Nothing goes better with handhelds then retro arcade compilations, and it's a fine time to be a nostalgic gamer on the go, with compilations littering the shelves for PSP and DS. Konami is certainly not new to this game – their Arcade Advanced compilation was one of the better releases of its kind on the GBA – but their latest offering aims to do it one better, with full emulation of 15 arcade classics from 1981 through 1987.
The selection is a bit odd this time around, featuring an eclectic mix of big-name hits along with some less remembered titles. Most of the games from the GBA release are here: Time Pilot, Yie Ar Kung Fu, Scramble, and Rush'n Attack return, leaving behind Gyruss and Frogger as the collection's most glaring omissions. Gradius and Contra join the A-list, along with Twinbee, which has been curiously renamed to "Rainbow Bell. The new additions easily make up for the loss of Gyruss and Frogger, but it's still frustrating, as one can only assume that they were withheld just to save for a later compilation; there's no other practical reason for their absence.
Arcade Hits delivers everything it advertises. The selection may be something of a mixed bag, but its thoughtful and varied, and it's easy to lose a lot of time surfing from one genre to the next.
But what might be more interesting is the assortment of lesser-known games. While the big name classics are still the best games on the compilation, it's refreshing to have some games that I haven't played to death already. While some of these titles like Road Fighter and Super Basketball haven't aged especially well, it was fun to revisit some nostalgic favorites like Pooyan and Circus Charlie that I hadn't thought of in a while. There's ample variety to be found, as well, which makes it fun to hop around from game to game.
Of course implementation is just as important as selection, and I was really impressed with how well-done the emulation is in this release. Konami entrusted development duties to M2, a small developer specializing in emulated retro releases like this one. The experience shows, and I was really impressed at the wealth of options available for every game.
While the low resolution of the DS's screen means there's often no perfect solution, every compromise you could want is at your disposal, from rotating your DS 90 degrees for vertically oriented games, to smooth filtering, to smart auto-scrolling. Similarly, all the games give you full access to all of the arcade operator options and control configurations, so the experience is very customizable. Performance and accuracy likewise seem rock-solid, and I came away very impressed with M2's handiwork. The emulation here screams quality in every way.
Arcade Hits delivers everything it advertises. The selection may be something of a mixed bag, but its thoughtful and varied, and it's easy to lose a lot of time surfing from one genre to the next. Games like Gradius and Contra provide the most engrossing experiences for longer play, but grabbing a few minutes of Shao-Lin's Road and Roc 'n' Rope help to mix it up, too. Certainly it wouldn't have been hard to squeeze in a few more games, but it's hard to argue a solid lineup and fantastic execution.
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