Of course, in most cases the coders weren't literally converting the arcade games. It would be ridiculous to even try. I mean, Chris Butler attempted to make Space Harrier on the Commodore 64. Space Harrier! On the Commodore 64! Preposterous.
That said though, he actually managed to produce a pretty playable shooter, featuring elements that were recognisable from the arcade behemoth. And really, that was all we could hope for, and all these guys could attempt. If they were able to put out something that was an approximation of the arcade game, something that looked something along the lines of the original and had at least some of the necessary gameplay elements, we were happy.
|Oh, come on... what did you expect? It played pretty well though.|
In some respects it must have been like writing a new game, but with a stricter template to work with. We all anticipated these games eagerly, and inevitably there were disappointments, but by and large we were very happy to get to play versions of the big games in our own homes.
This brought me to a very interesting conversation with some mates: were there any arcade conversions on the 8-bits that were actually better than the arcade versions? Initially, you'd have to say, "No"... despite some amazing technical achievements, the home machines couldn't compete on so many levels. But there's one thing that's more important than everything else... playability. And you can get that right on any machine.
Games that were mentioned were Spy Hunter on the Commodore 64, and Buggy Boy, also on the Commodore 64. Having recently played Buggy Boy Jr. in MAME, I would say Buggy Boy on the C64 does play better than the arcade game (even if I didn't play the exact arcade game in comparison). And I never really got on with the arcade version of Spy Hunter, but loved the C64 version. Have you got any others?