Tecmo Classic Arcade is a compilation of old Tecmo coin-op games from the 80's and early 90's. Before you get excited, no this isn't a new release on Xbox 360 like the recent Midway Arcade Origins. It was released on the original Xbox back in 2005.
So why am I reviewing it now? Well I missed it first time around, and it holds the dubious honour of being one of the only retro compilations that will work on your nice shiny Xbox 360. It is a real bummer that none of the excellent Xbox arcade compilations by Taito, Midway, or Capcom will work on an Xbox 360. Midway have rectified the situation with Origins (complete with online leaderboards!) but for Capcom and Taito fans, of which I count myself as one, we will have to wait and see if they get around to blessing us with a new 360 edition.
In the meantime for a few pounds (or dollars) you can grab Tecmo Classic Arcade. Sure it's cheap, but is it any good?
Well first up I am sure you will want to know what games are on offer. We have:
As you can see it is pretty light on content, with some notable omissions. None of the Star Force sequels appear, nor does the excellent side scrolling shooter, Silkworm. It would also have been fun to have the horse racing game Winning Post, which is honestly a lot more fun than it sounds.
Senjyo is a strange tank shooter of sorts. An odd mix of Operation Wolf and Battlezone, Senjyo sees you piloting a tank on the surface of a desert like planet. You can move the vehicle left and right, while up and down moves the on-screen cursor. Enemy vehicles appear in front of you and all you have to do is line up the cursor and fire. Simple right? Well it would be if your ship wasn't so slow, and the enemies weren't so hard to spot. It feels very sluggish to play, and will bore you after a few minutes.
Star Force is a generic vertical scrolling space shooter which feels like a mix of Xevious and Mega Zone, both far superior games to this tedious offering. It is not awful, but it just has nothing to keep you interested. One thing that really annoyed me was the fact that shooting the enemies makes a horrible metallic sound effect, that in any other game would signify that the enemy was impervious to your shots. The enemies and backgrounds are very dull, though the action can be quite frantic at times and start to draw you in. Best to skip this and head for...
Strato Fighter.. the second space shooter offering, this time in Horizontal scrolling form. Tecmo have clearly been taking notes while playing Irem's excellent R-Type series. The second level stage consists of a huge battleship that must be destroyed piece by piece, and level 3 is an alien hive teeming with organic enemies.. sound familiar? Yes, the game borrow a huge amount of its content from other, better shooters, but it does offer one idea of its own. You can turn to face the other direction at the press of a button, something that becomes useful in later levels and is essential against the bosses you face at the end of each stage. The graphics are decent enough and the gameplay is challenging and enjoyable. It did suffer from some slowdown in places, but I am not sure whether this was in the original Arcade version or is an emulation issue. It doesn't ruin it though, and Strato Fighter is a worthwhile addition to the compilation, which is more than can be said for....
Pleiads.. A horrendous space invaders clone with garish graphics so bad they resemble a kill screen from a much better game, and sound effects that assault your ears in a heinous fashion. Honestly, these sound effects could be used as a form of torture, it would have suspects singing like a canary in no time at all. It renders the game unplayable to all but the deaf and insane and is best avoided like a walk down a dark alley in a rough neighbourhood.
Swimmer offers some relief from the space setting with some colourful vertical scrolling swimming. Unfortunately it is rubbish. Controlling a man in a grass skirt you move around the screen like a frog having a seizure, avoiding logs and weird alien things while collecting fruit. That's pretty much it. You can duck under the water briefly, but this can result in you popping up on an enemy or log, killing you instantly. The music is tinnitus inducing and will drive you mad within seconds.
Tecmo Cup is a football (or Soccer if you are not from Europe) game, and seemed about as appealing as taking a nap on a train line. To be fair to it, it wasn't quite as god awful as I predicted, offering some ball kicking fun for a few minutes. It is very basic and is no Sensible Soccer that's for sure, but it's acceptable. I can't really see anyone really playing this more than once or twice though.
Tecmo Bowl is the second sports title. This time, football of the American variety. I have no idea what the rules are in American football, but this game boils down to throwing a ball and trying to run right as far as possible before the opposing team touch you then try to form a mountain of men on top of your head. Because of this lack of variety it is a waste of time so don't bother. It also suffered from some performance issues, with the music stuttering all over the place.
Bomb Jack has always been one of my favourite games of that era, with its bright, colourful graphics, jaunty tunes and simple, yet addictive gameplay, it is one I can come back to again and again. Collecting bombs is the order of the day as you fly around the single screen levels. You can collect them as you see fit, but by collecting them in sequence (signified by a burning fuse) you can achieve massive score bonuses. Get all onscreen bombs in order without dying and you get a sweet 50,000 point bonus. The enemies are relentless and will hunt you down for all they are worth but bonus items can be collected to turn the tables on them, Pac Man style, allowing you to destroy them, giving you some breathing space before reinforcements appear. It is a blast to play (excuse the pun), and will have you coming back again and again to better your score. Bomb Jack is by far the best game on this compilation, and reason enough to get hold of this collection.
Rygar on the Nintendo Entertainment System was a great platform adventure game, where you could explore large worlds and interact with NPCs. Unfortunately the arcade original, which we have here, is a far more simplistic and linear affair. A simple side scrolling platformer, all you do is run to the right, attacking weird creatures with your yo yo weapon, occasionally jumping over holes. It is extremely repetitive, and not much fun to be honest. The enemies are dropped in by flying creatures and can easily overwhelm you, and with only one hit killing you it can be a tough slog without much reward.
Solomon's Key is certainly a better game, a single screen puzzle platformer that sees the player controlling a stumpy wizard armed with a magic wand. With this wand you can make blocks appear and disappear, either directly in front of you, or below and in front. You are tasked with obtaining the key and reaching the exit door. Along the way enemies such as skulls, goblins, and ghosts will try to kill you, but you use your platform creating abilities to block them off, or create a route around them. Potions grant you fireballs which can be used to dispatch them completely, and finding the Bell item will release a fairy that grants you a huge score bonus. It is an enjoyable game that will require you to don your thinking cap as well as sharpen your platforming reflexes. I'd go as far to say that Solomon's Key is the second best game on offer here. Which leaves us with...
Pinball Action, a truly horrific effort which presents you with some garish and poorly designed single screen pinball tables. The graphics are offensive to the eyes, and the music is yet another assault to the ears. A complete waste of time, not even a good pinball game for it's age.
There is also a gallery mode which allows you to look at flyers, adverts and instructions for the games in question, but many are of such poor quality that I can't see the point. Just Google the games you like and enjoy crisp, hi-res images on your computer. There are minimal in-game options, allowing the screen to be zoomed in slightly, and the difficulty settings to be tweaked, but I recommend you leave everything at default for the proper arcade experience.
If I had reviewed this upon its original release, when it was full price, I would probably have given it a 3 out of 10. But as it is the only Xbox retro compilation that you can use on your 360, and it is so cheap, you can't really complain too much. Bomb Jack is an awesome game, and Solomon's Key and Strato Fighter offer some decent entertainment too, just approach the other games with caution as I can't be held responsible for your damaged ears and mental state.