When you think of “Taito milestones”, what comes to mind? Space Invaders, surely, as one of the most influential videogames of all time? The inimitable charm of Bubble Bobble? The unique style and innovation of Darius?
You’ll find none of these in Taito Milestones.
This new 10-game compilation is touted as being a selection of “classics that paved the way for the decades of Taito’s arcade dominance which followed”, with each game “representing a specific breakthrough in development and gaming history”. That’s not exactly incorrect, but without any of the above, it’s a collection that feels incomplete.
The cynical explanation is that, well, Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, and Darius are popular enough to make money on their own, or in their own separate collections. The more generous explanation is that Taito wanted to share the spotlight with some games that are less well-known but still historically significant—a a worthy goal, but one that Taito Milestones struggles to deliver on thanks to its barebones presentation.
There’s no museum feature of any sort, no art galleries, no development notes, no reflections on the legacies of these games—nothing to put these so-called milestones into context. I’ve been around arcade games and their history to already know the significance of games like Front Line and Halley’s Comet, but what makes Alpine Ski a milestone? What sets Chack’n Pop apart from all the other maze games that came before it? Taito Milestones won’t tell you, or even let you just nostalgically browse art and cabinet designs—not in the digital version, at least.
The Limited Edition, on the other hand, does include printed instruction sheets, flyers, and marquee stickers, based on the original arcade machines. They’re nice collectible items to have, among the various other things in that edition, but they also add insult to injury with regard to how much the digital version (and even the standard physical version) lacks. Even with nothing else, having digitised versions of those sheets included in the base game would be a welcome addition, while taking nothing away from the collectible nature of the printed versions.
Without any such extra features, Taito Milestones is just a simple bundle of games, almost all of which are already available individually on Switch. The collection is a collaboration with Hamster, the studio behind the (excellent) Arcade Archives series, and it’s those exact versions that you’ll find here. They have the same functionality, the same feature set, and the same interface (aside from a rudimentary game select screen). In other words, they’re solid, accurate ports with a few basic features overlaid, like button remapping, rapid-fire, and temporary saves, but lacking some of the other common conveniences, like instant saves / loads and display customisation.
They’re also games that are already individually available, with the exception of two—at the time of writing, Chack’n Pop and Space Seeker are the only games without separate releases, and I’d be surprised if they don’t get them in the near future. Taito Milestones is, in essence, a launcher for a handful of Arcade Archives releases, and a very basic, featureless one at that).
Having said all that, the games themselves are worthy of attention. Not all have aged well—Alpine Ski and Front Line are so clunky and poorly-balanced that they feel borderline unplayable to me, honestly—but they’re always at least somewhat intriguing in concept. (That’s another reason the lack of any museum features is such a glaring omission—that context would make the more poorly-aged games far more palatable.) Others, like Elevator Action and Qix, prove their timelessness, being as playable and enjoyable today as they were almost 40 years ago.
As a shoot ’em up fan, Halley’s Comet is a particular standout for me. It feels way ahead of its time in terms of responsiveness and a dynamic weapon upgrade system that, at full power, lets you flood the screen with firepower. You can see the origins of a whole breed of shmup here, with influence reaching as far as Cave’s Dangun Feveron. But whatever your jam, there’s something for everyone, with a decent spread of games covering a wide variety of arcade genres: puzzles, single-screen platformers, beat-’em-ups, action games, and shmups all get their moment.
There’s no denying the significance of Taito in arcade history, and even with some very stark absences, Taito Milestones collects a noteworthy selection of games. But without any sort of museum features to provide context and so little to offer that isn’t already available, I’m struggling to see what the actual purpose of this compilation is. If you’re so desperate to play Chack’n Pop on your Switch that you can’t wait for the inevitable standalone Arcade Archives release, maybe it’s worth shelling out for. If there are enough games here that you want to play (and don’t already have) that buying the collection works out cheaper than buying them individually, I guess there’s a benefit on a purely mathematical level.
That’s Taito Milestones‘ biggest problem: the missed opportunity to do really shed some light on the impact of the games it collects. These are historically significant games, but presented devoid of any of that historic context. Without that, and when almost every game is already available separately (and in an identical form, no less), saving a few bucks on a bulk-buy is the only real reason to pick this up. A collection claiming to be a celebration of the milestones of one of the most important companies in arcade history needs to be more than just a way to pinch pennies.
Publisher: ININ Games
Genre: Arcade, shoot ’em up, action, platformer, puzzle
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release date: 15 April 2022
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.