With most of the world currently in lockdown, Capcom Arcade Stadium (CAS) might just be the closest any of us can get to a real-life arcade. Re-releasing classic arcade games from 1984-2001, CAS offers players a taste of times-gone-by with over 30 games at your disposal. From beat em’ ups like ‘Captain Commando’, to vertical scroller-shooters like ‘Giga Wing’, there certainly is a little something for everyone in CAS. However, considering how much of this collection is only available as paid DLC, just how does CAS compare to its competitors in the emulation market? Also, although centred around the re-release of decades-old games, what does this collection bring new to the table? However, most importantly, will this help alleviate the global phenomena of lockdown-boredom? Well, slot in another quarter and press continue to find out.
Probably the most notable thing you will notice when looking to purchase CAS is its pricing. Despite being advertised as a free-to-play game, the reality is that you’ll have to dish out more than a few quarters to get the full experience. By downloading CAS, you’ll be gifted ‘1943: The Battle of Midway’, which is a nice gesture, however the remaining 31 games must be purchased separately. These are neatly bundled into collections based on their decade of release, each setting you back £11.99. Alternatively you can purchase the entire collection for £29.99. One on hand, although this does offer players the opportunity to only purchase collections featuring the games they specifically want (therefore saving money), on the other, you may have to pay double just to get that one-extra game that happened to be released 3 years later. Furthermore, £29.99 for a collection of re-released games? To put that into perspective, many modern AAA games fall to prices lower than this only one year after release, which you’ll easily get just as much enjoyment out of. Nevertheless, whether you feel that the value of these games matches its price is up to you, as some have a much greater interest in retro arcade games compared to others. Just a word of caution though, unless you do, it is unlikely you will feel like you have gotten your money’s worth here.
Anyway, I’m sure you’re far more interested in the game itself, not Capcom’s pricing strategies. CAS essentially takes place in a virtual 3D arcade, where you play each game on its own dedicated machine. This was quite different to what I was expecting, but in truth, I felt this was a great design choice. It offers little outside of giving the game a unique aesthetic, but playing each game on a secondary, virtual arcade screen, and being able to look around outside of the machine whilst playing was a nice touch. As an owner of a SNES Mini, CAS definitely felt like it had taken a step further in this regard. Switching between games is smooth and sleek, with the option to create favourite lists, search by genre, and more. Considering this was the only area where the developers were actually given creative freedom, I applaud them on a job well done.
In regards to the games themselves, I obviously won’t go into detail on every single one, as most likely if you are interested in CAS you have already played many of these games before. However, that’s not to say there is nothing worth mentioning here. For the most part, each game plays just as you would expect. At least, I imagine… I’m too young to have played the originals. You are given a range of settings for each game, giving you the option to change the difficulty, adjust the game speed, as well as save/load your progress. To be honest, this is very similar to almost every game/console released in the emulation market, so again, there is little in way of surprise here. Similarly, the ability to ‘rewind’ your game is nothing new, albeit a handy little feature. For the most part then, CAS is very much a familiar experience to those who have already played emulated games.
So, aside from the games themselves, what does CAS offer that is different? Well, this can be found in the way of online leader-boards and challenge modes. For every game, different challenges are presented to the player, in the form of score challenges, time challenges and even ‘special’ challenges. This was something I found surprisingly fun, even if they felt a bit lacklustre. Being set (reasonably) difficult milestones to reach is great motivation to keep playing, and winning bragging rights by having your name plastered atop various leader-boards is certainly an incentive for many. However, this is really the extent of the online functionality offered in CAS. Yes, the satisfaction of placing 8th on the weekly leader-board of your favourite game is good, but the motivation to do the exact same next week isn’t quite the same. This is only compounded by the notable lack of reward for such achievements – virtual player points and a medal isn’t enough for most. Subsequently, CAS will almost certainly need more long-term support and updates to appease its player-base.
There’s just one last thing I wanted to mention… the performance of the games. You might be a bit confused – surely an arcade game from 1986 would play just fine on a modern games console, right? Well, in reality, that’s not always the case. A few of the games I played suffered from fairly significant frame-rate issues, especially when the screen was crowded with countless enemies, bullets, lasers, etc. I would like to give some benefit of the doubt, as yes, the chaotic nature of some of these games does lend itself to some performance issues, and yes, I did notice this only on a handful of games. But really, it’s quite disappointing that almost any issues are present considering the age of the titles. Especially when you consider CAS is entirely based on re-released games, with little in the way of new content, one would expect ensuring smooth performance across the board would be a priority during development. This may well be a consequence of playing on the Switch though, and so it will be interesting to see whether these problems persist when released on other platforms. Nevertheless, for those looking to pick up the Switch version, this is definitely something to be aware of.
All in all, I found CAS to be a fun, fast-paced and action-packed game, albeit one of little long-term interest. If you can get past the pricing, I’m certain most players will have a blast playing the collection of classic games, even if you are unfamiliar with them. I for one became quickly hooked on ‘Giga Wing’, despite having never played it before. There is something in the way of online multiplayer, however, much like the game as a whole, it is unlikely this will keep you going for very long. As a result, although regular arcade-goers might find CAS to be a great opportunity to pick up and play their favourite retro games on the fly, I don’t expect many casual gamers to see much value in their purchase after a week or two of playing.