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Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits: Vol. 1 Package Art
Digital Eclipse

Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits: Vol. 1

The early 1980s were good for a lot of things: synth-pop, insider trading, leg warmers, and big hair. But the rise of the 'Me' generation also marked the emergence of videogames into the hearts, minds, and quarter-filled pockets of America's youth. Atari and Colecovision may have ruled the television sets at home, but arcades were packed with gamers salivating for the latest and greatest from companies like Bally Midway and Williams Electronics.

The names may have changed over the last twenty years, but the games are still with us, and the best of them are every bit as fun as they were back then. For newcomers in search of a piece of history or for aging hipsters looking to relive their youth, Midway has served up six classics in all their emulated glory for your N64 enjoyment.

Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits features none other than Defender, Robotron: 2084, Root Beer Tapper, Joust, Spy Hunter, and Sinistar all from the certified annals of videogame history. As an added bonus, Midway and Digital Eclipse have included cabinet art from the original machines and an Arcade Trivia challenge to test your knowledge on all things pixelated. Each game has a full set of options to tweak your gaming experience as you see fit, and all your scores and settings can be saved onto a Controller Pak for future use.


Midway's Greatest is not the place to look for eye-catching visuals on the N64. Each of the six games included, while groundbreaking in the early 80s, are simple and colorful in the extreme. But the port to the N64 is well-handled, with crisp, bright graphics that bring back all of their splendor in full 2D retro-glory.

The floating 'space arcade' of the main menu and Arcade Trivia challenge are a bit disappointing, however, especially considering these sections are the only original aspects of the cart. The arcade machines float on circular disks that are blocky by any measure, and even the close-ups of the cabinet art on each machine are too small to see in detail. If you remember the old machines, they'll bring back fond memories, but for the uninitiated they fail to show the beauty of the original art work.


Midway's sound department delivers every ping and blip of the original games, all designed to cut through the noise and clamor of a packed arcade. As an arcade port, each game succeeds admirably. The techno stylings of the main menu uses samples from each game, but the single, looping tune doesn't do service to the quirkiness of the games held within.


One of Midway Arcade's biggest strengths is the range of variety from game to game. Unlike many of the 'classics' compilations that are available for the PS, there's no filler here. These six games have earned their status as arcade legends: each one of them either took gameplay to the next level, or revolutionized it completely. Even age can't strip these games of the power of their addictiveness. They're button-mashers: adrenaline-triggering twitch-fests that are built around a single gameplay premise, pure and simple.

But unfortunately, the quest for arcade purity (or for lower development costs) kept Midway from tapping into two of the Nintendo controller's biggest assests the analog stick and Rumble Pak. All but two of the games (Spy Hunter and Sinistar) are D-pad based, and the Rumble Pak is nowhere to be found.

Instead of using this collection as an opportunity to improve the gamer's experience (or at least offer something new), we're given a no-frills flight. Admittedly, the depth of options on each game makes up in part, allowing mortal players to go far beyond what they might have ever reached in an arcade. The analog stick may be underused, but most buttons can be customized to your liking, as can difficulty and bonus settings.


Like most early arcade games, these classics are designed for a single-player. Two-player modes are available on all of them, but only in the tradition of old-school arcade gameplay; players take turns at each game to see who can get farther and rack up the highest score. The only game built from the ground up as a two-player experience is Joust. In it, players can choose to work together or battle it out as the enemies attack from all sides.


Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits is one of two classic anthologies available to N64 owners. The other, Namco Museum, collects entirely different (but equally important) games in a similar format. Choosing between them depends entirely on which of the games hold the warmest place in your heart.

But these games aren't only fun for those of us who grew up playing them they've managed to re-emerge again because they're simple, addictive, and fun. Older players may enjoy the stroll down memory lane, but for young kids who aren't mature enough to really enjoy games like Zelda, they're a great introduction to videogames. Like a Vegas buffet, the price is right, and there's something in here for everybody.

Midway's Greatest only misses its mark by not aiming high enough. A little more polish would have elevated this cart beyond what you can get out of a Javascript emulator. Still, nothing can take away the thrill of surviving one more level of Robotron, swapping the Spy Hunter car for a boat, or wiping out an entire screen full of baddies with a smart bomb in Defender. If you love old-school gameplay or you're just looking for an excuse to try on those old parachute pants, Midway's got your fix.

final score 6.5/10

Staff Avatar Jon Griffith
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"You know what I'm going to get you next Christmas? A big wooden cross. So that the next time you're feeling unappreciated for all your little sacrifices you can CLIMB ON UP AND NAIL YOURSELF TO IT!"

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