1985 must’ve been a banner year for Capcom, because many of their iconic staples were first introduced that year. So here’s a short rundown of the games from 1985 that you can play on the downloadable Capcom Arcade Cabinet. We have three vertically scrolling shooters: Savage Bees, military themed Commando, and the Western cowboy themed Gun.Smoke. Also there’s the iconic tough-as-nails 2-D platformer Ghosts N Goblins and the horizontally scrolling shooter Section Z.
Also known as Exed Exes, Savage Bees is a vertically scrolling shooter where you zap lots of attacking space bugs above a honeycomb-like background. Kind of reminds me of Galaga in a way, but not near as good. I don’t ever remember seeing Exed Exes OR Savage Bees in arcades back in the day, however. This game has a slight ‘cutesy’ vibe to it, though. Like in SonSon, if you collect the famous Capcom POW icon, all the enemies on the screen will turn into fruit that you can nab for bonus points. Gobbling up fruit just seems like an odd thing for a spaceship to do.
In this vertically scrolling shooter, you play as soldier Super Joe as you infiltrate enemy bases in jungles and deserts. You can shoot and throw a limited number of hand grenades. I would say it was inspired by SNK’s Ikari Warriors, but it may be the other way around since I’m not sure which came first. I would say I like Ikari Warriors more, but honestly, neither game is better than the other. I think I just have better memories playing Ikari Warriors. I know that Commando is super hard, though. Even though you can easily outrun the enemy’s slow moving bullets, you die in one hit and things can get hairy when they fill the screen with baddies and projectiles. Personally, I prefer the sequel to Commando, which was called Mercs and came out a few years later.
Ghosts N Goblins
Speaking of hard games, this one is known for its devastating difficulty. It’s like the developers hated gamers, because in order to get the true ending, you had to beat the game twice! Getting past level one was a feat for most folks! Anyway, in Ghosts N Goblins you play as the famous knight Arthur, who has appeared in many a Capcom game since then. Demons have kidnapped the princess and now Arthur must travel through several haunted areas to get her back. Arthur can pick up weapons besides his throwing javelin, such as knives and flaming torches. If he gets hit, Arthur’s armor falls off and he just runs around in his undies. Get hit once more and he turns into a skeleton and dies. What made this game difficult for me, though, was the controls, as jumping is kind of wonky here.
Anyway, Ghosts N Goblins is one of Capcom’s most recognized franchises, with sequels in the arcade, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and even the PSP (all with the unforgettable stage one theme song). Arthur has appears in several other games as well, and the enemy demon Red Arremer has even gotten his own spinoff with the Gargoyle’s Quest series of games! The 3-D platformer Maximo games on the PS2 are really just spiritual successors to the Ghosts N Goblins titles. What’s interesting is that the character illustrator for the Ghosts N Goblins games is named Susumu Matsushita, and he’s most famous for doing the cover art for the popular Japanese Famitsu video game publications. He also did the artwork for the Maximo games, too, which I think is pretty neat. I’m sad that Capcom closed the US offices that developed Maximo, though, because I knew some of the people who worked there because they were former team members who worked on the first two Pac-Man World games prior for Namco.
What’s neat about this game is that while most vertically scrolling shooters have a spaceship theme, this one had a Western cowboy motif. Pretty original for the time, and no it’s not based on the TV show. I guess the period in the middle of the title negates any sort of copyright infringement. I always say that Gun.Smoke is one of my favorite shooters, but I should be more specific when I say that. The arcade version of Gun.Smoke is super hard and suffers a bit because of it. It’s a one-hit-and-you-die kind of game, and it’ll start you over at a previous checkpoint, usually the beginning of the stage, making progress difficult. Back then, NES ports of arcade games had to be creative since they couldn’t be exactly like their arcade counterparts. The NES version of Gun.Smoke had reworked stages, more forgiving difficulty, catchier music, and other neat features like the ability to buy weapons and upgrades. So really, the NES version of Gun.Smoke is one of my favorite Western themed shooters, not the arcade version here.
And finally is this horizontally scrolling shooter. You control a guy with a jetpack and a gun, and can shoot forward and behind you. You have to travel through 26 sections of a space station that correspond to letters of the alphabet. It’s really hard and not very interesting, though. I prefer some similar space shooters from Capcom that came out afterwards, like Side Arms and Forgotten Worlds. Interestingly enough, in the NES version of Section Z, I think they said the main character was Captain Commando.
And that’s all for now! Next time we’ll look at Capcom’s oddities from 1986. Later!