It seems like the popular thing to do the last few years has been to revamp arcade games and put them in a compilation with a couple of reworks and tweaks. For a lot of games it has brought new life to the work, with recent standouts such as Disney’s Aladdin and Lion King and Nintendo’s Classic Edition consoles reminding us of a simpler time. It’s not just a way to make a quick buck, it’s a way to preserve vintage video games and make them accessible to the masses. During the opening presentation of Blizzconline, Blizzard gave us their version, a neat little collection of three games I’ve personally never heard of in the Blizzard Arcade Collection. As of this writing I can now say they have been thoroughly played, and it’s time to get into why these were worth preserving, and what could have been done better.
The games in this collection are The Lost Vikings, Rock N’ Roll Racing, and Blackthorne. What’s neat about this collection is none of them play or are themed the same. While there may be some similarities in the side-scrolling nature of The Lost Vikings and Blackthorne, both are tremendously different titles.
The Lost Vikings follows three, well, you guessed it, vikings. There are three goofy looking nords who have different sets of skills, and you need to use them in order to find food for their families. In classic retro gaming fashion the story has these poor souls being beamed into a spaceship to be a part of an evil alien’s intergalactic zoo. What ensues is a comedic puzzle platforming adventure that uses its mechanics wonderfully as they try to escape.
Rock N’ Roll Racing is exactly what you might have guessed it is. There’s racing, and a lot of rock and roll music to go along with it. This one was a lot more in depth than I thought it was going to be, and given my general aversion to most racing games, surprised me with how fun it is. It’s a bit of a simple side down vehicle combat game, but it employs several RPG-lite ideas that keep you enjoying its straightforward gameplay. Of course, listening to classic rock music is also a blast as well, and the definitive edition even includes the official licensed tracks.
The last game in the collection, Blackthorne is an intriguing 2D adventure game. While I don’t care for the punishing nature of the combat (looking at you ogre who shoots me and laughs then fades into the shadows), it has a dark story with one of the weirdest narratives I’ve ever read (Thanks 90’s). The main character, a court marshalled military captain named Kyle, is going to have to run around the planet Tuul to defeat a demonic looking Ka’dra named Sarlac in order to reclaim his throne, as his father had a magician send him to Earth before the Ka’dra invaded. See what I mean it’s a bit over the top?
While maybe not achieving the same acclaim as Mario or Castlevania, these games fit well together in the collection they’ve been added to. While The Lost Vikings and Blackthorne both were available at one point as free DOS emulations, the choice to combine these in the Blizzard Arcade Collection in the way Blizzard chose to do so is smart. These games complement each other well, with a different tone in each game, and leave you feeling like you paid twenty bucks for three separate titles, where some collections can leave you feeling like you’ve purchased a few duplicates.
Now, the reason you probably came over to this review is to find out about features. There are definitely plenty of cool ones, but this collection is lacking a bit when it comes to what is available. All of these games feature definitive editions, cleaned up and featuring all extra content in one location. One of my favorite parts of classic collections is the rewind feature, and it’s sadly absent from these versions. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why it’s only in the original versions, but not there. Save states are another incredible addition to old games, and thankfully this is available almost everywhere, except for the definitive edition of Rock N’ Roll Racing. There are other things like screen filters, but to me it doesn’t make a big difference.
I’m really glad Blizzard made sure to add the older versions of the games from NES and Genesis. While it’s something many of these collections do (and often they don’t even do anything extra), experiencing these games as they originally were is preferable. The additional features like rewind and save states work well here, and I really like the watch option, where you can let the game play itself then start playing from that point. It’s a little thing, but it’s a nice touch.
Playing the games on PC (Blizzard sent this to us for Battle.net) is not that easy, at least to a keyboard novice like myself. Many games of these stylings aren’t as simple with a keyboard, especially platformers in need of precision controls. Thankfully, the Blizzard Arcade Collection does support controllers, and I had no issues at all plugging my Astro C40 in and utilizing it with every game. The automatic visual of Xbox buttons is slightly annoying (given the C40 is a PlayStation branded controller), but there are quite a few games that do this, so I can forgive this one. The controller works fantastically, and there is a control map to see what does what, as well as remap them, another bonus feature that isn’t always provided.
The last thing I want to touch on before wrapping up is the fantastic behind the scenes area to the left of the main menu. Blizzard has compiled a bunch of stuff regarding these games, and some great images, artwork, interviews, and music for you to enjoy. There are even scans of the original box art for the games, although when they said scans of the manuals I thought we’d actually get the full booklet instead of just the front and back. The interviews contain a wealth of behind the scenes knowledge, and it’s fun to listen to these developers recount the simpler times of making video games. The music player contains original soundtracks from both The Lost Vikings and Blackthorne (no Rock N’ Roll Racing understandably), and it’s cool to hear the subtle differences that exist between console versions. This was a well thought out section, and I’m happy Blizzard put it in.
Blizzard Arcade Collection
The Blizzard Arcade Collection is a great little compilation of some lesser known Blizzard games. The additional features such as rewind and save states, when available at least, are delightful improvements, and the definitive editions work amazingly well. I’m also impressed with such a great behind the scenes section with a lot of interesting content. But most of this smorgasbord is par for the course, and I expect a little more out of Blizzard. It falls under the competent category, rather than revolutionary.