When I hear the Data East name, I tend to think of beat ’em ups like Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja (which, for the longest time, I thought was just called DragonNinja) or Two Crude Dudes. Though both of those games are on this Evercade collection, it’s also a great showcase for the variety of classic titles the publisher was responsible for.

There’s a lot of history here with the ten games included. Early classic Burger Time, which sees players running unhygienically across ingredients to build tasty burgers – while avoiding enemies who are possibly evil because they want to be included in the burger? Never quite understood that part of it. Anyway, it’s simple, classic, pure arcade gameplay and has stood the test of time for the most part – even though it can be a little frustrating at times.

The aforementioned Bad Dudes is here (having lost the ‘vs DragonNinja’ part of the title), but it’s the frustratingly flickery NES port of the game – which is not great, in all honesty. Still, with its hilariously OTT plot that sees the US President kidnapped by Ninjas, it does provide some fun at least. The arcade version is on the way on a new Data East collection later this year, so if you’re especially fond of the game it’s definitely going to be worth picking that up.

NES game Burnin’ Rubber (also known as Bump ‘n’ Jump) makes an appearance – and it’s a game I hadn’t played before. An overhead view car combat game, it moves at one hell of a pace, with superhuman reflexes needed to get anywhere. Initially off-putting due to the difficulty level, with a bit of practice this becomes a really enjoyable and pretty unique experience.

Karate Champ is a very technically minded fighting game that strives for realism rather than the over-the-top, fast-paced shenanigans usually found in the genre – but I found it too slow and basic to be enjoyable. It was a huge hit in its day and is still well-remembered by fans though, so its perhaps a case of this game just not being for me.

Another game I mentioned in the intro, Two Crude Dudes, is also here. With massively chunky sprites and the ability to pick up and throw pretty much anything (even bad guys), it’s a beat ’em up with some neat ideas and a hefty feel.

Fighter’s History is a game that was famous for Data East being sued; Capcom took the published to court over the game, claiming that it was too similar to Street Fighter II. Though Capcom lost the case, it’s not hard to see their point – there’s not much originality on display in Fighter’s History, but it’s a technically competent and enjoyable – if unquestionably derivative – fighting game.

Pool-based oddity Side Pocket is included – though ostensibly an arcade-style pool game, it plays by its own rules and has physics that can best be described as rudimentary. Yet there’s an oddly compelling charm to its laidback gameplay that’ll see you coming back to the table a lot more than you may expect.

Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics is a 16-bit, caveman-themed platformer with some nicely varied level design. Prehistoric-themed platformers starring cavemen were all the rage at one point – it seemed like there were lots of them, for some reason – and Joe & Mac 2 is actually one of the most enjoyable examples of this odd little sub-genre. There’s some frustratingly unforgiving elements to its level design (particularly with the sections that are on-rails), but it’s a fun, colourful adventure with some inventive, chunky bosses to face off against.

Magical Drop 2 at first looks like a Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move rip-off, but it’s actually got a very different set of mechanics, with coloured bubbles needing to be grabbed from the playfield and then shot back up to match and explode larger sets of the same colour. It’s a fun little diversion that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Lastly, perhaps the jewel in the crown for many people, is the inclusion of excellent run-and-gunner, Midnight Resistance. As with most Data East titles, it can feel a little derivative at first – in this case, it’s Konami’s Contra that seems to be the inspiration – but does bring its own flair to the proceedings, with vertical aspects to the level design as well as horizontal, amongst other differences. This being the Mega Drive/Genesis version, there’s a helpful auto-fire option (the unusual arcade control set-up couldn’t be replicated on the 16-bit consoles of the time) too. It’s an excellent and worthy inclusion to the collection.

Though of course your enjoyment of these games may well hinge on your nostalgia for them in some cases, there’s plenty of gameplay on offer that’s stood the test of time and is still enjoyable even without the benefit of having played the included titles before. It’d be great to see more of Data East’s games on the Evercade though – they have a hugely varied portfolio of titles, spanning the 80s and 90s, many of which have been forgotten over the years. Though the arcade collection is on the way from Evercade, it’s perhaps disappointing that two of the ten titles featured on it (Burger Time and Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja) are also here, even if they are superior versions.

Ultimately though, the Data East Collection 1 is definitely a cartridge that should be in everyone’s Evercade library – it’s a mixed bag, but does give us a good variety of genres in the games that are included.

You can purchase the Data East Collection 1 cartridge from Amazon here.

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