Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
27 December 2005
The Year of Emulation Collections
In 1995 the first Williams Arcade Classics appeared for DOS with just six games. Now in 2005 I have counted eight different collections offering well over 100 emulated arcade games and more than a dozen console games. What a difference ten years has made!

In the mid-1990s, your only legal options for playing older arcade games were to find a real arcade or buy the games yourself. But a gaming public with an appetite for classic games has fueled the rise of commercial emulation specialists like Digital Eclipse and the community-developed MAME. Sensing a profit, Turner Broadcasting's GameTap is offering many emulated classic games through its monthly service, including some you won't find elsewhere, like Zaxxon. Although it hasn't lived up to expectations, StarROMs is pretty much still the only service that offers arcade ROMs as legal downloads.

A few quick points:
  • How important has copyright infringement, namely illegal distribution of ROMs, been to the rise of this industry? If people hadn't been trying out ROMs with MAME, or at least reading about MAME on forums and newsgroups, would the market for the Namco and Midway collections been quite as robust?

    For my own part, I know I was downloading ROMs to use with emulators long before I bought a legal emulation package. It started with Colecovision and Atari 2600 ROMs and eventually included Commodore 64 and Apple ][ disk images. Now, when I can, I try to buy the originals, and I do not download ROMs for which I don't own the original game.

    But that's me, and I know my view isn't the normal one. If I had to guess, I'd say that Digital Eclipse has grown its own market more than it has been helped by the likes of MAME. Anyone who's going to be a hardcore MAME user isn't very likely to buy a collection for $20 - $50, especially when each collection has traditionally had fewer than 15 games.
  • I like the trend we're seeing toward more games for a lower price. Look at the recent Taito and Capcom collections, which have 29 and 22 games respectively, both selling for $20. Last year's Atari Anthology had over 80 games, and I think retailed for $20 as well.
  • We still aren't seeing definitive collections, however. Where is the definitive Namco Museum or definitive Midway Arcade Treasures that has all the games in one place?

    Instead we see Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Windows) and Namco Museum Battle Collection (PlayStation Portable) with exclusives. So if you want Dig Dug II you'll have to pick up the PSP version and if you want Galaga '88 you'll have to pick up a console version. For a completist like me, that means getting both.

    Similarly, the otherwise well-stocked Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play for the PSP is missing Robotron: 2084, making it a non-starter for me. When most reviews said the collection was overall quite poor, I happily marked it off my want-list.
  • It is interesting that most of this year's emulation collections have been developed by one company: Digital Eclipse. Even Namco, which I presume developed their previous Namco Museum for the PSOne in-house, has hired Digital Eclipse for the latest iteration of that series. Only Tecmo and Taito seem to be doing their own stuff, although I suppose it is possible they are licensing some technology from Digital Eclipse.

    Is that really a one-company market? Given the concerns I've read about the quality of some of the latest work by Digital Eclipse, I think we'd all be better off with a little competition.
Just for the record, this was the only legal arcade emulation option in 1995. I've linked everything up so you can check out the games easily.

Williams Arcade Classics for DOS
  1. Bubbles
  2. Defender
  3. Defender II
  4. Joust
  5. Robotron: 2084
  6. Sinistar
Now here are the eight collections I've seen released in 2005, covering about 115 games. I've linked these game titles as well, for easy reference.

Taito Legends for Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Microsoft Windows
  1. Battle Shark
  2. Bubble Bobble
  3. Colony 7
  4. Continental Circuit (Continental Circus)
  5. Electric Yo-Yo, The
  6. Elevator Action
  7. Exzisus
  8. Gladiator
  9. Great Swordsman
  10. Jungle Hunt
  11. New Zealand Story, The
  12. Ninja Kids
  13. Operation Thunderbolt
  14. Operation Wolf
  15. Phoenix
  16. Plotting
  17. Plump Pop
  18. Rainbow Islands
  19. Rastan
  20. Return of the Invaders
  21. Space Gun
  22. Space Invaders
  23. Space Invaders Part II
  24. Super Qix
  25. Thunder Fox
  26. Tokio
  27. Tube-It
  28. Volfied
  29. Zoo Keeper
Sonic Gems Collection for GameCube (and PlayStation 2 in Japan)
  1. Sonic CD - SegaCD
  2. Sonic Drift 2 - GameGear
  3. Sonic R - PC
  4. Sonic Spinball - GameGear
  5. Sonic the Fighters - Arcade
  6. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - GameGear
  7. Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble - GameGear
  8. Tails Adventures - GameGear
  9. Tails' Skypatrol - GameGear
  10. Vectorman - Genesis
  11. Vectorman 2 - Genesis
Tecmo Classic Arcade for Xbox
  1. Bomb Jack
  2. Pinball Action
  3. Pleiades
  4. Rygar
  5. Senjyo
  6. Solomon's Key
  7. Star Force
  8. Strato Fighter
  9. Swimmer
  10. Tecmo Bowl
  11. Tecmo Cup (Tehkan World Cup)
Capcom Classics Collection for PlayStation 2 and Xbox
  1. 1942
  2. 1943
  3. 1943 Kai
  4. Bionic Commando
  5. Commando
  6. Exed Exes
  7. Final Fight
  8. Forgotten Worlds
  9. Ghosts 'n Goblins
  10. Ghouls 'n Ghosts
  11. Gun.Smoke
  12. Legendary Wings
  13. Mercs
  14. Pirate Ship Higemaru
  15. Section Z
  16. Son Son
  17. Street Fighter II
  18. Street Fighter II Champion Edition
  19. Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting
  20. Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts (SNES)
  21. Trojan
  22. Vulgus
Midway Arcade Treasures 3 for GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox
  1. Badlands
  2. Hydro Thunder
  3. Off Road Thunder: Mud, Sweat, 'n Gears
  4. Race Drivin'
  5. S.T.U.N. Runner
  6. San Francisco Rush 2049 (Dreacmast version)
  7. San Francisco Rush the Rock: Alcatraz Edition
  8. Super Off Road
Namco Museum 50th Anniversary for GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Microsoft Windows
Namco Museum Battle Collection for PlayStation Portable
  1. Bosconian
  2. Dig Dug
  3. Dig Dug II1
  4. Dragon Buster1
  5. Dragon Spirit2
  6. Galaga
  7. Galaga '882
  8. Galaxian
  9. Grobda1
  10. King & Balloon1
  11. Mappy
  12. Motos1
  13. Ms. Pac-Man
  14. New Rally-X1
  15. Pac-Man
  16. Pac-Mania2
  17. Pole Position2
  18. Pole Position II2
  19. Rally-X
  20. Rolling Thunder
  21. Sky Kid2
  22. Tower of Druaga, The1
  23. Xevious
1 - only on Namco Museum Battle Collection for PSP
2 - only on Namco Museum 50th Anniversary for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and Microsoft Windows

Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play for PlayStation Portable
  1. 720 Degrees
  2. Arch Rivals
  3. Championship Sprint
  4. Cyberball 2072
  5. Defender
  6. Gauntlet
  7. Joust
  8. Klax
  9. Marble Madness
  10. Mortal Kombat
  11. Mortal Kombat II
  12. Mortal Kombat 3
  13. Paperboy
  14. Rampage
  15. Rampart
  16. Sinistar
  17. Spy Hunter
  18. Toobin'
  19. Wizard of Wor
  20. Xenophobe
  21. Xybots
--Matt Matthews at 18:56
Comment [ 5 ]

Comments on this post:

I too like the trend of seeing more collections being released. The Capcom collection this year was excellent.

As a random _unscientific_ experiment, I compared review scores of some of the various collections available on home consoles using Using the XBox as the comparison platform (using the PS2 when no XBox version was made), the ratings came up as (ordered by score):

Capcom Classics: 81
Taito Legends: 75
Activision Anthology: 75 (PS2)
Midway Arcade: 74
Atari Anthology: 68
Intellivision Lives: 60
Namco Museum: 59
Tecmo Classic Arcade: 55
Sega Classics: 49 (PS2)

This isn't necessarily any sort of usual metric, but it's interesting nonetheless.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 December, 2005 14:05  

I hadn't thought of looking at the scores, but that is interesting to see Capcom's set rated so highly. Both it and the Taito collection are great, and I hope they're selling well.

Tecmo's collection didn't review well, in my opinion, because they didn't really put out any of their best properties. Serves them right.

Same goes for Namco. They've gone to the well one too many times on that set, and need to do something on the scale of Taito's collection.

I would love to see a revised Activision Anthology, just to have a Kaboom! with real analog mouse/trackball support. Same with Atari Anthology.

By Blogger jvm, at 29 December, 2005 00:02  

Wasn't the Tecmo collection also priced higher than the usual 'classics collection' price range? If I'm going to pay more than $20 for a collection, I'd hope to see more than two or three memorable games.

By Blogger Dan-o, at 29 December, 2005 13:54  

Good catch, Dan-o. From what I can tell Tecmo Classic Arcade debuted at $30. Compared to what you get in Capcom or Taito's packages for $20, the Tecmo set looks sad.

It now sells for a more reasonable $20, and according to EB Games you get a Tecmo Bowl Custom Decal too. Exciting, no?

By Blogger jvm, at 29 December, 2005 15:23  

On the other hand guys, the Tecmo collection contains cult fave Tecmo Bowl and the awesomely underrated Solomon's Key. There's good stuff on it.

By Blogger JohnH, at 29 December, 2005 17:00  

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