Evercade’s Data East Arcade 1 collection brings us 10 more Japanese classics

As we’ve seen with the Technos Arcade 1 cartridge, the Evercade platform is becoming a great place to enjoy not just classic home console games from years gone by, but also a wide variety of excellent arcade games from all around the world. The Data East Arcade 1 cartridge, bundled with the Premium package of the Evercade VS home console and also available separately, is another great package of Japanese arcade hits, covering a wide variety of genres.

There are ten games on the cartridge in total, running the gamut from simple but addictive early ’80s titles to some of Data East’s most graphically impressive games from the early ’90s. It’s a consistently solid package, with a couple of caveats — so let’s take a look at each of the games in turn!

Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja

Data East Arcade 1: Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja

Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja is one of Data East’s most well-known games — and a game that some Evercade players were disappointed to find the NES version of on the original Data East Collection 1 cartridge back around the Evercade launch. No, with the Data East Arcade 1 cartridge, we finally have the original 1988 arcade version to enjoy on the platform — and it’s a jolly fun time for one or two players, just as it’s always been.

For the unfamiliar, Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja casts you in the role of one of the titular Bad Dudes, who are attempting to stop a “spate of ninja-related crimes”, which includes the abduction of President Ronnie. And, as everyone knows, the best way to stop a ninja is to kick him repeatedly in the chin and/or bollocks, so that’s what you’ll spend a lot of time doing over the course of this game.

While the game might resemble a belt-scrolling beat ’em up at first glance, it’s actually closer in execution to a combination of Irem’s Kung-Fu Master and Namco’s Rolling Thunder in that most enemies (except bosses) go down in a single hit, and there’s a strong emphasis on moving between distinct “lanes” on screen by jumping between them. This game also marked the start of Data East experimenting with a quasi-cinematic approach for their action games, which would be built upon in later titles such as Sly Spy.


Data East Arcade 1: BreakThru

One of the best things about the Evercade is that pretty much every single cartridge in the system’s library contains a great combination of games everyone has heard of and games that no-one has heard of — and the Data East Arcade 1 collection is certainly no exception to that rule. I’d not come across BreakThru prior to playing this cartridge — but now I’m well and truly hooked on this enjoyable shooter.

Taking on the role of someone who is rather miffed that his experimental plane has been nicked by the enemy, BreakThru is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up in which rather than piloting a flying vehicle, you’re instead in a heavily armed car. This adds some interesting additional considerations to the mix that you don’t normally see in shoot ’em ups — usually involving having to jump over blockages in the road or between different “lanes” of a partially destroyed bridge.

BreakThru is a really enjoyable, fast-action game that you should definitely make sure you give a bit of time and attention, particularly if you enjoyed its stablemate Burnin’ Rubber from the original Data East Collection 1 Evercade cart. It may not be especially well-known — it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, which is as good an indicator of obscurity as any these days — but it’s definitely an enjoyable blast.


Data East Arcade 1: BurgerTime

Data East’s BurgerTime was absolutely massive in the early ’80s, finding itself ported to all manner of different home systems, including the NES, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Intellivision and a variety of home computer platforms. It’s easy to see why — it’s a simple, straightforward game that is nonetheless quite compelling and addictive, particularly once you get over its initial difficulty.

For the unfamiliar, BurgerTime casts players in the role of chef Peter Pepper, who is tasked with making giant burgers by walking over the top of each of their elements. Attempting to stop him are Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle and Mr. Egg, though these dastardly foes can be fended off by either throwing pepper at them, which stuns them temporarily, or dropping burger bits on them, which scores points and puts them out of action completely for a short period.

BurgerTime is a nice inclusion in the Data East Arcade 1 collection for Evercade, but it might not be one of the package’s biggest selling points. After all, the solid NES port of BurgerTime was already part of the previous Data East Collection 1 cart for Evercade, so some players may not see the need for two different versions of the same game. That said, it is interesting to compare and contrast the two takes on it and decide which one you prefer!

Chain Reaction

Data East Arcade 1: Chain Reaction

Better known these days as Magical Drop, Chain Reaction is the first installment in Data East’s classic series of frantic puzzle games, which challenge you to make stacks of three or more matching symbols in order to remove them from the board. It’s simple, it’s addictive, and it’s super-fun, whether you’re playing in the solo endurance mode, against the computer in a competitive battle, or against a friend in the versus mode.

Like BurgerTime, though, one can argue that Chain Reaction isn’t necessarily a main selling point of the Data East Arcade 1 collection for Evercade, since the superior Magical Drop II for Super NES is available as part of the previous Data East Collection 1 cart for the system.

Once again, though, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two versions and decide if you have a particular preference — and just because a sequel is superior, it doesn’t mean its predecessor should be precluded from being celebrated and preserved!

Darwin 4078

Data East Arcade 1: Darwin 4078

Another delightful obscurity from Data East’s back catalogue, Darwin 4078 is a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up in the Xevious style, accompanied by music that is uncannily similar to the Monolith Burger theme from Sierra’s Space Quest III. Or perhaps that should be the other way around, since Darwin 4078 hails from 1986, while Space Quest III first hit our screens in 1989.

Darwin 4078’s main hook is its “evolution” mechanic, whereby collecting power-ups causes your ship to evolve into various different forms, some of which are considerably more useful than others! Taking damage causes you to evolve back to the lowest form, though, so if you want to keep fighting effectively you’ll need to beef yourself back up again. That said, there are a few evolutions that you can only unlock if you take some unconventional actions, too!

Darwin 4078 is a very tough game, and may well put people off with its initial challenge factor. Get to grips with it, though, and there’s a satisfying shooter to enjoy — with plenty of variety and interest provided through the evolution mechanic.

Gate of Doom

Data East Arcade 1: Gate of Doom

Also known as Dark Seal, 1990’s Gate of Doom is an excellent isometric-perspective action game for one or two players, blending elements of Atari’s classic Gauntlet, belt-scrolling beat ’em ups and the fledgling action RPG genre. Taking control of one of four different character types, each of whom handle very differently, it’s up to you to battle through the forces of evil and generally prove yourself the heroic type.

Gate of Doom is a lot of fun because it’s absolutely not a mindless button-masher. Positioning and spacing is of critical importance, because each character has their own distinct reach for their weapons, and coupled with their speed, this means they all have an optimum range at which they can keep the pressure on the enemies while keeping themselves safe.

Add to that a highly enjoyable magic system that allows each character to transform into a variety of weird and wonderful forms, and you have the makings of a great adventure. Bring a friend for the best experience — this is an adventure you’ll want to share.

Lock ‘n’ Chase

Data East Arcade 1: Lock 'n' Chase

Lock ‘n’ Chase was Data East’s 1981 attempt to take on the might of Namco’s immensely popular Pac-Man, and while it never quite reached the dizzy heights of the yellow pellet-muncher, it’s still a very fondly regarded game from the era, and one that saw a fair few ports to different systems back in the day.

Taking on the role of a thief sporting a rather fetching hat, it’s your job to clear out a series of vaults by grabbing all the coins that have been carelessly scattered around their floors. Attempting to stop you in your efforts are the four members of the “Super D” Security Force, who, like the Pac-Man ghosts, each have their own distinct personalities.

Lock ‘n’ Chase distinguishes itself from Pac-Man by not providing you with a means of fighting back against your foes directly; instead, all you can do to protect yourself is close up to two doors behind you, or grab the treasure that occasionally appears in the middle of the vault, which stuns the Super D forces for an all-too-brief moment. It’s a simple but tricky game, for sure, but very rewarding once you get the hang of its core mechanics.

Sly Spy

Data East Arcade 1: Sly Spy

1989’s Sly Spy is a game that feels like, if it were conceived and developed today, would be a triple-A cinematic action game. That’s not a slight against it, mind; presented as it is in beautiful 16-bit pixel art, it’s a delightfully varied action game with obvious James Bond inspirations — very obvious in several places.

The game sees you controlling the titular secret agent through a variety of dramatic setpieces including parachuting into Washington, riding a motorbike in pursuit of suspects and fending off tigers at the harbour. Along the way, you’ll blast hordes of enemies and attempt to assemble the powerful Golden Gun to stack the odds a bit more in your own favour.

In many ways, it feels like a natural evolution of Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja — and this should be no surprise, since the same designer, Makoto Kikuchi, was responsible for both. Here, though, there’s a much stronger emphasis on using guns rather than hand-to-hand combat, and the game feels like it has a much smoother sense of flow as a result — even if it does make it more obviously resemble Rolling Thunder!


Data East Arcade 1: Tumblepop

Another pleasing obscurity in the mix, Tumblepop is Data East’s take on the single-screen platform combat formula — think games like Bubble Bobble and Rod Land, where the aim is to defeat all the enemies on each screen before moving on.

Tumblepop’s unique selling point is the fact that you use a powerful vacuum cleaner to suck up your enemies and then blast them back at other foes, enemy generators or bosses. You can also reveal hidden points items around the levels by shooting enemies at specific areas, and there’s the obligatory “collect all the letters to get a bonus” element, too.

Tumblepop is thoroughly charming, featuring lovely graphics that represent a variety of real-world locations, and some bouncy, silly, catchy music to accompany the action. Like most games of this type, it’s a tough old beast — but bring a friend along for the ride and there’s a lot of fun to be had. Much more fun than doing the actual vacuuming, that’s for sure.

Wizard Fire

Data East Arcade 1: Dark Seal

Wizard Fire is the sequel to Gate of Doom — and consequently is also known as Dark Seal II. It’s very much a case of “the same, but better” — fundamentally it plays very similarly to its predecessor, but features better graphics, better sound and some of the most astonishingly cheesy English voice acting you’ll ever hear. The villain in particular is absolutely fabulous.

Once again, the game unfolds as a blend of isometric perspective blasting and beat ’em up action for one or two players, with four different character classes to choose from. Massive bosses and super-fun setpieces make this one of Data East’s most spectacular titles from the early ’90s, and a real highlight of the Data East Arcade 1 collection.

All in all, the Data East Arcade 1 collection is a solid compilation of Japanese arcade classics to enjoy. While both BurgerTime and Chain Reaction are arguably weak points in the collection if you already own the previous Data East Collection 1 cartridge for the system, they’re still great games in their own right — and it’s great to be able to enjoy different versions of them according to your mood or whim.

One can only wonder what future Data East collections might unfold — but the company still has an extensive library left to draw from! What games would you like to see brought back?

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Pete Davison
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