The other day on facebook my friend Marc challenged me with this question:
RIGHT. You find yourself stranded on a desert island, there’s food and shelter enough to last you years and THREE MAGICAL ARCADE CABINETS that will permanently take the shape of any arcade cabinet you desire and have magical perfect multiplayer net code (but no voice chat, obviously), which three arcade games would you choose to play for years and years?
I decided to give this more thought than was strictly necessarily, as it’s actually a really tough question for me to answer, and my thought process and final result might interest and surprise some readers of Agoners. I’ve written a little bit about the demise of arcades before too.
The first thing that pops into my head is Fighting Games of course, as my favourite video game genre. But the problem is my top two fighting games right now, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and Street Fighter V do not have arcade versions, so they are off the table. And Fantasy Strike, whilst it has the potential to become my favourite fighting game, also wouldn’t count for an arcade release… Even Street Fighter IV, my favoured versions weren’t in the arcade… so. It’s difficult. I could go with regular SFII Super Turbo of course, it’s just that playing ST generally really irritates me, as it’s so clearly not as good as HDR – the very idea of playing it seems just dumb and backwards. So maybe I could go with regular Street Fighter II Turbo ‘Hyper Fighting’? However I’m not certain in this dream world scenario whether my arcade game also magically provides a community of decent opponents or not. As Marc didn’t explain that, I’d have to guess not, and I feel there isn’t very much of a ‘scene’ any more for Hyper Fighting, even though it may very well be my 2nd favourite Street Fighter game after HDR.
Another fighting game I really enjoyed in the arcade was X-Men Children of the Atom, and whilst I was pretty good at it at the time, I feel high level play and the limited character selection would get boring after a while. I also liked Marvel Super Heroes a lot, but I think the same thing would apply here. Once these games moved into the Vs series, I enjoyed them less and less as they became more and more combo orientated. Originally I did really like X-men Vs Street Fighter in the arcade too, until massive combos and infinites were found, and then I never touched it again! The Street Fighter Zero series also provided me lots of arcade thrills, but having played the games again in recent years, they don’t seem to have stood the test of time in the way that Street Fighter II has. Street Fighter III of course is so unbalanced, so ‘Option Select’ and execution heavy and just an extremely limited game at high levels of play that I would not go for that one either. But thinking about it, I had one definitive choice of fighting game I’d pick: Vampire Hunter. Whilst it would have the same community issue as Hyper Fighting, it has a lot more character variety, would be more fun to play vs the CPU too if there was no-one “online” to play. Note this is an easy pick over the disastrous mess they made of the game in Vampire Savior (or Hunter 2) and it’s arcade variants…. Vampire Chronicle set to “Hunter mode” is the pinnacle of the series for me, but again, no arcade release prevents me from selecting that.
Outside of fighting games, I’ve loved mecha combat games in the arcade too. Thanks to either no online functionality or shoddy netcode and some weaker home ports they never quite lived up to the arcade games, but the Virtual On series is one I’ve always loved on a proper cabinet. Again the question comes of which one to pick. I most enjoyed the gameplay of the original Virtual On (‘Operation Moongate’, or VO:OM) and felt they always got away from what made that game the most fun with each iteration. However Oratorio Tangram WAS fantastic too, and VO:OT would likely have a much bigger community to play against than VO:OM. I’ve enjoyed the Gundam Vs games too in the very limited opportunities I’ve had to play them. The first one (although not quite part of the series I believe) Gundam Federation Vs Jion was the one I’ve played the most.. but unfortunately I wouldn’t know which one to pick as the best to play, nor am I 100% convinced they’d have the depth of Virtual On for years and years of play… so… just to attempt to take on the challenge of getting actually good at it, even with all the crazy execution stuff that damaged the vector maneuvering fun of VO:OM, for my 2nd magical arcade cabinet I’d pick Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram (Present-ed by Sega). You were once the main attraction, now all that’s in the past!
I also really enjoyed the House of the Dead series in the arcade, but again I’d be hard pressed to pick which one out of 1 or 2 to play for years. I already played an epic amount of HotD2 on the Dreamcast with a lightgun anyway, so I’d have to lean towards HotD1 which I rarely ever got to play, but I’m not sure this would have the longevity of a competitive game. I’d also ideally like a slower paced more strategy based game to round out my gaming options, but I can’t think of anything like that I’ve really enjoyed in arcade cabinet form… hmm.
I think in the end, the frustration of NOT playing SFII HD Remix would be ok, given that I was stuck on a desert island and would have no option to play HDR anyway, so, whilst this was the hardest one to select, I would in the end go for Super Street Fighter II Turbo “Grand Master Challenge”.
Obviously my real-real answer would be to cheat and get one of the 500-in-1 style arcade boards as I found in Hong Kong arcades last year and have myself hundreds of games, including all versions of SFII at the very least, but I was assuming genuine arcade cabinets only too 😉
If you were around in these golden days of arcade cabinets, or if you can imagine that you had been, what would be your answer to the “3 magical arcade cabinets challenge”? Do comment below! 🙂