(Pocket-lint) - In the current climate, retro is incredibly voguish. Vinyl is once again outselling CDs, old toys like the Rubik's Cube are being revisited, and the games industry has got in on the act with a string of miniaturised, hard-wired old consoles. Which is all very gratifying for those of us who were there the first time around.
When it comes to retro authenticity, it would be hard to top the Capcom Home Arcade. Resembling the top panel of an old arcade machine, it combines two joysticks, each with six attendant buttons, and 16 of the games with which Capcom wowed an arcade-frequenting generation of teenagers in the 1980s and 90s.
There's nothing miniaturised about the Capcom Home Arcade: it's big and emblazoned on top with the familiar but rather garish Capcom logo – so you probably won't want it taking pride of place if your living room looks like something from the pages of Wallpaper. Curiously, it wasn't designed and made by Capcom – rising publisher Koch Media took those duties on, and licensed its games from the Japanese publisher.
It's pretty easy to get it up and running: it comes with a nice long HDMI cable (essential, because that allows you to sit well away from today's typically giant TVs) and a Micro-USB power cable. It also has built-in Wi-Fi, which enables you to download updates for it and to keep tabs on a global high-score table.
Annoyingly, the supplied documentation doesn't tell you how to launch its setup menu, although the online documentation does: just move the left joystick up and right at the main game-selection screen. It does, admittedly, work perfectly well without being hooked up to the Wi-Fi, but it's maddening when setup manuals omit basic details.
Given that its physical attributes take in two pro-grade beat-em-up fight-sticks, you might presume that the Capcom Home Arcade could also operate as a controller for beat-em-ups on consoles and the PC. It has a USB-out port for that purpose, so it should work with the likes of Xbox One and PS4 – going some way towards justifying its hefty £200 price-tag, at least for hardcore beat-em-up players. But we couldn't verify that, since it wasn't supplied with a USB-to-USB cable.
By far the best aspect of the Capcom Home Arcade is its roster of games, which includes plenty of stone-cold arcade classics, some super-rare and often brilliant curiosities and, admittedly, a couple of venerable oddities that offer an intriguing glimpse into just how basic game development was in the 1980s, but aren't really much fun to play.
About 10 of its games should induce extreme excitement in connoisseurs of arcade machines, and stand up surprisingly well today. All the games on the machine have been treated to pixel-perfect ports, meticulously preserving their original attributes, spelling mistakes in text and well-documented glitches included.
Among the games which need little introduction among gamers of a certain age – and would almost certainly have been played by those who mis-spent their 1980s teenage years in the arcades – are Street Fighter II, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Final Fight, Gigawing and Alien Vs Predator.
The Street Fighter franchise still rumbles on, and Street Fighter II shows exactly why it has managed to endure so long. Its gameplay – surprisingly tricky – has a purity which many modern 3D beat-em-ups have lost to complexity, and you will marvel at the ingenuity of its pixelated graphics: all those familiar Street Fighter characters and their signature moves are easily identifiable. Street Fighter II is nothing less than a beat-em-up history lesson.
Ghouls 'n Ghosts, an early platformer with a glorious Halloween-style theme that's all gravestones and Grim Reapers, is another classic, also throwing brawling into the mix, with a surprising amount of humour. If you get hit while wearing armour, for example, you'll find yourself running around in your underwear for a while, and some of its chests contain evil wizards who transform you into a duck.
Final Fight is an excellent Double Dragon-style street brawler, featuring some unsavoury characters which might not necessarily conform to modern standards of political correctness.
Gigawing is simply one of the finest vertical-scrolling shooters ever, with gloriously psychedelic visuals, a clever mechanic which lets you reflect incoming fire whence it cam, and some brilliant anime art in its intros, constructed using individual pixels.
Alien Vs Predator is a 1994 brawler which operates as a time-machine back to the pop-culture of the period, but hasn't aged particularly well.
We would contend that the most exciting game on the Capcom Home Arcade is Progear. One of the last games to come out – back in 2001 – before the economics of the arcades collapsed as consoles became more powerful and 3D games consigned pixels and sprites to history, it is magnificent to both behold and play. It's a side-scrolling shooter with a steampunk theme, and is one of the finest-looking 2D games ever made. Next to none of its arcade cabinets ever made it to the UK.
Eco Fighters, from 1993, is another great obscurity that was undeniably ahead of the curve. As its name suggests, it has an eco-friendly theme, pitching you against evil mega-corporations which are destroying the environment of various planets. It's surprisingly ambitious, with a curious game mechanic that places your (side-scrolling) ship's gun on a pole which can be rotated clockwise and anticlockwise by pressing buttons. It takes a bit of getting used to but is strikingly inventive and looks great.
Captain Commando is undoubtedly the funniest game on the Capcom Home Arcade. Another side-scrolling street-brawler, it has great comic book-style graphics and a gloriously irreverent vibe – for example, an enemy with a sword can chop you clean in half. The characters it lets you play as have some great special abilities, too.
1944 The Loop Master is another late-stage arcade game: it came out in 2000 and represents the pinnacle of the then extremely popular vertical-scrolling shooter franchise. It's very polished and highly addictive to play.
Japanese developer/publishers like Capcom were renowned for sometimes coming up with brain-melting visuals that were probably best avoided if you were susceptible to migraines, and the Capcom Home Arcade includes two examples of such games.
Mega Man: The Power Battle is a hyper-coloured collection of excellent – albeit very taxing – boss-battles, which lets you keep a weapon from each boss you defeat.
Darkstalkers The Night Warriors is an absolutely bonkers 1994 beat-em-up with vast amounts of character and style, in which you play as various brilliantly animated demons. It's pretty funny, plays similarly to Street Fighter and it would be lovely to see Capcom resurrecting it with modern technology.
The Capcom Home Arcade's extensive roster also includes Super Puzzle Fighter II, a decent, Tetris-influenced puzzle game which is reminiscent of the sort of games you see people playing on their mobiles on trains these days.
There are two eminently playable early mech games, too: the rather esoteric Cyberbots Full Metal Madness, and Armored Warriors, which is more of a brawler.
Capcom Sports Club offers variety via football, tennis and basketball games, but only the last of the three is any good.
And Strider is another platform-brawler that rather betrays the fact that it has been around since 1989, boasting some very dodgy animation and questionable collision-detection.
Overall, the Capcom Home Arcade is an absolute goldmine for anyone with an interest in the games industry's arcade era, and the sheer playability of the games it houses, coupled with the fun which can be derived from playing many of them (most support two players) should prove an absolute revelation to a generation which wasn't even born when the arcades held sway.
It gives you a genuine thrill when you repeatedly press the Insert Coin button to generate all the credits you want (a vast improvement on the technique back in the day, which involved badgering parents until they produced a bag of 10p pieces).
The arcades may have disappeared, but the Capcom Home Arcade is the finest memorial to them that we have encountered.