It’s official, I must have had superpowers in the late ’80s and early ’90s. How else could I have possibly completed Capcom’s vertical shooter 1943 without breaking a sweat – let alone racking up thousands of pounds worth of debt in lost 10ps. Nowadays, when my only special skill is being able to adequately whistle the end of Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, I struggle to get off the second stage, and that’s with infinite continues. Fortunately not all the games in this Capcom compendium are so ruthlessly difficult, otherwise this would be one very short review.
The famed coin-op publisher’s second compendium for Sony’s handheld features no less than 19 lovingly ported arcade gems, many of which have not lost their lustrous shine after all these years. Taking us from 1984 all the way through to the mid-1990s, this action packed collection is targeted squarely at the ever-growing retro crowd. These days Capcom might be better known for blockbusting series like Devil May Cry and Resident Evil but, back in the day, its coin guzzling cabinets vied for attention alongside those from other luminaries like Namco and Taito. Vintage titles from these heydays, like 1942 and ’43, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Gun Smoke and Commando are all included here, along with a few undiscovered gems that are worth plugging a few virtual coins into. As with any collection, there are a couple of duffers as well, but I’ll get to them later.
Ostensibly the star of the show is Street Fighter II, Capcom’s genre defining beat ’em up that – like Countdown host Carol Vorderman – seems impervious to the ravages of age. There is still an incredible amount of joy to be had from going hand-to-hand with the likes of Chun Li, Balrog and Vega in all three of the incarnations of the game included here (The World Warrior, Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting). It’s a testament to this hallowed game’s sublime move set and inspired character design that well over a decade down the line Street Fighter II is still, for this reviewer’s money at least, the most addictive and playable fighter around. Climbing the single-player ladder to take on the nefarious M Bison is still enough of a challenge to while away a few hours but, courtesy of this compendium’s ad hoc wireless mode, two PSP owners can once again duke it out in a classic Ryu Vs Ken grudge match – just like we did in 1993. Haduken, indeed.
If you do somehow manage to tire of endless Street Fighter scraps, there are still 16 other games for you to give a whirl, most of which are taken from the popular PS2 and Xbox release Capcom Classics Collection. Generally they fall into four camps – vertical shooter, horizontal shooter, platformer and scrolling beat ’em up – with only derivative puzzler Pirate Ship Higemaru thrown in to provide a bit of variety. 1942, 1943 and 1943 Kai are still frantic fighter plane blasters par excellence (even if the hardcore versions included here can be a bit wearing on the thumbs), Ghosts ‘N Goblins, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts and Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts remain as horrifyingly addictive as you remember, and Commandos and Mercs still represent the pinnacle of military-themed mayhem. Sadly, the two scrolling brawlers here, King of Dragons and Knights of the Round, are little more than Golden Axe knock offs that can be waltzed through in a single sitting.
They may not be the best remembered titles, at least outside of their native Japan, but Volgus, Son Son and Exed Exes are all acceptable blasters which are easy to pick up and enjoy if you have a few minutes to spare. Meanwhile, with its ‘save the world from global disaster’ plot and imaginative character design, Eco Fighters is by far the most captivating of the side scrollers. Plus, out of all the games apart from Street Fighter II, it’s the most satisfying in the long run – the end of level bosses just get bigger and wackier as you progress.
For this handheld version, Capcom has not scrimped on the presentation side of things. Each of the emulated games comes with arcade perfect audio and can be played in a variety of screen modes, including the option to turn your console vertically for games like 1942. This vastly increases the size of the play area on screen but control proves decidedly unwieldy, making it less than ideal for titles that rely on lightening fast reflexes. After each playing session there is the option to review your achievements on a score card, and tokens earned by playing through games can be gambled to collect some of the 900 unlockable goodies available, from official artwork to remixed music and (occasionally vital) cheats. All of these can be viewed in the game’s handy gallery section. Many of the games can also be played in co-op over WiFi, which is an added bonus for aging gamers like me who fondly remember battling away side-by-side with a pal on a 1943 cabinet.
All in all, this is a collection chock full of largely great games and, at its budget price, is a must buy for any discerning retro head. The only serious criticisms I have are the brutal loading times, which seriously detract from the pick up and play appeal of the game, and the fact that we’re going to need to buy numerous collections to get all the great Capcom oldies.