When it comes to representing the gaming days of yore, few companies can hold a candle to Midway. Not only did the company pump out more arcade titles than just about any other coin-op, it can probably be credited with sustaining the few establishments that still remain in operation today. (Yeah, remember those mythical places known as arcades? The ones that ate quarters out of your pockets? Ahh, memories…) But Midway has also been a leader in repackaging and recreating the magic of these game cabinets on consoles with their Arcade Treasures series. Their third entry in the series takes the nostalgic franchise in a different direction, focusing solely on racing titles to power this compilation. Get ready to jump into the driver’s seat as we peel out with Midway Arcade Treasures 3.
Fans of the Arcade Treasures series will immediately notice the reduced number of titles in the latest release. This, however, is not an indication of the scale of the games included, as many of the racing titles are technically more complex than any side scroller or 2D fighting title. Of the eight included titles, six of them take full advantage of 3D polygonal models, which is actually something we take for granted nowadays. Whether it’s the early hard edged geometry of Race Drivin’ and S.T.U.N. Runner or the refined visual detail found in later products like Hydro Thunder and Rush 2049, Arcade Treasures 3 does a decent job emulating the look and gameplay of each title in the collection. Add to that the original sound effects and soundtracks, and you practically have the arcade at home.
In fact, Midway Arcade Treasures does a good job of mixing and matching the race “types” found within this anthology, so there’s potentially something to be found for just about any kind of racer. Drivers that are interested in the top down style of racing games, where the entire track is fully visible at all times may want to take a look at Super Off Road. Known as “Ironman Ivan Stewart’s Super Off Road” in arcades, this game allows you to race a truck around eight different tracks, all of which could be mirrored to provide an additional challenge. Apart from fending off your opponents, you had to keep an eye out for randomly appearing objects, such as bags of cash to buy new parts for your car and canisters of nitrous that provided additional speed boosts. The included Track Pak provides additional racetracks and the option to rip up the road in a dune buggy. Slightly varying up this top down theme is the apocalyptic Badlands, which allows players to shoot their opponents with guns and missiles. Instead of collecting bags of money like you do in Super Off Road, you collect wrenches that you use to modify your engine, tires or other parts to make a stronger road machine to fend off your attackers.
Players interested in testing the limits of a realistic vehicle need look no farther than Race Drivin’, a sequel/expansion to Hard Drivin’, a simulator that attempted to present the effect of real world physics in a game context, which was then a novel concept. Everything from driving down crowded streets to taking stunt tracks with corkscrew loops and jumps was accurately measured based on your acceleration, size and weight of your car. Unlike other arcade titles where you could be somewhat inexact in your maneuvering around a course, Race Drivin’ emphasized clean steering and control over a vehicle, just like in real life. By contrast, the futuristic S.T.U.N. Runner emphasized pure speed. Set in a number of tunnels above and below ground, S.T.U.N. Runner placed you in the cockpit of a machine that could literally break the sound barrier. However, this wasn’t just a simple race; you had a number of obstacles to avoid, including indestructible opponents and non-completed sections of tunnel, along with hitting hyperspeed boosts to ensure that you’d cross the finish line before time ran out.
Racers looking for more of the Arcade experience with flashy levels and looser controls may look towards the “extreme” experiences found in the Thunder series, represented here in Hydro Thunder and Offroad Thunder. Hydro Thunder places you in the cockpit of a rocket boosted powerboat and lets you loose against a large field of competitors on massive courses. Most of these tracks harbor a number of secret areas and shortcuts, and you’ll be able to shave seconds off your time by collecting and using the boost icons liberally scattered around each track. Taking the same concept and transferring it to the dirt of an arena, Offroad Thunder puts you in a monster truck, big rig or other large vehicle. You can race to the finish line in rally mode, play “keep away” from your fellow drivers with the Snag the Flag mode, or try to total your opponents by playing Demolition mode.
Of course, you can’t mention racing and Midway without mentioning their Rush series. Arcade Treasures 3 includes two of their later titles, Rush: The Rock – Alcatraz Edition and Rush 2049. Rush: The Rock is a sprint through the streets of San Francisco, taking advantage of shortcuts and other secret areas to reduce your time and come in first place. While San Fran doesn’t seem to have a large number of loop the loops and other stunt ramps on the streets, these have been liberally scattered throughout Rush: The Rock to provide an extra charge during a race. Similarly, Rush 2049 takes advantage of jumps with a slight twist: Cars can actually fly in this game, allowing you to reach seemingly impossible areas easily. These alternate paths can be the difference between winning and coming in second. Along with a stunt mode and a deathmatch or battle mode, 2049 provided a number of unlockable cars and tracks.
As I said before, the look and feel of these games are emulated almost perfectly in this collection. Perhaps one of the largest and most fundamental problems with this set is that the translation seriously lacks the ambience and controls of the original machine, which is actually more significant that you may realize. For instance, Race Drivin’ was placed in a cockpit that you sat in and tactilely manipulated gear shifts, steering wheel and the like. The monitor set up was also much wider than a standard TV thanks to the wrap around view screen, which gave you a sense as you were driving that there was an environment your were actually moving through. This feeling is completely lost with using a thumbstick or directional pad and buttons. Similarly, many of these titles required steering wheels, foot pedals or physically leaning back in a reclining chair set up that pumped you with speakers and some amount of physical feedback as you maneuvered your vehicle. This is not only missing on wheel dependent titles like Super Off Road and Badlands, but it also makes the games feel much older than they actually are (since many of these were released in the past 15 years or so).
You’ll also notice that while the visuals are practically the same, you’ll find many more instances of tracks breaking than ever happened in the arcade. Fortunately, the 2D racers are spared this fate, but every single 3D title had an instance where a particularly nasty spill resulted in the track map geometry either transparently phasing away or cars clipping through non-existent textures to then respawn themselves where they should actually be. This is a situation of cutting corners, but it is extremely apparent and jarring. Finally, there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm behind this collection, as is apparent in the number of bonus features in this title. Whereas the other games in the series had posters, ads, bonus videos with the designers and other items of nostalgic interest, you only get an advertisement or two in some galleries for certain games. What’s more, while the other two titles had a “theme” that the games were presented in, this game has a generic splash screen with a list of titles. It just feels like there wasn’t a lot of thought placed into the presentation behind this one.
Over the years, Midway has released a number of great games and arcade classics, many of which they’ve revisited to give a sense of nostalgia to older gamers. While the other Midway Arcade Treasures were strong anthologies of their titles, the reduced number and limited play experience conveyed by Midway Arcade Treasures 3 makes this set for rabid fans only. You’re not really going to find the arcade experience here, nor are you going to find the full presentation that you may remember putting quarters in so many years ago.