Review: Midway Arcade Treasures 3 (XB)

Review: Midway Arcade Treasures 3 (XB)
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Distributor: Midway
Genre: Compilation
Release Date: 9/27/05

Midway Arcade Treasures is arguably one of the best compilations ever to come out with 20 classic games, of which the majority are well worth playing. Some of the highlights include Gauntlet, Joust, SpyHunter, Smash TV, Rampage, and Paperboy. Talk about your retro gaming goodness.

Its follow up, Midway Arcade Treasures 2 offered up another nice selection of games, but wasn’t quite as impressive, even though it included games like Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, NARC, and Total Carnage. For some reason the translation from the arcade to the console just wasn’t as solid this time around, and the controls for a number of games were downright poor.

Now along comes Midway Arcade Treasures 3. Whereas the previous two installments covered games of all genres and eras, this time we get a compilation that focuses entirely on arcade racing ports. We also only get 8 games instead of the 20 seen in earlier sets.

Wait a minute, only 8 games? I can’t help but feel a little gypped. Yes, several of these are fairly modern with six of them being polygon based, but surely they could have added more? Still, it’s 8 games for $20. Can’t go wrong with that, right? Err… well, maybe…


1. COMPILATION

So, which 8 games did Midway decide to give us? Here’s the list…

– Badlands
– Hydro Thunder
– Off Road Thunder: Mud, Sweat, ‘N Gears
– Race Drivin’
– San Francisco Rush The Rock: Alcatraz Edition
– San Francisco Rush 2049
– S.T.U.N. Runner
– Super Off Road, and the Bonus Tracks Pack

It’s certainly not a bad compilation, and some of these games were downright incredible in the arcade. You’ll still find Hydro Thunder and Off Road Thunder machines in movie theaters and old arcades, and every now and then you may even come across one of the Rush machines.

Then you’ve got some of the older titles, like Race Drivin’ and S.T.U.N. Runner. These were revolutionary for their time, but don’t hold up quite so well as console games. Part of the problem is due to the fact that the arcade versions had complex setups complete with cockpits, shift knobs, and steering wheels. As such, what was an amazing arcade experience falls a little flat on your home TV screen.

For nostalgia value you’ve even got Super Off Road (along with its extra tracks) and Badlands, the two oldest games in the set. I can vividly remember my brother and I playing the Super Nintendo version of Super Off Road and getting into fights over who won and lost.

In the end, this is a fairly good set, but because it is completely devoid of anything other than racing games, it’s really only going to appeal to fans of that genre. I also can’t help but feel like there should have been more here, and that Midway really slacked off this time. Still, the games that are on here were certainly enjoyable for their time.

Compilation Score: 6/10


2. GRAPHICS

Due to the very nature of a compilation, the graphics are all over the place. For the most part they appear graphically to be perfect ports of their arcade counterparts. These range from the sprite based Super Off Road to the fully 3D rendered Hydro Thunder.

For that matter, Hydro Thunder and Off Road Thunder both look like they belong on this generation of consoles, albeit three or four years ago. If you ever played Hydro Thunder on the Dreamcast, then you know exactly what to expect here. And actually the graphics might be just a little bit better.

Considering how old some of these games are, one serious problem I noticed quite frequently is slowdown. Sure, S.T.U.N. Runner is polygon based, but these are very early attempts at 3D graphics and there is no reason that the game should experience any kind of slowdown on the X-Box. And yet when more than just your vehicle appears on the screen, the game definitely starts to choke. The same problem can be found occasionally in Hydro Thunder, especially in some of the more extravagant areas of the Nile Adventure track or the N.Y. Disaster track.

Overall, the games look good. Some of them even look great. But considering their age, the amount of slowdown present in most of them is practically inexcusable.

Graphics Score: 5/10


3. SOUND

Again, the sound here is a mixed bag. It ranges from old midi tracks with scratchy sound effects on Super Off Road to full our musical barrages with the roar of engines and the screech of tires in Off Road Thunder.

On the whole there is nothing overly offensive here, and the music and sound is perfectly suitable for the time and style of each game. Even Badlands has a certain old school charm to it, and you can’t help but enjoy the catchy tunes in Rush 2049.

Of course the newer games sound much better, and Hydro Thunder is easily the highlight of the collection. Everything from the slosh of water to the crash of boats colliding sounds good, and the music will easily get stuck in your head after playing the same track a few times.

Overall the sounds and music are solid for each game, and faithful to the arcade versions. Just don’t expect to hear an orchestral score for S.T.U.N. Runner, and you’ll be fine.

Sound Score: 7/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

And here is where the compilation completely falls flat on its face. To say that the majority of the controls are poor is being polite. Yes, these are all arcade ports, and in the arcade you had steering wheels and foot peddles and shift knobs and everything else… but you would think that they would take the time to adjust the controls ever so slightly to match up with a handheld controller.

One of the biggest pains in the ass is menu navigation. For pretty much every game you have to remember that the arcade used a steering wheel, and as such pressing up and down is useless. You’ll have to press left and right to get to anything. With Rush The Rock, it’s even worse… you are pretty much forced to use the analog stick to select what track to play, as pressing just left or right will reset back to the first option after less than a second. That probably doesn’t make much sense, so let me try to explain it this way…

Imagine in the arcade you have a steering wheel. Well, mark it with the same numbers that you have on a clock. Now, if you want to select the track on the far right, turn the wheel clockwise so that 9:00 is now in the 12:00 position, and hold it there while you hit enter. Are we seeing the problem now? You have to hold the analog stick a certain degree to the right or left, and then select your track before you accidentally slip and choose something else. It’s frustrating, to say the least, and just plain poor design. Sure, it works fine in the arcade, but it’s terrible on a controller.

That’s the most extreme example of menu issues that I could find. The rest of the time it’s just a matter of remembering to only use left and right. Now, what about playing the actual games?

Again, this is somewhat of a mixed bag. Older games like Super Off Road and Badlands play pretty smoothly, and if you ever tried Off Road on the old SNES, you have an idea what to expect. The biggest problem here is the sensitivity of the analog stick. Moving it ever so slightly to the left or right can very easily send you into a circle.

Some of the newer games like Hydro Thunder, Off Road Thunder, and the two Rush games play perfectly fine. They each have their own little annoyances, but nothing that is overly detrimental to the gameplay. Unlike some of the earlier games, the steering controls here aren’t quite as picky, and you’ll find it much easier to handle both smooth and sharp turns.

The worst of the bunch in terms of actual gameplay is probably S.T.U.N. Runner. Talk about hard to control. You have no control over your acceleration, so your main goal is to steer your vehicle and shoot at other cars and obstacles. However, the steering is so unresponsive that by the time you manage to make your car move left or right, it has shot all the way across the screen. This is easily one of the most annoying games to play, and one that I became incredibly frustrated with after only a few minutes.

As for gameplay? Well, they are all racing games, so you’ve probably got a pretty good idea what to expect. I’m not going to go through each game individually as we’d be here for several more pages, but suffice it to say that there is plenty of battling for first place while keeping an eye out for power ups and shortcuts.

If you enjoyed any of these games in the arcade, chances are you will also enjoy them here on the console. Just be aware that the fancy setups in the arcade do not translate very well to a handheld controller, and that certain games play much better than others.

Control and Gameplay Score: 4/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

You’ve got 8 games total, each with various tracks, vehicles, and in some cases modes of play. The potential for you to come back to this collection time and again is fairly high, especially if you enjoy beating your own high scores and unlocking all the tracks for each game.

However, once you get past the shaky controls, it won’t take you too long to play through most of what this compilation has to offer. Within a few hours you can probably unlock most of the tracks and vehicles in Hydro Thunder, Off Road Thunder, and the Rush games. The rest of the set doesn’t have as much in the way of unlockable content, and Super Off Road doesn’t even have a save feature, so to speak of, except for high scores.

Replayability Score: 7/10


6. BALANCE

These games tend to be either really easy, or really hard. Unfortunately, part of this is based purely on how well you can handle the controls.

The older games tend to be more difficult than the newer ones. This is no surprise, of course, as anyone who grew up playing video games in the late 80s and early 90s can tell you that games of today are so much easier than what we had. Still, I have to give some credit to Hydro Thunder and Off Road Thunder for their excellent balance… early tracks aren’t that hard, but as you progress through the games, you will have to employ every shortcut, power up, and trick in the book to score first place.

Control issues aside, most of the games here are decently well balanced. However, once you start factoring in the annoying controls for some of the games,

Balance Score: 6/10


7. ORIGINALITY

Of course all of these games are just ports of their arcade counterparts. And to take it down another notch, none of these games were necessarily ground breaking in their own right. At least not in terms of what you see here on the console.

What made these games so popular during their time was the total package, not just the games themselves. It was the ability to sit in a special chair with a steering wheel placed in front of you, your foot on the gas pedal and your hand on the stick shift. It was the complete feeling of immersion in the game, rather than standing in front of a few buttons and a joystick. Racing games were a dime a dozen, but these were the ones that took you to the next level.

Unfortunately in their translations to the console a lot of the magic is lost. Sure, there are aspects of the games that are still fairly original, like all the hidden areas and collectibles in Rush 2049, or the secret paths and alternate routes in Hydro Thunder. But sitting down at home, these are just another bunch of racing games with a few entertaining gimmicks.

Originality Score: 5/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

The addictiveness of this collection could have been so much higher. It should have been so much higher. But the poor controls and far too common slowdown issues plague the majority of the games here. For me, the only two games that really grabbed a hold of me were Hydro Thunder and Off Road Thunder. Of course, those two are fairly modern and have made the translation to the console much more smoothly than the other games in the collection.

With a little bit more care, and some tweaking of the interface and the controls, this could have been one hell of a nice racing compilation. Unfortunately the technical issues tend to suck away any real fun that one can have with it, and you’re left with only one or two really addictive games.

Addictiveness Score: 3/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

While the previous two Midway Arcade Treasures collections appealed to a wide variety of gamers thanks to the wide span of genres and time periods presented, this one falls a little flat in terms of appeal. Sure, retro gamers will probably still find something here to like, but none of the games go back farther than the early 1989. And the collections focus on racing titles will probably turn off more potential buyers.

However, those who enjoy old school arcade racing games will probably find something to like here. And even if you enjoy only one or two games, you can probably justify the $20 price tag, or at least a rental. Personally I’m happy to have a copy of Hydro Thunder for $20, after being a fool and selling my Dreamcast off.

Still, they could have done so much more to broaden the appeal of this collection by just adding a little bit more variety. Ah well, maybe with Midway Arcade Treasures 4.

Appeal Factor Score: 5/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

There are a few little extras included with each game, but nothing overly interesting, or even on par with the previous Midway Arcade Treasures titles. Each game has a section with details on the games development and release, along with a few gallery photos, and that’s about it. There are a few other little pieces of bonus material, but nothing worth viewing more than once, if at all.

I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with this collection. From the slowdown issues to the control problems, it seemed like this was a mostly half assed attempt to cash in on old games. Overall it feels like very little work was done to make sure that the various games would play properly on a console.

Still, any company that decides to release a sizeable collection of old games on the cheap is ok by me, and at $20 you could do a lot worse. Although unless one or more of these games is your favorite of all time, I’d suggest going for a rental before a purchase.

In the end, this collection unfortunately doesn’t match up to the previous two Midway Arcade Treasures collections. But then again, those are hard acts to follow.

Miscellaneous Score: 4/10


THE SCORES

Compilation: 6
Graphics: 5
Sound: 7
Gameplay/Control: 4
Replayability: 7
Balance: 6
Originality: 5
Addictiveness: 3
Appeal Factor: 5
Miscellaneous: 4
Overall: 52
Final Score: 5.0 (Average)