Midway Arcade Treasures 2 Review
Posted by Sean Aaron
This time the spotlight is on Midway's glory days
Whilst the first Arcade Treasures collection was firmly focused on the Williams catalogue, this second collection is all about the Bally Midway and Midway brands featuring games spanning the mid to late 1980s and 1990s, with a handful of Williams and Atari Games titles for good measure.
This collection has a much prettier interface than the first Arcade Treasures, although the flashy transitional animations can make switching between extras, control configuration and game settings a bit tedious. There are fewer video extras than on the first collection, though it's nice that every game has promotional flyers to view and a short write-up with release information, production credits, history and trivia.
There's broad genre coverage on offer this time around with sports titles Arch Rivals (the inspiration for the NBA Jam series) and Cyberball 2072; fighters featuring Mortal Kombat 2 & 3, Primal Rage and Pit Fighter; driving games Championship Sprint, APB, Hard Drivin' and Spy Hunter 2 and loads more. The rest of the list is a smattering of action games, brawlers and games that defy categorisation and include some gems from the time when arcades were well and truly on the way out: Total Carnage, NARC, Gauntlet II, Kozmik Kroozr, Wacko, Timber, Rampage World Tour, Wizard of Wor, Xenophobe and Xybots. The emulation/porting is largely excellent, though disappointingly Wizard of Wor suffers from poorly implemented samples and a difficulty setting which is too high and cannot be changed.
As with the first game you can customise controls to your heart's content, and there are fewer control issues overall. Wacko's substitution of a left analogue stick for the gimmicky trackball of the arcade has a natural feel and the driving games work well with the control stick, although Championship Sprint would still be better with the big wheel of the arcade. Certain characters or colours are mapped to specific controller ports in Gauntlet II, Xenophobe and Rampage World Tour, so you'll need to move your controller cable about or have mutiple controllers connected for those games, but this is the way it was in the arcades so don't complain! People wanting to use Classic Controllers should note that the loading process after launching a game results in a loss of controller detection; when prompted you'll need to unplug the controller from the adapter and reconnect it. Note also the number of lives and score required for bonuses can be customised or set collectively to either default or "hardcore" if you don't want to muck about with the finer details.
The biggest criticism of this collection would be the selection of titles. Whilst there are a lot of excellent games here there are fewer of them overall, and some genuinely good games have been left off in favour of absolute turkeys. Spy Hunter 2 is the totally forgettable sequel to Spy Hunter, and something it's unlikely many gamers will have laid eyes on - it's more noteworthy for the fact it wasn't canned before being released than anything else, thanks to poor graphics and worse gameplay. Hard Drivin' earns a page in the history books for being the first polygon-based driving game and offing the option of a clutch-operated manual transmission, but it was more of a tech demo than a game when first released and certainly isn't worth playing today. The same is true of Pit Fighter, another ground-breaking Atari Games title which used digitised actors before Midway's Mortal Kombat, but is vastly inferior in both graphics and gameplay outside of the novelty of supporting three players. And then there's Championship Sprint which seems a bit redundant given it's nearly identical to Super Sprint which we already had on Arcade Treasures 1 - there's even a video extra explaining the differences between the two as if it were recognised that its inclusion needed to be justified!
By contrast the list of games that didn't make the cut is a bit surprising. If you're going to include oddball titles like Wacko and Timber, why leave out Domino Man which was a great, quirky game produced by the same team? Since the inclusion of violent pioneers like Williams' NARC and Midway's Mortal Kombat 2 & 3 has garnered this collection a "Mature" rating, why not the original Budweiser-themed Tapper? In fact, why isn't the original Mortal Kombat included? Given Buena Vista interactive licensed Tron and Tron Deadly Discs for emulation on their GBA title Tron 2.0: Killer App (kudos to Digital Eclipse for the excellent job on those two), why didn't Midway negotiate a quid pro quo to include them in this collection as well? There's a whole slew of other Atari and Midway titles that also deserved consideration: I, Robot (first polygon-based arcade game), Peter Pack Rat, Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters, Strike Force, Food Fight, Omega Race, Sarge, Skull & Crossbones and Trog to name a few.
It bears repeating that Midway decided not to favour anyone but North America with the Arcade Treasures series on Gamecube. Would-be importers should note that this collection launches the included games differently from the first Arcade Treasures volume and software-based freeloaders haven't been found to work properly with it.
Whilst this collection has a few more misses (and omissions) than the first entry in the series there's still enough quality games from the 80s and 90s on offer that fans of classic arcade games should find plenty to enjoy. We live in hope that Midway's new owners, Warner Interactive, will see fit to reissue these and other bygone arcade games for the Wii in the future.