Admittedly there are a couple of key properties in this disc: Burgertime from 1982 is probably the most recognizable game in the bunch (and one of the most challenging and creative), and Burnin’ Rubber — also 1982 — is a game that may be better known to retrogamers as Bump ‘n Jump. Magical Drop III is a fun Bust ‘a Move-style puzzle game that made for a great Neo Geo Pocket Color title I reviewed a decade ago. Caveman Ninja is the crazy hard arcade rendition of the SNES action favorite Joe & Mac. Heck, Bad Dudes is here, a Double Dragon clone where you rescue President Ronnie from a Ninja invasion — who’s not gonna love that?
There are some mildly entertaining choices, too, including shooter Heavy Barrel (1987) and brawler Crude Buster (1990), as well as the silly James Bond imitation Sly Spy (1989).
But then there’s Side Pocket, a pool game from 1986 that definitely doesn’t hold up today, and Street Hoop, a silly and weak NBA Jam-like game of pick-up basketball. Lock ‘n Chase was an awful Pac-Man clone back in the day and it definitely doesn’t show off any sort of redeeming value in its revival. It even touts the appearance of Burgertime’s rarely-seen sequel, Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory, but it’s so bad you can guess why it’s considered “rarely seen.”
I think my biggest problem with Data East Arcade Classics — other than the mediocrity of most of the games — is the lack of tender loving care for the overall bundle by the developer. The menus are confusing with poor layouts and terrible artwork. The unlockables aren’t really all that interesting. The game doesn’t support true widescreen so games are force stretched if your system’s set for 16:9. The emulation may make the games play correctly, but they’re all over the place in looks: Burgertime, for example, has inconsistent pixel sizes to make the original game look like a blurry mess. And to play these games you have to sit through an unbearable amount of load screens and developer logos on the first boot-up, as well as seemingly unnecessary load times between games.
And then there’s the big question: where’s Wind Jammers? That Data East game was awesome, and it’s not even here.
With digital distribution on the rise, arcade compilations are starting to get less significant because the games can be consumed individually for a small, impulse cost. What still makes compilations important is not just how many games can be fit on a disk, but in how these original games are celebrated. Data East Collection has all the pieces, but it’s just thrown together so haphazardly, and ultimately there are only a couple of games here that are really worth the time.