Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits
They're back once again! Defend the helpless humanoids in Defender. Save the last family on Earth from the robots in Robotron: 2084. Stop the evil being, Sinistar, from taunting and trying to eat you for lunch in Sinistar. Get the upper hand'or ostrich as the case may be, and dismount your opponents in Joust. Presenting four Williams/Midway arcade classics for your Game Boy Advance playing pleasure in Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Since all four of these games are ports of coin operated arcade games, you would hope they would look, sound, and play just like the originals. Well, two out of three isn't bad, I guess. Although graphics were important, the control and gameplay run a close second and in a couple of cases, this pulled up short.
Of the four games, the control and gameplay in Joust is the most accurate, but the game also had the most anomalies of the four. The control in the arcade was always a little difficult, but that was part of the charm. That control is replicated here fairly well although the general physics of the game are off a bit as compared to the arcade version. Unfortunately I ran into a couple of buggy-looking problems with it. The first is that sometimes the enemies get tangled up with each other and can't move unless they're bumped. The second is that the lava monster's hand can grab you while you're still standing on the platform next to the lava and even if you break free, sometimes the hand continues rising up the screen. The third is that you can run just off the platforms and you'll stand in mid air. And the last, and most severe, was that the game actually locked up on me and I had to reset the Game Boy. I realize that the first three of these are pretty nit picky, but as a geeky purist it had to be mentioned. Still, the game is very playable and a lot of fun and plays much like the arcade version.
Defender is still as hard as always. Instead of most of the difficulty coming from mastering five different buttons and a vertical only joystick as it did in the arcade, it now comes in the form of some of the enemies moving and shooting way faster than they do in the arcade. If you hear the sound of a humanoid being abducted, you can pretty much say goodbye to them unless you just happen to be next to them when it happens. It also seems that you can't fire quite as fast as the arcade version, which makes hitting some of the smaller enemies very difficult. The control otherwise feels like it should compared to the coin-op version and Defender fans will probably enjoy the port.
Next up is Robotron: 2084, another very fast-paced game. Porting Robotron has always been a difficult endeavor because of the dual arcade joysticks. Midway handled this pretty well considering the Game Boy Advance has only the one directional control. Button A will fire in the direction you're facing and button B will stop you from moving so you can stand in place and fire wherever you want. Now since sitting still in this game is generally not a good idea (and guarantees almost instant death in the arcade), they've toned down the difficulty for the most part. The one thing I did notice, though, is as you get to higher levels all of the enemies start to move very fast. Actually, they move as fast as you and try to corner you. It's possible this also happens in the arcade at some point (I've never been good enough to find out for sure), but not as early as in this port. I found it was sometimes hard to determine the human Mikey from the red robots and ended up killing myself instead of getting a bonus. Nonetheless, this is still a decent port of Robotron: 2084 and it plays well considering the control set up.
Lastly is Sinistar. I'll start by saying I was happy to hear that Sinistar does speak to you just like the arcade although the volume on the speech is low (I had to use headphones to even hear it). The arcade version of this game was designed to be very difficult. The Game Boy port makes some aspects easier and some harder. The worst aspect of this port is the control. The arcade version used a 49-way optical joystick and it's clear that Midway tried to emulate this. They set it up so when you press a direction it rotates the ship (not unlike Time Pilot) but the problem here is that the ship doesn't stop in that direction that you're pressing. For instance, if you press up to go up, the ship will rotate towards up but stop in a diagonal direction instead. This makes the general control excessively difficult to manage, especially since you need to constantly switch directions and can never really get it to go where you want. Likewise, when you changed direction in the arcade, the ship could slow down a bit before turning and that isn't the case here - you constantly move at full speed. When the Warriors fire at you, it's usually with deadly accuracy unless you're flying circles around them. While Sinistar himself was always very difficult to beat in the arcade, it's even harder to beat him here. Actually, as long as he's not visible on screen, he doesn't seem to chase you at all but once you go to him and he gets on screen, it's instant death. You can't get away even if you try because he moves so fast that you never have a chance to even react. I was actually very disappointed in this port because it had a lot of potential for being almost exactly like the arcade version but it fails miserably in the controls department and without good control you simply can't have a good game. Besides the control, it also doesn't help much that you can't even attempt to outrun Sinistar once he's shown up on screen. In my opinion, this particular port is nearly unplayable.
Multiplayer support, experience
There is no multiplayer or two player options for any of the games. It's too bad that they couldn't have made Joust playable over a link cable'it would've made a nice addition to this cartridge.
As with most Williams video games from the early 80's, these all have bright and colorful graphics and each game looks just like its coin-op counterpart. Unfortunately the size of the Game Boy Advance screen makes it harder to see some of the details (not that there were a whole lot to be seen in the originals) but let's face it, if you're playing these games you aren't playing for the cutting edge graphics anyway.
The audio for all four games sounds just like you'd expect to hear from the original arcade games. Most of the sounds are just beeps and blips and other types of tones. I was impressed to hear that Sinistar has the speech from the arcade game although the volume was a little low.
There's not much here and really doesn't need to be. The docs simply tell you the story of each game, the general controls, and the point values. There's also page that lists a couple hints for each game.
Overall, the ports are close to their original arcade versions, but none are exact Then again, most people probably won't care about exactness unless they're purists anyway. Three of the four games are fun to play for the most part and look and sound just like they should even if they do have some quirks here and there. It seems to me that this game was hurried out possibly so it could be available for the Christmas season. Maybe that also would explain why there are only four classics on this cartridge (whereas ports for other systems had six). Anyway, this isn't a bad collection and I may be griping more than the average game player since I'm such a fanatic, but it just seemed to me that they could have done a better job porting these games over.