Most of us nowadays know Blizzard for their knockout hits like the Warcraft series, Overwatch, Diablo, and the like. Before that though, they had their classic releases for systems such as the SNES and the Genesis! Games like Blackthorne, The Lost Vikings, and Rock n Roll Racing are all available in the Blizzard Arcade Collection, along with specialty pieces such as behind-the-scenes features for the games, interviews, and a music player. These features make being a fan incredibly rewarding, as a peek behind the curtain is one of the most intriguing things when it comes to games. That being said, the Blizzard Arcade Collection is a love letter to original Blizzard fans and a great introduction to classic games for new fans.
As with most re-releases, the Blizzard Arcade Collection introduces a few new quality of life features, such as saving and loading through an external menu in order to keep your place in a game. This absolutely beats out the password system and allows players a much-needed stop and restart point after a while of playing. This was especially evident for me while playing Blackthorne, which displays the best and worst of the Blizzard Arcade Collection. Blackthorne is an old-style side-scrolling adventure game, with maze-like layouts and item puzzles like most classics. What’s really interesting about it is that the animations for the main character are actually rotoscoped! (I learned this from the behind-the-scenes archive featured in the collection actually.) Blackthorne is also available to play in every one of its iterations, as with the rest of the games in the collection. Playing the definitive edition is usually the way to go, so I tried that first. While I can say that the game is still good fun, the main issue is that there are next to no improvements made on the controls, movement, or anything. The game is playable exactly as intended, and that’s it. Aside from the new save functionality, this is true across all three games.
While Blackthorne might feel dated due to the control scheme, the game that really shone for me was Rock n Roll Racing, surprisingly enough. I have never been a fan of racing games in my life, but the second I opened Rock n Roll Racing I had a massive smile on my face. It was so cheesy 90s that I just had to sink my teeth into it. While the controls took a bit of getting used to, mostly because it was using the arrow keys instead of WASD along with backspace to select things, it was actually a ton of fun. The soundtrack blasting rock n roll songs while speeding around on alien planets was just a mix I didn’t know I needed. It’s such a callback to a time before games were really the mainstream, and I could just picture the environment that would host a game like this. There have been titles since that try to capture this same level of pure rock n roll fun, like Brutal Legend, but I really think Rock n Roll Racing is a true time capsule of that era.
Generally speaking, the Blizzard Arcade Collection has been nothing but a fun walk through what can effectively be called a video game museum. What’s presented in this collection is more than just the games themselves, even more than the soundtrack. It’s a preservation of the art form that can be easier consumed by a more modern audience. The contrast of UI from the old games to things like the escape menu, and seeing how the interviews and behind-the-scenes art pieces are framed really make this seem like it should be featured in a museum. All this coming together, along with being able to play all three games in each of their iterations is nothing short of a love letter to longtime Blizzard fans. While the games may be dated and left exactly as they were upon their releases, it’s not like they’re unplayable. Each game feels plucked directly from the period it came from, and the additional save functionalities in these games go a long way when it comes to progressing. This modernization of pick-up and put-down play along with the natural progression and discovery factors of these retro games are a perfect blend for people looking to pick them up again after 20 years or for someone playing them for the first time. A great collection for both Blizzard lovers and retro game enthusiasts.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC (Battle.net)