The XBox Live Arcade Wishlist – The Best Retro Titles for Online Multiplayer
The XBox Live Arcade has slowly become the best place for classic games to find a new beginning. While the Wii’s Virtual Console was hyped as the ultimate device for housing nearly every classic game, the XBLA has been topping the Virtual Console in terms of quality and features.
The XBLA has seen a trickle of blockbuster game releases and announcements such as Street Fighter 2, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Alien Hominid HD, but I have compiled a list of some games that I believe would make the best use of the Live Arcade system in a way that would knock the socks off the average Virtual Console game.
There are a number of brawlers that filled my childhood and early teens such as Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Streets of Rage, but if there is one game that would best utilize the XBox Live Arcade on the 360, it would have to be the X-Men Arcade game from Konami. Keep in mind that I’m not recommending the 2-Player or even the 4-Player version of the game. XBLA needs the 6-player widescreen version.
In case you never experienced this version of the game, it had an ultra-wide cabinet, with 6 joysticks (which were usually filled up in its prime), and 2 full-sized CRT monitors to give a widescreen effect and allow enough real estate on the display for all the carnage to take place. The arcade game also had some wicked sound effects and a nice soundtrack that I would love to hear on a good entertainment system.
Because of the specialized hardware, the 6-Player version of X-Men is quite a challenge to emulate (I’m not even sure if it’s possible with MAME and such). If the game was ported over to the XBLA, X-Men Arcade could be enjoyed to the fullest extent with a true widescreen format, high definition, surround sound, and 6-Player online co-op.
The largest challenge would most likely the licensing issues with Marvel and Konami. However, if they did work something out, I’m sure that X-Men Arcade would be quite a success. Konami’s other successful licensed brawlers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original and Turtles in Time) and The Simpsons, would also be great additions to the XBLA, but wouldn’t benefit from the modern console as much.
OK, I realize that if Bomberman came to the XBLA it wouldn’t be called “Saturn Bomberman”. However, out of all the numerous versions of Bomberman, Saturn Bomberman is the prime installment to get ported to a modern online gaming environment.
It looks like Wii currently has the best Bomberman game available for a next-gen platform so far. PS3 doesn’t have any bomb-lovin’ yet, and Xbox 360 has the shockingly ill-conceived Bomberman Act Zero. But thank to Virtual Console, Wii has the classic Bomberman ’93, but it doesn’t quite have the potential that an XBox Live Arcade version could have since one can only have so much fun with only one or two players and the crappy TG16 emulation.
The XBox 360 could also offer some additional benefits. One of the weaknesses of the 10-player action of Saturn Bomberman is that it would go into widescreen mode and it would make the characters and playing field harder to see. However, since the 360 offers widescreen and HDTV capabilities, it would be much easier to see clearly with so much action going on.
Once Super Smash Bros Brawl is released on the Wii, Nintendo will have their third installment of the party-friendly brawler. With its superior online capabilities, the XBox 360 should capture an arena brawler of its own. Originating in the arcades and on the Dreamcast, the Powerstone series would be the perfect solution for the more mature audience of the XBox fanbase.
Instead of a traditional 3D fighter like Soul Calibur or Dead or Alive, Power Stone 2 allowed up to four players to freely run around in open playfields and use items from their surroundings (chairs, boxes, poles) in addition to bonus weapons and standard punches, in order to beat the crap out of their opponents. The game is similar to another classic-but-forgotten Playstation series, Poy Poy, but features the extra polish and character that gamers have come to expect from Capcom’s best games.
With its anime stylings and intense but crazed gameplay, Powerstone 2 seems like it would be a natural fit in the XBLA atmosphere.
Back in the early 1990’s there was no better multiplayer arcade racer than Super Off-Road. This fact-paced racer had great physics and lots of powerups and cash to help you customize your truck.
Though the overall design of the game is simple, there is always a bit of an adrenaline rush when competing against a rival.
The sheer amount of difficulty and stages that you found later on in the game made it almost an obsession to play. One of the most addicting features is that you can go back and upgrade your car with different options to give your truck an advantage.
In the later stages, you’ll need all of the upgrades that you can get, simply because the computer controlled car gets so fast, that you won’t be able to beat it, no matter how hard you try! Since the game excels while playing with human opponents, Super Off Road would definately thrive in an online environment.
Ok, so these two don’t stress the multiplayer element, but some old-school shooters like Geometry Wars have become quite a hit on XBox Live Arcade so far. However, I can only imagine the shooter revival we could see if Treasure’s legendary shooting duo can to the 360.
As one of the Holy Grails of console game collecting, Radiant Silvergun would surely be snatched up quickly. Fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay and only playable on the relatively obscure Sega Saturn as a Japanese import, Radiant Silvergun is one of the primary targets to bring to a more modern and popular console. Ikaruga is also a cult classic on both the Dreamcast and Gamecube, but would benefit from a 360 upgrade as well.
What could make this one-two punch even sweeter is if the rumored Radiant Silvergun/Ikaruga sequel on the XBox 360 becomes reality and the entire trilogy is available on a single platform. Shooter fans everywhere would be snatching up XBox 360s like mad.
NBA Jam TE
Back in the mid 1990’s there were three big franchises in the arcades: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and NBA Jam. Both Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat have made their way to the XBox Live Arcade, so why not mix things up with the best arcade sports game of all time.
Playing a single player game of the old NBA Jam games can be a little dull at times, so this would be a prime opportunity to tweak some things and get the classic game back in shape. Of course, 4-player online play would make for some quick and exciting gameplay, but some more realistic AI enhancements for the CPU players would be nice as well.
It would be interesting to see some different options for the teams and players since it has been over a decade since the franchise debuted. I’m sure it would be a nostalgic thrill to see the vintage rosters from the older games, but also see modern teams and players in a pixelated format. Obviously, there would be some licensing issues to work out with NBA Jam. I can only imagine how expensive NBA team and player licenses can be in today’s market, but maybe something can be worked out. And finally, it would be interesting to see some trademark hidden characters thrown in as well. (Master Chief laying down a tomahawk slam, anyone?)
Chu Chu Rocket
As one of the first console games to support online multiplayer, I thought it was only fair to include Chu Chu Rocket in my wishlist. The concept of this puzzle game is simple: a bunch of little mice come flooding onto the playing field, and it’s your job to direct them into a rocketship. The mice walk straight forward, but you can plant arrow shapes in their way to redirect them. In single-player mode, the game is a puzzle-fest that is great for casual gamers. You have to figure out where to put the correct arrow pieces to get every mouse into the rocket. The game includes quite a few single-player stages that are a good workout for the brain.
Multiplayer mode is just as fun but is especially optimized for hardcore gamers. In this mode, up to four players hop onto the same board, and attempt to direct as many mice as they can into their own rocket. Each player may plant a limited number of arrows onto the board at once, and needless to say, everyone will be tripping over each other trying to cut each other’s paths off. Like many of these types of games, it’s the sly player who comes out ahead – especially if he/she can manage to get a solid stream of mice into his ship while everyone else is fighting in a different region of the board. Special mice like the little golden ones will give you a nice scoring boost, and watching everybody fighting over one of them is great, chaotic fun.
When you think about SimCity, you don’t think of a multiplayer experience. However, if a small bit of the game was re-written, SimCity 2000 could be an interesting fixture on XBox Live Arcade. If you have played the game, you may remember that you have a neighboring city on each of your four sides. When I played the game back in the day, I always wished I could interact a bit more with the neighboring cities as they had a bit of influence on how your city did economically.
With the potential of XBox Live Arcade, SimCity 2000 could be set up in such a way that you actually have the cities other XBox Live members as your neighboring towns. You could compare this to Animal Crossing on the DS, but taken to the next level. You have complete control over your own city, but other gamers can visit your cities and interact and compete with them.
As if building your own SimCity isn’t addicting enough, being able to explore a world of other SimCities would just add so much more depth. I suppose SimCity 3000 (the version used for the upcoming DS port) would be fine too, but SimCity 2000 seemed a bit simpler while still being an enjoyable experience.
As another title developed by Treasure, Guardian Heroes was late-blooming Saturn title that some people still haven’t discovered. Guardian Heroes is a beatemup with strong RPG elements. The game combined great 2D animation, a unique control scheme, and killer gameplay with the ability to level up and focus the skills that you choose.
While Guardian Heroes is one of my all-time favorite games, one of my biggest complaints is its jaggy graphics. While it was slick in its day with it’s scaling and zooming sprites, it shows its age a bit now. This could possibly be remedied a bit on a more modern console with some simple anti-aliasing.
Guardian Heroes would be higher up on my list, but a new successor may be upon us. The indie development house behind Alien Hominid, The Behemoth, has a new game, Castle Crashers that takes some heavy inspiration from Guardian Heroes, much like Alien Hominid did with Metal Slug.
This innovative beatemup from Rare (even thought it started as a TMNT ripoff) spanned a wide variety of consoles, arcade machines, and handhelds throughout the 1990’s and was met with critical acclaim. As much as I praise Gunstar Heroes for having great side-scrolling action and levels that have different play styles, Battletoads originated that combination, resulting in a fun-filled game that avoids being repetitive.
Part of what gave BattleToads its unique character was its exaggerated ways of finishing off enemies. These include a headbutt that would have the battletoad sprout ram’s horns or a football helmet, a punch with an extremely enlarged fist, and on climbing/falling levels, the ability to transform into a boulder and act as a wrecking ball. And while the original games because extremely challenging at times, the gameplay was top-notch as a great cooperative experience with friends.
Anyway, if Rare did bring Battletoads to the XBox, having 3 Toads work together via XBox Live would be killer and I could easily see a sequel maintaining the 2D gameplay while using cel-shading, just like Viewfiful Joe if they wanted to modernize the game. The cartoon atmosphere would be maintained while utilizing the modern capabilities of the XBox/XBox 360.
While we are discussing retro remakes and re-releases from Rare’s back-catelog, we should bring up the idea of resurecting Killer Instinct. Every time a conversation comes up on Digg, Slashdot, or another tech site about Rare and the XBox platform, the idea of a new Killer Instinct always seems to pop up, so I know there is some hardcore demand for the franchise.
As a joint venture between Rare and Nintendo, Killer Instinct was originally released in arcades and was later released on the Super Nintendo to compete in the Street Fighter 2-induced fighting frenzy. An arcade sequel, Killer Instinct 2 was released in the arcades and a Nintendo 64 port went by the name called Killer Instinct Gold.
By today’s standards of 2D or 3D fighters, the older Killer Instict games don’t really hold up especially well. However, with the name recognition, a cast of characters that is already developed, and a group of nostalgic fanboys, Rare could create a great 3D fighter and have the original versions availible on XBox Live Arcade as a perfect complement.
As one of the best titles to come out of EA, Road Rash was one of the first successful games to combine the fast-paced elements of a racing game with fighting elements. The gameplay combination worked naturally and became a fixture of the late 16-bit and early 32-bit eras.
In Road Rash, players could fight other bikers with a variety of hand weapons while competing in a race where crashes actually make a huge difference in your time. The weapons in Road Rash were wide-ranging, but who can forget the cattle prod?! Fights between riders would often result in the loser flying off their bike at high speeds through traffic, pedestrians and roadside obstacles, with the victor gaining place and the loser sustaining bike damage, losing time, and increased chances of getting busted by the police.
With Electronic Arts’s reputation of constantly rehashing franchising until they are blue in the face (Need For Speed or Madden, anyone?), you would think that the mega-publisher would jump at the chance to bring capitalize on an established franchise.
- General Chaos – This multiplayer strategy game from the Sega Genesis is ready to be rediscovered.
- Shining Force – Sega’s classic strategy RPG needs to be brought back to its roots. It would be especially awesome if you could have other human players on your team and battle other teams. MMORPG gone retro.
- Lost Vikings – Blizzard Entertainment’s early action platforming series still has a fan following to this day and would be a clever addition.
- Fire Pro Wrestling: 6 Man Scramble – One of the best multiplayer Wrestling games would be great with 6-player online multiplayer.
- Jetman – Remakes of Rare’s early games such as Lunar Jetman and Solar Jetman would be welcome by retro fans.
I’m sure I have overlooked some gems, so feel free to speak up and mention your recommendations!