Capcom Home Arcade review – the biggest mini console ever made
The golden age of coin-ops can live again in your living room thanks to Capcom Home Arcade, but it’ll cost a lot more than 10p a go…
There will be many gamers today who will have never experienced a real video game arcade. Maybe they’ll get to visit one of the few museum-like examples that still exist, but the days of every seaside promenade being dominated by dingy, smoke-filled rooms full of coin-operated video games are long gone. Back in the 80s and 90s every chip shop and video rental store worth its salt had at least one coin-op to keep its punters amused but those days are over too.
More than likely the coin-ops in question would’ve been by Capcom who, unlike rivals Sega, rarely went in for giant hydraulic cabinets, but instead relied on their expertise with 2D fighters and shooters, as well as a range of more exotic game types. The Capcom Home Arcade is, as you might guess, a homage to those classic games and a new entry in the burgeoning line of mini consoles that has become so successful since the Classic Mini NES and SNES, and the recent Mega Drive Mini.
The obvious difference is that all the Capcom games are arcade titles, not console games, and that means they need proper arcade joysticks and buttons to work. As a result, the Capcom Home Arcade costs a hefty £199.99, for which you get 16 (mostly) classic games and proper arcade quality joysticks by renowned manufacturer Sanwa.
As eye-watering as that may seem it’s actually a very reasonable price given how much two control set-ups would cost if bought separately, not to mention the cost of buying all the games individually as separate circuit boards.
What is Capcom Home Arcade?
What we didn’t realise until we met the creators, is that the Capcom Home Arcade is not made by Capcom themselves, but is instead a licensed product by Koch Media – the parent company of games publisher Deep Silver. And when we interviewed producer Ben Jones it quickly became obvious that it’s basically a passion project, and those are always the best ones.
The look of the system is, as you may have noticed, very peculiar, but Jones’ argument is that if he hadn’t made it something visually arresting – like a giant Capcom logo – it would’ve just been a boring black slab and not something that would have turned heads even before you start playing it. Having the buttons camouflaged as part of the logo seems especially odd at first but you never look at them while playing so it works perfectly well.
The joystick is carefully balanced to sit comfortably between the slightly loser feel that beat ‘em-up fans prefer and the tighter controls preferred by shooter fans, but it’s a sensible compromise that should please everyone. It’s perhaps a shame that the unit doesn’t split in two, for each player, but sitting it on a table or your lap works perfectly well and it’s not nearly as heavy as it looks. Since all the cables are removable it also makes a surprisingly good display piece and could even be mounted on a wall or under a coffee table.
You can find our reviews of all the games below but, as revealed in the interview, the emulation is open source and nothing new. Despite that there is a problem with the music, where it seems to skip for a second regardless of the game you’re playing. It doesn’t affect the gameplay and doesn’t happen often, but hopefully it’s something that can be patched out.
And the Capcom Home Arcade can be patched, as it has a Wi-Fi connection that is also used for an online leaderboard. During our interview, Jones implied that updates would allow for both fixes and new features; the absence of any kind of scan line filter, to simulate low-tech CRT televisions, is a serious omission, that gives a stark, clinical look to the visuals that is not how they would’ve originally appeared. But if that can be patched in quickly then there’s no harm done.
No doubt Koch were trying to make sure the system was out and ready for Christmas but there’s a surprising lack of other options, with no virtual DIP switches to fiddle with. The only real option is to change the screen ratio or opt for smoothed graphics – which is not something most people who want to spend £200 on something like this are likely to want to do.
The other only issue is that, even given the qualifications of their rarity, 16 games is not an awful lot. But again, Jones strongly hinted that more games will be available as DLC in the future, although whether they’ll be paid-for extras remains to be seen. Not only is there a Wi-Fi connection though, but there’s a mysterious USB connection on the back of the unit marked EXT. which you could easily imagine being used to attach a hard drive.
Capcom Home Arcade review verdict
Clearly this is not an impulse purchase, but while it may not sound like it, it is actually very good value for money for what you get. Or at least it is if you want to play the games with their proper arcade controls. Ordinary console releases such as the recent Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle have many of the same games and are obviously much cheaper, but if you want to play a larger collection of well-curated titles in as authentic a fashion as possible Capcom Home Arcade is a great deal.
As long as the updates includes scan line filters, and can fix the audio emulation bug, then we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to arcade fans. We don’t imagine anyone that doesn’t recall the glory days of the 90s in such wistful fashion will want to spend the kind of money involved, but there’s certainly a good chance they’ll enjoy it if given the chance.
The initial preview event we attended for the system was a walk-in affair that was open to the public and the majority of people coming in were parents with their kids, both of which seemed to be highly entertained by the experience. It doesn’t come cheap, but the retro charms of Capcom Home Arcade are more than just empty nostalgia and these games deserve to be remembered and played in as close to their original form as possible.
Capcom Home Arcade is due to be released on Friday, 8 November for £199.99.
Capcom Home Arcade game reviews
1944: The Loop Master (2000)
The last 19XX game to be released in arcades (there was a lame Xbox Live Arcade title a few years later), this is far less well known than the original 1942 but it’s a very solid vertically scrolling shooter from Battle Garegga developer Raizing. Despite being a relatively modern title it’s not really a bullet hell game and there’s no complex score or combo system. It’s more purposefully old school than that but there are some nuanced touches, such as a powerful charge shot and options (little drone-like fighters) that you can activate, that will appeal to both existing fans and newcomers.
Alien Vs. Predator (1994)
The crown jewels of the Capcom Home Arcade has never been released on any home format and yet is widely regarded as one of the best scrolling beat ‘em-ups ever made – and one of the best ever Alien or Predator games. It’s not earned its reputation without good cause either, as this is an unusually complex game for the genre, with each of the four characters (two Predators, one Arnie stand-in, and a human character from the comics) having their own different moves and guns. There’s also collectable items and weapons, from both franchises, plus extras like a useable Power Loader. The graphics are fantastic too, with great attention to detail and mountains of enemies onscreen at once.
Armored Warriors (1994)
An imaginative cross between a scrolling beat ‘em-up and a one-on-one fighter, Armored Warriors features highly varied level design that includes unusually complex boss battles, shooting sections, and a relatively wide range of weapons and mecha to pilot. It’s one of a number of Capcom coin-ops that feels like it would’ve worked better as a console game, given its relative complexity, as you can customise your giant robot steeds with different body parts and weapons, and there’s even a spirited attempt to tell a story. It bites off a bit more than it can chew, with the giant 2D sprites sometimes obscuring the action, but it’s still an interesting and fun curio.
Capcom Sports Club (1997)
Perhaps the most obscure game on the system, and one we’d never heard of till now, it seems to have been included merely for the sake of variety. It consists of three sports games: tennis, football, and basketball. The football game is pretty awful but the basketball one is okay, in a sub-NBA Jam kind of a way. The tennis game is really quite good though, even if there’s nothing very original in its approach. But it compares well to things like SNES game Super Tennis and is certainly worth a go in two-player.
Captain Commando (1991)
Although it is older, as you can tell by the relatively weedy graphics, this is a considerably less complex scrolling beat ‘em-up than Alien Vs. Predator, with very few moves and little real variety. It is amusingly silly, in terms of the characters, enemies, and backdrops, but that only carries things so far. For a brief time, Captain Commando was the official Capcom mascot but it’s easy to see why that didn’t last and this is definitely one of the worst games on the system.
Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness (1995)
Although more well-known than predecessor Armored Warriors, this is still one of Capcom’s most obscure one-on-one fighters, which is a shame because it’s really pretty good. The whole mecha theme is unusual for a fighting game and all the different robots have very different moves and visual designs, as you mix and match them with different human pilots. Once again, the giant sprites do make it a little hard to read exactly what’s going on all the time, and the gameplay isn’t nearly as unique as it first seems once you start to learn the moves, but it’s still an interesting alternative to Street Fighter.
Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors (1994)
Arguably Capcom’s most successful attempt at making a non-martial arts themed fighter, this works better than Cyberbots by having much more distinctive characters with obvious, over-the-top personalities. Some of them, such as succubus Morrigan and catgirl Felicia, went on to become some of Capcom’s most popular characters and while it is still easy to argue it’s just Street Fighter with different graphics there’s definitely a different tone and feel to Darkstalkers. The main problem here is simply that this is only the first game in the series, and so has the fewest characters and options.
Eco Fighters (1993)
Although it’s not the most obscure 2D shooter on the system you’d be doing well if you ever saw Eco Fighters in a UK arcade back in the day. Clearly inspired by the then contemporary Captain Planet cartoon, this horizontally-scrolling shooter not only features an unusually varied set of backdrops, as you battle environmentally unfriendly villains across the globe, but has a unique gimmick in that you not only shoot forwards but have a separate gun that can rotate 360° around you by using two of the buttons. It takes a while to become second nature but it’s an interesting idea that adds some extra spice to an already superior shooter.
Final Fight (1989)
The game that revolutionised the scrolling beat ‘em-up may be one of the oldest titles on the Home Arcade but it’s still hugely entertaining to play through and holds up a lot better than Captain Commando. The moves are extremely limited and there’s only three different characters, but like a good 2D shooter or lightgun game the magic is all in the pacing, level design, and enemies. Final Fight gets everything right, with the swagger and cheese of an 80s action movie – with the added benefit that it was actually a product of the same era.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (1988)
The oldest game on the system is one that many will know best from the SNES or Mega Drive versions, but they’re so different they’re considered separate games. A sequel to the even older Ghosts ‘N Goblins, the series is one of the most accomplished action platformers to originate in arcades, with a wide range of weapons and a demonic menagerie of enemies. It’s just a shame the games are so incredibly difficult that most people never got to see the amazing graphics of later levels, although that’s easier now with infinite credits…
Giga Wing (1999)
A lot of these late 90s games ended up getting ported to the Dreamcast, but despite Capcom’s effort to create a renaissance for the genre during that time the 2D shooter had fallen firmly out of fashion by then and Giga Wing was widely derided by many console owners. The graphics certainly do have a very 16-bit feel to them, with murky-looking sprites and poor use of colour, but the gameplay is great, with a neat gimmick in a shield you can activate by holding down the fire button, that reflects enemy bullets. If you think that makes it sound easy though you’d be very wrong as this is pure bullet hell… in a good way.
Mega Man: The Power Battle (1995)
If you’re one of the handful of Mega Man fans in the UK this is one of the most interestingly obscure games on the Home Arcade, having only previously appeared in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection. It’s basically a sort of boss rush mode that tries to recreate stories, or at least boss battles, from throughout the home console series. There’s no real platform element to it but you do get to play two-player co-op, which is an unusual novelty for Mega Man. But robbed of the series’ other gameplay elements it does all seem very simplistic and won’t hold the attention of non-fans.
The newest game on the system and the other crown jewel next to Alien Vs. Predator, in that it’s never been released for a home format before and it’s one of the best entries in its genre. It’s a 2D shooter by CAVE, the masters of the art form, and for them a relatively unusual horizontally scrolling game. Although it’s not, the highly detailed artwork looks like it’s adapted from a high-end anime, with some beautiful steampunk style designs that you could almost imagine coming from a Studio Ghibli film.
When you start, you pick not only a pilot and their plane but also one of three gunners, allowing you to mix and match different weapon types. Both can fire individually and turn enemies into different types of collectibles when shot – collecting them in combos being the way to get really high scores. Progear is one of CAVE’s best and although it’s a full-on bullet hell experience, relatively accessible for those not used to the concept.
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992)
Obviously Street Fighter II had to be included in some way, the only question was which one. This is the third version of the game, a relatively minor revision that increases the speed and adds new special moves to certain characters. Its inclusion is probably because it was the last update before the major overhaul with Super Street Fighter II, so it’s the best version of the most iconic line-up of fighters. As often as Street Fighter II has been released over the years it’s never been with arcade quality joysticks so the fact that you can play with those against a friend is a huge part of Home Arcade’s appeal, no matter how familiar the game may be.
Another Capcom title that’s not only more famous for its home conversions but also seems to have been designed more like a console game from the start. It’s an action platformer with a very unique sci-fi setting based in Soviet Russia (which was still a thing in 1989). You play as a high-tech ninja trying to take down the whole government and some wonderfully imaginative bosses including a robot gorilla and the entire Politburo that transform into a giant metal centipede.
Although the boss battles are a highlight there’s also quite a bit of platforming, as you make use of Strider’s strangely arcing jump, and pick up little robot drone power-ups. The controls could do with some refinement but it’s a crying shame Capcom has never been able to create a successful sequel with the same setting and characters.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (1996)
Capcom’s entry into the Tetris puzzle game boom of the early 90s was extremely late but it has always been one of the best. It’s also the point at which Capcom started to get in on the joke about the absurdly long names of its fighters, as despite what it sounds like this is actually the first entry in the series. The gameplay isn’t especially original, as you match ordinary gems with similarly coloured ‘crash’ gems that eliminate everything of the same colour when they touch. But the game is designed primarily as a competitive experience, even if it’s just against the computer, and works extremely well as a result – fully justifying the use of the chibi Street Fighter and Darkstalkers avatars.
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