Why Xbox Live Arcade needs a revival of REAL arcade games

There are probably a millionthoughts swirling around your head right now pertaining as to why I’m wrong. ‘But there are loads of old arcade games on there’, you may opine. ‘They even gave Turtles in Time a 3D remake!’ But that’s not the point. Arcades, when they existed, weren’t just a place to play games. They provided a unique and specific flavour of pure gaming that didn’t exist anywhere else. And sad to say,it's a flavour that's increasingly dimished in new games over the years. Which is where XBLA should come in, but doesn’t.Read on. I’ll explain how important a part of gaming we're currently missing out on, and what needs to be done about it.

Arcades were a very different gaming culture to what we’re used to now. They weren’t about providing cinematic, 20-hour experiences that you were still learning to play a quarter of the way through. They were about hitting you hard and fast between the eyes with a crossbow bolt made of pure awesome, rupturing your brain into a rainbow of fruit flavours and leaving you to choke in the corner on a spewing throatful of your own adrenalin, until someone found a paramedic or you found enough change for another credit.

Arcade games wereabout pure video games. Each game knewit onlyhad you for five or ten minutes at a time, so they had to impress fast. You were standing in a shimmering palace of ADHD debauchery, every screen flickering and humming with new magic, and every molecule of air vibrating with rings, dings, bloops and crunches. You weren’t with any game for the long haul. You were there to experience everything.

So arcade games had to do everything they could to blow your mind in the few minutes they had with you, massaging your eyes with spectacle and pounding your ears with rewarding noises in the hope that you’d remember them fondly and come back soon. Like competitive hookers in a packed-out 50-storey brothel, except that the only blisters you’d have at the end of the night would be on your fingers. Arcade games were about putting it all up front,overloading your senses witha million different cool things to see and do each and every second, and wrapping it all up in clear, simple, but satisfying mechanics you’d come back to again and again.

Above: Best game ever made.Fact.Also, coming to XBLA soon. Othe devs, take Sega as your example

But so many of the great arcade franchises are now dead. With home gaming now king, and modern game design now primarily focused on the epic and lengthy, that type of old-school arcade mind-splosion just isn’t fashionable enough, seen as either too shallow or two unsophisticated to sell on a £50 disc for an ultra-powerful new HD machine. And, to quote the star of a certain classic arcade franchise briefly resurrected on the Wii, ‘Shit man, that ain’t right’.

The fact is, we need arcade games. They were a gloriously brash and exhilarating tribute to the gleeful escapism and hedonistic, rock ‘n’ roll excess thatgaming can be. And we need them to keep things balanced. If Silent Hill 2 isa Lynch movie, arcade gameswere Crank. If Ocarina of Time is a symphony, arcade gameswere a five-minute track of bassy, pulse-pounding Techno. I love all aspects of what games have evolved into, and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’m GR’s residentgames-as-art evangelist.But I miss thethe glorious, pick-up-and-playmadness.

Above: The essence of arcade games in one single image

And XBLA and PSN should be portals to a constant stream of it. But they’re not. Regardless of Xbox Live Arcade’s name, modern-day equivalents of the classic arcade experience are remarkably few. I don’t want slightlyupscaled versions of crusty old side-scrollers I've played before. I want a new generation of contemporary arcade games, and brand new sequels to old ones. With modern-day technology and fidelity applied to that kind of balls-out, make-you-puke-with-excitement game design, that stuff could be goddamn incandescent.

I’ve had a taste of it with Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Everything about it, from the gaudy title screen logo, to the cheesy and upbeat voice-over, to the primary-colours-beat-everything-else visual palette, to the ludicrous obsession with exploding mad, action-movie nonsense all over the screen on a second-by-second basis, positively screams of brain-pulsing, old-schoolarcade joy. With their lower pricing structure and propensity for smaller-scale, less commercial, more focused games, XBLA and PSN should be dripping with the thick sugary globules of a neo-arcade game movement.

But they’re not really. What they do have is amongst the best modern gaming has to offer, but at the same time, they could (and should) also be picking up where the old arcades left off and running with it at 10, 000 MPH.

But what do you reckon? Do you miss the ballsy, brash purity of the arcade gaming experience as much as I do? Or am I a crazy fool, pining over shallow and silly games when there are epics to play? And if you do want a proper revival, what were your favourite arcade games back in the day? Let me know in the comments, or via our ever so warm and inviting community areas onFacebookandTwitter.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.