6 Arcade Games Too Awesome to Get Released in the West
When's the last time you went to an arcade? Maybe you were feeling nostalgic and wanted to see what awesome games they've invented in the last few decades, only to find ... games quite a bit worse than the stuff you have on your home consoles.
What the hell? There was a time when you went to arcades to play games that were bigger, better and more advanced than anything you could get at home. It's like one day game companies decided to stop making those.
The thing is, they didn't stop. They simply stopped bringing those games to the West. Games like ...
Sonic Blast Heroes, the Dinosaur-Punching Simulator
In Sonic Blast Heroes, you take on the role of a man who punches everything in his path for no discernable reason,* allowing you to recreate the experience of being dangerously drunk within the safety of an amusement arcade. Your entire purpose in this game is to knock out things like a dinosaur, a giant octopus and an 18-wheel semi truck while screaming furious, incoherent exclamations.
*No discernable reason = It's all in Japanese.
Afterward you wake up in some kid's room, soaked in puke and surrounded by smashed toys.
As awesome as that sounds, this isn't exactly an outrageous plot for a Japanese video game -- we're talking about the same medium that has conditioned us to accept a turtle-jumping, mushroom-eating plumber as something normal. The difference is that in this case, the game is played by literally throwing punches at the machine.
What are you supposed to do if it eats your coins?
The game comes with a boxing glove and a pad that rises out the cabinet to let you know that it's punching time. The harder you hit the pad, the more damage you deal to the inexplicable enemies mentioned above, sending them flying into the background. Whoever throws the strongest punch wins the game, apparently.
Once again, the tyrannosaur's tiny, girlish arms are his undoing.
Also, the graphics in this thing are actually pretty great. Just take a look at those incredibly realistic and detailed backgrounds:
Seconds before complete obliteration.
Oh, and did we mention that one of the stages involves punching a giant meteor to pieces? Apparently, the Japanese version of Armageddon would have lasted 10 seconds.
Where You Can Find It:
The game was released only in Japan this past August. So what are the chances that it will be imported into the U.S.? Well, considering that it's a sequel to a 1990 arcade game that was recalled in America in 1995 for causing around 70 cases of "fractured or injured wrists and arms," we'd say they're not very good. Which is a shame, because the old version had crappy graphics and didn't even have dinosaurs.
The wrists of America just weren't up to the challenge.
So if you suddenly feel the urge to get shitfaced and go punch a truck, looks like you're gonna have to do it the old-fashioned way.
Let's Go Island 3D, the Big-Screen 3-D Shark Shooting Game (For Couples)
Let's Go Island 3D is a "date game" where you and your SO can sit in front of a 52-inch screen and pretend you're going on a relaxing vacation to the Caribbean. And by relaxing vacation, we mean this:
Killer shark attack explosion!
We can't say we're shocked to find out that Japan's idea of a romantic getaway includes shooting the shit out of giant killer sea monsters that jump at you from all sides as you're dragged across an island by a speeding boat. As insane as that sounds, the actual game looks even crazier. Oh, and it's all in glasses-less 3-D.
If the 3-D isn't immersive enough for you, it also has air compressors that blow bursts of air in your face to emphasize the most dramatic moments, while spattering you with real bits of shark flesh for added realism (or at least that seems like something it would do).
We're gonna need a bigger ... oh, nope, that's great.
We weren't kidding about the romantic part, by the way: The game encourages you to play with a partner and, amid all the insane graphic violence, it includes several mini-games that rate your compatibility as a couple, which is measured in hearts. It's a perfect ice breaker for a first date, or you can play it with a friend and subsequently avoid eye contact for a week.
"Well, honey, if the killer shark game thinks so, I guess we have no choice but to file for divorce."
Where You Can Find It:
Date games, even really awesome ones, simply aren't that big outside of Japan. Apparently Let's Go Island 3D's 2-D pirate-themed predecessor reached American shores in small amounts, but it doesn't look like they're in any rush to bring over this new version. In the meantime, you and your date will have to settle for a good old-fashioned round of Mortal Kombat.
"If you play as Raiden one more goddamn time I'll poison your oatmeal."
Heat Up Hockey, Psychedelic Futuristic Air Hockey
Imagine a parallel reality where air hockey tables didn't stop evolving at the end of the '70s -- a reality where that sad, half-broken machine gathering dust at the back of the arcade is, by now, all digitalized and cool. This bizarre alternate reality exists: it's called Japan.
Also, in Japan real hockey is now played by robots.
This isn't touchscreen technology, but almost -- Sega's Heat Up Hockey uses a large overhead projector to display digital images on top of the table, while over 80 sensors on every side track the movements of the puck, allowing it to interact with the images. If the puck hits any of the block-like shields projected in front of the goal area, a physical panel behind it will go down and let you score.
It's like Pong and Arkanoid had an awesome giant baby.
You can even adjust shield numbers to impose handicaps, and on top of this, the game includes moving targets that act as power-ups when the puck moves over them. You can also enter various bonus stages like the trippy silhouette stage ...
... or the utterly disconcerting dummy puck stage.
Both of these will kill you if you're already high.
Where You Can Find It:
Only in Japan, apparently. This despite the fact that it's completely in English (we wouldn't want to get lost in the game's complicated plot), and that the game is produced by the same company that didn't hesitate to bring you Sonic the Hedgehog. So you can wait until the next Japanese Amusement Expo and play it there ...
... or you can say fuck it and buy one for yourself, assuming you have $20,000 to spare.
Initial D Takes Car Games a Little Too Literally
There really isn't a whole lot of new things you can do with the racing game genre, now that the graphics have reached a point where it looks a little better than real life. So what else is there to do, put a real car right in the arcade?
Not a showroom.
The Initial D series is based on a popular Japanese manga about illegal street racing, like GTA but with more flying men throwing powers, we imagine. This particular model is called Initial D Arcade Stage 4 Limited and features life-sized cars in front of three massive 90-inch HD screens -- hell, you could be sitting on a damn stool and the game would still look awesome.
Conversely, even ET would be great if you played it sitting in this thing.
But the cars aren't just for atmosphere: they move, tilt and shake realistically as you drift down virtual mountains and shout obscenities at your opponents. No word on whether it smashes itself up and deploys an air bag when you crash in the game, but we see no reason why it wouldn't do that.
After seeing that, it's a little hard to go back to normal-sized screens and tacky plastic steering wheels, isn't it?
Where You Can Find It:
Apparently there's one of these things in a mall in Dubai, but other than that, it looks like they are available exclusively in Sega-owned Joypolis centers, which are only found in Japan's largest cities. Also, did we mention that it costs 600 yen (around $5) for a single race? With the added cost of shipping that giant rig across the ocean, chances are you'd be looking at $10 or more per race if these things ever reached the States.
There are cheaper alternatives, of course.
Eternal Wheel: If Card Games Were Awesome
The fundamental problem with fantasy card games is that they require being patient and using your imagination, two abilities that decades of video games have almost completely atrophied (whereas our thumbs are now superhumanly strong compared to our ancestors' -- if you don't believe us, go punch your grandfather). But seriously, if you're the type of person who can throw a card on the table and imagine a magical winged lion swooping down to destroy your opponent, we honestly envy you.
Not even "Lizard Man With Sword" can give a +5 boost to our atrophied imaginations.
It's like card games and, you know, fun ones exist at opposite ends of the same spectrum. Eternal Wheel bridges that gap by combining collectible cards with real-time game play and cool graphics. Basically, you place the physical cards on a large touch screen and digital versions of the characters depicted there will appear on the game and start shooting powers and shit.
As you move the cards across the surface, the digital copies automatically follow the same path, obliterating everything in their way. There are literally hundreds of these cards, each with different abilities, levels and stats -- like in every card game, the harder to find ones are usually the most powerful.
And like in every Japanese thing, a surprising amount of them look like schoolgirls.
And if you get bored, you can press two buttons on the side of the machine and summon eight unlockable giant monsters to make things a little more interesting. Even though you have to keep in mind stuff like not wasting your energy all at once or balancing the abilities of your characters, this still sounds infinitely more simple than playing an actual card game (unless it's like UNO or something). Also, the machine literally gives you a random new card at the end of every game.
As if saying, "There's more where that come from, baby."
Where You Can Find It:
You guessed it: only in Japan, as far as we can tell. There are actually more games that use the same technology, but their size and cost has limited their distribution to Asia.
Evil Grim Reaper Odin is displeased.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield, a Giant Robot Battle Pod
If you've never wanted to pilot a giant robot, you're probably dead inside (or you're a robot yourself, which is essentially the same thing). Sure, there are plenty of robot-themed games out there, but until one of them allows you to actually step into a large hunk of metal, it just won't be the same.
Enter the Gundam POD.
Literally, get in there.
You know those flight simulators they use to train pilots? This is like that, only it trains you to command giant battle robots, a skill that may or may not become useful once the apocalypse is upon us. The robots are taken from the classic Gundam anime series, which means that there are over 80 different models and 10 maps to choose from.
Check out the inside of the POD in this video:
This bitch has surround speakers, a projector screen, hand and feet controls and a headset that allows you to voice chat with other players. That's right -- you're not just fighting some crappy AI, you're facing off against other human players in a massive online network. If you're a regular player you can even save your name, score and more in a card that can also be used to buy new weapons and upgrades on a "Pilot Terminal" near the PODs. The terminal alone looks cooler than the best game in our local arcade.
Sorry, Ms. Pacman, it's true.
There are typically four to eight PODs in the same arcade, which means you can go with a bunch friends and fight among yourselves, like in a nerd version of Fight Club.
"Which button lets me teabag?"
Where You Can Find It:
Even though it came out in 2006, as of now this game has only been exported to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Maybe the concern is that the Gundam series isn't that well-known in the U.S., so Western players would be reluctant to indulge in the awesome mindless mechanical violence without knowing the full back story behind each robot suit. If they bring it to the U.S., chances are they'd end up changing the game so it starred the Transformers or -- actually that sounds pretty cool.
... with fucking lightsabers.
Nick Dobkin is a filmmaker of sorts who likes making short animations. Relay your compliments and complaints to his Twitter @Densetsu_VII
For more video game insanity, check out 6 Real Video Games That Were Too Insane To Release and 5 Insane True Facts About StarCraft: The Professional Sport.