Evercade goes arcade: highlights from the launch of a great new collection

Regular readers will know a few things: firstly, we love some top-notch arcade games — and the modern renaissance in arcade-style games, too — and secondly, we love the Evercade retro gaming platform, which recently announced its multiplayer console edition, coming in November of this year.

It was only a matter of time before the two things came together, and it was finally confirmed early this morning: in November of 2021, alongside the Evercade VS launch, we’re getting four cartridges of arcade games, kicking off a brand new purple-spined arcade collection to go alongside the current red-spined retro console games.

Seems like a good time to see what each of these carts is set to offer, no?

01: Technos Arcade 1

The Technos Arcade 1 cartridge brings us 8 games, including Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone, The Combatribes, Block Out, Battle Lane! Vol. 5, Mania Challenge, Minky Monkey and Mysterious Stones.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge is an obvious highlight here, as it’s a beloved beat ’em up that not only helped to define a whole genre, it helped kick off a real golden age of this type of game in the arcades. Its follow-up, The Rosetta Stone, is perhaps less fondly remembered — at least in part due to it being developed by a different company and just published by Technos — but it remains an interesting installment in a series that has refused to stand still over the years. Even if that sometimes meant it took some steps in a peculiar direction!

Evercade arcade title The Combatribes
The Combatribes

The Combatribes is an interesting title in that it makes much better use of the same basic game engine as Double Dragon 3 to provide an experience somewhat akin to Renegade — a game found in its NES incarnation on the original Technos Collection 1 cartridge for Evercade. Rather than being a side-scrolling beat ’em up in the same style as Double Dragon, The Combatribes is instead more of an arena fighter in which you fend off a series of enemies before confronting a gang boss.

What’s particularly cool in this collection, as with so many other Evercade cartridges, is the fact that a number of lesser-known titles are included alongside the big hitters. Block Out is an excellent (and mind-bending) 3D take on the Tetris formula. Battle Lane! Vol. 5 is an immensely challenging vertically scrolling shoot ’em up. Mania Challenge is regarded as one of the first times a developer made a wrestling game actually “work”. Mysterious Stones is an ambitious attempt to bring the top-down adventure formula to the arcade. And Minky Monkey, a puzzle platformer with a passing resemblance to Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Junior, was Technos’ first ever game!

02: Data East Arcade 1

This cart brings us 10 games to enjoy, including the arcade versions of a couple of titles we’ve previously seen on the existing Data East Collection 1 cart for the Evercade. The full lineup includes Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, Breakthru, Burger Time, Chain Reaction (aka Magical Drop), Dark Seal, Darwin 4078, Lock ‘n’ Chase, Sly Spy, Tumblepop and Wizard Fire.

The strength of this collection is the diversity of experiences it provides, as those games cover a variety of different genres. We’ve got the platforming beat ’em up action of Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, the frantic puzzling of Chain Reaction, the isometric hack-and-slash of Dark Seal and Wizard Fire, the classic shmup action of Darwin 4078 and plenty more besides.

Evercade arcade game Wizard Fire
Wizard Fire

Many of these titles have seen standalone downloadable releases on modern platforms, though many of them came out through the “Johnny Turbo’s Arcade” label, which fairly consistently featured questionable emulation and fuzzy graphics. This cartridge will likely be the definitive way to enjoy most of these games in an officially licensed way on a home (or handheld) console.

While it might seem like a bit of an odd one out amid the other more graphically impressive titles on this collection, it’s great to see 1981’s Lock ‘n’ Chase in there, too. This is a really interesting take on the maze game formula thanks to its ability for you to close doors and change the layout of the level on the fly, and it hasn’t seen many rereleases over the years — the last one was in the Data East Arcade Classics collection for Wii and PlayStation 3 back in 2010. Make sure you give it a shot — you might be surprised how compelling its simple gameplay is!

03: Gaelco Arcade 1

Now here’s an interesting one — some of you may not be familiar with the name Gaelco, as it’s not quite as much of a household name as Technos and Data East. But this Spanish developer made some absolutely gorgeous arcade games in their prime, blending their own distinctive style with some strong influences from the Japanese arcade game legends of the time. And this collection, which includes Alligator Hunt, Biomechanical Toy, Glass, Snow Board Championship, Thunder Hoop and World Rally, shows off some of their best work.

The highlight for many in this collection will be 1993’s World Rally, an excellent isometric perspective racing game that was a big hit in arcades. It’s noteworthy in that while it was a highly playable, popular game, it never got an official home port; developer Zigurat Software was in talks with Sony about converting the game to PlayStation back in the day, but this never happened. And to make matters even more complex, the original arcade board’s anti-piracy system made it extremely difficult to emulate until we were well into the 21st century!

Evercade arcade game World Rally
World Rally

Don’t pass up the other games on this collection either, though, since they all impress in their own way. Alligator Hunt provides some visually stunning “Cabal shooting” action; Biomechanical Toy is a solid and well-presented platformer; Snow Board Championship is essentially World Rally on a mountain; and Thunder Hoop is a challenging Dragon Ball Z-inspired platformer.

A personal favourite, though, is Glass, a game that combines the area capture gameplay of titles like Qix with frantic shoot ’em up action — and rewards success with pictures of either anime girls or digitised photos of men in Speedos, depending on whether you choose “Girls Mode” or “Boys Mode” at the outset.

04: Atari Arcade 1

Like the existing Atari Collection cartridges for the Evercade, the Atari Arcade 1 collection features some of the oldest titles from gaming history that you’ll be able to revisit on your Evercade. The 13 games on the cart include Asteroids Deluxe, Canyon Bomber, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Liberator, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, Night Driver, Pong, Sky Diver, Super Breakout and Warlords.

Evercade arcade title Warlords

For those who came to gaming a bit later than old farts like me, the simplistic graphics and sound of old Atari titles can be a bit of a hard sell — but do give this collection a chance. Many of these titles are legitimate all-time classics that helped to define genres, establish a firm basis on which future developers would later build and expand — and indeed help to establish the concept of “video games” as a valid form of entertainment.

Many of these games will particularly shine when played on the Evercade VS console due to their multiplayer options — doubtless the big hit in this regard will be Warlords, which offers frantic four-player fun as you bounce a fireball back and forth between one another and attempt to destroy your opponents’ castles. But make sure to give Canyon Bomber and Sky Diver a shot with friends, too; the simple, easy to understand gameplay of both of these titles makes them enormously competitive!

These three arcade cartridges are set to launch in November of 2021, and will be playable on both the existing Evercade handheld and the Evercade VS console, the latter of which will also be joining us in November of 2021. Click here to find out more about the new cartridges — and the Evercade consoles themselves — on the official site. Preorders for the Evercade VS open on May 28.

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Pete Davison
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