When you hear the term “Konami Arcade Classics”, what thoughts come to mind? Crossing the river on the backs of logs in Frogger? Shooting down hordes of bad guys in Contra? Beating up countless goons in the world of a licensed property? Perhaps even riding on horseback in Sunset Riders? You’d be right in all of these counts, which makes the selection of Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection so baffling. Despite the generic title, the theme clearly centers on shoot ’em ups, with several representations from throughout the company’s history. Classics like Life Force, Gradius, and TwinBee are here in all their quarter-munching glory. Is it still worth hitting up this arcade, or are these games better left in the past?
Blasting off into Space in Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection
If you’ve played any Konami retro collection in the past, you probably know what Scramble is, even if you couldn’t recall it by name. The 1981 title looks a lot like Defender, but the forced scrolling will quickly get you into a different mood. This is the first game with that kind of forced scrolling, a feature that would never be my preference in an arcade game. Still, for 1981, the game works well and has a distinctive and colorful look.
The next three most notable games in the collection are the three Gradius games, here identified by their American titles. You have Nemesis, Vulcan Venture, and the spin-off Life Force. The latter is the best by far, simplifying the power-up system and shouting arcade speech at you constantly. The enemies of Life Force are also a treat, trading in generic space baddies for gross monsters based on the innards of the human body. Walls grow and shrink around you while giant brains shoot lasers your way. It’s a genuinely 80s idea that still plays great all these years later.
Rounding out the Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection
TwinBee is technically a “cute ’em up” rather than a shoot ’em up, a difference similar to shonen and shojo in anime. You’ve got the same basic ideas, just with some elements swapped around for the opposite gender. Despite that play, TwinBee is one of the best games in the package thanks to its unique system of power-up bells and joyous soundtrack. Your little ship (an anthropomorphic starship named TwinBee) can hold hands with its co-op partner (WinBee) to increase their attack power. It’s basically the official video game of the Care Bears.
Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection (such a mouthful) rounds out its offerings with three deeper cuts. Ground-based shooters Thunder Cross and Typhoon have some historical significance but don’t really stand out in 2019. What does stand out is Haunted Castle, the strange arcade translation of Castlevania from 1988. This was two years after the series debuted on NES, and you’d think that would make for an interesting experience. Instead, Haunted Castle is a clunky and unresponsive platformer with almost no appeal, even with the benefit of historical context. We all forgot this entry in the Belmont’s quest for a reason.
Everything Beyond the Games in Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection
All and all, a fine set of games for a retro collection. A couple of classics, a few forgotten gems, and Haunted Castle for the novelty factor. You can play all the games with unlimited credits, many in co-op. The real problem comes with everything surrounding the games. Menus in Konami Arcade Classics are threadbare, featuring basic fonts and few display options. Prompts for inserting coins and starting the game take the form of an unseemly JPG pasted onto the edges of the screen. The bottom of the screen constantly has two distracting button prompts in stark black text. Your choices for background borders are a pair of computer wallpapers that don’t relate to the games you’re playing in the slightest.
I understand that every retro collection can’t stand up to the quality of Digital Eclipse’s museum–quality offerings. However, there’s nothing in Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection that suggests that these titles were curated with care. It feels like one of those Xbox Live Arcade discs you could buy with a few games slapped together due to some thin connective tissue. There is an included “ebook” with a smattering of concept art and arcade flyers, but it’s not enough. The games are playable, but there’s nothing about this experience that is a real improvement over loading up an emulator. It’s great that there’s an easy way to play Haunted Castle legally, but the audience who wants to play that game will play it one way or the other.
Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection Review | Final Thoughts
This release probably should have been called Konami SHUMP Classics. Anyone who isn’t into white knuckle bullet avoidance won’t find a lot to enjoy here. Still, if that does fit the bill, or if you’re just a weirdo who wants to try out every arcade game ever made, this collection will satisfy. Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection isn’t going to blow you out of the water, and there are better games out there, but it will scratch that itch if you need it to. It’s a fine set of games in a flimsy package that cries out desperately for a more specific moniker.
TechRaptor reviewed Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection on Xbox One X with a copy provided by the publisher.
With a scattershot selection of games and a slapdash presentation, Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection misses the mark. The games are playable, but this doesn't feel like the definitive way to preserve these classics. It instead feels like a school project thrown together during an all-nighter.
- Several Definitive Classics
- Interesting Concept Art and Flyers
- Tweakable Gameplay Options
- Ramshackle Presentation
- Limited Game Selection
- Lackluster Curation