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Konami Arcade Classics

Reviewed by: Rob StrangmanMedia: CD
Released by: KonamiStatus: out of print
Platform: Sony PlayStationNumber of games: 10
Year released: 1999Players: 1-2 (alternating)

Games included:
Time PilotGyrussShao-Lin's RoadYie-Ar Kung FuRoc 'N Rope
ScrambleSuper CobraCircus CharliePooyanRoad Fighter

The first in the limited series of arcade compilations Konami released, and unfortunately the only one available for a console, Konami Arcade Classics is a nice look at Konami's early arcade lineup. If you're looking for later Konami arcade games such as Gradius, Contra or Haunted Castle, you'll have to look elsewhere. But if you're a veteran of the golden age of arcades and you remember spending hours playing Scramble or Gyruss, you'll feel right at home here. A little history for you here: Konami Arcade Classics was originally released in 1999, and was delayed several times before release. I thought that maybe it wasn't going to see the light of day in the US, given how many times it was pushed back, but it turns out that Konami was implementing analog support. Given how much it improved the gameplay, I'm glad they delayed it.
Time Pilot: Due to his wanton destruction while traveling through time, the Time Pilot created a paradox that destroyed the universe.

What you'll find here are several bonafide classics of the golden age, including my personal favorite arcade game of all time, Time Pilot. Also included is the phenomenal Tempest-esque shooter Gyruss, the unsung classic kung-fu game Shao-Lin's Road (known as Kicker in the US), the early one on one fighter Yie-Ar Kung Fu, the Donkey Kong-esque Roc 'N Rope, the proto-shooters Scramble and Super Cobra, the "three little pigs kick ass" tale Pooyan, the out-of-left-field circus game Circus Charlie, and the incredibly horrible early racer Road Fighter. I know it was included because someone at Konami has an affinity for it (they even made a sequel years later), but if it had been left off in favor of a different game, I'd have been fine with that. As near as I can tell, the emulation is spot-on. The controls were actually improved when Konami decided to implement the use of the PlayStation's analog sticks. I played Time Pilot as often as I could way back when, but I don't ever remember having exactly the kind of pinpoint accuracy that I do when playing it with the Dual Shock. The load times are pretty brief as well, which is a nice change, especially after the interminable load times that plagued other PlayStation compilations, namely Namco Museum Volume 2.
Shao-Lin's Road: Remember, it's all about the GUTS!!!

Konami did change one thing about the games which I found to be a bit of a disappointment, though: they removed the title screens and attract modes. When you start the games, you just go right to the screen that prompts you to press the one or two player start button. They also removed the game over screens, replacing them with generic "Continue? Yes/No" boxes. I don't know about you, but I've always found the attract mode of an arcade game to be one of the draws. That's how you get to see the game in action and get an idea of what you're in for before you plunk down a quarter. On the plus side, Konami did include recreations of the orignal arcade "hints" that you'd find on the cabinets. You can check those out while waiting for your game to load, and if you're not done when the game is ready, it won't kick you right into the game. Just press start when you're ready. There's also an options screen that allows you to change the difficulty settings and amount of lives you have for each game. It's not as cool looking as the dip switch display on the first couple Namco Museum volumes, but it gets the job done.
Scramble: Konami and their wacky retcons. I'm sorry, but this is not the first Gradius game.

If you love the golden age of arcade games, Konami Arcade Classics needs to be in your collection. Perhaps this is a testament to exactly how timeless these games are, or perhaps just how much Konami got right and improved by implementing analog support, but nearly ten years after its release this disc gets more play time than nearly anything in my PlayStation library, even the other compilations that I have. It'd have been nice if the things they removed had been left intact, but with how well the games play with analog support, I can overlook those omissions.
Roc 'N Rope: Now that's a dangerous place to be.

Worth the purchase: To be able to play Time Pilot and Gyruss with the analog sticks alone makes this worth the purchase.

Diversity: It's a little heavy on proto-shooters (not a bad thing), but there are several other genres to choose from.

Playability: See my comments about the ability to use the analog sticks. Everything else seems pretty spot-on too.

Hidden gems: Roc 'N Rope. Despite having never heard of it when I got the game, it gets almost as much playtime from me as Time Pilot, Gyruss and Shao-Lin's Road