Twenty-two games on one disc. Where do I start? Capcom Classics Collection contains 22 games (arcade and console) originally released between 1984 and 1992. This disc is packed with legitimate classics, and although a couple notable milestones are missing, it's easily one of the greatest retro compilations ever made… ever.
Much of that greatness is due to the selection of games, which includes arcade mega-hits, such as Forgotten Worlds, Final Fight, Street Fighter II (three versions), Commando, and Mercs, as well as console classics, such as Ghosts 'N Goblins, 1943 Kai, and Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts. There are a few questionable "classics" rounding out the line-up too, such as the crappy side-scroller, Trojan, and the simple barrel drop puzzler, Pirate Ship Higemaru.
The other sweet thing about this collection is that the emulations are spot-on to the original versions, or as close as we're ever going to get. These aren't re-coded games. Capcom and Digital Eclipse took the original arcade and console code and made it work on the PS2.
Final Fight is 100% identical to the original arcade game. That means no load times, more enemies displayed at once than the best-selling Super NES and GBA versions, and graphics that are more colorful than the old Sega CD port. It also means that players can beat up on Roxy and Poison, the scantily clad girls that Capcom had previously removed from every home version of the game. This is a pixel-perfect rendition of the game that made the side-scrolling beat-'em-up genre popular.
All three Street Fighter II games are faithful to the arcade too, although you'll have to tolerate brief load times and put up with graphics that don't completely fill the screen. Load times are decent, topping out around 5 seconds before each fight and 2 seconds after each fight. For whatever reason though, the graphics don't fill the entire screen. Instead, there are small black borders all around. You can enlarge the size of the window in the options, but that still leaves a 1-inch border at the top of the screen and a sliver at the bottom (on a 27" TV). Perhaps the letterboxing was necessary to keep the original aspect ratio of the arcade graphics intact. Even so, it's an odd state of affairs considering the graphics in the PSOne version of Street Fighter Collection 2 were full-sized and not distored.
Aside from the load times and letterboxing, these are the arcade versions of Street Fighter II. The backgrounds and characters are just as colorful and massive as you remember, the "hadouken" and "shoryuken" sound effects are still super-cheesy, and all of the old combos and cheats work like they should. Better still, you can play World Warrior, Champion Edition, or Hyper Fighting without resorting to the mish-mash setup that ruined last year's Street Fighter Anniversary Collection.
The remaining games on the disc are more in line with Final Fight, in that they emulate the original arcade and console code without imposing load times or letterboxing. Commando and Mercs, Capcom's militaristic shoot-'em-ups, have a tendency to fill the screen with enemy soliders and explosions, and the PS2 handles them without any hiccups or slow-down. The same goes for 1943 Kai, the vertical shoot-'em-up originally released for the TurboGrafx-16 console. Fans of Ghosts 'N Goblins and Ghouls 'N Ghosts will be pleased that the NES, arcade, and Super NES versions of these games are pixel-perfect. The rotation and color-cycling effects in Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts are still impressive to this day. Plus, every game that featured two-player or three-player support in the arcade also does so here.
Of course, on the whole, the graphics and audio in these classics don't stack up favorably against what we get from today's so-called modern games. These games are at least 10 years old, after all, and some are pushing 20 years. Even so, the giant 2D sprites and animation in games like Final Fight and Street Fighter II are still very impressive, and it's amazing to see just how many sprites games like Forgotten Worlds and Legendary Wings can throw onto the screen at any given moment. Furthermore, some of these soundtracks are downright catchy. Capcom's composers have come up with some truly memorable music over the years, and this disc almost seems like a celebration of those glory days. Classical themes such as Chun Li's theme from Street Fighter II and the spooky intro dirge to Ghost 'N Goblins will have you humming them long after you've powered down the system.
A few nitpickers on message boards have complained that the sound effects and music in some games seem higher or lower-pitched than they were in the original versions. That's tough to confirm, since many of these games are impossible to find in arcades anymore. The majority of people that have any recent experience with these games have been playing them on emulators, which typically don't reproduce audio accurately (though some are darn close). Try as I might, I really wasn't able to pick out any discrepancies in the games I used to play frequently. Perhaps the voices in Forgotten Worlds are a little muffled. Maybe the high notes in the background music for Supers Ghouls 'N Ghosts are too high. Personally, I can't be sure of those things. That's just how close these emulations are. Whatever differences there are between these versions and the originals, they're so slight that you really have to try hard to notice them.
My biggest problem with this disc is what it doesn't include, namely the Sega Genesis version of Strider, the NES version of Bionic Commando, and the early 1990's arcade beat 'em up Captain Commando. At least in the case of Strider and Captain Commando, Capcom has revealed that both of those games will be included in the upcoming PSP version of this disc. No word yet on the NES version of Bionic Commando though, which is far superior in terms of gameplay to the arcade game that's included in this compilation. And how about games like 199X, Saturday Night Slam Masters, and the Final Fight sequels? I'd be willing to bet a volume 2 is in the works.
Extras for each game include historical dossiers, artwork galleries, tips, and music players. Certain games offer alternate soundtracks or bonus play modes that weren't in the original games. High scores are saved for each game. Rounding out the bonuses, the disc also includes video trailers for the Street Fighter Alpha Generation anime DVD, the upcoming PSP version of Capcom Classics Collection, and the upcoming PS2 action game, Devil Kings.
Overall, Capcom Classics Collection is a wonderful compilation that should appeal to retro fans, modern gamers, and cheapskates alike. You really can't argue with 22 games for 20 bucks, especially when the emulations are spot-on and the line-up is this deep.