While ripe with nostalgia, we can't help but think about whether it really was better before.
Nostalgia is a tough sentiment to overcome, especially when it comes to gaming. It's undeniably a beautiful love letter to the past, but few young players cheer loudly at the opportunity to play the same game their parents did when they were young. At the same time, many older players have simultaneously moved on in life and left the past behind. Then again, most people know by now that the power nostalgic vibes can have is pretty impressive. You reminisce about times down at the arcade, warm summer days with colourful pixels and synthesizer sounds. And so as the 80s-based Stranger Things has been the series of the summer, the time is of course perfect for another dusted off arcade collection.
It has to be said that this isn't the first time Capcom has released a collection like this. Just last year the first volume, Capcom Arcade Stadium, was released and there is definitely nothing wrong with the publisher's ambitious collection of more or less famous arcade games. 32 in number this time around, a well-stocked goody bag that offers everything from 1943 KAI to Street Fighter and this is clearly where the focus is, on action and fighting. The games play without a hitch and I can easily switch games from the various colourful arcade boxes, which also have a real coin slot where I've been dropping in virtual pennies over the past week. The cabinet itself can also be adjusted to suit your taste. If I'd rather play Mega Man in an orange version than the original blue and with a scanline filter on, that's perfectly fine and I can even change the difficulty, speed and game mode. Of course, these settings vary from title to title, but in most cases you can more or less tailor your gaming experience. Some games are only available in Japanese, but that's not a big problem as there are no dialogue-driven adventures here. All in all, it's an impressive collection of clever arcade games that won't disappoint.
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However, if I take my glasses off for a moment and consider that it's 2022 now and that this year I've finished games like Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West, games that have offered interactive adventures with graphics and atmosphere that at times left me breathless, the step back is noticeable. Of course, one should not compare apples and oranges, but it is also difficult when it comes to deciding where to spend money in the end. Do I want several hundred hours in an unexplored open world game or do I want to try to relive my childhood for a few minutes? Am I really ready to dive into another glorified emulator or do I want to keep up with the evolution of gaming? Anyone who has ever been blinded by a melancholic longing for times past knows exactly how reality does not always reflect memory. Films that are gleefully remembered often turn out to have aged incredibly badly. Cool gadgets you once owned now go straight into the bin.
These, simpler games with clunky gameplay bore me pretty quickly. I'll toss in a coin, get promptly beaten up and leave. The good old days when everything was "rougelike", with three lives isn't missed, yet at the same time they are just that: missing. Because here it doesn't matter if I die all the time, because I have infinite lives. Just put in another digital coin and move on, something that for me is a double-edged sword. Back then, the challenge was everything. That's why me and all my friends spent every penny we earned on brutally difficult arcade games. Here, not only can I stuff in endless coins, but I can also slow down and even make use of a so-called "rewind feature." If I'm failing, I can simply reset a moment before failure. I don't have to, of course, but just knowing the possibility is there kills a bit of the authenticity for me.
I won't review all 32 games available, but I've tried them all and can say that it's the more unknown titles that give me the best impression. This is perhaps not entirely unexpected as I have lost count of how many times I have played Street Fighter and Mega Man throughout my life. It's far more fun to re-discover, and sometimes even find brand new fantasy-inspired beat-em-ups like Black Tiger, Magic Sword and Knights of the Round Table to name a few in this glorious genre. LED Storm is also a welcome addition. Rarely has the 80s felt closer than a Knightrider-like arcade racer. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Capcom manages to squeeze in a few really dodgy titles too. Like Block Block, a thoroughly lousy copy of the brilliant Breakout, or an obligatory sports game, which always has to be in this kind of collection. This time it comes in the form of Capcom Sports Club. A sad story that in turn consists of three branches, football, basketball and tennis. All more or less unplayable due to disastrously stiff controls, something that definitely has no place in sports where precision is often the key to success.
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There is no online support, which is perfectly reasonable given the nature of the games, but at the same time there is no denying that it could have added a whole new dimension to the games. Challenging each other in old classics would have been something special. Now you can do some of that anyway, through the old-fashioned leaderboards. There I can see how many times I've played a particular game, how many times I've passed it, and my scoring records as well as my friends' stats, but of course that's not at all the same as beating a cocky buddy in real life. Many of the titles also feature local multiplayer, ranging from two to four players.
With 32 different games, there's obviously plenty of entertainment here. The only question is how much fun it really is. Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium does a great job of recreating the feel of the arcade, but at the same time it's just that, a feel. You can't go back in time and be 12 again. Nostalgia definitely has a place in culture and we should never forget how we got here, but the memory of that time is enough. I don't need to replay all my old favourites from the past to remember. They will always be with me anyway. However, it's a really nice collection of games and they come in an incredibly nice retro package.
Complete list of included titles:
The King of Dragons
Knights of the Round
Vampire Savior: The Lord of Vampire
Capcom Sports Club
Chariot: Adventure through the Sky
Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors
Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition
Mega Man: The Power Battle
Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters
Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge
Rally 2011: LED STORM
Saturday Night Slam Masters
Side Arms: Hyper Dyne
Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams
Street Fighter Alpha 2
Street Fighter Alpha 3
Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
The Speed Rumbler
7 / 10
32 total games. Plenty of settings. Easy to get started. The arcade feel is definitely there.
Missing online mode. Some games feel like pure filler. The rigid game mechanics are hard to adjust to.