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Big Box, Little Box: Three Great Arcade to Console Ports

When a game company decides to adapt a hit arcade game for a home console, is preservation really the point? A lot of big box games are ill-fitting for personal systems for one reason or another, so they never make it to the more lucrative world of console gaming. Others get a few minor (or major) tweaks to make them fit in the home market. For a long time this meant toning down the graphics, programming the D-pad to mimic the sluggishness of an arcade joystick and fiddling with the difficulty so it would encourage continued play from enjoyment and not so much from sheer challenge. Most arcade-to-console ports, especially in the heyday of arcade boxes, were low-rent versions of the real thing. The following are ports that actually managed to do it right.


The many versions of Gauntlet that popped up in the 80's and early 90's on computers and consoles were really more spiritual sequels of the arcade original than strict adaptations. Then again, the play-til-you-die style of the big box game just doesn't make any sense in a home version. The Gauntlet port takes everything that was good about the original and makes it work on a much more console-intuitive level.



Until the 32-bit machines hit the market, it was a given that console ports of arcade fighting games were going to be uglier, chunkier and all-around less fun than the originals. Everything from Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat played like cheap imitations on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. So, when Sony trotted out Tekken as one of the launch titles for the Playstation it was a pleasant surprise to find a console version that was functionally identical to the original. The graphics were still in crisp 3-D, the full soundtrack backed the action and all of the special camera angles were intact. Best of all, console players got to enjoy a variety of stunning cutscenes that gave the fighters a bit more character. I wish I could say that Sega's Virtua Fighter got the same treatment, but the ports for that game just didn't live up to the new standard set by Tekken.


GuitarFreaks/Guitar Hero

This one isn't a direct arcade-to-console port, but it still qualifies. RedOctane, the company that produced the first Guitar Hero game for the PS2, was also the company that designed the original controller for Konami's unique and highly popular arcade game GuitarFreaks. At the time (1998), musical rhythm games were nothing new in Japan. The mini-guitar controller is what set GF apart from the rest of the crowd. When the box hit American shores a couple years later it was an instant hit, but the arcade market was already losing out to the latest console boom. RedOctane adapted their controller for home use and added visual flash by several orders of magnitude in order to come up with Guitar Hero. Mix in some licensed music and you have one of the most successful games of the past decade.