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Midway Arcade Origins Review

Midway Arcade Origins Review

Across the previous two generations of console hardware, collections of cherished coin-op games were commonplace. Then, digital delivery came along and, save from the superb Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, shifted the paradigm from disk-based compendium to a piece-meal approach. Online outlets such as Xbox Live, the PlayStation Store, and the tragically short-lived Game Room service, appeared to have made the arcade anthology obsolete. While this shrank the barrier of entry, making the cost of owning an individual game to as low as three dollars, it also sullied the sense of unity provided by owning a single, cohesive compendium offer supplemented by historical material.

As such, the release of Midway Arcade Origins feels remarkable, giving Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners a collection thirty-one games culled from the era of Cosby and Cabbage Patch Dolls. With emulation duties handled by Backbone Entertainment, a developer who has handled console ports of games such as Ultimate Mortal Kombat III and Frogger, the compilation’s coding is adept. Less pleasing is the scarcity of ancillary additions, making Origins’ assembly of arcade games feel a bit emaciated.

Midway Arcade Origins Review

The anthology launching point is 1980’s horizontally-scrolling shooter, Defender, which many consider as one of the seminal title’s in the golden age of arcade history. Designer Eugene Jarvis’ oeuvre is modestly represented in Arcade Origins, with Robotron:2084, Stargate (aka Defender II) and Smash TV on the disk. Regrettably, NARC and the Cruis’n series are omitted; perhaps destined for a follow-up omnibus. Luckily, the output of Brian Colin and Jeff Nauman (known as the principal designers at Game Refuge) fares better- with Rampage, Arch Rivals, and Xenophobe included in the collection. Several titles that the duo had a hand in, such as Satan’s Hollow and Spy Hunter, as well as Spy Hunter II also round out the disk.

Reflecting Midway’s 1996 acquisition of Time-Warner Interactive, a number of Atari arcade titles are poised to please aficionados. Games such as 7200, A.P.B., Championship Sprint, Marble Madness, Pit-Fighter, Rampart, Super Sprint, Toobin’ and Xybots nicely complement the remaining titles, offering a reverent retrospective of gaming during the Reagan years. Undeniably, Midway Arcade Origins’ best offerings are the games produced during the waning days of the 80’s. Super Off Road (née Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off Road) holds up amazingly well, as does pseudo-Smash TV sequel, Total Carnage.

Midway Arcade Origins Review

Apart from some curious organizational choices, which places Bubbles in the ‘platform’ genre and considers Toobin’ a ‘driving’ game, Midway Arcade Origins’ interface gives players quick access to the roster of titles. Players have the ability to mark their favorite titles as favorites for the collection’s revolving, intuitive menus. Access to difficulty-varying DIP switches is often uneven in these types of packages. Mercifully, the compilation allows players to tweak these settings in the Free Play option, while maintaining the integrity of the original arcade experience for the game’s off-line and online leaderboards. One strange quirk: on the PS3 iteration, a brief loss of internet connection abruptly required me to sign back into the PlayStation network, disrupting the flow during an unmistakably offline game.

Most of the Midway Arcade Origins’ default control schemes work well. Championship Sprint, Super Off Road, and Super Sprint’s adaptation from steering wheel to stick proves to be particularly well-programmed, allowing tight turns without ever feeling twitchy. Skillfully, the collection’s ‘insert coin’ function is intuitively mapped to the “X” button, unlike many anthologies that arbitrarily assign it to a trigger or select button. For those that prefer to customize their input methods, Origins’ typically allows some flexibility. One constraint is that gamers can’t assign a function to multiple buttons, allowing, for example, all the triggers on a DualShock controller to deliver an imperative, mutant-murdering smart bomb in Defender. The other is that players can’t adjust sensitivity. As such, Marble Madness’ transition from trackball to analog stick can make the orb feel rather flighty in its default setting. For button-mashers like Gauntlet and Gauntlet II, a rapid fire option would have been welcome. Regrettably, Midway Arcade Origins’ lacks this basic feature.

Midway Arcade Origins Review

Visually, the title bestows two different visual filters which purport to either to reduce jagged edges or produce a slight smoothing effect. In execution, they both deliver a slight blurring effect; while some might appreciate the aesthetic, purists will want to keep the disk’s setting on ‘sharp’. Audio emulation can be especially contentious, and while Midway Arcade Origins does an admirable job recreating the staccato drone of a respawn in Joust or a ship’s explosion in Defender, the overall aural output seems a bit light in the bass range. Still, for arcade-era enthusiasts, hearing “red elf shot the food” in Gauntlet is apt to stir a whirlwind of salient memories.

Considering the disks’ moniker, players might assume that Origins provides insight into the impetus behind each game in the collection. Midway’s previous compilations included developer interviews, historical information about each coin-op, archival footage, cabinet and marque art, as well as promotional flyers. Save for a truncated amount of trivia which scrolls by on the bottom of a pause screen, the disk has a disheartening shortage of anecdotal info.

Midway Arcade Origins Review

While all of the games on the Midway Arcade Origins disk have been released previously- both in the trio of last-gen Midway Arcade Treasures disks as well as on Xbox Live and the PlayStation network, playing these titles might be problematic for owners of now-gen consoles. From the lack of backwards compatibility extended by the Xbox 360 and current-model PS3s, to the delisting of titles available for downloadable purchase, obtaining these classics can be tricky. At less than $1 per game, the Midway Arcade Origins is a suitable alternative, although the lack of historical supplements means that the definitive collection representing Midway’s coin-op era has yet to be compiled.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. When did Stargate officially just become Defender II?

  2. Anyone have a full list of games?

    • Here you go:

      • 720° – Skateboard through the neighborhood and earn a ticket to compete at the big skate park.
      • A.P.B. – Drive around as Officer Bob to ticket and arrest law-breakers and meet your ticket quota.
      • Arch Rivals – Outscore your opponent in this classic basketball game.
      • Bubbles – Maneuver around dirty objects as a soapy bubble trying to clean a kitchen sink.
      • Championship Sprint – Race to the finish in this classic speed game.
      • Tournament Cyberball 2072 – Control a robotic football team and score touchdowns with exploding Cyberballs and short-circuiting robo-offenders.
      • Defender – Defend a far-off planet from waves of invading aliens while protecting the human race in this shooting game.
      • Defender II – Deliver humans to safety through the teleporting gateway, all while defending against attacking alien forces.
      • Gauntlet – Venture through dungeons as one of four fantasy-based characters to vanquish enemies and collect treasures and potions.
      • Gauntlet II – Reprise the role of your favorite fictional characters to embark on a new quest with all new levels, enemies and challenges.
      • Joust – Mount a flying ostrich and fly through levels by toppling groups of buzzard-riding knights.
      • Joust 2 – Transform your ostrich into a powerful Pegasus to defend against the enemy buzzard-riding knights.
      • Marble Madness – Glide a marble through mazes and obstacles in this platform game.
      • Pit-Fighter – Be the last man standing to punch, kick, and beat your opponent in the fighting pit.
      • Rampage – Take control of gigantic mutants to demolish the city and terrorize civilization.
      • Rampart – Defend your castles by attacking oncoming forces and repairing any damage done to your territory.
      • Robotron 2084 – Battle waves of robots to protect the last human family from annihilation.
      • Root Beer Tapper – Serve up mugs of root beer to thirsty patrons before the time runs out.
      • Satan’s Hollow – Build a bridge across a lava river and destroy gargoyles in order to reach the final level, a battle against Satan himself.
      • Sinistar – Blast planets and collect crystals to create deadly Sinibombs to defeat the evil Sinistar.
      • Smash TV – Advance through a vicious game show by playing for cash, keys, and the ultimate prize, your life.
      • Spy Hunter – Hunt down enemy agents while cruising for weapons and protecting civilians.
      • Spy Hunter II – Gather weapons and set-up obstacles to destroy enemy agents in a 3D view.
      • Super Off Road – Race around the tracks in an off-road truck to beat the other contenders.
      • Super Sprint – Speed around twisty tracks and advance through the circuit to be named the racing champion.
      • Toobin’ – Splash through rivers in an innertube to collect treasures and race against opponents.
      • Total Carnage – Play as the Doomsday Squad to rescue hostages and capture the evil dictator
      • Vindicators Part II – Power up to fill your depleting fuel tank and escape from oncoming attacks.
      • Wizard of Wor – Navigate through monster-filled dungeons to defeat the creatures within.
      • Xenophobe – Wander around a space station and shoot killer aliens before the time runs out.
      • Xybots – Dash through the 3D maze to fight Xybot robots bent on human destruction.

  3. $30 is pretty fair considering that the going rate is about $5 per game. Still, there’s some junk on there.

    Xenophobe is pretty junky because you only use a third of the screen and Pit-Fighter is the worst MK rip-off ever.

  4. KLAX and Paperboy are missing. Both are pretty essential and were on the PS1 disk.

  5. Jeff Gerstmann said that no music played during the beginning on Smash TV and tweeted that “Man, Midway Arcade Origins really screwed up the control in the dual-joystick games. Can’t use face buttons, only the right stick. Boooooo.”

    Why no mention of this?

    • I’d have to respectfully disagree. Using face buttons for dual stick shooters is pretty awkward; you have to press two buttons to shoot diagonally. It’s also a pretty big departure from the original arcade control scheme.

      As for the music in Smash TV, I played the game repeatedly on the PS3 and definitely heard music during the first stage.

      • Makes sense, Smash TV for SNES was like that and pretty hard to get used to. I always wanted to play with two sticks.

      • Same thing as your complaint about not mapping commands to multiple buttons, right? Diff’rent Strokes.

        • To each their own but mapping a stick to four keys seems dumb.

          There’s a reason why I play the Binding of Isaac mapped to a controller. It’s so much easier to play.

      • I usually disagree with 90% of Gerstmann’s complaints. Seems like a weird criticism.

      • Dude, who the hell plays like that? Buttons instead of a stick?

        From now on, programmers better cater to Gerstmann’s whims. “I want enemies that look like cookies. I want to use my NES light gun to play Child of Eden. I want to steer with my feet and have the Kinect recognize it.”

  6. I wish they put in some games that haven’t been part of any collection like their N64 games.

  7. Say what you want about piece meal approach. But the XBLA versions of Gauntlet and Rampart had online multiplayer. This is all offline.

  8. I’ve been looking for this. No stores near me have got it in. Thank god for Amazon.

  9. Futureshop says my copy is coming today. Blops be damned, I’m playing some Tapper.

  10. Dude, when it comes to emulation, Backbone ain’t that good. There’s usually all kinds of little glitches and things. Maybe you didn’t play long enough. Maybe you don’t remember the original games.

  11. Thanks, I was looking for a review of this. Good point about rapid-fire.

  12. Where’s Rampage World Tour?

  13. Sadly that the MK games aren’t on it. That might have pushed me over the top.

  14. I wish some place would knock $10 off this for Black Friday.

  15. I’ll pick it up soon as I see a sale. I’m a big Defender fan. Robotron is no slouch.

  16. Yep, really needs Paperboy. Shame about the Marble Madness controls.

  17. Someone need to make a Vita version. stat!

  18. Obviously none of you guys have heard about MAME. Google that shit.

    • I know about MAME, but I’d rather give money to these efforts and ensure we’ll get more of them. Besides, MAME is hard to run (if not impossible) on unmodded 360’s