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Capcom’s compilations of its old-school arcade games are some of the best out there. Earlier in 2022 it put out a fighting game collection which bundled together some of what you know with enough of what you don’t, and graced it with all manner of shiny extras. The studio’s Beat ‘Em Up Bundle of 2018 is an all-timer of its kind, bringing together the knuckle-cracking likes of Final Fight, Knights of the Round and Battle Circuit for a belt-scrolling banger of a brilliant time. And between the pair, in 2021, came Capcom Arcade Stadium, a kind of DIY digital arcade where players got the exceptional shooter 1943: The Battle of Midway for nowt and then paid to expand the line-up of games, to a maximum of 32, from the years 1984 to 2001. So many greats, for so little cash - but just to spoil us further, here’s Arcade Stadium’s follow-up, bearing more classic experiences presented with near-peerless class.
Check out some of the games and features of Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium in the launch trailer below
Like the compilation before it, Arcade 2nd Stadium gives players a free game upfront - this time it’s the 1984 auto-scrolling platformer SonSon, definitely a lesser-known entry in the Capcom coin-op catalogue (in the West, at least) but one that keeps the attention locked as you have to shoot your way from left to right while also dodging deadly obstacles and a diverse array of enemies. If you want more than SonSon - and of course, you do - then it’s time to get selective and pick and choose your individual digital arcade additions for £3.29 a time (on Switch and Steam - other stores may vary), or pay around £30 for every game in a single download. There are also some extra freebies to check out, downloadable separately to the games: extra display frames to make your borders all pretty, and an invincibility option should shoving infinite virtual quarters into invisible slots not be your thing.
The lineup of games here doesn’t feel quite as consistently brilliant as the previous Arcade Stadium selection, but there’s still a whole lot of excellence on show - and besides, the beauty of this thing is you can just download the games you want, and leave the rest untouched. From 1985, Gun.Smoke is a great Wild West-themed vertical shooter in the vein of Capcom's later Mercs which sees bad guys pop out from windows to take potshots at your ten-gallon-hatted hero, and other enemies lob dynamite in your direction. It's tough but will keep you coming back for another crack, and another, and another. Saturday Night Slam Masters is a simple but scintillating wrestling-styled beat ‘em up from 1993 which pits an assortment of typically colourful sports entertainers against one another, victory only coming with a successful pin. It supports up to four players locally, and amongst the playable characters is a certain Mike Haggar, shirking his Metro City responsibilities. Tsk.
Six of the Capcom Fighting Collection’s 11 titles also show up here, including three Darkstalkers games, Hyper Street Fighter II: Anniversary Edition and the cutesy Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix - so if you already picked that up, you’re advised to not download Arcade 2nd Stadium in its entirety. (And if you don't already have that set, all six are terrific examples of Capcom excelling in the fighting game genre, and worth your minimal investment here.) What wasn’t on that release but does show up here is 1987’s original Street Fighter, which plays woefully when compared to its groundbreaking sequel, all jerky animation and stiff controls, but as a piece of fighting game history is certainly worth checking out just the once. Further fighters come in the forms of the super-intense Mega Man: The Power Battle and its sequel, and all three Street Fighter Alpha (Zero in Japan) instalments are available.
Away from one-on-one showdowns, Arcade 2nd Stadium’s shooters include 1994’s beautiful Eco Fighters, which plays from left to right, and the rather more primitive-looking Savage Bees, a vertical affair known as Exed Exes in Japan and dating from 1985. There are, indeed, bees and other bugs in it, and all must be destroyed. While many games here can be swapped from Western to Japanese ROMs, sometimes switching titles and storylines, the Puyo Puyo-like puzzler Pnickies is only in Japanese, making its game selection menu confusing for non-readers, so be aware of that before you click the download button. One of Capcom's best-ever side-scrolling beat 'em ups, 1991's King Arthur-themed Knights of the Round, is pretty much a must for this release, so don't delay on that one (unless you already have it, as it was on the Beat 'Em Up Bundle). Two games are actually compilations, if you’re after some variety and value: 1997’s Capcom Sports Club brings together arcade-style takes on tennis (Smash Stars), basketball (Dunk Stars) and football (Kick Stars), while 1991’s Three Wonders features the blocks-shoving puzzle game Don’t Pull, platformer Midnight Wanderers, and horizontal shooter Chariot. All are fun enough in their own rights, but the sports games are best enjoyed with a friend.
And when it comes to multiplayer, it’s local co-op or competition or nothing here - while Capcom Fighting Collection allows for smooth online play, this set opts to not go there at all. Which is fine for someone like me who’s mostly here for solo sessions, barring the occasional Slam Masters throwdown next to a player two, but others may find it frustrating. Presentation throughout is impeccable with a large number of display options including looking at 3D-rendered cabs while you play (this compilation is built in the RE Engine), and filters that I never ever use but they’re here if you want them. Elsewhere there are comprehensive game manuals with information on the story behind each title, every game’s controls are remappable, your mistakes can be undone with a rewind button, and the difficulty and speed of games can be tweaked for your optimal enjoyment. Every game is emulated with no obvious flaws, and when it comes to playing these coin-ops your way Capcom really has provided generous options.
That all said, Arcade 2nd Stadium doesn’t feel as necessary as its predecessor, where buying all of its 32 games gave you an astounding compilation, possibly the greatest-ever arcade collection of all time. The 32 games here, assuming you get the lot, range from interesting for two minutes to the kind you’ll be returning to several times to chase a new high score, but there’s little that reaches the incredible level of the first Stadium's Progear, 1944: The Loop Master, Final Fight or Battle Circuit. When a bar is set so high it’s inevitable that what comes after it will slide under, and if you love gaming history then Arcade 2nd Stadium remains highly recommended. But if you’re looking for some pocket change-crunching thrills as a newcomer to releases like these, it’s to the original Arcade Stadium you should turn first.
Pros: some exceptional titles included, emulation and presentation is great, options to suit every kind of player
Cons: some below-average titles included, six of its games just came out on another compilation, no real-time online play
For fans of: Capcom history, arcade history, video gaming history
7/10: Very Good
Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium is available now on Nintendo Switch (version tested), PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Review code provided by Capcom. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here.
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