REVIEW / Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol. 1 (PC)
I think almost every gamer has had the dream of having an arcade cabinet of their own, to play a beloved game as it was meant to be played in the comfort of their own home. And while that is possible, we now live in a world where you don’t need the original machine to play arcade-perfect versions of your favorite classics. The Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Ups bundle adds four classic scrolling shooters to your home arcade, and developer Bitwave Games has added in all the bells and whistles you’d expect. But do these versions hold up today?
I want to start by saying that I have no nostalgia for any of these games, so I can only give my first impressions. I’ll start with the only one I had ever heard of before and the only horizontal shooter in the mix, Zero Wing. No “All Your Base” memes here; this is the original arcade version, not the SNES port, and it runs very smoothly. The environments aren’t the most exciting, and the gimmick of sucking up enemy ships to use as projectiles didn’t really work for me, but there is definitely fun to be had. I’m not sure I can really say the same about Twin Cobra, a military-themed vertical shooter that felt very much like countless other games I’ve played. I realize that this game may have had to walk for other games to run, but unless you’re nostalgic for it, I don’t see much need to give Twin Cobra a go. Truxton is similarly simple, albeit set in space this time. But its unique visuals and a surprisingly strong soundtrack kept my interest longer. It’s still very much a product of 1988, so it won’t blow anyone away, but it has personality. My favorite in the collection, though, was Out Zone. This is another sci-fi vertical shooter, but you play as a person rather than a ship, so you can move and shoot in all directions. The weaponry gets pretty insane in this one too, and it also has some impressive music.
I’m guessing that most of the people interested in this bundle already know about the games, though. So I’m happy to say that this collection exceeds expectations in bringing these classics to the modern world. All of your expected options are here: online high scores, multiple video modes (including pixel-perfect scaling), quick saves, and even access to the built-in difficulty options that arcade owners could toggle back in the day. This package wasn’t slapped together; there was clearly a lot of love and care here. You can even rotate the visuals for a vertical monitor in certain games, and add useful information to the borders of the screen in fullscreen mode. But the extra features that impressed me most are the ones that handle the one issue all of these games have: they’re insanely hard. In addition to changing the built-in difficulty settings, you can also enable things like autofire, the ability to take one or two extra hits before dying, smaller hitboxes for the player, and even a useful (but clumsily implemented) rewind feature.
While there are tons of nice features here, there are two things I wish they included. First, I wish it was possible to virtually insert more quarters to keep playing after running out of lives, or a way to disable lives altogether. These games are still incredibly difficult with the assist features on, and there is no reason to limit a player’s ability to see the whole game based on lives outside of the arcade. Second, I wish this was released as a cohesive package. While the four games are sold as a bundle on Steam, it’s treated as a group of four individual titles. On one hand, I do like that people can buy just the game or games they want. But a menu would allow for the collection to include the history of the games, and be a more comfortable user experience.
Still, if you are already a fan of these games, you can’t go wrong with these versions. You can make them as arcade perfect as possible, or use the assist features to get past that one part where you always lost in the arcades. Everything runs smoothly, and while the menus and extras might seem overwhelming at first, everything (except for the rewind feature) is easy to access. If you’re new to these classics, though, it’s a harder sell. These games are well remembered for a reason, but even with the added features, I don’t know how well they stack up against later shooters or even some of their better known contemporaries. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed by this collection, but I recommend making sure you know that these are the games you want before buying.
Pixel perfect ports
+ Arcade perfect ports
+ Excellent added features
– Games may not appeal to newcomers