Since there’s little 'wrong' with Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium, what’s right with it will depend on the sensibilities and interests of the player. The second of Capcom’s superbly curated compilations following on from Capcom Arcade Stadium, its 32 arcade titles (one of which is free) now feature a greater emphasis on action and fighting games. As before, you can buy the complete bundle pack or download the frontend and purchase titles individually.
Everything runs silky smooth, lag-free, and is presented as a scrollable strip of tantalisingly jumbled-up arcade cabinets. The interface is attractive and highly customisable, with difficulty adjustments, auto-fire options, abundant wallpaper bezels, and the ability to order games by genre. Like the previous release, you can refashion your arcade by individually changing the look of each cabinet. The external view option, too, is intriguing, drawing out to reveal the mock machine’s housing. It’s not the most efficient way to play, nor does it work well on anything except a large TV screen, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
Online leaderboards track scoring feats, while special condition challenges attempt to extend each game’s life in return for Capcom Arcade Stadium Points (CASPO), later redeemable for bonuses like additional cabinet colours. For those who love arcade games but feel under-skilled in the art of the one-credit clear, cheating is granted via speed up, slow down, and rewind inputs.
Spending time with Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium comes close to rekindling memories of an actual arcade. You browse the machines, each game running warm and fuzzy on its respective screen, before dropping a visual coin into the slot with a click of the thumb-stick.
The quality of Capcom’s output during their arcade heyday really shines. LED Storm (1989), a top-down futuristic racer, features a comical approximation of Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T. bleating “Energy, Energy… You’re running out of Energy!” as you careen over sky-high freeways and glass-topped deserts. Its Japanese name, Mad Gear, later served as the moniker for Final Fight’s evil gang.
Although the Dungeons & Dragons series remains conspicuously absent, Capcom’s fervour for fantasy-themed scrolling beat-em-ups, complete with levelling-up and superficial role-playing elements, is established here with Black Tiger (1987), Magic Sword (1990), Knights of the Round (1991) and The King of Dragons (1991). It’s a superb set, featuring gorgeous medieval fantasy worlds with unique characteristics and challenges. Elsewhere, the feudal China-themed Tiger Road (1987) is a beautiful action adventure of meandering paths, obstacle-laden temples, and wild boss encounters.
On the shoot 'em up front, Side Arms (1986), 1943 KAI (1988) and the beautiful-looking Eco Fighters (1994) are all excellent entries. Depending on who you ask (us) they’re pipped by the joyous high-pressure onslaught of Gun.Smoke (1985), Capcom’s superlative cowboy murder-fest. The other shoot 'em ups are either rather dated (Savage Bees, 1985), rather bad (The Speed Rumbler, 1986, and Last Duel, 1988), or, in the case of the excellent Son Son (1984), wrongly categorised.
Fighting game fans are well catered for, but adopters of the very recent Capcom Fighting Collection may feel irked that six of its eleven titles have been republished here: Hyper Street Fighter II: Anniversary Edition (2004), Darkstalkers (1994), Night Warriors (1995), Vampire Savior (1997), Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (1996) and Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix (1997). These are accompanied by all three Street Fighter Alpha games, both entries of Mega Man: The Power Battles, and the eclectic four-player wrestling fanfare, Saturday Night Slam Masters (1992).
Perhaps the title of greatest historical interest will be the original Street Fighter (1987), a frankly terrible game in which you play as either Ryu (Player 1) or Ken (Player 2), and battle your way to the title of world’s strongest. It’s painfully clunky, can be easily beaten by exploiting ‘Hadoken' motions, and plays a totally imprecise two-player competitive game. At the same time, it’s endearing to see the origins of the series’ iconic special moves and characters like Balrog, Gen, Birdie, Eagle, Adon, and Sagat. When playing, and for pure amusement value, just remember Capcom’s development team once opined that they were stunned by its lack of success.
Capcom Sports Club (1997) features Football, Basketball, and Tennis minigames, each rendered with huge, colourful sprites in cutely designed arenas. Simple arcade action, it’s great fun for two players and does a surprisingly good job detailing its less-than-serious sporting skirmishes. On the puzzle front, Pnickies (1994) is an enjoyable but lesser Puyo Puyo clone that requires two stars to detonate a fusion of coloured jellies, while Block Block (1991) plays a rather underwhelming game of Breakout. Special mention must go to the Japan-only Hissatsu Buraiken (1987), a laughably poor top-down beat-em-up that proves even Capcom was capable of turning out the odd stinker.
While Capcom Arcade Stadium 2 ably conjures the magic of arcades past and offers a varied, quality library, it isn’t perfect. Like the former release, titles that are Japan-only still have to be manually switched from English region to be started, and certain games, like Pnickies, are completely untranslated and require trial and error to decipher their in-game options. The excellent Three Wonders should have been included rather than held back as DLC, and, in what can only be described as a foul business machination, online co-op and competitive play are totally unavailable. You won’t be taking the likes of Street Fighter Alpha 2 or Saturday Night Slam Masters onto the global stage, nor going international co-op with Knights of the Round. Seeing as online gaming is par for the course these days — and operates without a hitch in the Fighting Collection — it’s as if Capcom is purposely curating the privilege to increase sales of selected packages.
Additionally, the aspect and screen filter options remain annoyingly off. The ‘arcade’ option accurately shrinks the entire display to what should be correct parameters, but creates a scanline ‘banding’ effect that indicates there’s something amiss with the ratios. This is at its worst when using the external cabinet views, where filters display poorly enough to warrant being restricted from use.
Worse still, while there are lots of image adjustments available, they’re nowhere near the quality of those in the Capcom Fighting Collection. The scanline options look fine on the dimmed background preview, but in-game the over-engineered, eye-straining bloom effects desaturate the image and are hard on the eyes. With no density adjustments, the unfiltered, pixellated default is a sub-optimal concession. On the plus side, if you're using a Flipgrip (or if you’re ok with physically upending your TV), rotate options allow you to take vertical scrolling games neatly into TATE mode.
As long as you’re okay with its unreasonable lack of online functionality and screen filter niggles, there are hundreds of hours of fun to be had with Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium. 32 mostly excellent games and another historically notable preservation piece, it recalls the essence of what an arcade felt like. Achieving that feeling, however brief, will be enough to justify a purchase for those with an affinity for gaming’s rich history.