Back in my younger days I was a huge fan of going to the arcade but unfortunately the scene kind of died in the UK. Any arcades that I could find in my old home town of Manchester either had a terrible selection of out of date games or cabinets that were so badly treated that the games were unplayable. However, when I moved to Japan this whole situation changed and I now live about 10 minutes away from a “Game Centre” which is what the Japanese call arcades.
If you don’t know anything about the eastern coin-op scene, then these machines may just blow your mind. There’s all sorts of cool games with interesting control schemes or concepts and most are compatible with these small cards that you can scan into the machine to track stats and unlock content.
So without further delay allow me to introduce 3 particularly cool games that you should absolutely go out of your way to come and play.
#1: Sengoku Taisen
Considering that most western game arcades contained nothing but rhythm games and rail shooters you may think that an RTS title would be a strange thing to have in an arcade but Sengoku Taisen and its country-wide popularity shows that it works remarkably well.
The game is played with cards which can be bought as a starter pack from a dispenser in the arcade or spat out of the machine after you have finished a credits worth of play. You place the cards on a big table and these represent your armies, you then move them around physically in order to move them in the game and attempt to destroy the other guys castle.
With hundreds of cards, in game items and each card having their own special abilities the game has TONS of depth and it’s almost impossible to find 2 players with the exact same set up or strategy. Pair that with the fact that the game is played online and it’s a truly unique experience that I feel that every fan of the strategy genre should at least experience once.
The only downside is that the price point is a little high and all the Japanese players are so good that it’s pretty hard for a scrub like me to actually win anything. However, with a little bit of dedication you’ll be butchering armies in no time flat.
Here are some gameplay and card videos for you to get a slightly better idea of what I’m talking about
#2: Gunslinger Stratos
When one thinks about a game that involves light guns you probably think of rail shooters like House of the Dead or Time Crisis. Gunslinger Stratos is exactly not that, not much of a story to be found and no ending to achieve for pumping the machine full of credits. Instead we have a 4on4 online third person shooter sort of like Unreal Tournament where you use two light guns in order to blast your foes and work your way up a country-wide leader board.
The guns are pretty cool since they come as two pistols but allow you to switch weapons in game by using magnets found on the top and sides of the weapons. Attach them side by side for your rapid fire weapon or stack them for your heavy. Each weapon set has different uses from attacking long range, supporting team mates, getting up close and personal or even camping somewhere on the map and launching nuclear strikes.
When not in the arcade you can use the details on your Nesica card in order to log into an online service where you can change costumes and weapon load outs for your characters. Typically speaking the machines, despite being huge, come in banks of 6 in order for allow for team play so if you can find 3 other friends them bring them with you.
If you come to Japan and stay long term it might be worth getting good because there are tournaments held pretty regularly both locally and in large events. If you’re familiar with Umehara Daigo of Street Fighter fame, then you may be interested to know that he’s a pretty avid player and his involvement has led to some cool costume updates where you can make the Slinger cast look like Street Fighter characters.
It would be almost impossible to make a short list of Japanese arcade games without mentioning a rhythm game. Chunithm is a fairly recent arcade addition to the rhythm scene from Sega and judging from the queues I have to suffer through when I want to play it seems to have gathered a lot of popularity.
The game features a sort of touch panel piano looking thing that you must tap, hold and swipe a long with the music. The machine also has some sensors situated just above the panel called “Air Strings” and you have to move your hands into this area to hit some of the notes. You also have a colourful selection of characters to select and unlock that have abilities in order to assist you with getting score or clearing songs
There is a pretty large selection of music, most of which is your standard sort of rhythm game J-Pop fair but there are songs from other Sega video games such as Jet Set Radio: Future and Crazy Taxi. The only downside is that if you’re like me and you’re fairly decent at rhythm games then the expert mode is a little easy but you HAVE to S rank a song in that mode before you can play the master mode.
Sega also seem to quite enjoy the idea of paying sharing their plays of this game and a lot of machines come equipped with a little slot for your phone. Jam your smart phone in that hole, hit record and then upload it to Youtube, Nico Nico Douga or any of your other favorite video sharing sites. The phone holder is positioned in a perfect spot so it can catch both game play and hand movement. I’ll wrap this post up with an unimpressive run of a song I had before I realised that slot was there
Arcades may be pretty much gone in the west but in Japan they are still booming. If you wish to go back to those old days of enjoying some quality coin-op, your best bet is to hop and a plane and come over here. It’s inexpensive, fun and the selection is huge and Game Centres usually have quite friendly communities of people that will play with you or help you out if you’re a bit crap.
So what are you waiting for? Get that ticket and come play some coin op!
Identity Gaming is an individual series attempting to raise money for Alzheimer’s! If you’re feeling generous, or you just want to make yourself feel better for buying that super expensive thing, follow the link below to the donate page… oh and Identity Gaming’s main site is also there… but you know, whatever.