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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits (DS)

Featuring 15 classic games ranging from Scramble to Gradius and Contra, Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits includes an excellent range of titles for classic game fans. Each title has been faithfully reproduced on the DS in either standard or long view and includes a treasure trove of background information. The quality of the games is fairly consistent with well-known games like Rush N Attack mixed with obscurities such as Rainbow Bell. Look inside and discover why Konami Classics is a decent compilation that should please hardcore fans.

Bringing together an excellent cross-section of Konami's 80's classic titles, this compilation brings the classic arcade experience to the palm of your hand on the Nintendo DS. Most of the games on the cartridge should be familiar to video game veterans and they're all here just as you remember them from the arcade games. Working through the games is like going into a time machine and should bring a flood of memories back to gamers. Players can start at the beginning with the classic side-scrolling shooter Scramble, which offered a revolutionary system of straight shots and bombs to create one of the most challenging and entertaining shooters of its age. 

While the graphics might seem a little bit primitive by today's standards, the gameplay is still quite enjoyable and addictive. Its also interesting to play this from a historical standpoint, since it served as the foundation for many of the Konami shooters that followed. Another early title in this installment is Horror Maze, which has been retitled from its original incarnation Tutankham for some reason. Horror Maze/Tutankham seems incredibly simple on the surface, but its two way shooting and challenging mazes make it surprisingly difficult, especially in it later levels where you have to collect the key before you can unlock the puzzle. Players will also find another early winner in Pooyan, a simple game where you have to shoot down a series of wolves falling from the top of the screen before they run over to your cage and knock you out of it. Pooyan remains quite charming these days and its simple play mechanics make it thoroughly enjoyable. Another solid entry in this installment is Track & Field. Loosely based on the Olympic games, this title has you going through a series of athletic events such as running and javelein, where you have to push buttons in sequential order. The challenge in this title is learning the timing and rhythm that will get your character moving the fastest. It's not the most complex game, but it holds up well with controls that are still fun despite its somewhat repetitive controls and simple play mechanics.

In a similar yet very different vein is Circus Charlie, which places you as a clown who has to compete in a variety of events. It's a lot simpler than Track & Field, but uses some of the same mechanics and graphic conventions, making it fit into the compilation nicely. Another solid title in this compilation is Time Pilot, which is an awesome open-ended shooter with loads of cool enemies and a unique time traveling play mechanic that helps the game stay fresh in repeated plays. You can definitely sense that classic Konami feel in this game. Players will also find a few more obscure releases, such as the odd platformer Roc 'N Rope, which isn't as much fun as you'd think it would be. Shaolin's Road is another somewhat similar platform title, though it doesn't really hold up well. Yie-Ar Kung Fu prestages many of the latter fighting games to come, and while its simple play mechanics and lack of moves may make it feel limited, it's still fun to play. There are a couple of later stage releases included this time as well, including the classic arcade version of Gradius, which has lost none of its appeal. The game is the arcade edition, and as such, is a bit more difficult but more elaborate than the NES version most players probably remember. The music and graphics remain excellent, and the game's innovative power-up system and boss enemies make it a landmark title all players should enjoy, even if only from a historic perspective. Suprisingly, Konami has also included another shooter, the somewhat obscure title Rainbow Wall, which is better known as Twin-Bee here and remains as charming and cutesy as it was in the past. From the company's later 80's heyday, there's also the arcade classic Rush 'N Attack, which is a typical of its era side scroller with plenty of weapons power-ups and some interesting levels. Unfortunately, the DS' screen seems a little small for this game and lacks the resolution to really show it off. The package tops off its releases with the legendary side-scrolling shooter title Contra, which looks and plays just as smoothly as you remember, though its probably much harder than you think as well. Konami has done an excellent job with the package, and its game selection is superb, making this one of the most playable and enjoyable compilations to appear on the DS to date.

In addition to the games themselves, there are plenty of options to choose from, and the game has a cool feature that allows players to operate the actual arcade dip switches to set options such as number of lives, difficulty and continues. This is a really cool system, but players can also use a simpler interface to set these options as well. You can choose with screen configuration, vertical or horizontal to play and can set the screen the games appear on, either upper or lower. For arcade die-hards, each title in the package also includes an extensive selection of background information including arcade flyers, a brief history of the game, and even music selections. Konami Classics Series' presentation is superb and the games themselves have held up well over the years. While there are a few titles that either haven't held up well or don't translate to the DS platform, the general high quality of the games here is impressive. The emulations are fairly faithful to the original games with the graphics, sound effects and controls generally accurate. While Konami hasn't added any touch-screen functionality to the games, this is probably a good thing. The games are as good now as they were when they were released, so they really don't need enhancements. The use of original arcade artwork on the non-game screen is a nice touch that adds to the authenticity and makes this like having a classic arcade in your pocket. Overall, this is a solid compilation that offers an excellent selection of classic games that works nicely on the DS.

- Michael Palisano


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