Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sega Arcade Goodness

[TGS] [Computer Gaming]

Okay, so one of the first things I noticed getting off the train station was that very nearby is a place called the Messe Amusement Hall, and out the front of it is a big sign with the familiar "Sega" logo. (Don't know if you can see it in the picture...)

I actually got into my hotel at about 9 in the morning, and check-in didn't start until 2, so the desk clerks took my luggage away from me and then politely ushered me back out the door to amuse myself for the intervening five hours. I seemed to recall that the Messe Amusement Hall had also offered the promise of food, so I retraced my steps back to the train station and went exploring in what's really a very small shopping mall.

Most stuff in Japan appears not to open until 10 am, so for breakfast I was stuck with a fast food joint call Loto-something (I forget) who served me one of the worst sausage and egg muffins I've ever had the displeasure to consume. I'll be avoiding them in future. I also availed myself of a nearby gashopon emporium (more of which later).

The Sega sign turned out to refer to a reasonably large arcade at the back of the mall. I was initially put off a little, as the only machines that you can see from the entranceway seem aggressively targeted at schoolgirls and are largely of the sort which challenge you to retrieve stuffed animals with mechanical claws or produce cute photos of oneself with one's friends. (See photo to right.)

However, venturing further in I discovered that Sega has actually come up with a four-step program to revatilise the traditional arcade concept which is dying out over here in the west. The four steps are as follows:

1) Wider demographic: Rather than exclusively targeting a young male market, the arcade has a little something for everyone. In addition to the cutesy-pie stuff out the front, my trip inside revealed hardcore fighting games, online gaming shenanigans, a bunch of machines bearing mainstream brand-names like "Monopoly" and featuring simple controls, and, in a twist that shouldn't have surprised me but did....

2) Gambling machines: Lots and lots of one-armed bandits in rows. Plus a whole bunch of those machines where the idea is to drop coins onto a moving platform, causing other coins to fall off and into the payout dispenser. Most of them were for penne-ante returns (you had to use a coin changer that gave you three or four special arcade tokens per 100 yen coin), but there were a few machines operating for 100 or 200 yen a go. Also, there was a massive horse-racing setup like you see at TABs in Australia, where there's about 10 or so seats all facing a big screen showing a race, and betting is conducted electronically. Only in this case, the horses are electronic too, using lots of 3D graphics.

3) Online gaming: There were a bunch of machines there that appeared to be MMOGs. You buy a card, which represents your character and stores your data, and then you can use it to log on at any of these machines. They didn't seem fantastically detailed, and both obtaining the card and playing the game required a lot more spoken and written Japanese than I'm equipped with, so sadly I didn't get to try these out. If I can shanghai a fluent speaker during TGS I might drag them back there and get them to help me out. (I have a photo of these but from the outside it just looks like any other arcade machine.)

4) Collectible gaming: Some of the machines in the arcade had wide, flat surfaces where typically the joypad and suchlike would be found. These initially confused me, but I soon found the answer by watching a proficient player. The machines operate in conjunction with collectable cards that are dispensed by a nearby machine. Each card has a character on it, and when the cards are laid flat on the machine's surface, the machine scans and recognises the card, and displays it as a graphic of the character on-screen. You can then slide the cards around the surface to change their relative positions, and battle on-screen threats, et cetera. It looks like a heap of fun, but again it requires a bit of Japanese skill, plus I'm not going to buy into a CCG that I can only play in Japan.

All four of the ideas above are so obvious I'm wondering why they're not already prolific in arcades I've seen. (Well, obviously there's some legal issues around the gambling, but still...) This arcade seemed to be doing pretty well even at 10 in the morning, so there's obviously some life in it.

I also got to try out a couple of specific machines very close to my heart, namely Mario Kart Arcade GP (which has Pacman as a playable character!) and SoulCalibur III Arcade Edition. If I get a chance I'll do up a dedicated post on each of those, but for now I'd better be getting ready for today's shopping and sightseeing trip to Kisarazu!


That guy said...

Sounds sweet, and by sweet I mean totally awsome. I burn with questions but I will limit myself to the obvious. How much money did you tourself get into while playing at the arcade place? If you were just hanging around taking up space did anyone politly ask you to leave?

I, of course expect full updates on what baseball related adventures you get up to in Kisarazu and what the Soul Cailber 3 arcade was like. Live it up!

GregT said...

At the arcade I mistakenly changed 1000 yen into the little medallions for the coin-pusher games. I then couldn't find the guy to change them back again, so hurrah, I get little medallions to take home. (I tried to use them in the machines, but I just kept winning more than I started with.)

Then I found a REAL money changing machine and turned another 1000 yen into little 100 yen coins. Some of those went into the gashapon but mostly I took the opportunity to play SC III Arcade, Mario Kart Arcade GP, Virtua Fighter 5 and something else which I forget right now.

Josh said...

That CCG setup sounds pretty neat. Insert Credit had a review of a game based on the same setup about pop singers which was almost haunting.

Josh said...

Idol Master, that was it:

Jey said...

Can I have a little medallion???

GregT said...

IdolMaster is on show at TGS, and for an essentially creepy game about dressing up pre-teen girls, by golly is it well-executed. Obviously I'm not the target market (or at least I hope I'm not) but even I can tell that for what they were aiming at with that game, they hit it square on. Very impressive.

GregT said...

Yes, Jess, there will be a Club Sega medallion token for you if you wish.