Having frittered away a good portion of my pocket money over the years on Street Fighter 2, Final Fight and their arcade ilk, I am right in the middle of the Capcom Home Arcade’s target market. The prospect of experiencing these games on a Capcom-manufactured home console fills me with glee; all the joy of the arcade, minus the smell of cigarette smoke, the sticky joysticks and the strangers who invade your personal space to offer unsolicited playing advice. The only downside is that this chunky console has an equally chunky asking price of £200: is it really worth it?
A picture of my own Capcom Home Arcade, showing how it can be a fingerprint magnet
The Capcom Home Arcade is certainly a weighty piece of kit. It uses super-responsive Sanwa sticks and buttons, though some might miss the experience of hammering recalcitrant controls until the arcade owner shouts at them. Capcom have been mocked for making the Home Arcade look like the company's logo but, while the glossy surface collects fingerprints like no-one's business, the shape never gets in the way of gameplay. I had anticipated arguments erupting because player 2 has to rest their wrist on the curves of the O and M, but there’s little practical difference between the two positions.
The hardware comes loaded with sixteen arcade games from the late 80s and early 90s, spanning a variety of genres from beat-em-ups through to puzzle games; 1944: The Loop Master, Alien vs Predator, Armored Warriors, Capcom Sports Club, Captain Commando, Cyberbots, Darkstalkers, Eco Fighters, Final Fight, Giga Wing, Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, Mega Man The Power Battle, Progear, Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting, Strider, and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. It’s not surprising Street Fighter 2’s in there, but there are several lesser-known titles included as well. It’s the first time arcade brawler Aliens vs Predator has graced a home console, and suffice to say Capcom brought its usual style to punching Xenomorphs.
Alien vs Predator
For a while I was happily surfing on the wave of nostalgia, coupled with the joy of discovering some new gems. Setting it up was a breeze; I spent several hours playing Progear, an odd little steampunk shooter set in a world where anime children are encouraged to pilot weapon-laden death-planes before delving into the other offerings. If it wasn’t for the sharper pixels, a consequence of running these games on an HD TV, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between Strider on the Capcom Home Arcade and the well-worn chip-shop cabinet I pushed coin after coin into. After the latest patch (the console can use wi-fi to both upload scores and download updates) performance is near-flawless, though the fact its emulation is built upon the non-commercial Final Burn Alpha emulator has raised a few eyebrows.
However, the more I played, the more I noticed the machine’s shortcomings, and the more they irritated me. The Capcom Home Arcade is hobbled by an unwieldy interface which makes choosing a game a chore. Each game’s title occupies a single screen, so you may have to flick through up to fifteen other screens to get to the game you want to play. This issue is compounded by the fact that, upon exiting a game, the console essentially restarts, forcing you to sit though 20 seconds of logos every single time you exit a game.
The game select screen
Because of this baffling procedure, the console forgets which game you played last so, if you’ve got the games arranged in alphabetical order, you’re back to laboriously scrolling through the whole list. Capcom is apparently looking at addressing this with an update but at the moment, when you’re dipping into and out of games to see what you fancy, it becomes a significant irritant.
Then there’s the limited control you have over the games themselves. One of the luxuries of owning an arcade, apart from cackling while you deprived small children of cash, was you could access each machine’s settings. If people were finding Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting too easy, you could crank up the difficulty. I took it for granted that I’d be able to do just that on the Capcom Home Arcade, but instead, you’re locked into each game’s default settings. Nor do you have the ability to apply scanlines to replicate exact visual appearance of the original arcade games.
It is to Capcom’s credit that there’s not a single duff title on the Capcom Home Arcade; one might grumble about Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo being left off the list, but being able to play as a mech-driving robot in Captain Commando almost makes up for it. All but a couple of the games support simultaneous two-player action, either co-operative or head-to-head (despite the wi-fi, there’s no online play). Roping in a friend doesn’t quite double the fun but the Capcom Home Arcade has definite party potential.
So is the Capcom Home Arcade worth picking up? For me, sadly, it's a no. As entertaining and nostalgia-tickling as the sixteen games are, it doesn’t warrant the lofty price tag. I bought the Capcom Home Arcade thinking I’d be getting a premium product (there are shadier and cheaper alternatives) but outside of its looks the console does relatively little to stand out. Shareable hi-scores aside it’s disappointingly bare bones, considering it bears Capcom’s seal of approval.
On top of that, it's impossible to ignore that many of the games featured on the Capcom Home Arcade have been released on other platforms, sometimes with features which are missing here. Last year saw the release of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, featuring every game from Street Fighter 1, all the way through to Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. Capcom also released the Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle, featuring another three games that crop up on the Capcom Home Arcade.
Ultimately you’re paying for the look and feel of the Capcom Home Arcade, the pleasure of grasping an arcade-quality joystick instead of a joypad: but that’s not enough to justify the price of admission. I ended up using mine less and less after the first few days (partly due to the user-unfriendly interface), and a month later, it’s languishing in a cupboard while I eye eBay.
Koch Media, which manufactures the console, are looking at addressing some of the console’s shortcomings, and there’s the possibility that additional games will be added at a later date (then again, they might not). Nostalgia might take the Capcom Home Arcade into many homes like mine but, when you factor in what other mini-consoles have to offer, the hit isn't long or strong enough to keep it there.