In my last post a few weeks back, I talked about “Daytona USA,” the highest grossing arcade game of all time, and how it ushered in the golden age of the American arcade. Sadly, that age is long gone, and many video game developers are moving their mainstay arcade franchises away to become home console exclusives. I showed how most view the American arcade industry as an obsolete sinking ship. But shortly after my article was posted, I happened to find out how one famed developer is attempting to revive the industry… in your pocket.
Capcom, the Japanese company who brought us such arcade classics as Street Fighter, Ghosts n’ Goblins, and Commando is attempting to revive the industry’s glory days on the iPhone with Capcom Arcade. The concept of a “classics collection” is anything but new, but Capcom is putting a new-old fashioned twist on the formula, effectively re-creating the arcade experience for a new generation of gamers.
The app is free. (What arcade would charge an admission fee?) But as you enter this pocket-sized arcade for the first time, you are greeted by an attendant who shows you around and gives you three “free tickets,” which you can use to play any of the games. After you use these up, you have the opportunity to purchase “tokens” to continue playing. 99 cents gets you 10 tokens, and each game is 1 token to start, 1 token to continue. If you grew up in the golden age of the arcade, this is when you begin to feel that you’ve stepped back in time!
Remember when you got knocked out by M. Bison in Street Fighter II and you ran to the nearest change machine/mother to get another chance at him before the continue timer ran out? That experience is relived here! (But made much easier, as you only have to tap the screen to purchase more tokens!)
With Capcom Arcade, Capcom is following the rapidly emerging trend of “freemium” gaming; where the game can be played for free, but you can play it more or enhance your game by slipping in a little cash. (i.e. Mafia Wars, Farmville, etc.) Again, this app is free, and you get three free credits each day you login, but to play beyond that, you’ll need to slip in some cash buy tokens. You can also give yourself an edge by buying power-ups, such as extra lives, health, or more powerful moves. The game also allows you to “buy” the arcade machine, meaning you can play it as much as you want without the use of tokens from then on. (At $3 per machine, this is a steal, as vintage arcade cabinets usually go for thousands of dollars!)
Many classic iPhone game adaptations suffer from the fact that those games were made to use joysticks and buttons, which are the two things the iPhone does not have! For the most part, Capcom pulled of their screen overlay controls well. Veterans of the original games might have experience slight learning curve, but give it a chance and you’ll be throwing hadokens in no time! Capcom also adapted their virtual arcade to the Web 2.0 world. After finishing a game, it will ask you if you’d like to post your score on Twitter or Facebook for bragging rights! You can even go head-to-head with another Bluetooth enabled iDevice, to see who’s still got it after all this time.
While the American arcade is doomed to slowly fade away, becoming only stories we’ll tell our grandchildren in the distant future, it’s good to know that it’s not just the consumers who miss it. In the few months that Capcom Arcade has been available in the App Store, they’ve continued to support it, with more classic games added monthly. Time will tell if other classic arcade game developers such as Namco, Sega, or even Nintendo join the club with a similar, arcade-like system. But for now, if you want to relive the golden age of the American arcade, there’s an app for that!