My Suggestions for Preserving Classic Arcade Games
Though I mostly cover modern arcade games, I absolutely love the classics, too. There are a lotta goodies out there: Galaga, Dig Dug, Shao-lin’s Road, Gun.Smoke, Smash TV, NBA Jam, and so many more. Classic arcade games are often these perfect, timeless experiences, and I’d love for everybody to get to experience at least a few of time at some point in there lives.
Because it’s so largely understood that classics are great, there have been a number of efforts to preserve them (and/or capitalize on their popularity) in other formats. The most common way to preserve these games has pretty much always been classic compilations. The IP-holders will typical task a small developer with shoving 10 to 20 classic arcade games onto one cartridge or disc. We’ve had a large number of wonderful compilations since the late-90’s or so: Namco Museum, Midway Arcade Treasures, Taito Legends, SNK Arcade Classics, and many more.
These compilation volumes have done a wonderful job of preserving arcade games for generations to come, and I’m darn glad we have ‘em at our disposal. Still, porting arcade games to consoles always results in the diminishment of the experience in some way, shape, or form. Sure, we have the games—but do we have them the way they were meant to played?
That’s why I believe, in order to perfectly preserve classic arcade games, developers must create literal arcade compilations. Essentially, legal multicades! And it’s not like this idea is anything new. Namco has their Classics Compilations and Pac-Man’s Arcade Party, after all. Even the idea of putting creating an arcade duo cabinet (a la the Maximum Force and Area 51 duo from Atari in the 90’s) preserves arcade games in their truest form. The only problem is, despite arcade compilation cabinets existing, the idea has never been pursued as deeply as it could have been.
The fun thing about arcades is that they’re often a beautiful hodge-podge of decades and eras. You’re just as likely to find the original Pac-Man as you are to find Terminator Salvation. Arcades bridge generations and exhibit the best games no matter what their age may be!
Unfortunately, these glorious anachronisms don’t always get to live forever. Some games were desecrated through upgrade kits at some point in their lifetimes, and some just plain die. As repairs become more expensive and replacement parts become more difficult to track down, I imagine that some arcade operators eventually can’t justify the trouble of maintaining the games and sell them off to collectors on Craigslist. (CRT monitors in particular are becoming ridiculously hard to come by these days.) It’s not necessarily bad; it’s just a reality of the amusement business.
As more games disappear from the face of the Earth, so do a player’s opportunities to play a classic arcade games in their original forms. And sure, there are lots of home console compilations out there. But wouldn’t it be great if developers released compilations in genuine arcade cabinets? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were modern options for arcade operators?
That’s why I 100 percent believe that developers should release their classic arcade games in official multicade compilations. Gamers and operators alike should be privy to the convenience and simplicity of modern machines that hold multiple games. Imagine how great it would be to find a treasure trove of classic games all on one cabinet. Gone would be the days of tracking down elusive original cabinets; popular and obscure games alike would be just a credit away at your local arcade.
In my opinion, the best way to organize and release these multicades would be by genre and series. Raw Thrills could license and compile Robotron 2084, Smash TV, and Total Carnage in one Midway twin-stick shooter package. SEGA could rerelease the first four House of the Dead games (and HOTD 4 Special!) in one convenient cabinet. SEGA could also group together a bunch of classic arcade driving games, like Daytona USA, Daytona USA 2: Battle on the Edge, Outrun, Outrun 2, and Crazy Taxi. Namco could shove the first four Time Crisis games into one cabinet, too! Official multicade compilations could make classic games more accessible for everyone. For games like Daytona USA 2, multicades thrust rare arcade experiences back into players’ hands. For long-running like The House of the Dead and Time Crisis, multicades would be a simple way for players to catch up on the story without going to a million different arcades. The possibilities and benefits are both innumerable.
Naturally, there’s a lot more thought and energy required to pull off multicades than I carelessly write about here. All games—even a bunch of seemingly simple multicades—take a lot of time and money to bring to light. But I believe that this idea is a necessary one. To preserve arcade games in an arcade format, developers should release officially-licensed multicades with games from all stretches of arcade history.
Thinking about it now, it seems rather odd that we haven’t seen more multicade efforts from developers in the past. Old arcade games eventually die; it’s the sad truth. Releasing small, inexpensive multicade cabinets seems like the perfect way to combat this inevitable aging. As long as the multicades have a small footprint and retail somewhere in the $4,000 to $7,000 range, I see them as the most cost-effective and enduring way to preserve classic arcade games. Besides, buying the original arcade cabinets doesn’t support the arcade industry, in the same way that buying used games doesn’t support the home video game industry. Providing modern compilation alternatives will ensure that the classics get played and the industry itself continues to thrive.
Because this is probably a wild fantasy and this is my personal blog, let’s look at some games I’d like to see rereleased in official multicade form.
A “SEGA Drivers” collection - SEGA has churned out a ton of excellent racing/driving games throughout the years. Unfortunately, you can’t always find ‘em out in the wild in 2018. That’s why a multicade featuring such classics as Daytona USA, Daytona USA 2: Battle on the Edge, Out Run, Out Run 2, the Virtua Racing games, and Crazy Taxi would be glorious. It would be nice if the compilation were released in both upright and sit-down cabinets, just to expand its location reach. Licensing would be the only problem with this multicade. The Daytona games are fully licensed, and Crazy Taxi uses licensed music.
A House of the Dead collection - The House of the Dead series is a staple of arcades. With House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn coming to arcades this year, it’s important that younger players (including myself) get a chance to experience the first four games. Considering that the HOTD games are much more story-oriented than most arcade games, a multicade would be especially helpful for new players. Wouldn’t it be so cool if a little House of the Dead multicade was sitting right next to House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn at your local arcade?
A Midway twin-stick shooter collection - This multicade might be a little tricky to arrange. Now that Warner Bros. owns much of Midway’s old intellectual property, there would have to be some negotiating to make a compilation of this nature a reality. However, if Raw Thrills or a similar company could nail it, I would totally dig a twin-stick shooter collection featuring Robotron 2084, Smash TV, and Total Carnage. These games are classics that everyone should get to experience on an actual arcade cabinet. Seeing as how Raw Thrills was able to secure the Cruis’n license, I have no doubt in my mind that they can make a licensed multicade of this nature.
Time Crisis collection - Though not quite as story-based as The House of the Dead, Time Crisis is another long-running and hugely popular series of arcade games. If we were to compile the first four games (which shouldn't be too terrible hard, I hope), these classic rail shooters would be made available to a new generation of players. Heck, even Time Crisis 4 deserves preservation! (Read my review if you're the slightest bit interested. I like the story and all, but I wasn't a huge fan of multi-screen battles. The dual-pedal system in TC5 was a much more interesting innovation.)
A Cruis'n collection - The Cruis'n series of arcade racers is one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, the recent revival, Cruis'n Blast, didn't do the trick for me. It didn't have enough content, enough soul. However, an officially-licensed Cruis'n multicade could expose younger gamers (like myself) to the joys of racing their way to Bill Clinton's warm embrace. Centralizing Cruis'n USA, Cruis'n World, and Cruis'n Exotica in one cabinet would make it so much easier for gamers to play through the whole series. (After all, Exotica has become quite uncommon.) These games will always be some of my favorite arcade racers ever. Why not share these experiences with others? How else will the kids remember to not inhale?
A Mortal Kombat kollection - Brief disclosure: I've never been a fan of the Mortal Kombat games, or really fighting games in general (barring the excellent Marvel vs. Capcom games). I can appreciate their quality and I see why everyone likes them so much, but I just can't get into the gameplay. However, that is no reason to keep these classics away from a new generation of gamers. An officially-licensed Mortal Kombat multicade featuring the first four games in the series would be totally toasty. Would I still be bad at playing MK? Yes. But would it expose new gamers to a wonderful series in its purest arcade form? Yes again.
A Street Fighter collection - Everybody knows Street Fighter. It is pretty much THE fighting game series. (At least, THE Japanese fighting game series. I duly acknowledge Mortal Kombat, too.) Once again, I'm not the biggest fan of fighting games, but the Street Fighter series is of great historical significance. Imagine if you could play all of the arcade games on one cabinet? Street Fighter, Street Fighter, Street Fighter III...maybe Street Fighter IV, too! (It's not too early to rerelease that in a multicade, is it?) Heck, Capcom could even throw Street Fighter: The Movie in that dude. It's all about preserving older arcade games, is it not?
A Virtua Fighter collection - Virtua Fighter, believe it or not, is a fighting game series I actually quite enjoy. It's probably for purely arbitrary reasons, though. (Maybe I think it's faster or something?) Either way, the Virtua Fighter games are great, and they deserve to be preserved. Being able to access all five original arcade games on one cabinet would be glorious. How about we get SEGA on this? (Or perhaps an arcade Virtua Fighter 6?)
A Tekken collection - The Tekken series is another fluke for me and my tastes in fighting games. For whatever reason, I just really like it. If Namco could compile the first five or so games on one multicade, I'd probably flip. Preserve arcade history!
There are of course a huge number of potential candidates for anthology-style preservation; these are just a few that I'd really like to see. If you agree that the classics should be preserved in this method, share this article with a relevant arcade developer. If you have your own ideas, share them with me in the comments below. (Or maybe not? Wix says I've reached my comment-limit and that I need to upgrade the Comments app. Thanks, Wix. Might as well bite the hand that feeds me.) Player input is all about discussion, after all. Heck, you could even just write your own article on this topic and share the link with me. I'd really appreciate it if you did.
Here's to the classics, kiddos. Maybe someday we'll see more official multicade cabinets. It might just cut down on the number of people operating copyright-infringing multicades. (I apologize for purchasing a 60-in-1 Multicade. I promise not to operate it anywhere. It'll just be for my garage, heh-heh.)
Keep it real, ya sweaty flippin' nerds.