Midway Arcade Treasures 2 — 1Q2015 issue

 

A mostly for­get­table trea­sure trove

We’re going to use the term trea­sure trove loosely when I refer to Mid­way Arcade Trea­sures 2. Sure, there are some dia­monds in the mine that was once Mid­way and its arcade hits. But some­times, as demon­strated ably in this pack­age, Mid­way dug just a lit­tle too deep to find things that I wouldn’t trade for a seashell and some glass beads.

Mid­way Arcade Trea­sures 2 fol­lows in the vein of the pre­vi­ous title, min­ing for hits out of the ver­i­ta­ble Taj Mahal that is Midway’s cat­a­log of arcade favorites. The sec­ond go-round imme­di­ately catches the eye — and wal­let — for ver­sions of Mor­tal Kom­bat II and Mor­tal Kom­bat 3, arguably the cen­ter­piece in the entire show. Fol­low­ing up those pieces are lesser hits such as Pri­mal Rage, APB and Ram­page World Tour. The entire com­pi­la­tion is made up of 20 titles, which is a bar­gain for the amount of games you’re get­ting. Whether you want to play all 20 titles or not is the ques­tion and it’s eas­ily answered quickly: No.

A few of the titles included imme­di­ately dredge up hor­ri­ble mem­o­ries. These drecks of mod­ern gam­ing soci­ety have been res­ur­rected, and I’m not exactly sure for whose ben­e­fit. Hard Dri­vin’, men­tioned and dis­sected in GI’s hor­ri­ble games pod­cast of yes­ter­year, is the worst offender of the bunch. I have no earthly idea who thought this was an arcade clas­sic and why it needed to be thrust upon the masses again. It was a hor­ri­ble game to begin with and deserves no fur­ther dis­cus­sion or inclu­sion to rean­i­mate it from the depths of hell where it belongs (Editor’s Note: Fun fac­toid — Hard Dri­vin’ pro­vided the basis for GI’s Tor­ture of the Quar­ter col­umn). N.A.R.C. also war­rants a men­tion as a title to avoid, as well as Pri­mal Rage. Let’s face it, Pri­mal Rage was touted as com­pe­ti­tion for the likes of Mor­tal Kom­bat, Street Fighter and Killer Instinct back in the day, but no one with any sense ever took it seri­ously. The game doesn’t inspire any new feel­ings of doing so after 20 years.

With the inclu­sion of hideous titles, there will be some con­trol issues. The good news is that most titles play like they did when first released. The bad news is that some “improve­ments” have done just the oppo­site of their inten­tion. Let’s take, for exam­ple, Mor­tal Kom­bat II. Because of “new-and-improved” con­trol map­ping, it is impos­si­ble to fight hid­den char­ac­ter Smoke in all ver­sions except the PC ver­sion, and it takes a patch to fix that. That drags the over­all expe­ri­ence down con­sid­er­ably. Con­tin­u­ing with the Mor­tal Kom­bat exam­ple, Mor­tal Kom­bat 3 runs just like the arcade. Except, the arcade ver­sion of MK 3 was ter­ri­ble, with a lot of bugs and glitches that neces­si­tated the much-better Ulti­mate MK3. It’s a mixed bag: On the one hand you’re get­ting improved con­trols and mod­ern advance­ments, but on the other hand, these changes aren’t exactly wel­come.
What is wel­come, how­ever, is the inclu­sion of the behind-the-scenes mate­r­ial. Doc­u­men­taries and making-of mate­ri­als are included as bonus fea­tures for a few games, most notably Mor­tal Kom­bat II and Mor­tal Kom­bat 3. If you were an MK fanatic, these are inter­est­ing looks at the fran­chise at the height of its ini­tial pop­u­lar­ity. If you’re won­der­ing what the hype was about, it’s a great look at the ori­gin of the series and where ideas and mythol­ogy were cre­ated. The bonus mate­ri­als for all games included are worth buy­ing if you’re into the arcade scene and its history.

Whether you deem this col­lec­tion worth your time depends on how ded­i­cated you are to the preser­va­tion of the U.S. arcade scene. If you’re a purist and you care about obscure games such as Wiz­ard of Wor and Xybots, by all means go out and search for the trea­sure. Oth­er­wise, let this booby-trapped box stay hidden.

Injustice: Gods Among Us — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Polygon.com

Jus­tice takes a new form

There have been a few DC Comics fight­ing games that have taken advan­tage of its vari­able super­hero and metahu­man ros­ter. Jus­tice League Task Force and Mor­tal Kom­bat vs. DC Uni­verse are among those that come to mind. And because of MK vs. DC Uni­verse, brought to you pre-Midway implo­sion by the com­pany that cre­ated that step in the direc­tion of redemp­tion, DC was able to fore­see the fruits of mak­ing a decent game based on their prop­er­ties. Enter Injus­tice: Gods Among Us.

Let’s get straight to the point: Mar­vel has had the mar­ket cor­nered on fight­ing games involv­ing super­heroes for some time now, thanks to the resource­ful­ness and shady under­tones that are Cap­com. So, for Injus­tice to stand a chance in the sud­denly re-crowded fight­ing game arena, it had to be some­thing spe­cial. Thank­ing those gods among us, it is.

Injus­tice plays much like the 2011 reboot of Mor­tal Kom­bat. The com­bat sys­tem is a lot like it in tone and rhythm and the ani­ma­tion style and fram­ing is much like it as well. If you can play that incar­na­tion of MK, more than likely you’re going to be able to pick up Injus­tice and run with it in a few short hours. And much like the MK reboot, there’s much more under the pretty coat of nos­tal­gia. Injus­tice is deep, with plenty to keep the fight­ing game crowd com­ing back for more and just enough to pique the inter­est of casu­als who don’t know much about fight­ing games but want to see who would win in a Bat­man vs. Super­man battle.

That’s some­thing else that’s going to draw in even the unini­ti­ated: the name recog­ni­tion. Yes, lots of folks now know who the merry band of mutants are over at Mar­vel, but mil­lions more know the names Bat­man, Joker, Super­man, the Flash, Lex Luthor and Won­der Woman. That instant brand recog­ni­tion is what com­pels a cer­tain part of you to come back and learn more about what’s really a good game. While you might not know who Dooms­day is or why the Omega Sanc­tion is instantly fatal to most liv­ing beings, you know the names behind the main char­ac­ters for play, or at least most of them, by sight alone.

That brand recog­ni­tion plays a large part in why the game is suc­cess­ful in its mis­sion: The pack­age around it doesn’t have to be slick and beau­ti­ful, but it is. And it’s enough to make the price to play worth it. Tak­ing into account the work that Nether­Realm Stu­dios pre­vi­ously com­pleted, Injus­tice is quite the step up graph­i­cally. Every back­ground is gor­geous and lav­ish in the game that’s already beau­ti­ful from the out­set. The graph­ics step up from MK vs. DCU in a way that have to be seen to be believed. And while it doesn’t seem like the game could get any bet­ter look­ing, then there’s the char­ac­ter mod­els. Every char­ac­ter is accu­rate, down to the details from sto­ry­line arcs such as Cri­sis on Infi­nite Earths dif­fer­ences. How­ever, while the graph­ics wow, the music isn’t great. It’s not ter­ri­ble, either, but it’s not exactly turn-up-the-volume qual­ity. It’s just there, which is highly unusual for the team known for pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing sound­tracks in the MK series.

I may not be able to tell you exactly who would win in a fight between Dark­seid and Black Adam, but I can make the point that Injus­tice does the DC uni­verse quite a bit of, well, jus­tice when it comes to a qual­ity fight­ing game fea­tur­ing the Dark Knight, Boy Won­der and Man of Steel.

Which ver­sion to buy?

There are two ver­sions to choose from: reg­u­lar edi­tion and ulti­mate edi­tion. Ulti­mate edi­tion, while cost­ing con­sid­er­ably more, is the bet­ter bar­gain because it fea­tures all of the released DLC and char­ac­ter skins. It also comes with Mor­tal Kom­bat com­bat­ant and stal­wart Scor­pion as a playable character.