For the first round of games you can play on Capcom’s Arcade Cabinet, we’re going to take a look at the ones from 1984. These include space shooter Vulgus, platformer/shooter SonSon, Pirate Ship Higemaru (my personal favorite), and arcade smash hit 1942.
This was actually Capcom’s first game ever! You can’t buy it on the Arcade Cabinet, as it is actually one of the bonus games that opens up when you own all the others. As vertically scrolling space shooters go, Vulgus is pretty standard. You have a regular shot and limited supply of super cannon bullets that can penetrate a row of ships, giving you extra points. And there are lots of opportunities to blast ships lined in a row like that. I guess the background graphics and music is fairly decent for 1984.
One interesting thing about Vulgus is that even though it was Capcom’s first title, a couple of the icons found in the game have shown up in several other classics since then. First is the familiar POW icon. In other games, the POW collectible could eliminate all enemies on screen; turn them into fruit, among other things. Not sure what it does in Vulgus, though. Another iconic Capcom staple first found in Vulgus is the Yashichi, a pinwheel-shaped item. In many Capcom games, the Yashichi power-up would give your character lots of points, refill energy, or more. But in Vulgus, the Yashichi is an enemy who spins toward you, so don’t pick it up in this one!
It may look like a platformer, but SonSon is actually a cleverly disguised horizontally scrolling shooter. Play as monkey SonSon or pig TonTon (player two) as you hop on rows of blocks and shoot enemies. It’s actually pretty fun and one of my favorites in the Capcom Arcade Cabinet.
Here are some interesting facts about SonSon. The characters are loosely based (VERY loosely) on the classic Chinese tale Journey to the West, which features a monkey king. But then, lots of things are based on this story, including popular anime Dragon Ball (also VERY loosely based).
There is a character in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 named SonSon, but she is a lithe girl monkey, not the short, squatty one featured in the classic game. But she still stays true to classic roots. In the original game, SonSon could pick up a POW icon which turns all enemies on screen into fruit pickups for bonus points. In the fighting game, girl monkey SonSon can shoot out a POW icon and if it hits the opponent, they’ll turn into a giant piece of fruit for her to gobble up!
One last thing is that a couple of years after the release of SonSon, rival game maker SNK made a game that plays VERY similar to it called Psycho Soldier. SNK’s game is famous for its annoying theme song with vocals, and it stars Athena Asamiya. Yup, the same Athena from the King of Fighters series!
Pirate Ship Higemaru
This is my overall favorite game on Capcom Arcade Cabinet. In fact, I would’ve downloaded it just to play it. You play as a sailor who must navigate a maze of barrels on a ship deck to avoid roving pirates. Your sailor can pick up the barrels and roll them across the screen, knocking out any pirates along the way. Some pirates can hide in the barrels so you must hit them twice. It plays a lot like Sega’s classic Pengo game, which featured a penguin kicking ice blocks at enemies. I enjoyed playing Pengo a lot in arcades back in the day, in fact, I didn’t get a NES right away as a kid because I was perfectly happy playing Pengo on my Atari 5200. In Pirate Ship Higemaru, you have to pick up the barrels first, and you can’t toss them unless you have enough room, so sometimes the controls feel a bit clunky because of it. So I still like Pengo a little better. But Higemaru is still awesome. Of course, I DO enjoy classic single screen arcade games where you run around a maze chasing enemies or avoiding things. I guess that’s why I like Pac-Man so much!
Here are some interesting tidbits I read about Pirate Ship Higemaru while learning more about the game on the Internet. The name of the sailor you play as is Momotaro. Momotaro is a popular Japanese fairy tale about a boy who was born inside a peach, who later sailed to an island to defeat bad ogres. Could Pirate Ship Higemaru take place during the part of the story where he sailed to the ogre island? Who knows?
Pirate Ship Higemaru had one sequel, but it was on the Famicom (the Japanese NES). The sequel had more of an open world feel, like a Zelda game. You had to sail to islands and one of them even had enemies from another famous Capcom classic: Ghosts N Goblins!
Finally, the music in Pirate Ship Higemaru is pretty catchy, and the person who did the music in the game soon after switched to work for game maker Taito and joined their in-house band Zuntata. As a big fan of Zuntata’s work in game music, I thought that was pretty interesting. So yeah, Pirate Ship Higemaru is pretty awesome.
The last game from 1984 is probably the most familiar. 1942 was a simplistic vertically scrolling shooter featuring WWII planes over the Pacific. It was very popular in arcades and I saw it lots back then. In fact, one of the churches I used to go to had a 1942 arcade machine in their youth area! I appreciate the simplicity of this game, but the background sound effects are a little annoying (is it supposed to be Morse code?)
Tomorrow we’ll look at Capcom Arcade Cabinet games from 1985. Lots of familiar faces next time!