Blizzard Entertainment is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion, BlizzCon last month saw the announcement of Blizzard Arcade Collection. This anniversary pack delves into three SNES classics from the company’s early years, blows the dust out, spruces them up a bit, mixes up some artifacts from the company’s history, then wraps them in colorful paper and ties it all together with a big, shimmering bow – then shamelessly slams on a whole new price tag. So, are these games the freebies that keep coming? Or do we hope they kept the receipt?
The three games in question are those of 1992 The Lost Vikings, Years 1993 Rock ‘n roll races and 1994’s Blackthorne. These were the relatively humble beginnings before Warcraft came out in 1995 and kicked off the snowball for Blizzard’s mega-franchises, selling millions, millions, and tens of millions, which are cultural touchstones for generations of gamers. World of warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo and Overwatch: unimaginable accomplishments for the three UCLA graduates we see in the “Early Years” photo gallery, renting a bare office and taking lunch breaks on the floor without furniture. But here we are in 2021, 30-year-old Blizzard, and the three vintage games are getting a makeover.
At launch, the first sign that we are no longer in the 90s: thrilled to open a Rock ‘n Roll nostalgia festival, you must first spend a full 15 seconds holding the d-pad to cycle through a license d ‘End User Agreement before you can select “Accept”. Blizzard Arcade Collection will tell you the story of a brave start-up, but not before you embark on its mega-corp legal rituals. Rock n Roll!
Anyway, let’s first take a look at The Lost Vikings, the oldest of the Arcade Collection trio. It is a puzzle-platform in which you cycle through the control of three Vikings, exploiting their respective abilities in turn to bring the three to the exit of each level. The setup is really crazy: Erik The Swift, Baleog The Fierce and Olaf The Stout are grabbed by Tomator, the space emperor of Croutonia, for his intergalactic zoo. This grants Silicon & Synapse (as Blizzard was then called) the license to take the Vikings to all sorts of brightly colored settings, helping to keep the game fresh for most of its run. It was a well-reviewed game in its day and while its design included some of the hostile quirks of the players of the day (no checkpoints, mistakes severely punished by repetition), it doesn’t. . too much unpleasant to modern tastes. With the newly added ability to rewind and correct errors, you can imagine it performing well as a retro-style indie game if it released today.
When it comes to features, The Lost Vikings presentation features both SNES and Mega Drive / Genesis versions of the game and a new “ Definitive Edition ”, which includes the additional levels and three-player support of the version. Mega Drive, as well as a nice big screen title of map and screen borders drawn to enhance each step. However, some major strengths of the remastered vintage versions are missing: there are no save states, no rewind, no screen size or border options, and no filters. So if you want big-screen games and modern amenities like save / load – and frustration-calming rollback – leave the Definitive Edition alone.
Next up is Rock ‘n Roll Racing, which arrived a year after The Lost Vikings, in 1993. The futuristic isometric collect-items-tune-your-car racer is surely the jewel in the crown of Blizzard Arcade Collection, having been published to critical acclaim on several formats in the past. In this case, however, the Definitive Edition is indeed final. The entire game has been remastered into a big screen experience, the graphics have been subtly improved without altering the original content, and the soundtrack has been updated.
“Wait! Updated soundtrack ?!” we hear you cry. Fans of the SNES era might be wondering how Blizzard would treat the licensed chiptune soundtrack. Cut it out of the game? Replace it with something similar but legally different enough to avoid problems? Well, they went for option 3: re-license all the original tracks, lyrics and everything, in CD quality, and add more for good measure. This is the dream scenario. The growl “Break the law! Break the law!” Fits RNRR’s aesthetic so well that the whole package is like a parody of itself. The controls are still tight, the action smooth and the commentary even more hammered. In general, the sound and light has been boosted for a retro version that plays the way you remember it, not how it actually was. Impressive.
Along with the Definitive Edition is a new version of the four-player split-screen game. The track’s design and handling works well for multiplayer, and the concept’s silliness is perfect for throwaway races. However, it should be noted that you cannot play it (nor any of the Blizzard Arcade Collection for that matter) with a single Joy-Con. You will need a Pro Controller or a pair of Joy-Con for each player. Seems like a missed opportunity: If ever there was a game to stick on the table with that flimsy pop-stand and stick your fingers with a friend for, surely this is it. The package also contains the SNES and Mega Drive editions of the game. But in light of the excellent modernized version, they add little.
And finally, Blackthorne, the rotoscopic cinematic sci-fi platformer from 1994. The flavor of Blackthorne is decidedly 80s; the plot and the aesthetic are somewhere in between Conan, Terminator and Highlander, with an alien hero stalking, hiding in the shadows and then smoking one-handed grunts with a shotgun. Unlike The Lost Vikings, which takes advantage of its wild storytelling for all kinds of vibrant stage sets, Blackthorne sticks to a much narrower palette. It’s a more mature feel, but it’s also a little harder to persevere when the dark side of retro game design lets you replay tricky sections.
Unfortunately, the Definitive Edition is again not what we can recommend. It brings a new auto-mapping feature, but also adds some level-themed screen borders which can confuse things by looking like landscapes. Plus, like The Lost Vikings again, the quality of life supplements – save / load, rewind, screen size, etc. – are not present in the final edition. Another feature that brings older console versions to the fore is a Watch mode, which lets you see the entire game being played from start to finish, with the ability to jump to parts you want to see, and instantly take control. control and play from any point of the recording. The Lost Vikings has the same functionality: it’s really well implemented and a good way to remember what’s in the game and how to play. that favorite part again.
Blackthorne is a good game worth playing with the helpers added to the console versions. However, comparisons with Go back – from 1992, also available on Switch – are inevitable and unflattering. Blackthorne isn’t as skillfully paced or as satisfying to move around, but it’s something different if you’ve played Flashback to death.
There is one more thing in Blizzard Arcade Collection, which is the museum section. Here you can see the game boxes, concept art, and photos of the team set up in the ’90s, and listen to music from Blackthorne and The Lost Vikings. The most notable pieces here, however, are the video interviews with the founders and staff of Blizzard. The videos don’t reveal anything too surprising, but are still the unique memories of the people who were there. As such, they feel invaluable and highlight the human side of Blizzard’s impressive story.
As a birthday present from Blizzard to itself, Blizzard Arcade Collection has been put together with some care. Sometimes good things come in smaller packages, however, and much of the content here is superfluous. Two of the Definitive Edition games are worse than the SNES titles that are also included, while Rock ‘n Roll Racing’s is so successful that the inclusion of the SNES and The Mega Drive versions only created additional bulk. The result is the need to boot each version of each game multiple times to determine which one is really worth playing, which ruins the party a bit. But, despite all these imperfections, there is a lot to like: it might not be. exactly what we’ve always wanted, but it’s the thought that counts.