Midway Arcade Treasures 2 PS2 Review

Hitting the early 90's, arcades found resurgence after a huge slump, almost entirely due to Capcom's classic "Street Fighter II." Midway dove in right next to them, popping out hits like the "Mortal Kombat" series and "Total Carnage." This PS2 compilation, "Midway Arcade Treasures 2," is an almost perfect visit back to those glorious cabinets, but that does not mean these are great games.

First things first. Yes, "Mortal Kombat II" is here. Yes, it is arcade perfect, the first time in history gamers have been able to play it as such on a home console. The only flaws in the emulation are some shadows that flicker relentlessly when jumping. Otherwise, everything here is perfect. That alone is worth the meager $20 asking price.

Disappointing as it was, "Mortal Kombat 3" is here too. If you owned a PS One back around 1995, chances are you're quite familiar with this one. Sony had an exclusivity deal on the title when the system launched. It's the same game, sans any and all load times. The combo system is a bit off and it doesn't quite feel right, but the fatalities remain classic stuff.

(Note: In case you wondering where "Mortal Kombat 1" is, it was pulled from this set rather late in the development cycle and can be found on the collector's edition of "Mortal Kombat: Deception.")

"Total Carnage" was a spiritual successor to "Smash TV" and either game is a great time killer. Though ported to the SNES after it's release, "Carnage" was sanitized and here we are in 2004 with a pixel perfect translation. All the blood and gore remains (yes, this must be the first console compilation rated "M") and the tension makes this pure twitch gaming.

"Narc" comes home on this set, the first time since the censored NES rendition. This is a loud, brutal, blast-a-thon that has players taking down drug dealers either solo or together with a friend. It remains fun in quick sessions and is one of those games that perfectly takes players back into the arcade.

"APB" is a personal favorite, one that has gamers taking down litterbugs and speeders as Officer Bob while looking for a major bust. Drive recklessly and the unemployment line will become a new home. Voice samples are complete and the speed is perfect.

Wholly unique, "Xybots" is a primitive 3rd-person actioner that has players trekking down hallways blasting various enemies. The full experience is not received unless two-players are on the attack side-by-side. Those who used to own an Atari Lynx will find this one familiar thanks to a great port there and that goes for "APB" as well.

The final decent title is "Cyberball 2072," a futuristic football game with outstanding play mechanics, though the slippery controls may throw some people off (the original used a track ball). The rest of the collection goes downhill fast. "Spy Hunter II" is easily the worst game on this set and never should have been released in arcades let alone included on this set. It has little in common with the top-down original.

Not that it's terrible, but "Gauntlet II" was missing that something special that made the first one memorable. You'll get some fun out of it, just not as much as the original. "Timber" is a forgettable tree-chopping simulation (!) with a unique premise, but hardly captivating gameplay. "Pit Fighter" is likely well remembered, but not only is just a mess of game design and terrible graphics, the emulation here is way off. The speed of this title is at least tripled from what it was originally.

"Wizard of Wor" is (I believe) the oldest game of this set and seems wildly out of place. It's a decent maze title, but it just doesn't belong on a disc like this. It was much better suited for "MAC 1." The same goes for "Kozmik Krooz'r" and "Wacko," two forgettable titles, though "Krooz'r" does try to be different at least.

"Xenophobe" was the first game to allow three players to have their own screen on a single monitor, but that doesn't make it a great game. The clunky control system and infuriating enemies make this a title far too difficult for its own good. "Primal Rage" was another attempt by the Midway crew to push the envelope for blood, but it's one of the most mundane fighters ever produced. Fighting with dinosaurs should be fun, but it suffers from the same problem as "Xenophobe": horribly designed controls.

Before "NBA Jam," Midway basketball got a start with the rather slow paced "Arch Rivals." A decent title, sure, but far from the classic status of the NBA brethren. "Championship Sprint" is a minor title, a small tweak of the original than a full on sequel. Minus the steering wheel and huge cabinet of the arcade, the game loses everything it had going for it.

Things finish off with "Rampage World Tour" and "Hard Drivin'." The revamped "Rampage" title can still be found at various stores for the PS One and while it makes for a great game, it's hardly a flashback. "Drivin'" suffers from the same issues as "Sprint," notably the lack of the steering wheel. That and its main draw were its polygonal graphics, which really don't do much for gamers anymore.

No classic game compilation is complete without interviews and various extras and "MAC 2" provides just that. Sadly, it may not be where you want it. Every game has still pics (which can be zoomed in/out) of the flyers and various advertisements. "MKII" gets almost nothing except a short promotional video while the third game in the series gets a wealth of short clips, including multiple interviews. "Championship Sprint" gets the same treatment. Video and audio quality is rather poor at times, but some of this stuff was obviously taped when the game was new.

If you lived through the era these games are from then this is a must own set, even if the games are a horribly hit or miss. Most people will likely put down the cash just for the "Mortal Kombat" titles. The others are really just a bonus. If the "MK" games don't really do it for you, you'll still have a lot of fun here, just probably not as much as the rest of us.

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