A few months ago, I decided to pick up an Arcade Archives title, Garou: Mark of the Wolves. I was feeling that fighting game itch, and eight bucks didn’t seem like that much scratch. Moreover, I’d never indulged in any of SNK’s classic fighting catalog, so I figured—if nothing else—it’d be an educational experience. So how is it? Arcade Perfect!
And that’s the problem.
For those of you who’re too young to remember when arcades were a big deal—which, come to think of it, largely applies to me as well—”arcade perfect” was a marketing buzzword used to describe home-console ports of arcade games. It meant that nothing was compromised (graphics, music, sound, and so on) when porting the game to consoles. See, arcade machines tended to be a bit beefier than home-consoles, as they weren’t just entertainment but also a business investment for store owners. As to be expected, the term has largely fallen out of use due to the declining relevance of arcades, but still gets thrown around from time to time, especially in arcade compilations like the upcoming Street Fighter collection.
“Arcade perfect” was a marketing buzzword that meant that nothing was compromised when porting the game to consoles.
Ultimately, my biggest gripe with Garou: Mark of the Wolves isn’t a design issue, it’s that the version on the eShop is literally just the arcade version running on an emulator. While there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, it does mean it’s missing many of the features that have been standard in home-ports since before the arcade version was even released. Honestly, it makes me question whether “arcade perfect” is really that good of a benchmark.
First of all, the game doesn’t have a training mode. The only single player content is arcade mode, meaning you have to learn the ins and outs of this game’s mechanics as the computer is mugging you for your (virtual) quarters. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game was a simple, straightforward one-on-one fighting game like Street Fighter 2, but that’s not the case. Garou was released in 1999, meaning it subscribes to the Street Fighter 3 school of design: master the incredibly precise timing of the parries and cancels or be content seeing your opponent’s win quote for the seventeenth time.
The game doesn’t have a training mode: you have to learn the game’s mechanics as the computer is mugging you for your virtual quarters.
Along the same lines is the lack of a proper move list. Granted, the emulator’s menu has a move list for each character, but each combatant only gets a limited amount of space, meaning that isn’t enough space for every move. If you want to know all of a character’s techniques, you’ll need to look up the commands online.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Of course, I’m looking at this from a modern perspective; what were home-ports like back in 1999? Well, while arcade versions usually had better hardware, the home version gave the developers the opportunity to fine-tune the game and add additional content. New characters weren’t uncommon, and it was standard practice to remix/remaster the soundtrack for the home version: Virtua Fighter 2, the Tekken series, and Garou: Mark of the Wolves itself all had superior sounding music in their respective home-console versions.
Maybe I’m taking the term a bit too literally, but the more I think about, the more I think “arcade perfect” is a pretty flimsy accomplishment. I by no means regret buying Garou: Mark of the Wolves, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Arcade Archive series, but no matter how good the games or their emulation is, staying 100% true to the originals can leave a game lacking. Ultimately, what’s perfect for the arcades isn’t perfect for the home experience.