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Arcade Essentials - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Arcade Essentials

WiiWare | Nordcurrent | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote (sideways)
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26th April 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Having five replications of classic games may be a simple premise, but it's worked many times before. Especially considering the $5 price tag, surely there would be some merit to a package of this nature. But apparently, even with this kind of focus, a lot can still go wrong. As appealing as it may sound, Arcade Essentials is brought down by numerous problems that will make you think twice about spending money on this bargain buy. 

    Each of the five games featured in this package are based off of arcade hits from past gaming eras. Interceptor is this game's version of Space Invaders; Terra Conqueror is a simple re-creation of Taito's arcade classic, Qix; Troops Attack is a modern rendition of an old DOS game called Paratrooper; Color Cells is a Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble clone; and finally, Hexagonium plays off of Q*bert. A level system has been put in place so there for every five levels you complete, you're then able to start playing from that point after you get a Game Over. Theoretically, this kind of system would dictate that enemies would progressively get harder and harder as you rack up big scores, but that isn't always the case -- or at least, not at the rate you would expect. But that's something I'll get into later. When it comes down to it, each of these games perform on different levels with some coming out as clearly superior compared to the others, but as a whole, the execution leaves much to be desired.

    Let's begin with the first game, Interceptor. Interceptor is based off of a game that still has plenty of devoted fans, immediately making it an appropriate pick for this collection. Basically there are two types of enemies you need to worry about: a large yellow alien and small bug-like ships. Your goal is to defeat all the enemies on-screen without having them reach the bottom of the playing field or having all your lives depleted. Pressing the 2 Button will fire a single thin shot from your spaceship while the D-Pad controls left and right movement. Aside from the fact that the movement feels sluggish getting into it at first, the controls work fine. 

From time to time, the smaller enemies will try to attack you, either by firing lasers from a distance or by moving towards you for a direct attack. Some enemies will drop short-lasting power-ups once they've been eradicated, like a shield or a rapid-fire upgrade for your ship's lasers. Once all enemies have defeated, you'll move onto the next round. As you advance to Levels 10 and beyond, you'll notice the AI does get faster and more aggressive in nature. But along with that, the core gameplay starts to wear thin at this point, and it becomes boring to stick with it for additional rounds. I suppose your mileage may vary depending on how much you love Space Invaders, but even then, I think most will find it's just not that enjoyable to play repeatedly.

    Next up is Terra Conqueror which is essentially an alternate version of Nordcurrent's other WiiWare title, Urbanix. The object of this game is to close off and eliminate a specific percentage of a large area. You'll start off in the corner of the grid, using the D-Pad to travel along the outer border of the stage and enter in and out of the playing space. On the game board are a series of enemies that bounce off walls and can actually kill you if they collide with your partial "fence" of sorts. It's a risk-reward sort of setup where you constantly need to judge if it's worth eliminating a short piece off the board or a big chunk. Although this game is okay to play, I just couldn't get past the fact that the developers included what basically is a simplified version of an existing WiiWare game, instead of aiming for a different arcade title altogether. I really don't think it was in their best interests to do that since it just comes across as very lazy.

Troops Attack is one of the two games in the collection that makes use of the Wii Remote's pointing capabilities. Here, you use the A Button to fire lasers at enemies flying in from the sides of the screen who are intent on destroying your base. Your biggest threat comes in the form of parachuting viruses that try to land on the floor your base is mounted on. You do have two defense shields on either side of the base to save you from being attacked once, but once these are out of the way, there will be nothing stopping these creatures from blowing up your base. I honestly didn't find any enjoyment out of this game at all. It was very easy to play with no challenge whatsoever, not only because the enemies aren't quick enough to dodge attacks, but also because you obtain power-ups very often. It's not until you reach around Level 20 when things start to get a bit harder, but by that point you're just so tired of playing the game that any sort of engagement is lost.

    Next to Interceptor, Color Cells is the most recognizable and user-friendly out of all the games in Arcade Essentials. Serving as a budget alternative to the immensely-popular Bust-a-Move series, you would hope that those longing for a fix of this arcade classic would at least find a degree of satisfaction. But to be frank, I can see most just longing to play the actual thing. Here, you use the D-Pad to control a container that holds two hexagonal shapes, trying to match shapes of the same colour together to clear them off the board. The problem is, the movement of this device isn't nowhere near as fluid as you would hope, which actually makes things seem like they're not right somehow. Additionally, the occasional power-ups you receive are underwhelming and are simply not as fun or exciting as the ones seen in the actual Bust-a-Move titles. And so, Color Cells is really just a below average effort that doesn't do a good job of replicating the existing formula.

Last but not least is Hexagonium which is easily the best game on here. Players start off at the top of a game board and must make their way around the entire game space, turning all of the squares red in order to advance to the next round. This is the second game where you need to actually aim at the screen, tilting the controller to move the on-screen cursor to other squares. Enemies will try and corner you by moving around the board at their own pace. This calls for some strategy on your part, and certainly the warps along the six corners of the playing field help with that. Whenever you reached a corner along the top of bottom, the stage would rotate so you could get a better view of the area, but unfortunately, the camera was often fidgety at this part. Still, even if it's not exactly saying a whole lot, Hexagonium is definitely more enjoyable to play than the other five games.
    Although I wasn't expecting Arcade Essentials to be really great or anything, I did hope that the game would at least turn out decent. After having played it, I'm not sure what to say about all that went wrong here. Even just forgetting about the technical side of things, many of these games just aren't fun to play, and that's a big killer for a game like this. While I may not necessarily feel like running out to play the original Space Invaders anytime soon, I did come away from this actually having a desire to play a couple rounds of Bust-a-Move Plus! on WiiWare. And I think that really solidifies how most, if not all of these games just give you a greater appreciation for the original arcade titles and leave you with feelings of dissatisfaction. Not to mention, too, the fact that none of these games include co-operative or multiplayer support, and the overall value of this cheap package continues to drop.

One other thing that really bugged me about this game was the way it was presented. The layout of the menu screens seems like it was thrown together, as was the drab background. Worse yet, the save system was not implemented well. At the end of each level, a results screen would come up and then it would transition to a different screen altogether telling you that your game was saving before sending you back to the game. Even if they couldn't implement an autosave feature, the entire execution felt clunky and very unattractive. Additionally, there are no indications of how to hold the controller in some of the games, which takes away from the pick-up-and-play appeal that most of these games carry in their original forms. The music was a nice fit for the action that took place on-screen, but because it repeated so often and the looping wasn't seamless, the main tune quickly got annoying. What's more, the fact that all of the games make use of the same song during gameplay does not help matters at all. This is yet another area where the developers clearly didn't pay as much attention as they should have.

    In conclusion, I can't find enough positive things to say to be able to recommend this game. Most of the games don't do a good job at providing a satisfactory fix of the titles they're based off of. With a 1:4 ratio of games that are actually enjoyable vs. ones that aren't, I can't see why anyone would be okay with spending $5 on a game that just isn't fun as a whole. Because of these and other problems, Arcade Essentials is a game best skipping.

12/30 - Very Poor

Gameplay 5/10 - Below average recreations, controls aren't always fluid, sluggish execution in some cases, level system is a bit flawed, sometimes weak AI
Presentation 4/10 - Drab background, annoying music, clunky implementation of the save feature, fidgety camera in Hexagonium, not much effort overall
Enjoyment 1/5 - Four out of five games aren't fun, gives you a greater appreciation for the original titles more than anything else, can get very boring
Extra Content 2/5 - High scores and a decent level system, no co-op or multiplayer, included a simplified version of Urbanix instead of a different game 

Equivalent to a score of 40% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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