Found vikings! It's Blizzard Arcade Collection
Digital Eclipse delivers another avalanche of excellence
The announcement of the Blizzard Arcade Collection gave me cause to raise my right eyebrow a mere fraction. See, I can't call myself the biggest fan of Blizzard, but I do like their older games. And seeing the inclusion of The Lost Vikings, Rock N' Roll Racing and Blackthorne was... well, what else could it be? They're the games that saw re-release on GBA back in the day, they're the Blizzard retro games. But I had no reason to expect... you know, effort.
Then I saw it was by Digital Eclipse! Of Aladdin: The Final Cut fame! Who also made the absolutely blindingly good Street Fighter and Samurai Showdown collections that represented the pinnacle of how to treat bonus content and presentation in retrogaming re-releases! Not to mention the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. Mega Man Legacy Collection. Disney Afternoon Collection. Do I sound like a fanboy? I suppose I am, a little bit. This lot could put out Pit-Fighter and they'd probably find something to include that made it interesting.
So what's the crack, here? Why am I getting all giddy again? Because they did the thing I knew at the back of my mind they wouldn't possibly do, because how could they? How could they possibly even know, and how could they fix it? Let me explain. See, The Lost Vikings is a very enjoyable platform-puzzle game on both SNES and Mega Drive, both versions of which are included here. The problem is, each version has an advantage over the other. The SNES version utilises the additional controller buttons (particularly the shoulders) for a much more comfortable control experience. However, the Mega Drive version has additional, extra levels that do not feature in the SNES game. Therefore, neither version is ideal. And I found myself thinking, well, in a perfect world, they'd somehow merge together both games by porting the extra content from the Mega Drive into the SNES game, so we get the best of both titles in one, but there's no way that they would do that, right?
WELL, THEY DID. THEY DID THE ABSURD, TOTALLY UNNECESSARY THING THAT I WANTED THEM TO DO. THE PIPE DREAM SCENARIO. We have a The Lost Vikings: Definitive Edition, now, and it marries the music, controls and aesthetics of the SNES games with the new levels from the Mega Drive. So, so much effort must have gone into this feature that only about fourteen people will ever appreciate, and I count as two of them on account of being fat. It's absolutely insane commitment and it's why I bloody love this developer.
Oh, yeah, there are two other games, and their treatment is similarly lavish. Rock 'N Roll Racing gets a full overhaul with the licensed, CD-quality versions of the game's songs - no Paranoid, sadly, but that presumably can't be helped. The game has been presented in 16:9, with a ton of visual tweaks and improvements, along with remastered (and some new) voice lines from original commentator Larry Huffman. The game is still a joy to play and both the SNES and Mega Drive versions are once again included but the Definitive Edition is the real sauce. combining tracks from both versions along with the already-mentioned enhancements.
Blackthorne has gotten plenty of attention, too, with the inclusion of the SNES game and rare-as-hell, horrible-looking 32X version - is this the first 32X game to be re-released in such a way? Naturally there's a Definitive Edition of this one, too, which adds a bloody useful automap to the SNES version and not much else - the additional ice levels from the 32X game aren't added, but you're really not missing much and you can play them in the 32X game if you absolutely must.
Add that to the usual, brilliant, jam-packed gallery of art, promos and brand-new documentary footage/interviews, as well as the expected suite of save-state/cowardly rewind features and you've got another absolute winner here. I urge you to support this level of effort being put into old games. Not just preserving them, but celebrating them. If I can fault anything here, it's the lack of Lost Vikings 2, but there's probably a good reason why it isn't here. The Lost Lost Vikings. I'd have liked to see both the SNES and PS1 versions, and maybe some day I will. In Blizzard Arcade Collection 2. Which is literally just The Lost Vikings 2. I mean, I'd buy it.
Edit 13/04/2021: They only went and patched it in. Lost Vikings 2, I mean. And RPM Racing, the predecessor to Rock 'N Roll Racing. They really are spoiling us, aren't they?