As I’ve mentioned here before (see The great drunken retro game challenge of a couple of weeks back), game compilations are a fantastically compact, convenient way to enjoy an evening’s gaming. The nature of compilations means that a sudden desire to play something else no longer requires the lazy gamer to rise from the couch and swap discs or cartridges.
Laziness aside, game compilations, such as Capcom Classics or Taito Legends make sound economic sense. Much of their contents may be available on the current gen consoles’ digital download lists, but to purchase them individually would add up to a considerable cost, particularly when you consider that the aforementioned collections (which contain around twenty or thirty games apiece) can be picked up for only ten pounds or so.
Compilations also open up a library of rare games that would normally be the preserve of the dedicated collector. If you don’t believe me, head to eBay and try to find a copy of Elevator Action Returns for the Sega Saturn; you won’t get much change from a fifty pound note. Suddenly, ten pounds for a copy of Taito Legends sounds very cheap indeed.
Here then, is my wish list of five retro game compilations…
Toaplan spent the best part of the eighties and nineties quietly churning out some of the most bullet-crazy, pulse-quickeningly difficult blasters ever, from the early days of the unremarkable Slap Fight to their last title, the completely insane Batsugun, Toaplan were the masters of the overhead shooter.
A collection of the studio’s finest coin-op moments, along with their faithful Megadrive ports (Tatsujin/Truxton and Same! Same! Same!/Fire Shark ranking among the best blasters available for the system), would surely jump straight to the top of every shoot-‘em-up fan’s shopping list.
While not everything that rolls out of Treasure’s studio is video gaming gold, as some would have you believe,- its occasional reliance on lucrative licensing deals such as McDonalds and Tiny Toons often resulting in only so-so final products – they’ve nevertheless produced some absolutely stunning and audacious games.
Famous for squeezing every last drop of processing power out of whichever system they chose, from lightning fast action in Gunstar Heroes to a frankly shocking number of sprites onscreen in multi-directional shooter Bangaioh, Treasure’s 20-strong team have been churning out classic games for sixteen years.
Treasure’s almost unassailable reputation has led to many of its games becoming highly sought-after collector’s items, with copies of Radiant Silvergun and Alien Soldier changing hands for £100 or more. A collection that put these games back into the realms of affordability would be a dream come true for many hardcore gamers.
Best of Gollop
The strategy genre has come a long way in the last twenty years, steadily evolving from the rather austere icon-based games of yore to the rapid, real time battles we enjoy today. And while Japan’s Herzog Zwei is popularly cited as a prime influence on the creation of Dune II, the progenitor of Command & Conquer, the UK’s own Julian Gollop was a genuine pioneer in the arcade strategy genre.
His turn-based tactical games, from Chaos on the ZX Spectrum to UFO: Enemy Unknown on the PC, were colourful, fast-paced and, above all, addictive. Graphically crude by modern standards, Gollop’s work still possesses a strategic depth and design finesse that stands up today – Chaos and Rebelstar are among the only games from the Spectrum era that I still play on a regular basis – and a 21st century compilation could reintroduce these classics to a whole new audience.
PC Engine classics
When NEC released the PC Engine to a 1987 market dominated by Nintendo and (to a lesser extent) Sega, the diminutive console garnered a great deal of attention thanks to its near-arcade perfect conversion of legendary blaster R-Type. In the NES era of blocky, drab colours and huge cartridges, the PC Engine – with its sharp rainbow of colours and tiny, credit card sized media – seemed to come from some distant future. But despite its initial success in Japan – and modest support in Europe and America – NEC lacked the cash and marketing clout of its competitors and by 1993 the PC Engine was discontinued.
Some sixteen years on, the Engine’s revered status among collectors puts the system and its excellent library of games beyond the reach of all but the most solvent and dedicated gamers – a shame, as there are dozens of titles that deserved to be played by anyone with thumbs, from Compile’s classic shooter Gunhed to the prehistoric platformer PC Kid (AKA Bonk’s Adventure) via Super Star Soldier and Parasol Stars, the Engine exclusive sequel to Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands.
A definitive Yu Suzuki collection
Without a doubt, Sega’s success in the cutthroat world of the eighties coin-op market is almost entirely thanks to the talent and imagination of Yu Suzuki, a man who took the possibilities of the arcade cabinet to new heights with games such as Space Harrier, Outrun and Afterburner, while simultaneously pushing the possibilities of the era’s technology to the limit with lightning fast, sprite-based pseudo 3D.
Dreamcast collectors may know that there’s already been a Yu Suzuki compilation – a Japan-only release that bundled together five of his earliest works – but to overlook his equally important later games would be criminal. His Virtua Fighter series brought the beat-‘em-up genre kicking and screaming into the polygon age, while the stunningly ambitious Shenmue dyad created a sandbox world of crime and depressing manual labour a full two years before Grand Theft Auto III.
A comprehensive Yu Suzuki collection would be a fitting tribute to a designer who, along with Shigeru Miyamoto, helped define the way we play games.
Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.