The bottom line is that if you’re a retro video game enthusiast you’re going to want Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium. That doesn’t make the timing of this retro compilation’s release any less curious, however – or without caveats. Indeed, launching less than a month after the Capcom Fighting Collection but sharing several titles from its library makes this a slightly unusual proposition – especially when you consider that it’s an entirely separate client from the previous Capcom Arcade Stadium, despite mimicking many of its core features. We can’t make sense of it, but here we are.
The good news is that this is largely a five-star package, and with many of the obvious inclusions like Final Fight (1989) already available as part of its predecessor, it digs into some slightly more left-field efforts from Capcom’s iconic back catalogue. It sets its scene strongly with 1984’s SonSon, a superb side-scrolling shooter-platformer hybrid inspired by Journey to the West. Despite its age and rudimentary 8-bit era graphics, this is an addictive escapade, demanding skill and precision as you deftly transition between its vertical layers. It’s also free for everyone to download, so give it a go.
Much like the previous Capcom Arcade Stadium, you’ll be able to purchase titles à la carte or in collections, with a wide-variety of genres and themes. The games are presented through a series of customisable arcade cabinets, and you can filter by type or even favourites. You can toggle between Japanese or English language ROMs as you wish, and as you play you’ll accrue Capcom Arcade Stadium Points, or CASPO for short, which contribute to your rank and help unlock little cosmetic extras, like borders. Unfortunately, as this is a new game, you’ll be starting your CASPO over from zero.
While all of the games feature different settings and score challenges for you to compete on, the leaderboards – like the original – are threadbare. Considering how arcade games are built on the foundation of high scores, it’s disappointing that Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium feels so socially stagnant. You’ll need to meet specific score thresholds in order to even get your name on the leaderboards, and from there it’s not always easy to compare yourself to your friends and challenge their best attempts. This is an area we feel the publisher could have iterated on.
But, as you know, Capcom ruled the arcade – and this compilation is a reminder of why. There’s truly some god-tier content here, including LED Storm (1989), a vertically scrolling top-down racer inspired by the likes of Knight Rider, whose Japanese name (Mad Gear) would go on to form the foundation of Final Fight’s antagonistic gang – and the fast-paced four-player wrestling game Saturday Night Slam Masters, complete with Metro City’s very own mayor, Mike Haggar.
The lineup is a little less shooter heavy than its predecessor, but you still get the chunky Hyper Dyne Side Arms (1986) and the gorgeous Eco Fighters (1994) – the latter of which literally pops off the screen with its enormous sprites and stunning art direction. We’re not massive fans of the likes of Western shooter Gun.Smoke (1985) or the forgettable Savage Bees (1985), but the Last Duel (1988) – with its blend of motorcycle and aircraft action is entertaining enough. The Speed Rumbler (1986), which goes all Mad Max with its car combat, is difficult to play today, but its inclusion is appreciated all the same. You also get 1943 KAI (1988), which is fine, but obviously little more than an alternate version of Capcom’s familiar World War 2 shooter games.
It’s on the fighting game front that Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium goes a little crazy, but the thrill of seeing so many Darkstalkers games here is completely undermined by the release of the Capcom Fighting Collection just last month, as mentioned. Nevertheless, the two Mega Man: The Power Battle (1995) titles are welcome, as is, surprisingly, the original Street Fighter (1987) for pure academic reasons. Indeed, while this borderline unplayable brawler is a disaster, experiencing it side-by-side with Hyper Street Fighter II: Anniversary Edition (2004) and the three Street Fighter Alpha games provides a fascinating reference point for the genre as a whole.
To round out the other fighting game inclusions, you get Darkstalkers (1994), Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors (1995), Vampire Savior (1997), and the simply sublime chibi-esque Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix (1997), which is just a delight. While it’s not technically a brawler, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (1996) is also included, although there’s no online play in any of these versions, which is worth mentioning if you’re undecided about which retro compilation to buy. The Capcom Fighting Collection and Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection obviously allow you to complete against the globe.
But where we feel the compilation really shines is with those unexpected curios, like Capcom Sports Club (1997), which is a compendium of rapid-fire sports minigames spanning soccer, tennis, and basketball. It’s brilliant, with its ostentatious presentation and enormous sprites, and we’ve spent hours on the tennis in particular. Three Wonders (1991) – irritatingly available as a pre-order bonus – is also superb, spanning a Metal Slug-esque shooter, shmup, and cutesy block-pushing puzzle game, all of which sing. You can get this on PS1 but it costs a pretty penny to import these days, so we recommend stomaching Capcom’s unnecessary business practices as it’ll save you in the long-run.
The likes of Pnickies (1994), a Japanese-only puzzle game, and Breakout clone Block Block (1991) are largely forgettable, but it’s Hissatsu Buraiken (1984), or Avenger, that we’d only actively call out as being straight-up bad – although we’re not overly keen on Tiger Road (1987) either. Both are suitably outshone by the publisher’s tetralogy of fantasy-themed, RPG-inspired beat-‘em-ups: Black Tiger (1987), Magic Sword (1990), Knights of the Round (1991), and The King of Dragons (1991). All four of these have their virtues, especially in local co-op with a friend.
It should be mentioned that all of the games come with the same suite of features, including the ability to alter the speed of the gameplay, adjust the difficulty, and even rewind any mistakes you make. This, if you have poor reactions like this author, makes the compilation accessibly appealing – but, of course, there’s enough flexibility to suit all needs. You can also alter the appearance, with Tate options available for those with the requisite hardware, but it’s a shame you can’t edit the intensity of the various scanline options available.
The crossover between Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium and last month’s Capcom Fighting Collection is bizarre, but there’s more than enough additional content in this compilation to justify a double-dip. While we wish the publisher would have integrated more social features to make the pursuit of high scores more fulfilling, the reality is that retro game enthusiasts will want to revisit much of what this package has to offer.