[11 February 2004]
If you’re like me, aged 31 or around there, and have been playing video games ever since you were a kid, then you probably have felt the thrill when you walk into a modern day arcade and see some old classic from your youth tucked away back in the corner where today’s video warriors fear to tread. Yeah, there’s nothing quite like the old warm, fuzzy feeling as soon as your hand grips the joystick of a Donkey Kong or Ms. Pac-Man machine, or taking part in the thrilling knob-spinning of Tempest or the trackball-rolling frenzy of Centipede.
Newer players may scoff at such nostalgia. But each of those titles as well as many more laid the building blocks for everything that has come since. Why, where would Mario and Luigi be if it weren’t for that stupid ape stealing away the plumber’s beloved girlfriend all those years ago? Luckily for us old timers, companies like Namco, Atari, and Midway and developers such as Digital Eclipse have taken to porting many of the old classics to the modern day consoles. It seems nowadays you can get everything from your favorite coin-op games to classic Atari 2600 and Intellivision titles as easily as you could back in the day when they were first popular.
The latest release to come down the pipeline of all things golden and oldie is Midway Arcade Treasures, a whopping collection of games popularized by both Midway and Atari in the arcades in the ‘80s to the early ‘90s. Back in the day, the team at Midway (most popular amongst the crew was the team known as Vid Kidz) were cranking out some of the most innovative and imaginative coin-op titles to hit the arcades. These were the guys who worked madly to push the parameters previously laid out by games like Space Invaders and Asteroids. Indeed, when the hulk of a game Defender was first released, nothing like it had ever been seen before. With its up and down moving joystick and six—count ‘em six—action buttons, Midway had a very hot property on its hands. Yes, this is the kind of thing that laid the groundwork for future multi-button games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and any other title you’d care to think of with more than one fire button.
But the innovation didn’t stop there, either. Not content to rest their laurels on the groundbreaking Defender, the Vid Kidz cranked out its sequel Stargate (also known as Defender II) with even more controls, and quickly went to town on that by bringing the world the fabulous frantic shooter Robotron 2084, which had no fire button at all, but instead a twin joystick setup, one for movement, and the other for firing. Can you say “inspired the likes of Ape Escape”? I knew that you could.
We could talk about Midway’s wild innovation all day here, from the simultaneous multi-player fun that infused titles like Rampage and Gauntlet to the continual groundbreaking controller setups on games such as Paperboy with its bicycle handlebar control, and exploration of completely new territory in gaming ideas with titles like 720, one of the first skateboarding titles. Indeed, this whole Tony Hawk and extreme sports gaming craze had its seeds sown long ago from your friends at Midway.
All of the aforementioned titles are included here. Each game in this collection is faithfully rendered and perfect down to the last humanoid being mutated by a Lander in Defender. There are also some rarer titles included here that for the most part aren’t so hot, like the odd game Splat that was never released to arcades, and the super-rare Joust 2 that pales in comparison to its debut counterpart. A couple of the well-known games suffer from controller issues, like Marble Madness that originally had a trackball controller (it’s near impossible trying to control the marbles with either the digital or analog controllers), and Super Sprint that of course had a steering wheel setup that it rightfully needs to work well at home.
Those minor things aside, the rest of Midway Arcade Treasures is a real thrill. I was especially happy to see both Road Blasters and Smash TV here. The latter being a wild update of Robotron mixed with a pinch of The Running Man in which players battle it out against all sorts of robots, monsters, and mutants in a game show setting competing for prizes and cash. Once again, the twin joystick controller was utilized, which always made for what I believe to be even faster shooting than the typical fire button setup on other games.
Other favorites, like the goofy Toobin’ and the fast and crazy Root Beer Tapper are here as well. Many new gamers might point to modern games and point out how amazing they are, and that is true, but there was so much imagination and fun packed into the classics that I think is missing in a lot of today’s games in comparison. Yeah, the objects of the games were simple and the graphics good enough, but I don’t see anyone creating games anymore in which you have to slide drinks down the bar to thirsty patrons or chuck six packs at your buddy while going down white water rapids (or the river Styx for that matter).
There’s so much that can’t be covered here from the fun of Satan’s Hollow to the old thrills of Joust and Klax. But just know that this title is a super collection of old favorites that will make any nostalgic gamer happy. And who knows? You’ll probably be able to turn on a few newer gamers as well. There’s really nothing quite like the rush of saving the last family on earth in Robotron. Now make like it was 1982 again.