Review – Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection

When I think of old-school Konami, three things come to mind. The first, of course, is Castlevania. The second is Contra. Finally, the third thing that comes to mind is the ten trillion space shooters the company has released through the 80’s and 90’s. This is what the brand new Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection is mostly for: remembering Konami’s prime days as a top tier arcade developer in this compilation of mostly great shooters and a stinking intruder.

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Stay away from Haunted Castle just like a vampire stays away from garlic.

Seven of the eight games included in this collection are classic shooters: Scramble is Konami’s first foray into the genre and the first game in the genre to feature forced scrolling. The adorable Twinbee is a vertical-scrolling shooter that features enemies both on the ground and in the air, just like Namco’s classic Xevious. Typhoon, also known as A Jax, is noteworthy for featuring both 2D levels and some pseudo-3D sections which still look amazing to this day. Thunder Cross, probably the best game in the compilation, might look like yet another generic shooter at first, but it is by far the game with the best visuals, soundtrack, and controls in the entire compilation.

We then reach the cream of the crop of this compilation: the Gradius games. Don’t worry readers, you might think that this collection doesn’t feature any of those classics, but the thing is that they feature their original international arcade names in here. That means that the first Gradius is called Nemesis, Gradius II is called Vulcan Venture, and the classic spin-off Salamander is called Life Force instead. They might feature different names, but they’re the same games as before, featuring the series’ staple power-up system and fantastic soundtrack.

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Long live Gradius!

Finally, there’s the black sheep of the collection, the only game that isn’t a shooter, Haunted Castle. In fact, this is an arcade reimagining of Castlevania, featuring a mostly similar gameplay style and the fact you’re still Simon Belmont fighting against Dracula. Sadly, that doesn’t mean this is a quality title, as this is easily the worst Castlevania game I have ever played. Its controls are sluggish, the level design is bland, and its difficulty is stupidly unfair. Its soundtrack is the absolute worst in the entire compilation (barring Scramble, which doesn’t feature a soundtrack at all), even though it does feature the first iteration of the classic “Bloody Tears”, which was later added to the soundtrack of Castlevania 2. And people actually dare to consider Castlevania 64 the lowest low of the series…

When it comes to the quality of the ports, Konami did a great job with them, but the games do suffer from the fact they’re just too old to be properly enjoyed on a big screen, as no matter which display option you choose, the games will look ridiculously stretched on your TV. For this reason alone, I do think that the Switch version is the best bet, as you can play those games on a much smaller screen, as well as on-the-go. Thankfully, the gameplay is still pristine, with the exception of the aforementioned Haunted Castle. These are old-school shoot-em-ups and you would have to be really incompetent to ruin games with such simple and responsive controls. I also appreciate the fact the developers have added the possibility of playing those games with turbo fire support, saving your fingers from growing blisters the size of a tennis ball.

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I have never heard of Scramble prior to playing it in this collection. For a nearly 40 year old game, it ain’t half bad!

Sadly, if there’s one area in which Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection fails miserably is in its extra content. Those retro collections all feature a wide assortment of behind-the-scenes goodies for fans to enjoy, such as classic posters and concept art. The Street Fighter collection and the SNK collection had that. While Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection does feature some extra content, all it has to offer is a literal scan of a big boring book with some information on the games featured in the collection. While I do understand that you’re here for the games, this lack of meaningful extra content ended up being a bummer.

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It feels like I’m reading a lifeless scan of an informative book. Well, I AM reading a lifeless scan of an informative book.

Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection is nowhere near as good as other retro compilations I’ve played in recent years, but given how arcade shooters have managed to stand the test of time by being easy to play and easy to have fun with, I ended up having a lot more fun with this collection than I could have ever imagined. Games like Thunder Cross and the Gradius titles are still fantastic even thirty years later. For the asking price, you could do a lot worse. Just be sure to stay away from Haunted Castle. That one is a stinker.


Graphics: 6.5

The graphics were slightly revamped, but for the most part, they still look the same. No matter which display option you choose, they will look stretched on a modern TV screen.

Gameplay: 9.0

With the exception of Haunted Castle‘s naturally terrible controls, the other games are shooters and their gameplay is still easy to pick up and play. The addition of turbo fire options is very welcome.

Sound: 7.5

Some of the games feature fantastic soundtracks as you would expect from retro Konami games. Other games, like Haunted Castle, have awful tunes. Scramble doesn’t even feature a soundtrack at all.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Don’t expect a lot of good behind-the-scenes extras. You’re here for the retro games, and for the most part, they stand up the test of time, with the exception of the abysmal Haunted Castle.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection was provided by the publisher.