Follow-up: The Games At My Arcade 2/2
I wound up writing up a lot of games that I played at the arcade, and quite a few of those bits got wordy. I’ve decided to split this article in half, piling the heavy “gamer” games all on this side of it.
My good friend introduced this game to me in Japan as a game for geniuses and crazy people. My interest has been piqued ever since.
This game is by ex-Capcom developers (Byking) who worked on Gundam Versus titles in the past, and it takes some of those basics, slows things down, and puts them into a very Western online team deathmatch shooter. There’s even a headset on the cabinet!
It’s not all that complicated, but it is unquestionably crazy. Gunslinger Stratos is played with two light guns, each of which has analog sticks and buttons on it for player movement. Aiming is a non-factor, as you lock on to your enemy and only need to shoot the screen to hit them.
Players fly around extremely busy maps — usually city settings with huge buildings and tons of cover — trying to kill each other with various weapons. Your main weapons are of course the light guns, dual-wielded. Your sub-weapons are “created” when you connect the guns to each other using the magnets inside them. Put the guns side-by-side to get one sub-weapon and mount one on top of the other to get the second sub-weapon. And yes, these are the poses from Equilibrium.
The 4-on-4 matches are hectic, as you’re constantly either aggressively attacking the other player or dodging their attack. There’s also a merciless time limit: a time out results in a draw, no matter who is ahead, so you really have to go big or go home. Like in any team FPS, there’s a lot of team play and synergistic abilities, but it’s also pretty tough getting a team together for a game this obscure.
Unfortunately Gunslinger is on a USA server populated exclusively by the 12 or 15 or so machines that are in the country. I went to an online meetup one week; I was the only person at the location who showed up and I spent a couple of hours going 1v1 against the other guy across the country who had shown up too.
I played the cowgirl. I unlocked a bunch of costumes for her but because that stuff is unlocked via an outside website for which there is no US equivalent, I am just kind of screwed. I’m sure they’re really nice outfits.
Magician’s Dead NEXT BLAZING
Kind of a successor game to Gunslinger, but with a more sane, affordable setup. The guns are gone in favor of a single Wii nunchuck (it’s seriously the exact same controller, how did they get away with it) and a motion sensor bar.
This is the game that you probably imagined playing when you got a Wii or a Kinect, but which never materialized. Like Gunslinger, it’s an online, team-based deathmatch. Unlike Gunslinger, all the attacks are performed by making motions with your hands.
You sit at the control panel with the controller in your left hand, moving, jumping, and choosing your target. Your left hand is up over the sensor bar, gesturing to fire. For example, one basic gesture pinching your thumb inwards to fire a regular pistol-like shot. Another is making a fist to grab background objects and toss them at enemies. A “magic wand” point at your opponent might fire a flamethrower or a laser. And so on: you are the wizard in this game.
Magician’s Dead is kept current with the Japanese version (which just updated to Magician’s Dead Next Blazing!!) and it runs on the Japanese servers. You can get a match, however laggy. However, the machines at Round 1 may or may not all be running at any given time, and it doesn’t help that prime hours (4 to 6PM) are maintenance hours for the network in Japan.
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5
Initial D, the video game, was a pretty big arcade hit around the world. Where Sega first goes, Namco often follows within six months, so they licensed an older manga series about street racing and based their own damn game on it.
Back then I always saw Max Tune as the lame little brother of Initial D’s demanding, technical mountain racing. Highway racing felt like child’s play by comparison.
Today I get it. It just feels really good to hit that straightaway at 300 km an hour. It’s not as hard or intense as Initial D and that’s okay. It’s relaxing. The main addition this game needs is a fan on the cabinet somewhere to blow wind in your face while you drive.
Players mostly grind the long story mode and upgrade their cars into infinity. It probably takes $70 spent just to have a fully-upgraded car to be ready to race against people with. That’s something I hate about this genre (and Initial D as well), but it’s also the specific reason these games are popular and make money.
The fact that some players are way more leveled than others creates a weird, predatory system where players with powerful cars lurk on the machine in an attempt to get easy wins challenging under-leveled players. The over-leveled player gets a medal and another play: the under-leveled player gets nothing. I couldn’t believe that after ten years they hadn’t changed this system.
A lot of players turn off versus mode altogether, and ultimately the game becomes a 4-station single-player RPG grind.
This is actually the most US-ready game in the arcade, with a full localization (for Southeast Asian markets) and online compatibility that many of the games on the floor lack, including its main rival Initial D.
Initial D Ver.8 Infinity
The original arcade street racer. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since I dumped a hundred dollars into this thing over the course of a summer. My investment was on the low end.
Recently, though, this has been a game in the twilight of its life. I could only find solo ID machines in Japan when I found them at all. The new version just launched in Japan, so maybe it’ll be different.
Anyways, as it goes with a lot of the machines here, Version 8 is the version right before the current one. There is still a lot to do, so long as you’re okay with offline play only. Both ID and Max Tune have long 1P story modes that ensure the player never runs out of things to do.
The appeal of ID comes from the weird, not-exactly-real-life physics that allow anybody to pull off the kind of wild drifting you see in the series. Once you throw your car around a tight corner at a speed it shouldn’t physically be able to pull… you’re hooked. Great at replicating the exact atmosphere and feeling of the original work.
Though car tuning and leveling up do exist in ID, the power difference isn’t so absurd that players can’t feasibly race against each other like in Max Tune. The courses are all pretty demanding from the start, so it comes down more to player skill than the raw power of the car.
Still, people mostly like to level up in story mode and I can’t really blame them. These games’ leveling system is a double-edged sword: put an XP meter in front of a gamer and they’ll give you a lot of money, but they also won’t want to do anything else.
This was some Japanese manager’s sentimental choice, bless their soul. Buried deep in the back of the fighting games section was Genpei Toumaden, Namco’s weird experimental action game.
If there had been such a thing as an “art game” in 1986, Genpei Toumaden might qualify. The game is mostly memorable for its surreal aesthetic, crossing traditional Japanese art with the state-of-the-art pixel graphics of the day.
Our samurai hero swaps rapidly between three game modes: a platform-style adventure, an overhead Zelda-like, and an up-close combat potion where you control the movement of his sword directly. Enemies are flying in fast and furious on all sides in every mode, and frequently the best choice is to just keep running forward to lose as little life as you can.
Genpei Toumaden is not exactly a lost masterpiece, but it is absolutely a “you gotta see this, come over here!” game.
OKAY I’M DONE
There’s a lot more than this at the arcade, naturally, but I think three thousand words is enough, right? Yeah.