title. You can find scans of all the original leaflets that arcade owners got with their coin-op games as well as nifty cheat functions that allow you to alter game settings by tweaking virtual dipswitches on a coin-op motherboard using the touch screen. Adjusting that rapid-fire might just get you that world record in Track and Field.
While impressive in the 80ís, these games certainly wonít be winning any awards, even when compared to other DS games, but that isnít the point. As with any retro title, the ultimate goal is to recreate the games as close to their originals as possible and Konami has done so with flying 8 and 16-bit colors.
Contra fans will be glad to know that you can rotate the DS (and the gameplay) 90-degrees so you can play Contra and a few other games in their original 3:4 aspect ratio. It takes a bit of getting used to, holding the DS sideways and using the controls, but itís worth it, especially on Contra. For games that play the normal way, you can choose to play on either the top of bottom screen. Since none of the actual games support the stylus this is a matter of pure preference.
The rotating menu to choose your game is functional but a bit clumsy. The other menus like the options, setup, and virtual motherboards are quite clever and add some flair to the retro package.
All of the original sound and music is intact with the exception of Track and Field, which had to tweak their theme song to likely bypass expensive licensing. If youíve played any of these games before you will instantly recognize and appreciate the attention to detail in bring all these sounds and primitive music back.
A selection of music tracks is available from the outset and can be enjoyed with headphones even when the Nintendo DS system is closed.
$30 for 15 is a pretty reasonable proposition, especially when Konami is milking Xbox gamers for $5 a title for several of these games on the Live Arcade. It really just depends on how many of these games you like and will play. For me, I tried them all, had heard of (or played) half of them previously, and enjoyed playing 4-5 of the titles on a semi-regular basis for a few weeks after I received this game. Itís a good deal for $30 but it will be even sweeter when the price drops to $20.
Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits features a treasure trove of unlockable content that lets fans of these 15 classic games dig deeper into their favorite titles. Players can also view vintage concept art, promotional materials, photos of original arcade cabinets and even the actual arcade motherboards. The bonus content is almost more valuable than the games.
It was interesting to see what games Konami chose to include in Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits and the ones they most certainly have left out for strategic reasons for the inevitable sequel, plus they canít overlook that gullible XBLA audience.
Konami is responsible for some of the best video games in history and this is just one small look at a select few titles that hearken back to a day when video games was all about the ďgameĒ and not so much the ďvideoĒ. For me, Arcade Hits was a great trip down memory lane. Sadly, younger gamers probably wonít want to deal with the primitive graphics and sound, or even worse, fighting dad for their turn on the DS.