['Compilation Catalog' is a regular biweekly analysis of retro remakes and compilations old and new. This entry's subject is Capcom Classics Collection Remixed, released this year for Sony's PSP.]

Capcom has been releasing compilations of their 8- and 16-bit arcade games since the 32-bit years with the import-only Capcom Generations packages, though since that time the company has stuck to giving the retro treatment to a very specific set of their hits. The Ghosts n' Goblins series, the series of shooters beginning with 1942, Commando and a couple of close relatives, Final Fight, and the Street Fighter II series have all seen multiple releases on multiple platforms since then, but many of Capcom's well-loved - though perhaps less-successful - titles have languished. Thankfully, this compilation seems to signal a change in the wind.

Black TigerCapcom Classics Collection Remixed brings together 20 titles that were released for several of Capcom's custom arcade boards, up to and including their wildly successful Capcom Play System hardware. Several of the titles (most notably Final Fight, Forgotten Worlds, and Strider) have received well-respected home ports in the past, and while they are in perfect form here, the true stars here are the long-neglected titles that have rarely or never been seen at home. Black Tiger is an extremely well-crafted platformer that was scheduled for NES release at one time, but never made it out.

The fast-action dungeon-platformer Magic Sword received a SNES port once upon a time, but it's a relief to finally see it preserved in proper form here. The three-game compilation Three Wonders may seem like an oddball grab bag at first, but it includes some of the prettiest visuals in this package, and the run n' gun Midnight Warriors is strongly reminiscent of Treasure's Gunstar Heroes (which it preceded by two years). And despite three separate rereleases of 1942, 1943, and 1943 Kai, the nicely polished fan favorite 1941 hasn't made it home since it came out for NEC's ill-fated SuperGrafx console - until now.

Along with the cult classics, there are some oddballs that are so obscure that even if they were denied home release indefinitely, Capcom might be forgiven for not taking the risk with them. Quiz & Dragons is a fantasy-themed, uh, trivia game, that incorporates a few RPG elements and has a body of questions that draw heavily on '80s and early-'90s pop culture. The references to TV shows of the era are especially difficult these days, though the game's no slouch when it comes to questions about anatomy or history.

The Speed Rumbler, Avengers, and Last Duel are three odd little top-down, vertically-oriented action games, each with fairly original (and often strange) mechanics. Block Block is a Breakout clone, but it's polished and well-made, and seems to be one of the better examples of a well-trod genre. And Varth is a very tough, very long vertical shooter, with thirty (!) levels and excellent art design.

Capcom's development for NES often involved the practice of adapting arcade releases with significantly different level layouts, graphic styles, and even different gameplay. Also preserved here are three examples of arcade games that received well-known NES treatments: Section Z, Legendary Wings, and Bionic Commando. Some might argue that the NES versions of these games are better remembered because they're simply better games, but the games' presence here means that the curious can find out for themselves.

Forgotten WorldsEven those titles that have been around the bend consolewise are in excellent form here. Forgotten Worlds includes some interesting approaches to adapting its uncommon rotary controller's firing scheme to PSP controls. One involves using the face buttons to approximate a second D-pad, while the other has the player turn the PSP upside-down so that the analog nub can be used to fire in any direction and the face buttons used to move the player. The well-loved beat 'em up Captain Commando is in perfect form here, after an unflattering SNES port and a now-rare and expensive showing on the Japanese Playstation.

The horizontal shooter Side Arms may have fared well on the TurboGrafx-16, but it's nice to see all of its animation restored. Mega Twins, a platformer that's almost a spiritual successor to Black Tiger makes it home here without compromise for the first time, even after a few ports back in the 16-bit days. This likely marks the first perfect port Final Fight has ever received (discounting the resolution-challenged version in the console Classics), and Strider finally gets to stretch out into its native aspect ratio. The old-and-moldy Street Fighter makes a token appearance here, too, though it's not much more than a curiosity these days.

The package uses a notebook-themed menuing system that's very similar to what was seen in the multiplatform Capcom Classics Collection. There are unlockable tips, artwork, and music for each game, and each includes a short description linking it to its time and to Capcom's history. It's clear that great care was taken with how each game is presented, as there are multiple video and control modes available for each game. Most games can be displayed at native or stretched resolutions, and every game that used a vertically-oriented monitor in the arcade has an option to be displayed vertically, with controls automatically rotated to suit the orientation. All of these settings are automatically saved and maintained, so there's little to fuss with as far as configuration goes.

And speaking of aspect ratio: games on the CPS hardware used a resolution that put them very close to a 16:9 aspect ratio, which means they fit the PSP's screen particularly nicely, even without stretching turned on. The only real technical problems present mostly seem to be due to issues with the PSP hardware itself. Starting any given game involves around fifteen seconds of loading, and return to the menu screen takes nearly as long. There's some of the PSP's infamous ghosting present here and there, though it's mostly limited to games that use a lot of black in their backdrops. Overall, though, emulation-workhorse developer Digital Eclipse has turned out a very polished product here.

Midnight Wanderers (3 Wonders)This collection does more than previous Capcom retro-releases to illustrate the consistency of graphical and musical style, as well as some consistently great gameplay, that was present across nearly a decade worth of Capcom's arcade releases. Many of the games here share gameplay elements, shading styles, and other bits and pieces - like the way a key or treasure chest might be drawn, and the ubiquitous "zenny" currency - that link them across the years despite a lack of any sort of franchise links.

It's this consistency that really helped establish a name for the company's in-house development. And even though this collection is full of what might seem to be considered B- or C-list releases, there's more sheer quality and genuine love of the medium to be found here than in compilations brought from the dusty corners of many other software houses.

[Trevor Wilson is a web developer and amateur game developer who indulges his unhealthy obsession with obscure, strange, and unique video games over at his weblog, namako team.]