A really cool wrapper for a range of arcade games that are a mix of good, bad, and available elsewhere on Switch.
The nature of Capcom Arcade Stadium makes it difficult to review traditionally. It’s technically a free game that comes with the arcade version of 1943: The Battle of Midway (and Ghosts ‘n Goblins if you got it before February 25, 2021). Aside from that, there are three packs of 10 games that are sold as DLC that can also be bought all together at a slight discount. So here’s how we’ll do this. First, I’ll cover the look and feel of the overall package, then I’ll move into a deeper dive into the packs of games.
For starters, the look of Capcom Arcade Stadium is neat. You can scroll around looking at arcade cabinets for every available game, while also sorting them into different categories, such as genre or whether or not you own them. You can even mark games as favorites to handle how they are sorted even further. When you go to play a game, it by default gives you a nice representation of the arcade cabinet, letting you (at the press of a button) drop a credit into the machine and then start playing. You can switch to a lot of different views (including TATE mode, so you can play these games vertically oriented), but I dig the charm of the way you almost peer into the arcade cabinet in the default view.
On top of the views, you can tweak the game settings, quickly rewind, and save whenever you want. Game speed can be adjusted at any point, slowing down or speeding up a game to suit your preference. The rewind functionality is very handy, especially in the games that have one-hit deaths or other punishing moments. Games also have different Score and Timed Challenge modes with online leaderboards. Weekly challenges also introduce different twists, like upside-down play.
I really like the wrapper of Capcom Arcade Stadium. It gives a little bit more life to the average arcade collection. It also does an acceptable job of explaining the games to new players, though the ideal audience is probably the experienced old-school arcade fan looking for nostalgia as opposed to people wanting to learn about Capcom’s history. The various difficulty options and settings make all of these games, even in some of their immense challenges, far more approachable. It also has a neat little level/rank system where you earn experience by playing games and progressively “ranking” up. It’s just another wrinkle that makes this overall experience more engaging.
But what are the games? Well, aside from 1943, which is really only worth its free price tag and not a penny more. It’s fine and has a place in Capcom history, but it’s not much more than a decent vertical shoot-’em-up from 1987. Also the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins from 1985, which is free until February 25 or only included with the full 30-game purchase, is only notable for being the start of the franchise.
The rest of the 30 games can be bought in a full set or split into three 10-game groupings. I’ll go into each group and hearken back to our old method of handling Virtual Console games by labeling each game “Recommended for Everyone,” “Recommended for Fans,” or “Not Recommended.”
Pack 1: Dawn of the Arcade (1984-1988)
Vulgus (1984): Vulgus is a previously Japan-only vertical shoot-’em-up that was released as freeware by Capcom years ago. It’s nothing special, featuring no distinct levels as the backgrounds just keep changing until you run out of lives. The most interesting thing about Vulgus is that it is Capcom’s first video game. The verdict: Not Recommended
Pirate Ship Higemaru (1984): Another early Capcom game, Pirate Ship Higemaru is a cute little single-screen game where you maneuver around a grid trying to find the best way to throw barrels at evil pirates. This is by no means an all-timer, but I found myself playing more of this game in this collection than I anticipated. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
1942 (1984): This was Capcom’s first major arcade hit, so it definitely holds a special place in the company’s history. I don’t particularly care for it, but for the historical resonance, it’s a welcome addition. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Commando (1985): The game that kicked off what most of the world knows as the Bionic Commando series (I guess). It’s a decent vertical run-and-gun action game. The most interesting aspect is seeing how Capcom went from traditional shoot-’em-ups to something that takes that concept and maps it to ground combat. I wouldn’t call it a mandatory play, though. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Section Z (1985): We are moving into horizontal shooters now, but this one is not that enjoyable. You control a little dude in a scrolling level where you can press a button to face left or right (and then shoot in that direction). It’s a potentially cool idea that just doesn’t add up to anything memorable. The verdict: Not Recommended
Trojan (1986): Trojan was another new discovery in this collection for me. You run around in a post-apocalyptic future as a dude with a sword and a shield. It’s janky, but it’s also surprisingly cool. Like a lot of games here, it benefits from the rewind feature. Also, for some reason, only the Japanese version is available here. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Legendary Wings (1986): It’s another shoot-’em-up, but then there are actually neat little side-scrolling stages. This has a fantasy setting as well, which separates it from a lot of the 19XX shooters in this game. I don’t think this game holds up as a strong arcade classic or anything, but the back and forth of vertical shooter and side-scrolling platformer is novel. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Bionic Commando (1987): I didn’t realize I never played the arcade version of Bionic Commando before. After playing it, that’s for the best. This game isn’t very good. The NES version seems like the best game ever made in comparison. One-hit kills and some questionable platforming makes this not that enjoyable. At least with the rewind feature and other tweaks it’s far more playable. The verdict: Not Recommended
Forgotten Worlds (1988): Historically notable for being the first game released on Capcom’s CPS-1 arcade board, Forgotten Worlds is a side-scrolling shooter that puts you in control of some Contra-like beefcake who floats around a level with different weaponry. I had a lot of fun with this, especially since the rewind feature takes some of the edge off the difficulty. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Ghouls 'n Ghosts (1988): A whole lot better than the 1985 predecessor, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a cool-looking arcade game that is arguably the second-best game in the series after Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. It’s still as punishing and unforgiving as every other entry in the series, but if you want some of that Arthur action without buying the new game, this is where you should go. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Summary: Unless you have a lot of affinity for any of these games specifically or hold a desire to do research into Capcom’s arcade history, the Dawn of the Arcade pack is largely filled with games that have aged like milk or games that are notable only for being curiosities.
Pack 2: Arcade Revolution (1989-1992)
Strider (1989): Strider is a dope arcade game. The animation and art looks great and the game itself is a fun action platformer. I highly recommend this, and it’s also worth noting that the Strider game on NES is completely different from this (but the arcade game is what the Genesis version was based on). The verdict: Recommended for Everyone
Dynasty Wars (1989): This is an old beat-’em-up game that, in a vacuum, is okay, but in the context of this pack (and the third pack of games) having much better beat-’em-ups, Dynasty Wars kind of sucks. Maybe there’s a reason why this wasn’t in Capcom Beat’ Em Up Bundle. The verdict: Not Recommended
Final Fight (1989): A total classic, but this is also in the Capcom Beat’ Em Up Bundle (available on Switch) with more options like online multiplayer. Still, the original Final Fight is a solid beat-’em-up. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
1941: Counter Attack (1990): I’ve never really had any nostalgia for the 19XX games, as evidenced by my treatment of them throughout this review. This one is another one of those shoot-’em-ups. The art’s nice. Smoke’em if you got’em, I guess. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Mercs (1990): A sequel to Commando (but not related to Bionic Commando; it’s weird) that is definitely a better version of that style of game. This is, like Trojan, another game that only has the Japanese version for some reason. The verdict: Recommend for Fans
Mega Twins (1990): A side-scrolling action game that gave me some arcade Wonder Boy vibes. Despite the Mega in the title, this has zero relation to Mega Man. It’s super cute. The verdict: Recommend for Fans
Carrier Air Wing (1990): We are getting more into the era where the scrolling shoot-’em-ups at least have eye-popping artwork. This is a sort-of follow-up to U.N. Squadron and all in all is a neat jet fighter action game. You have stuff like a store where you can upgrade your weapons between levels. It’s even a three player game, which is cool. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Street Fighter II (1991): Oh hey: the original release of Street Fighter II. This is a landmark game, but better versions of it exist on Arcade Stadium and you can also play this (and a bunch of other Street Fighter games) in the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection on Switch. I’ll be a little nicer to it since this pack of games does not include any other versions. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Captain Commando (1991): This is a good beat-’em-up that is a good time with a friend. So you should totally do that online in the Capcom Beat’ Em Up Bundle, which is also on Switch and includes online multiplayer. This is a good game; just play it elsewhere. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Varth: Operation Thunderstorm (1992): Varth is another shoot-’em-up. The visuals are nice. I’ve played so many shoot-’em-ups while reviewing this game. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Summary: This pack would have a lot more heavy recommendations were it not for the fact that three of the games are available in other collections on Switch with more functionality. Still, this is a marked step up from the Dawn of the Arcade pack and one that has a decent amount of variety and some arcade classics like Final Fight, Street Fighter II, and Strider.
Pack 3: Arcade Evolution (1992-2001)
Warriors of Fate (1992): The sequel to Dynasty Wars, this is another beat-’em-up that is in Capcom Beat’ Em Up Bundle. So once again, here’s a fine game that is just redundant because a version of this game exists on Switch with online play. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992): If I had to pick one version of Street Fighter II available on here, it’d be Hyper Fighting. I know Turbo has more characters, but Hyper Fighting is of the era I played more Street Fighter. However, this is also in Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, along with like every Street Fighter from the time. And that version has online play. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Super Street Fighter II Turbo (1994): Once again, this game was in another compilation on Switch with more features. You’re better off checking out Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, but this is still a good version of the game. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Armored Warriors (1994): A mech-themed beat-’em-up I played for the first time in Capcom Beat’ Em Up Bundle, which has this game with online play on Switch. As is commonplace for this pack of games in Arcade Stadium, it’s good. It’s just also more fully featured in another compilation. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness (1995): Finally: a game that isn’t available elsewhere in an arguably better form on Switch. This is a fighting game in the same universe as Armored Warriors, which is neat. That being said, it’s not the best fighting game. It’s cool and worth messing around with, though. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
19XX: The War Against Destiny (1995): At least this game isn’t in the Beat’ Em Up Bundle or the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection. This is another shooter in the 19XX series, but this actually made me appreciate the earlier games in the series. Aside from cool visuals, this was one of more disappointing games in the whole package. The verdict: Not Recommended
Battle Circuit (1997): I bet you might have thought we were done with games that are in other Capcom compilations on Switch? Wrong! Battle Circuit is another beat-’em-up, making half of this 10-game package available in better form elsewhere on Switch. Battle Circuit is a colorful game with four-player support and a cool alternate world aesthetic that features a bunch of weird lore like a villainous Dr. Saturn and a bunch of CD power-ups. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Giga Wing (1999): Another day, another arcade shoot-’em-up. Giga Wing at least separates from the 19XX series by being a vertical shooter on a horizontal display. It makes this play and look a little different from the rest of the shooters in the collection. I don’t think Giga Wing is incredible, but I spent more time with it than a lot of the other shooters here. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
1944: The Loop Master (2000): We’re back with another 19XX game. 1944 is a marked improvement over 19XX: The War Against Destiny but it’s still just okay. If I happen to be wrong and this is a legendarily good shooter, just know I’ve played around with a dozen of them across these 30 games. The verdict: Recommended for Fans
Progear (2001): Stands out from the other shoot-’em-ups on Arcade Stadium by being developed by CAVE. It’s visually striking and is the most fun I had with a shooter in this entire package. If you play one shooter in Capcom Arcade Stadium, make it Progear. The verdict: Recommended for Everyone
Summary: The Arcade Evolution Pack is without a doubt the strongest of the three, but it also has the highest amount of duplicate games from other Capcom compilations on Switch. Three beat-’em-ups and two versions of Street Fighter appear on the much-better Capcom Beat’ Em Up Bundle and Street Fighter Anniversary Collection releases. The remaining five games are largely good (19XX excluded), but it’s a harder sell to dive in, especially if you have these games in other forms on the same platform.
To summarize, it’s a little hard to slam-dunk recommend any of these three packs. The collection of games as a whole is nice, with very few true stinkers. If you haven’t dabbled in any of the other Capcom collections, maybe it’s worth seeing the wider assortment of genres here. Strider (in the second pack) and Progear (in the third pack) are the two clear standouts to me, especially since they aren’t also available in another more fully featured package on the platform. I hope Capcom builds out Capcom Arcade Stadium more, because at the very least, it’s a really cool place to mess around with different arcade cabinets.