Geez Louise, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen arcade news dry up so dang much. There was an 11-day gap between two articles on Arcade Heroes—perhaps the longest void of news on AH that I’ve ever seen. Of course, ya gotta forgive Adam Pratt. Arcade news, while still pretty plentiful, isn’t an every day kind of thing. Besides, I’d much rather have an 11-day gap between Pratt’s articles than have to endure some filler from Ms. Sega-Motion-Simulators-Fangirl herself, SaraAB87. I’m not gonna lie: She might not be the most spectacular writer in the universe. No offense intended, though, because it’s not like anyone even reads MY blog.
However, that does make me wonder: What happened to all the old Arcade Heroes writers? I’ve only been reading since 2015, but when I go through the archives (and the Arcade Heaven Wordpress page), I see a whole flock of arcade bloggers that seem to have just…disappeared. When did Arcade Heroes become almost exclusively Adam Pratt’s territory? I have no real problem with that, but I just kinda wonder, ya know?
Anyway, we should probably move on to the real matters at hand, because I’ve got a heckuva lot to talk about today. I just found out about Black Emperor (even though the Twitter page has existed since November 2016), and there are a few other random arcade bits and bobs that I want to discuss. So yeah, I should probably just move on to the meat of the article.
Black Emperor seems pretty cool.
You’ve probably heard of Killer Queen, the field-game-turned-arcade-game that became one of the first real indie arcade success stories. What you probably haven’t heard of is the developer behind this glorious 10-player strategy game: BumbleBear Games.
On their website, the BumbleBear crew describes themselves as making games for “…smart people to play together in public spaces.” Their platform is apparently the “New Arcade, [a] blend of digital and physical worlds through arcade cabinets, installations, and VR.” So far, that’s been pretty darn true. They’ve done, you know, field games and arcade games. That’s awesome.
However, for the longest time, I thought Killer Queen would be a one-and-done kinda thing. I figured that, since BumbleBear does field games primarily (from what I could tell), Killer Queen was a bit of a fluke. A glorious, beautiful fluke, but a fluke just the same.
I’m pretty pleased that I wrong.
Yep, BumbleBear Games is back, and they’ve got a brand new game coming our way: Black Emperor. The game describes itself as, “Speed and death. A game inspired by japanese psychedelic music and bosozoku motorcycle culture.” And that it is. From gameplay videos, it appears to almost be a motorcyclist’s sidescrolling freerunner. This game looks like it has a lotta promise—and that’s no joke. It’s very classic gameplay in that it’s very high score-focused, and from the very little I know, it might be endless. While endless arcade games aren’t my favorite (I prefer games that you can 100 percent complete), this game looks so fun and so addictive.
Besides being fun, this seems like a game that balances “classic” and “modern” fairly well. It’s a modern 2D arcade game with classic gameplay, yes, but it has a style that's half pixel art and half not-pixel art. While I personally have nothing against pixel art, I do believe it makes arcade games look older than they really are, which may confuse younger, classic-averse players. Also, I believe that arcade games should be at the forefront of hardware development. Rather than making a game with pixel art that says, “Hey, arcades are dead, so this is a game to make you feel like you’re in the 90’s,” I think the focus should be, “Look at this game with billions of polygons and a 4K resolution because arcades are alive and well!”
Like I said, I don’t dislike pixel art, and I really appreciate classic games, but I don’t think it should always be the focus of indie developers. Even Raw Thrills was once technically “indie,” but they made very modern games when starting out. What I like about Black Emperor, though, is that in eschewing typical pixel art, it provides us with an absolutely beautiful and vivid yet gritty art style displayed on a slick (but moderately-sized) HD monitor. It’s classic, but it’s unique. It’s a game that’s not exactly hyper-modern, yet it draws attention by being so bold. Even the cabinet, though simple, looks really slick and is likely to be cost-effective for operators at $6,000.
Something else that really appeals to me about Black Emperor is its focus on music, an aspect of any great multimedia medium that arcades seem to have lost focus of. (Nowadays, it seems that arcade games prefer loud, flashy sound effects over great music, but that’s just what I think. The only stellar soundtracks that I can think of in somewhat recent years are Dark Escape 4D, Terminator: Salvation, Rambo, The House of the Dead 4, and probably Time Crisis 5. There may be more games, but this is all that came to mind.) For me, music is an integral piece of the arcade puzzle. Just think: Would the Cruis’n series or Double Dragon be the same if they didn’t have such great music? I think not. With Black Emperor’s developer focusing so heavily on music, I think we’ll have a really standout game experience.
Black Emperor looks like it’ll be amazing. It’s go so many things going for it: it’s another new indie arcade game, it’s got a vivid art style, it’s got unique music, and it’s a modern-day game with classic arcade gameplay. More than anything, I think Black Emperor (along with Killer Queen, Skycurser, Nex Machina, and Strike Harbinger) will prove that original IPs DO have a place in the modern arcade industry. In all honesty, the vast (and I mean vast) majority of modern arcade games have been licensed titles. They’re still great games, yes, but they don’t present unique characters and worlds for us to identify with. Black Emperor seems destined to end this trend. The game is so wildly unique in its art style, gameplay, and music that you can’t help but remember it. The game’s premise itself is rather unique, too. After all, it’s not everyday that you see an arcade game inspired by Japanese psychedelic music and bosoku motorcycle culture—especially not one with enough of a sense of humor to say, “That really sucked,” when you lose.
Believe it or not, I also see Black Emperor having a really good chance of surviving in a Dave and Buster’s-esque FEC setting. I know that sounds a little far-fetched, but hear me out. You know what most of the videmption games at FECs are? Essentially, they’re giant app games. Dave and Buster’s in particular is no stranger to receiving exclusive freerunners (like the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming game). Black Emperor, when you think about it, is kind of a freerunner-esque game. Not only that, but the art style is something that wouldn’t look out of place in an app-to-arcade game at an FEC. Is it very likely that my prediction will mean almost nothing? Yes, but I can dream. Maybe, just maybe, Black Emperor will be the game to push indie arcade games into FECS. (Write to your local FEC when the game drops, people.)
No matter what its fate might be in FECs, Black Emperor is, in a word, iconic, and I sure can’t wait for it to drop in arcades and blow everybody away.
Since another Golden Tee is on the way, I figure it’s time to tell you what I think about the series.
Arcade Heroes recently reported that—surprise!—a new Golden Tee is on its way in September from good ol’ Incredible Technologies. Adam Pratt details the new content in Golden Tee 2018 so well that I felt no need to paraphrase it:
“To sum it up, you’ve got new courses, two “re-imagined” courses from Golden Tee Fore, new costume options, a new way to roll the ball, new putters, new ball effects, new game modes, golfer animations and there will be time released content through the year to help keep players interested in the game. While the idea of timed release content isn’t new in the business, it is infrequently used. I find it a welcome way to keep players coming back.”
Personally, I’m rather mixed on Golden Tee. It’s not a bad game by any means; heck, I have a plug-and-play version of GT 2011 (yes, Jakks Pacific plug-and-play), and I still thought it was fun to play. Not only is it fun, but Golden Tee is also incredibly content-rich. Seriously, when was the last time an arcade game gave you the plethora of customization options that Golden Tee provides? It’s pretty unheard of for an arcade game to let players customize anything from clothing to golf club and ball colors to golfer animations and ball effects. It’s almost ridiculous how unique one’s player experience can be with Golden Tee—something that needs to be noted by other developers.
To top it off, Golden Tee and Incredible Technologies support online functionality far more than any other arcade game or developer. Unlike the vast majority of developers, Golden Tee isn’t scared of a few online features, and operators apparently aren’t scared either. Golden Tee offers so many online and social media features that I can’t even keep track of ‘em. But you know what? That really is incredible. (Pardon the pun.) If arcades really do want to be in the public consciousness, then why not let players upload their gameplay to YouTube directly from the cabinet like Golden Tee does? It’s brilliant, and like I said, other developers should take notes.
However, as much as I praise Golden Tee for being fun and feature-rich, it’s not perfect. Actually, most of complaints are probably more directed at Incredible Technologies than Golden Tee itself, so let me explain.
Incredible Technologies, throughout its many years of existence, has done almost nothing except for Golden Tee Golf, Silver Strike Bowling, PowerPutt Mini Golf, and that bag tossing game. Literally every single one of these series use the same trackball control scheme and, if not for the sport differences, would be identical games. And in all honesty, with the exception of maybe Carnival King, Incredible Technologies has produced very few games worth playing outside of these series.
But look at how much effort they put into Golden Tee Golf! I’m serious here—is it too much to ask for IT to produce a non-golfing/bowling/bag-tossing game with the same level of care put that IT puts into these longstanding trackball series? Would it kill Incredible Technologies to expand outside of the bar market and make some other cool games?
I’m sure it would, because that’s how things work.
Also, if I had to level a criticism at Golden Tee Golf itself, it’s the graphics are woefully subpar year after year. I guess it doesn’t matter, because adults at bars don’t care if their golf game looks anything close to current-gen.
Ahem. Let’s, uh…move on.
Year Two of Arcade and Retro Gaming Club begins this Wednesday!
Remember way back in February when I wrote about that sweaty nerd Arcade and Retro Gaming Club crud that I started at my school? Yeah, that crud’s back.
It’s going to be exactly the same as last year (just playing video games after school), but I bring it up because I wanted to show you all the flyers that I made. I do have one rather standard flyer design that’s in a few places around the school. It looks kinda cool, right?
Then I made this one.
Yep, that crud is ALL over the school. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on that flyer. (It also kind of proves that Bill Clinton could still be in Cruis’n Blast, given that I, a 16-year-old edited together a fairly nice high-definition Bill picture.)
Anyway, I just thought you all might like that. Let’s move on.
I’m on the lookout for more dirt-cheap arcade games.
I tell ya what: Craigslist is the most beautiful Internet service in the universe. After six months since buying the 60-in-1 Multicade, I’m finally ready to get back into the arcade-purchasing game. Right now, I’m eyeing Lucky and Wild ($800) and Bionic Commando ($600).
Lucky and Wild is a game that actually has a lot of personal significance to me. Back in the days of my second grade year, it was one of the games at the Roller Dome Fun Plex, and a pretty cool one at that. I don’t think I ever actually played it, but just staring at the attract mode was enough to burn the game in my memory forever. (The House of the Dead had the same effect on me, hence why I’ve been dying to play it for so long.) Seriously, a steering wheel and two guns is wicked cool. Also, that giant cabinet and the kick-butt characters were a huge draw, similar to how I felt about Johnny Nero: Action Hero at the time. (Now, I realize that Johnny Nero is a trash game, but second grade Dustin loved it.) Unofficial three-player support was one of the biggest draws of Lucky and Wild, too, heh-heh.
I’ve never played Bionic Commando, but it looks pretty fun based on gameplay videos alone. I’m mostly watching it because A) it’s better than Area 51, which someone always has on Craigslist for $500, and B) it’s a backup plan if Lucky and Wild disappears. Unfortunately, it takes so long to save up money that I may not be able to purchase either game.
I have two requests, Raw Thrills.
It’s no secret that Raw Thrills is pretty much THE biggest and baddest force in the modern arcade industry. Why wouldn’t they be? Nearly every single game that Raw Thrills has put out has been very high-quality and practically rakes in earnings by the ton. It’s no wonder that players and operators alike have had a high opinion of Eugene Jarvis’s development studio ever since the release of its first duo of incredible games: Target: Terror and The Fast and the Furious. Add Play Mechanix and Specular Interactive’s output, and you have almost nothing but solid gold arcade releases every year.
It’s no secret that I like Raw Thrills, too. Target: Terror, The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT, Super Alpine Racer, Terminator Salvation, The Walking Dead, some of the Big Buck Hunter games, H2Overdrive, Dirty Drivin’, Batman, and probably more…I like ‘em all! Heck, Raw Thrills even helped BumbleBear Games give Killer Queen Arcade a full release, and that’s pretty wicked. At the same time, though, I have to admit that Raw Thrills isn’t some perfect omnipotent being. (They’re only human, after all.) Games like Kung Fu Panda: Mojo Dojo and Nicktoons Nitro were kind of, well, lackluster, to say the least. But hey, Raw Thrills is still out there keeping the arcade industry alive, and I respect that.
However, with all of that in mind, there are still two things that I think Raw Thrills needs to do before the end of 2017 if they want to be even better than they already are.
Request #1: Deluxe cabinets are amazing, but I think we really need standard versions of Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead, and Cruis’n Blast.
Deluxe cabinets are way too expensive for small local arcade operators to purchase. And even if they can afford the game, the deluxe versions are so gosh darned expensive that players have to pay upwards of $1.00 per credit to play it. While deluxe cabinets are fun out-of-home entertainment experiences, they cripple small-time operators (essentially non-FECs) and players alike. Not to mention the fact that most deluxe cabinets wouldn’t fit in, say, a restaurant, lobby, or movie theater.
It is very possible for Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead to make the transition to standard cabinets. Raw Thrills already has at least three standard cabinet designs from back when they made Terminator: Salvation, and they were still fantastic gameplay experiences (not to mention cheap). Cruis’n Blast, on the other hand, can be thrown into a Super Cars-esque cabinet. Heck, I’d be all for a stand-up version, too! For whatever reason, those don’t really exist anymore. The last non-conversion kit stand-up racing game cabinet from Raw Thrills was the original 2004 Fast and the Furious game, and that was ages ago.
Request #2: Cruis’n Blast is no doubt a fun game, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s a little content-dry.
In all honesty, I think we could use a little update to the game. Sure, the graphics are beautiful, the gameplay is bombastic, and the tracks are intricate, but the game is rather barren. I for one would like at least five more tracks (even though Super Cars had over 20 tracks, might I add) and a “Cruise Blast” mode, or whatever Mr. Eugene Jarvis would like to call it. That way, we’ll finally be able to experience free races for first place again—the way it’s meant to be.
Speaking of content-dry, I think the game could use more customization options, too. I was really confused when I found out that Cruis’n Blast actually had LESS customization than the FnF games. I mean, isn’t that a step backward? It’s the same thing as having less tracks!
I wouldn’t mind a few random cosmetic additions, too. The lack of a Bill Clinton ending sequence (or ending sequence at all, for that matter) is rather disappointing, considering that it was a staple of the Cruis’n series. Heck, I already proved that it can be done with my Arcade and Retro Gaming Club flyer! Also, there aren’t any trophy girls. I don’t mind, but if we wanna go the Cruis’n purist route, it’s required.
Not to be nit-picky or anything, but wouldn’t it be neat if we had a character selection screen, too? I don’t need this addition by any means, but Cruis’n Exotica had a character selection screen. Just sayin’.
So yeah, that’s what I’m hoping Raw Thrills can do before the end of 2017. I know it’s a long shot, but if we all push for this, maybe it’ll happen. However, with Cruis’n, maybe the high licensing fee from Nintendo made it harder to fill the game with content. I find that very hard to believe, though, considering that nearly every other Raw Thrills game is licensed and much more content-rich. (The Fast and the Furious games, anyone?) Speaking of Cruis’n, I really wanna write an article about Vince Pontarelli. His videogame soundtracks are pure genius.
I really like arcade games. I think we’ve established that they’re pretty much my entire life. That’s why I come here and I write this crud every gosh darn week.
I kinda forgot where I was going with this.
You can go now.