The arcade scene has been fairly abuzz lately, and there’s a sizable list of games that are taking my hype to its absolute limit. So, in true Wilcox Arcade fashion, I took the liberty of writing a blog post about it. Anyway, let’s get on with the list!
Brief Note: Q1 2017 refers to when I made the list, not when the games will be released.
Developer: Raw Thrills
Publisher: Raw Thrills
Release Date: December 2016
This is the one of the two games on my “hype list” that’s actually been released. Cruis’n Blast came out at the end of December, and (like literally almost any given Raw Thrills game) it has sold like absolute hotcakes. With that being the case, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find this game soon!
So, what am I looking forward to? Well, I’m a huge fan of the Cruis’n series, so it’s pretty much an accepted fact that I want to play this long-awaited sequel crafted by the master himself, Mr. Eugene Jarvis. After so many, many years of making FnF games (which are fantastic, by the way), Mr. Jarvis has finally been reunited with his original series.
First of all, let’s address these tracks. They are absolutely WICKED. I don’t think I’ve ever in my entire existence seen so much work and detail poured into track design—ever. Each track has unique events that’ll come through and blow you away, like a hurricane, or even the gosh darned London Eye rolling along the track. The Madagascar track has dinosaurs, of all things, for a nice, copyright-friendly Jurassic Park Arcade reference. To top it all off, some tracks have the most insane jumps in the history of racing games.
It only pains me to see that there are only six tracks, and a lot of car upgrades from the FnF games have been removed. But, does it matter? No, not at all! (Well, it does matter a little bit. The level content kind of disappoints me, given how much more Raw Thrills has delivered before.) This game is gonna blow my mind! It’s that classic Cruis’n gameplay that I’ve always loved taken to the next level. What do I love so much about Cruis’n? It’s really just that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. While other games like Gran Turismo are way too serious with deep menus and far too much professionalism, the Cruis’n series goes for pure fun and in-your-face awesomeness.
Oh, by the way—you can smash cows to little pieces in this game. It’s a good thing that the developers made sure to include the one of bests feature from the original series. Unfortunately, there’s no Bill Clinton ending, so I suppose that also detracts from such a killer game.
For the trailer (which really isn’t a good representation of how awesome this game really is), check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEFTxxbkUtA. For a playthrough of the first track in the game, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFSZsucgvv4&t=1s. As you look through the gameplay videos, you’ll come to realize that this game was too dry in content, unfortunately. Still, it’s gonna be a load of fun!
The Walking Dead
Developer: Play Mechanix
Publisher: Raw Thrills
Release Date: January 2017
This announcement was a bit of a surprise. No, it wasn’t surprising that it was time for a new Play Mechanix rail shooter blockbuster. What was surprising was the license they chose. I mean, since when has a game been this overtly “red-label” in the modern arcade scene? Even The House of the Dead 4 had no blood or gore, for crying out loud! It just makes me wonder if this game will survive. Given that the property itself is so incredibly popular, I don’t think it’s possible for The Walking Dead to tank when it hits arcades.
The game in general looks top-notch. I think we’ve come to just expect a certain level of greatness from new Play Mechanix rail shooters, and this game delivers on those expectations. (Besides, all of their rail shooters since Terminator: Salvation are essentially spiritual successors to each other.) One thing that interests me is that this is the first rail shooter I’ve seen in a while that doesn’t have an automatic gun. It only fires one arrow at a time, and you actually have to reload. “Dustin, did you just say arrow?” you may be asking. And yes, yes I did say arrow. Another really wicked and unique feature of this game is that instead of a little barrel thing, the gun is a crossbow. This is what arcades are about, people—controls tailored perfectly for the game in question.
To be honest, I’m also pretty excited to see just how well a red-label game can do in the current arcade environment. I mean, can you really picture this in a Chuck-E-Cheese’s location? It doesn’t bother me, but I do expect it to bother a lot of the people who currently frequent arcades and FECs (family entertainment centers). We haven’t really seen anything too violent hit the arcades in a long time.
Anyway, the game came out in January, so hopefully I’ll find it and be able to give a real opinion on it.
For the trailer (which is Raw Thrills’ best trailer yet), check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swZPj0EYEqA. For a detailed review of the demo version, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmZCSitiyXk.
Developer: HitSparks Games
Publisher: Galloping Ghost Productions
Release Date: 2017
Though I’m a real sucker for blockbuster Raw Thrills releases, Strike Harbinger is an indie game that’s really caught my attention. It’s a lot like Space Harrier, which is a game I really enjoy, so I already know it’s going to be a real keeper. Most of all, I’m just glad we’re finally getting to see something other than a driving game or rail shooter for once. Believe me, I absolutely love Cruis’n Blast and The Walking Dead, but I’m really ready for joystick games to come back in style. And, that’s what Strike Harbinger does for me. It takes gameplay that I already enjoy and brings it back on modern arcade hardware for the modern arcade audience.
Another thing I really like about Strike Harbinger is how simple the cabinet is. In the Dave and Buster’s world of arcades, the games themselves have become over-the-top attraction pieces. (Just look at games like Star Wars Battle Pod and Jurassic Park Arcade, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Even Tekken 7 added a second screen for the sake of standing out.) Strike Harbinger, on the other hand, is simple. It’s just a standard cabinet design with a flat screen monitor, a joystick, and some buttons. It’s perfect, and it meets the needs of local arcade operators much better than other releases have lately.
Beyond that, I enjoy pretty much everything about Strike Harbinger. Apparently, the game will have extensive lore, which is so much more than we usually get from arcade games in the story department (not that I care too much about story, though). It’s also getting a home console port, which I both highly anticipate and dislike. From one perspective, I’m super-psyched to be able to play such a wicked game even when I’m not at the arcade. On the other hand, it might kill operators if they don’t space out the arcade and home console releases enough. Given that it’s very similar to Space Harrier, I’m thinking that the game will have a big enough arcade following to allow the arcade and home releases to coexist peacefully.
Joystick games forever!
For 16 glorious minutes of gameplay footage, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUh75Sps5jc&t=619s.
Developer: BumbleBear Games
Release Date: 2014, apparently
Killer Queen to me seems like a super-interesting arcade release that stands out from anything I’ve seen before. And even if you don’t follow the arcade scene, you’ve probably heard of this game on mainstream gaming news sites. Like Strike Harbinger, Killer Queen isn’t just another driving game or rail shooter. In fact, it feels like an entirely new concept! As such, I feel the need to explain the gameplay a little bit (but you’ve probably read this before).
During a round of Killer Queen, two teams of five players compete against each other. There are three ways a team can win. One way is to collect berries and bring them to your team’s base, known as an economic victory. Another method is one that I find rather odd—riding a painfully slow snail towards your team’s goal. The third and final method is killing the other team’s queen three times. The game has a somewhat steep learning curve, which definitely hinders its ability to thrive in arcades. However, do to the social nature of arcades, I see huge potential for this game once it starts being placed in more venues.
The “problem” with Killer Queen is that it needs a community to be built around the game for it to see any success. Casual players, I’m sure, will be totally baffled by the crazy mess of sprites jumping across the screen. Communities, on the other hand, are always very dedicated groups of people and will fuel this game with the quarters it deserves.
Of course, I’m not even going to pretend that I’m good enough to play something like this. I just know that A) This game looks like a load of fun to play with friends; B) I love how the indie scene has shifted to arcades a bit more recently; and C) I’d buy Killer Queen for sure if I was an operator.
So yeah, the hype continues!
For gameplay, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0gmwlC8Gxw.
Developer: Griffin Aerotech
Publisher: Griffin Aerotech, as far as I can tell
Release Date: April 2017
Before I begin, let me explain that the release date for these indie arcade games is always a little unclear. They usually get placed in local arcades like the Galloping Ghost very early but aren’t truly “released” yet. Skycurser, on the other hand, has proven to have a very solid release date! We didn't have a release date when I first wrote this, so here's my edited text!
Anyway, let’s talk about Skycurser. First off, I’d like to say that it looks absolutely fantastic. It’s retro-inspired art style and somewhat “red label” violence might hamper its appeal in bigger locations, but it’s a perfect fit for local arcades. If you want to see just how visually-stunning and epic this game is, look no further than the link I provided. Griffin Aerotech’s website is packed with cool GIFs and screenshots of the game.
If you’re not sure what Skycurser is, the game is a sidescrolling shoot ‘em up most certainly designed to provide players with that classic arcade feeling. Just from watching gameplay, I know it nails said feeling perfectly, and I know for sure that this is my kind of game.
As far as I know, the game will mostly be sold as kit. However, the dedicated cabinet looks great. Like Strike Harbinger, it provides visual simplicity in the best of ways. The “deluxe” cabinet art looks fantastic, too, and makes up for the cabinet not being one of those modern “attraction pieces” you see from bigger developers. One detail I am a little iffy on, however, is the decision to use a CRT monitor. On one hand, I think this is fantastic, because it eliminates the input lag associated with flat screens and contributes even more to that overall classic aesthetic. On the other hand, I can see CRTs leading to a bit more maintenance on the operator’s part and possibly turning away younger arcade-goers who dismiss it as an “old game” just by looking at it.
Either way, I’m not too concerned. Like I said, the game looks great, and you can bet your beard that I want to get my hands on it as soon a physically possible. Seriously, when was the last time we saw a wicked shmup in the arcades like this? The joystick-based arcade game is coming back, people!
For a wicked teaser trailer from the alpha build, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFB1H3jEyp4. For the footage of the game being played at the Galloping Ghost Arcade, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA4gpJE1TKk. For footage of the game being played at the Game Grid Arcade, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ-JlTsjTEE.
I could list a few more, but I feel like the four games above are the ones that most piqued my interest when I read about them. There are so many more that I could list—Daytona Championship USA, for instance, which you probably wanted to see on this list more than anything else I wrote about. Unfortunately, as much I want to call myself a Daytona fan, I know next to nothing about it, so I’m not going to act like some sort of authority on the new game. And, there are other games like The Spectre Files: Deathstalker and World’s Fastest Drummer that interest me but just don’t warrant their own section. There’s also Dark Presence by Galloping Ghost Productions. It sounds incredibly mind-blowing, but there hasn’t been any news since 2010.
Anyway, I hope this look into some of the best new releases put on display exactly what coolness has been going on lately in the arcade scene. Keep coming back to Wilcox Arcade for all kinds of arcade fun!