I have a friend, and when anything newsworthy happens, his immediate response seems to be, “With all of this going on, it’s probably the end times.” It doesn’t matter if “this” is a full-scale riot or the release of Pokémon Go, his reaction is still the same. This is it. This is a sign of the apocalypse. Oscar Isaac will come for us all. Despite this person being a good friend, I don’t really know if he’s just that prone to hyperbole (which he certainly is, just the question is whether it’s on a literally apocalyptic level), or if he’s seriously stockpiling canned goods for the inevitable zombie/robot/Deathlok revolution. Whatever the case, I seem to hear the phrase a lot, and more than ever during an election year.
I know that this friend is not alone. As long as there has been the written word, there have been people scrawling something or other about “these must be the end times”, “the world is done, there’s no coming back”, or “kids today wear their hats wrong.” Miraculously, the world hasn’t ended yet, and I’m going to go ahead and claim that’s not going to happen for a good long while. If the world does explode, though, feel free to print out this article and mail it to me, and I’ll gladly send you a handwritten apology. Potential pen usage aside, we’re not looking at an apocalypse any time soon.
That said, our world is built on a series of apocalypses.
If you’re alive and reading this today, you’ve likely never seen a civilization crumble. Even if you’re one of my lucky centurion readers (I did mention Matlock in a review), you still likely originated from a civilization that can still be found on a map. Sure, it might be a little different than when you were first born (“There used to be more trees…”), but America is still America, and Europe is still Europe, even if the U.K. isn’t so much into that “united” thing anymore. One of the privileges of modern society, no matter your age, is having never experienced an apocalypse.
But make no mistake, there have been plenty of “worlds” ended. The Native American population once was the sole owner of this whole “America” thing, but a scant few centuries later, it’s hard to believe they ever represented an entire continent. Macedonia was the cradle of humanity a few thousand years before it saw the highest unemployment rate on the planet. Egypt was once the most advanced civilization on Earth, and now it’s primarily seen as a tourist trap for a handful of giant triangles. An ancient Grecian would likely weep over the current state of his kingdom, and wonder what horrible god brought this pestilence upon his people. Meanwhile, a modern Italian is probably just generally annoyed at the state of the country, and goes about the daily grind.
The world ended, we got over it.
And, of course, this brings us to the oft-predicted gaming apocalypse.
As I write this, a number of former stalwarts of the gaming universe, Capcom and Konami in particular, seem to have descended into the dread bowels of pachinko distribution. Many use this fact as support for the theory that gaming is dead forever, it’s never coming back, and we’re all doomed to a future of candy crushing and bird pacifying. Bullshit. Despite the fact that Capcom has seemingly given up on the Blue Bomber, we somehow have an inordinate number of Mega Man-alikes on the market, and I say “inordinate” entirely because you don’t see that kind of raw dedication to almost any other franchise… Except maybe Metroid, because, boy howdy, seems like Konami and Nintendo ignoring Castlevania and Metroid has led to more Metroidvanias than I can count. Yes, the old guard of gaming may be going in another direction, but even the franchises you used to love seem to have survived in all but (copyrighted) name.
But, like how we built our society on the bones of its previous occupants, this isn’t the first this has happened. Does anyone remember Midway? Midway Arcade Origins is our game of the day, and it contains all of Midway’s greatest hits. And I mean all of them.
Alright, fine, I’m being hyperbolic myself. This collection does not include Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, or War Gods. But what this game lacks in women in metal bikinis it more than makes up for by containing nearly every arcade hit for a decade. My initial plan for this game was to choose one game out of the thirty, focus on that, and maybe draw up some Rampage fanfiction or something (that sounds familiar…). That plan crashed on the rocks the minute I found it impossible to focus on any one game. Rampage is right next to Rampart, after all, and then we’ve got two Gauntlets, a Sinistar menacing Smash TV, and even Satan’s Hollow or Bubbles for obscure picks. It’s an embarrassment of riches!
While these are all simple and primitive arcade games, this collection is like catnip to my retro sensibilities. There was a time that a single life in any of these games would have cost me a quarter, and that was back when I was lucky to receive my monthly allowance of two dollars (that sounds absurd, but my parents were well aware that my grandparents would “cheat” my childhood budget every chance they got). Now that I have the ability to play these games with infinite credits from the comfort of my own couch, I suddenly find myself trapped in a retro-hole, unable to escape until I’ve tapped far too many root beers. Something like Spy Hunter should only hold my attention for a whole board or two, but then it’s hours later, and there are 29 other games to try. Be glad this article came out on time at all!
But the thing that really gets me is that almost none of these games are represented today (I guess Gauntlet has survived, but it’s not like we’re still afflicted with Marble Madness), yet they’re embodied everywhere. Smash TV is the ur-twin stick shooter, Super Off Road is every racing game in miniature, and Pit-Fighter has a pretty clear through line to Mortal Kombat. Despite the fact that we need Total Carnage more than ever in these troubled times, the majority of these franchises are completely forgotten, flushed forever into the leaky plumbing of gaming’s history.
So that’s what it looks like when the world ends. Arcades are pretty much a relic of the past, and Sinistar lives no more. But just because that era came to a close, and Bally-Midway has become Bally-Midway-Ozymandias, doesn’t mean that everything from that epoch is gone. Time marches on, things die, and worlds are lost, but the new world brings with it the treasures of old, and it’s a better world for it.
Even if it is the end times, it’s going to be all right. We’ll always have Toobin’.
FGC #156 Midway Arcade Origins
- System: Playstation 3, Xbox 360. Every game included here once lived in the arcade (or your local deli), so that might count, too.
- Number of Players: Is there a four player game in this compilation? I want to say it’s just three… Oh, wait! Gauntlet! Four!
- Hail Satan: I want to say I have never seen a Satan’s Hollow arcade cabinet out in the wild.
I can’t imagine why.
- For the record: I want to make it clear that I didn’t mean to offend any Native American, Macedonian, Egyptian, or Italian/Grecian friends. Just saying those countries used to be practically the center of the world, and now they’re not. They’re still great places, though! Egypt has all sorts of… uhh… sand? It’s like living at the beach!
- Favorite Game (MAO): I think Smash TV is my favorite arcade game to have unlimited credits, and my least favorite arcade game when on a budget. I have never won so many VCRs in my life!
- Did you know? Root Beer Tapper is, obviously, a “hack” of Tapper, the original game that featured a bartender serving beer. This version also was officially endorsed by Budweiser, and, of course, had plenty of product placement. However, even with the Bud scrubbed out, the victory screen for the Root Beer Tapper bonus game still paraphrases the infamous “This Bud’s for you” slogan. Couldn’t come up with a new line, lazy programmers?
- Would I play again: Before I played this, I would have said I wouldn’t bother. Now I have a hankering to return to Rampaging with a buddy…
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kinect Star Wars. I guess I’m going to play this game Solo. Han Solo. Han Solo. Please look forward to it!