Blizzard are known for their mega-franchises such as Overwatch and World of Warcraft. Have they released other titles? Sure, but the world keeps rotating without mention, as a few titles within their resume have not really demanded a re-release. Blizzard Arcade Collection looks to patch that for the company, as it puts together three classic titles into one easy package, with a bit of love added in for good measure. Does this compilation take us back in all the right ways, or is it best to give these “gems” a pass? Let’s find out.
Well, for their time, two out of three of the games within Blizzard Arcade Collection are well rounded with narrative. The Lost Vikings is about three vikings trying to make their way across time. Blackthorne features a protagonist by the name of Kyle, who must return to his homeland and defeat an evil ruler. Rock n’ Roll Racing doesn’t have much of a plot aside from music and racing, but that’s not really needed in a title like that. I think my biggest surprise of Vikings and Blackthorne, more particularly the latter – is that there was a lot of work applied to making these stories well rounded and deep. In the early nineties, story wasn’t exactly the focus of gaming, but these two titles in particular feel as if they were developed for their story, where the gameplay was simply meant to be a device or platform for its telling. That feel is what truly makes this collection feel unique. We have an offbeat comedy, a serious action adventure, and a sleek, cool racer.
I don’t think I played any of these titles outside of The Lost Vikings before trying Blizzard Arcade Collection, so I guess that is a good place to start. The Lost Vikings has the player take control of three different Vikings per stage, where they must get them all to the exit. Each Viking has their own unique skillset, such as a shield, attacks with swords and bows, and the ability to jump far. The player has to take turns with the cast, swapping between Vikings to trigger unique switches and doors that will allow all to pass. Its clever, and mostly cohesive despite having limited controls to handle the overall experience. What I mean by that is that it is a bit tedious at times to use items, but still doable as there is never a sense of urgency.
Blackthorne feels very similar in terms of gameplay, but is styled as an action-adventure side scroller, where the player must simply survive obstacles and defeat enemies to progress. Rock n’ Roll Racing is just a racer featuring attacks and power-ups, and plays a bit like Super Off-Road, leading to some exciting and very different racing experiences. These ports play well and feel polished, with each featuring their individual Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis releases, as well as a more polished “definitive edition”. Outside of a few minor nuances, if you have played any other modern compilation title, then you should know what to expect here as despite a lot of flare, Blizzard Arcade Collection seems to package itself well to be worth its price tag as these are not just arcade titles, but full console games that each have a good bit of content.
There is also a documentary that was very nice to see bundled here, providing a history lesson of sorts, and getting to see cameos from other characters pop up in various titles within the collection should add incentive for players to get to see how proud Blizzard actually are of the little legacies they created so long ago. Would I have liked to see more content? Sure! There is enough to fill a museum here for these three titles, but without much interactivity and push when it comes to capturing that compilation feel, I think some of the new features provided may be lost to new players who never got a chance to see the original versions. Everything feels kind of pasted in, and I think extra attention to special menus and general design prior to entering each game would have highlighted all of these features even more.
Outside of their original format, there isn’t a lot new to speak of here other than the definitive versions of each title looking fantastic in 4K. Again, these three titles are very different from one another, and each art style should give the player three very different experiences based on that alone. The menus are rather plain and feel generic, which isn’t a deal breaker, but shows another area where we certainly could have seen some more celebration for games that are more than worthy.
Sound wise, there is nothing to complain about. I love the music from The Lost Vikings and while not mind-blowing, Blackthorne also features a serviceable soundtrack. Rock n’ Roll Racing however is one of the first racers to feature licensed music from artists such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, and to see those licenses extended into a port shows how much the company still cares about their preservation. Sega Genesis’ most recent collection had a lot of audio issues, as did a few Capcom ports, and I found no issues whatsoever during my time with all three games within Blizzard Arcade Collection.
Blizzard Arcade Collection is a rad compilation of three niche titles that now will have a home on modern consoles, and that is awesome. It’s interesting to see how three very different styles of games can still somehow capture a similar feel, and there is not one dud within this set. One can argue that there should be more content or presentation to the package itself here, but with a documentary, newly tuned definitive editions, and seeing the original forms of all the games included makes this release a history lesson worth attending, as players are sure to see how Blizzard became the behemoth they are today.