In an effort to obtain a legit copy of Robotron and Defender on some damn platform, I picked up Williams Arcade’s Greatest Hits for five bucks on eBay for the PS1. Released in 1996, this anthology also emulates Defender II, Sinistar, Joust and Bubbles.
Let’s jump straight to discussing Robotron, which was really the main reason I wanted this. Like a fool I imagined playing like I do in MAME, with the PS3’s DualShock analog sticks mimicking the left and right joysticks of the original arcade version, which actually works rather well. But of course the PS1 controller had no analog controls. This means gamepad presses to move your character and button presses (!) to fire. At first I thought they just left out diagonal firing completely until I pressed two buttons at once. Whatever play-from-your-couch on a big tv win you initially saw for yourself is destroyed by these clunky controls. Nearly unplayable.
Moving on, I have to say that playing Defender is a lot of fun. Someone who’s used to the arcade controls would likely find it as castrated as I found Robotron, but since I’ve become comfortable and enjoy the MAME and DualShock combo, this was an easy transition. It seems to look and play fairly accurately from what I can tell. I’m less familiar with Defender II so I mostly kept returning to the original.
I’ve only played Sinistar and Bubbles a handful of times in the past so I haven’t spent much time with them here, but I could see returning to Sinistar. I’ve never really cared for Joust; I always turn it on for a few minutes for the nostalgic sounds but for some reason find it sort of depressing.
The menus are pretty bad, perhaps to be expected from first generation Playstation. The games don’t retain high scores once they’re reset, which really detracts from the replay value. One gem though are the mid-90s archival videos of Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar, creators of Defender and Robotron, discussing the origins of what would become arcade classics earning over $1 billion. Eugene’s face beams everything that Robotron offers — mania, intelligence, a darkness born very much from our world, and the explicit joy of all of them combined.