Like a CD, there’s more than a few misses mixed in with the hits
Konami Classics Series Arcade Hits is a great compilation of old-school, classic arcade games. Yes, there are a few weaklings in the litter, but each game is delivered as close to perfection as can be expected on a handheld system. You’re probably already familiar with the glut of arcade anthology games released on the GBA. I can tell you that this one kicks its butts. The extra processing power, the dual screen, the touch controls, and numerous multiplayer modes make the GBA look like an Etch-a-Sketch.
Konami Classics Series Arcade Hits includes a jukebox, an artwork gallery, original brochures, authentic “attract” screens, configurable controls, and tons of adjustment options. There are enough options here that you probably won’t need a cheat code to play any of the games. There are numerous multiplayer modes, but no Wi Fi connection. The touch controls allow a lot of flexibility to replicate some of the more obscure controllers. You can choose to play a game at the top or the bottom screen depending on your preference for holding it while accessing the controls. Not every position is comfortable so you can expect to do some experimenting. You can even turn the DS sideways and toggle the graphics to 90-degrees.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with Track and Field. That game just won’t die. Not only is it a shallow button masher, but to play it properly requires that the controls be situated just above the waist and held solidly in place, preferable by a large and heavy cabinet, not unlike the original arcade design. To play it with any degree of success you have to get the stance right as well as synchronize your finger and thumb to do some rapid rhythmical tapping. So far no home system, handheld, or next-gen, has been able to replicate the feel of the actual arcade game. I will give Konami points for trying, but you’ll need another DS system to try this unique configuration for yourself. While you watch the screen on one unit, the other DS acts as a remote controller. This way you can mash the buttons like a wild man and not shake the screen violently. It’s no different than using a controller on a next-gen system, and frankly, it’s the smaller face buttons that just don’t allow fat fingers the same access. There is also a different feel between the arcade buttons and these home systems as far as response and the physical retraction of the button is concerned. Fortunately the average gamer will probably be a lot less fanatical about getting the high score on Track and Field and just enjoy it for what it is.
There are 15 games in all, and at less than 30 bucks, that’s less than two bucks a game. To break that down further, it works out to be about eight quarters a game. Certainly we’ve all spent that on games we didn’t even like – especially if the popular ones were in use. All of the games work well with the DS’s control system, and if you’re not comfortable with the layout, you can configure it as you like it. You can even change the various settings in these games without having to access an interface. There are virtual toggle switches that let you adjust the parameters of each game including difficulty and extra lives. And speaking of games, this is quite an eclectic mix. And if you’re familiar with my reviews, you should know that I equate “eclectic” with “crappy.”
What is the point of including games such as TwinBee, Horror Maze and Road Fighter, other than filler? If these were the only games available in the arcade I would rather drop my money in the Salvation Army bucket. You might get a few hours out of all these lesser-known games but the real stars of the show are Gradius, Contra, Rush N’ Attack, Scramble, TimePilot, and I suppose, Track and Field. You’ll probably enjoy trying some of the other forgotten classics such as Circus Charlie, Rainbow Bell and Roc N’ Rope.
All of these games are simple to learn. Most don’t require more than a couple of buttons to play. Since they are arcade games, they are designed to beat you and take your money. They get tough really quick. There’s not much depth to any of these games, they just throw more enemies at you and ramp up the speed and overall difficulty at each level. Played in short bursts, these games should give you months of entertainment. If you try to beat them all over a weekend you’re going to get really sick of them. To keep things interesting and competitive, your high score will be saved at the end of each game, if you get to that level. Gamers that want to rub salt into the wounds of those less-than-stellar, weekend warriors, will enjoy the feature that allows them to record the game as they play it, save it as a file, and transfer it to another DS unit so that others can see your performance. It’s a good way to teach someone a lesson.
Multiplayer options abound, despite the absence of a Wi Fi mode. Utilizing the local network, you can play against another player whether he or she has a copy of the game or not. Game sharing is also provided. A player can receive all 15 single-player mode games. You can keep them on the DS for as long as you keep it turned on, or the batteries run out. Players without a DS system can pass around one unit and play for high score.
There are some issues with the games being a little distorted as they are jammed to fit the screen. As I mentioned, you can have them turned sideways, but the controllers can be awkward to access for some games. The DS does not have the same resolution as these arcade monitors but most gamers will be hard pressed to tell the difference. Despite the compressed look of a few games most of them look fantastic. Even on the smaller screen they are totally playable. The only problem is that the text can be difficult to read. The sounds, on the other hand, aren’t difficult to hear. You can play all of the tunes in the jukebox mode, so that you can bring that arcade feel with you wherever you go. The tunes are catchy and well recorded. It’s all digital, so you can expect more brightness than warmth. The sound effects which consist of the requisite bleeps and chiffs, are authentic.
The DS is just hitting its stride. It won’t be long until we see a lot more classic arcade games released to take advantage of this mighty handheld.