Middle aged gamer's collection #16-18

davyK's picture

#16-#18. Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits (SNES) / Midway's Arcade's Greatest Hits (Dreamcast)/ Midway presents Arcade's Greatest Hits (Saturn)

Here's another example of me doing a double-dip (or triple-dip in this case) - paying for the same title on a different platform. I can't resist retro compilations for consoles. I have amassed quite a few over the years and the number of retro compilations available for a console has actually been a factor in the purchasing decision for console - certainly for the PS1 and PS2.

I have collected quite a few but this Williams/Midway compilation is the only one I have bought for multiple platforms. I really don't know why but there's a very good chance its because of the two star games present - Defender and Robotron. These are two giants of the classic era. I remember playing them in the arcade and loving them but I didn't play an awful of lot on them for the simple fact that they are two of the toughest arcade games and being on a tight budget in the early 80s meant I concentrated my credits on games that were easier to get to grips with. This only added to the mystique around these games.

Back then there wasn't really such a thing as a "standard" user interface but even then these games were unusual in that respect. Robotron has its twin 8-way joystick control - one for movement, one for firing which today has few offspring - Geometry Wars being probably the best of the modern linage. A Defender cabinet was intimidating with its 2-way joystick and 5 buttons. Oddly enough despite the unusual for the time control scheme, modern consoles mostly do a pretty good job replicating these control schemes.

The SNES offering has one less game than the Saturn and Dreamcast collection but it delivers the big two flawlessly (at least as far as I can see not being very good at these games). It also offers Joust, Defender 2 (aka Stargate) and Sinistar - all games I never encountered in the arcade. Discounting Defender 2 as its a very close cousin of the original my next most favoured game is Joust which is particularly great in 2 player mode.

The SNES version is pretty good. The emulation is accurate (provided for all 3 versions by Digital Eclipse) and of course cartridge means zero-loading but there's no battery backup so high scores are not retained. This is big downer for me as I'm all for high scores; especially when it comes to games from this era. The reduced resolution of the SNES doesn't hamper the in-game action but the intro/title screens can have problems as the font on these games is quite fine and small. I got the SNES version when it was released quite late in the console's life and the lack of backup wasn't as big an issue for me then - but I doubt I would buy this version now. The SNES version is great though and its fun now thinking of playing a retro compilation on what many would consider to be a retro console itself. The SNES controller gives a great Robotron experience as the 4 controller face buttons are placed at the 4 compass points - allowing a close representation of the 8 way firing controller.

The Dreamcast version also benefits from this layout on its controller although I have always had my doubts about the Dreamcast d-pad. Still it presents 6 games in this compilation. The extra game is a little oddity called Bubbles which I find interesting but it doesn't really hold my attention for long. The increased resolution of the Dreamcast helps make the games look that bit more accurate and readable too. The Saturn has the same 6 games but the Saturn controller is not optimal for Robotron but it's still usable.

The SNES and Dreamcast versions of this compilation are pretty bare bones - basic options for lives, difficulty etc. This has always been a bit of disappointment for me - especially with later console-based compilations which don't take advantage of the space to add some value with extra content re interviews etc. The Saturn version does have a media section which is a welcome feature. The Dreamcast and Saturn versions both save high scores.

You may also note how these 3 games are named differently. The SNES and DC games are PAL region and the Saturn version is the US version - I'm guessing the licence wrangling required to get these games out explains this.

These games tend not to hold much interest for my kids - they will watch my amateurish attempts at gameplay for a short while. The whole hardcore feel these games have and the basic sights and sounds means they are put off which is a shame. Joust does get some playtime but they much prefer Nintendo's offering in this genre - Balloon Fight which is a lot more approachable for younger ones.

I tend not to play these games as much any more but I like to know that I can have a go when the notion takes. The fact that I have 3 different platforms covered means there's a good chance that what I have under the gaming TV at any one time can be used straight away. I'm getting lazy and sometimes the thought of wrestling with AV and power cables just puts me off!