First Look: Inside Oculus ‘Arcade’ Beta – New Tech Brings Back Games of a Bygone Era

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Oculus has today released their much awaited Arcade app, which lets you play a number of original classic arcade titles from Sega, Midway, and Bandai Namco. While you won’t need virtual quarters to try out the games for a limited time, every title does have its price.

Hitting the Gear VR store today, Oculus Arcade lets you get your greasy hands on 21 original titles including arcade classics like Joust (1982), Pac-Man (1980), and Galaga (1981). Check out a full list here.

The release of the app comes as a general update to the Gear VR platform in preparation for the first consumer-level Gear VR headset set to launch later this month.

It’s ironic in some ways to be using some of the very latest in gaming technology to relive the early days of gaming, but there’s a clear allure for the nostalgia. As it turns out, VR is the next best thing to actually building your own classic arcade, or maybe the best thing if you factor in the cost of such a project.

oculus arcade lobby banner

The Arcade lobby, a half exploded arcade-meets-starship, presents you with a choice of three publishers—Sega, Bandai Namco, and Midway. The lobby floor is crumbling away, likely the fault of the iconic aliens from Space Invaders (1978) floating above.

Much like the critically acclaimed NewRetroArcade, atmosphere is dead on, down to the faded astro-carpet and neon lights. However some background noise would add a lot to the experience, and help it from feeling so lonely.

See Also: Review – ‘NewRetroArcade’ is a Must-play Homage to Video Game Culture Old and New

I entered the Sega room by clicking on the banner and was warped to a space packed with some personal favorites from the Sega Genesis (aka ‘Mega Drive’): Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)Ecco the Dolphin (1992), Shinobi III (1993)—the list goes on, making for 12 games in the room alone. Cabinet art appears to be original.

sega room oculus arcade

Oculus has specified a number of gamepads required for play that will work with the new Arcade app, including Samsung’s own gamepad, Moga Pro, and SteelSeries controller for Android. My cheap little iPega gamepad worked just fine despite not being on the list of currently supported controllers.

Although you’re given a free 20 minutes total with each title in the arcade, you’ll need to cough up anywhere from $0.99 to $2.99 for unlimited access with your chosen game.

sonic 2 oculus arcadeAfter 20 minutes of Sonic, I was content parting ways with it (for now), having played massive amounts of it when I was a kid. What I wanted—and I mean actually wanted to own—was Joust.

Joust is addictive—a real quarter-eater of a bygone era. It was a relic even when I was experiencing the decline of arcades in the ’90s, so I had to buy it, if only to emulate Wade Watts, the main character of the popular contemporary VR novel Ready Player One (2012). I was expecting Joust to be on the cheaper end of things, considering it’s from the early ’80s and can essentially be played on a TI-82. Nope. It’s a solid $1.99.

Undeterred, I went through the paying process and now have the most expensive copy of Joust (I’ve always emulated) that I’ve ever owned. Payments are processed through your attached credit card (required), and rely on your unique Oculus PIN created when downloading the Gear VR app itself. For forgetful people like me, you can always reset it.

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It leaves me questioning whether some of the simpler games like Joust should just be free entirely. And it only took me a 20 more minutes of the unlimited gameplay to realize that, yes, it should be free.

But what I would gladly pay for, over and over mind you, would be the addition of multiplayer, which could make Arcade Oculus’ most social app—even moreso than Oculus Socialwhich allows up to 5 people to connect in a movie theater environment to watch streaming content. VP of product Nate Mitchell told Tested “we’ve turned on social for all the Oculus Cinema experiences…,” but there’s still no word on when/if multiplayer will go online for the beta app.

Meanwhile I’ll be honing my Joust skills in preparation of a ‘Player 2′ joining me in Arcade and probably buying another game (begrudgingly).