Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (Arcade Review)

Unfortunately, I’m experiencing no shortage of licensed arcade games that haven’t seen the light of day since their original release. I’m trying to bring these games to the attention of both their original fans and their publishers/rights holders. If I had to guess the two licensed titles I’m doing in 2023 that have the absolute best chance at a modern re-release, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs I think is the #1 contender, with Capcom’s Alien vs. Predator (yep, I’m doing it) a close #2. At first glance, it would seem like the complications with C&D put it out of bounds, since the creator, a comic book company, a game company, and possibly CBS own some stake in it. Even the name “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs” itself is owned by General Motors. It seems like too many moving parts, but Capcom has a knack for pulling it off. They even got their version of Aladdin into Disney Classic Games as DLC. A flow chart’s worth of rights issues or not, I never bet against Capcom, and I predict this will be re-released by the end of 2024.

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs has two fairly large problems. One is it needed a lot more dinosaurs. There’s something very satisfying about backhanding a raptor like this.

And, honestly, C&D is fine. Not great. Not bad. Another right-in-the-middle affair for arcades that requires no long-term investment or finesse. Just smack the hell out of endless waves of enemies, walk right, and do it again. Had this been in Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle it would have been just barely above the middle of the pack. A YES! for sure, but nothing spectacular. Yet, unlike the more fun but also middling G.I. Joe from Konami, Cadillacs is revered. Part of that is the Sonic CD rule, where mediocrity is elevated as long as it remains just out of reach. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs never came to 16-bit bit consoles. It never was included in any compilation. After the arcade era ended, it was gone, and unless you use emulators, which the overwhelming majority of players don’t use, it never came back.

The lack of Cadillacs is the second major problem. In fact, let’s remove the “s” at the end of “Cadillacs” because, really, there’s only one section based around them in the whole game. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as fun if they overdid it, but I don’t know. Maybe they could have done other stuff with it too.

Apparently, the decision to not port this was based around the SNES being unable to handle as many characters on screen as the arcade game has. Most of the Capcom brawlers were in a similar situation and came home anyway, but in the case of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, it would have taken away from the dinosaur mechanics. If a dinosaur is green, it’s docile. They’ll only attack if you or an enemy hit them, at which point they turn brown. It’s literally “f*ck around and find out” gameplay. They’re often just sleeping, and that’s where the one-of-a-kind hook comes into play. Enemies will come onto the screen and, instead of trying to attack you, some will walk up to the sleeping dinosaurs and smack them, waking them up and turning them aggressive. It’s a fine idea, in theory, and one that wouldn’t have worked if they had to limit the enemies on screen. It’d be too easy to stop them from waking up a now angry T-Rex. In execution, I found C&D actually takes it too far. In my solo game, I never once was able to prevent the enemies from waking up the dinosaurs. It’s a mechanic that only works if you’ve got multiple players, and those players REMEMBER TO NOT HIT THE DINOSAURS, Dad! Also, I kind of wish the dinosaurs would attack everyone on screen. It’d add actual strategy to the game if the dinosaurs attacked everything indiscriminately, players and enemies. Also, there’s just plain not enough dinosaurs. There should have been one every wave of enemies. They’re the fun part!

In the wake of Mortal Kombat, it feels like everybody wanted to get in on making their own digital giblets. When an explosive takes the final pieces of damage off an enemy, this happens. It’s wonderful! Not so gory that it becomes a farce. Just the right amount of goo. Honestly, C&D could have probably gotten a YES! just from the weapons alone. They’re hella fun.

Besides the dinosaurs, the only other stand-out is one all-to-brief driving section that’s too easy and ends in a boss fight where you try to knock a guy off a motorcycle. When your car takes too much damage, the driving ends permanently and never comes back. The rest of the game does mange to do just enough feel unique, even if it’s completely forgettable. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs uses the same engine as Warriors of Fate, but it’s so much better here. There’s four characters, and they all feel different enough to make a complete journey through the eight levels worthwhile. You can swap between them after you game over, and there’s merits to each one. Hannah was my favorite, as she had an unstoppable flying knee that might be the most effective move in any of these Capcom brawlers. You can pick up a variety of guns that are so satisfying use. The biggest letdown is the set pieces. C&D has a bland, drab setting with not a single memorable stage or moment, outside of the car driving section. The generic bosses and stages feel like they’re not taking advantage of the genre. It’s a game called Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, for God’s sake. Who cares if you’re limited to an obscure comic book and a cartoon nobody watched? CADILLACS! DINOSAURS! Just go completely crazy!

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That’s the thing with all these Capcom brawlers: they rarely are good at everything. Especially ones before 1994-95. If the fighting is fun, the setting is dull. If the setting is awe-inspiring, the characters and enemies are uninspired. It almost feels deliberate, too. Like they didn’t want to ever peak, because then it’d be all downhill from there and cause a falloff of their business. Or, perhaps they just didn’t want to set the bar too high. Nah, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. In fact, I’m going to guess Cadillacs and Dinosaurs squeezed all the potential out of the CP Dash System, even if still manages to feel conservative. Eventually, near the end of the arcade era, Capcom would fire on all cylinders and come out with some of the best brawlers of the period. This isn’t isn’t one of the best brawlers of the period. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is perfectly average and perfectly fine. Good for forty minutes to an hour of just vegging out and unwinding with some simple two-button cannon fodder cracking. Bring a friend or two along if you can and enjoy some perfectly decent, bland entertainment, which is what most Capcom brawlers are, frankly. They’re the Elvis Impersonator of video games. The Jay Leno of video games. The regular McDonalds hamburger with mustard and ketchup of video games. They’re.. okay.

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is Chick-Approved
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs was developed by Capcom

Just ROM hack it and call it Reasonably Priced Sedans and Giant Chickens. Hell, I’d play the crap out of that game!

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