Wilcox Arcade Annual 2017: Part 1
It’s the end of the year, kiddos. A time for looking back, a time for planning anew. A time to boost my SEO with an article that basically compiles everything I’ve written about this year. How devious of me!
But in all seriousness, I really do wanna go through this year. It was the first year of Wilcox Arcade’s existence, and it was totally rad. How about it? Let’s look through all of these articles just one last time.
Fair warning: This article is ridiculously long and I wish I had never written it. I can’t get these hours back.
Oh, and feel free to click on the article links as you go through the Annual. If ya feel like it, that is.
Arcade Games I’ve Beaten in 2017
It says a lot about how little exposure to arcades I receive when I only got to beat seven games this year. Honestly, though, I’m just happy that I even got to play all these games in the first place. Games like Demolish Fist left a really positive impact on me, even if others like Cruis’n Blast left me a bit disappointed. Plus, the more games I get to play, the more I get to determine what games I’d like in my fictional future arcade. Let’s take a look back real quick-like.
I’ve played Terminator Salvation so many, many times, yet it still manages to be fun in each playthrough. I suppose it has to with just how cinematically the game is presented and how much content is packed into the game. It’s a really polished rail shooter that manages to blend the best aspects of both traditional point-and-shoot games and the more recent spray-and-pray shooters. Of course, Terminator Salvation isn’t quite the pinnacle of perfection that I claimed it to be in my initial review, but it still manages to deliver oh-so solidly on so many levels. You really can’t go wrong with giving Terminator Salvation a playthrough the next time you stumble upon it. (And don’t worry; it’s not too terribly troublesome to find. Terminator Salvation is EVERYWHERE.)
Playing Demolish Fist in Lake Barkley’s game room honestly had to have been the greatest hour of my life. (Or one of the greatest hours, that is.) It was an incredibly solid beat ‘em up that landed right at the end of the genre’s popularity (2003!) that I would play again in a heartbeat. The promotional flyer boasted “Violence! Damage! Release!”, all of which I certainly derived from this game. The “Vertigo” mechanic was charged special move that allowed me to clear an entire room of enemies or severely damage a boss by slapping the crud out of the attack button and rack up hits. (Talk about release.) I can't tell you how much fun it was to stand at the cabinet and smash that attack button to death. Of course, while Demolish Fist isn't without a few flaws (slow movement and slightly low-poly graphics, for instance), it's so much fun and so packed with content that it's worth a go anytime you stumble upon it. Demolish Fist is a darn good game.
Time Crisis 4
I found this bad dude at Craig’s Cruisers in Silver Lake City, Michigan. While it’s not a bad game on its own merits, Time Crisis 4 is definitely the weakest game in the Time Crisis series. And when compared to Time Crisis 5, TC4 almost feels like the sequel we never really needed. The then-new multi-screen battle mechanic felt kind of finicky and didn't feel like too much more than a gimmick meant to arbitrarily differentiate the game from TC3. Swarm enemies (the bane of any rail shooter player’s existence) are also much more common, as facilitated by the plot. Furthermore, the graphics do look a bit dated for 2005 when you look at what Sega was able to do with The House of the Dead 4 just a short while later. However, don't get me wrong: Time Crisis 4 is a fun game. Despite its quirks, it's still a part of one of the best rail shooter series of all time. The story, levels, and gameplay (barring multi-screen battles) are still an absolute blast. Boss battles, in particular, were TONS of fun. If you want a unique experience set just a bit apart from the rest of the Time Crisis series, I highly recommend TC4. I really like Time Crisis, in case that wasn't clear. (Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon this in Michigan, 9 hours away from home.)
I stumbled upon this good ol’ arcade racer back in August at Eclipse Con 2017. It was definitely just as fun, if not more fun, than I expected it to be. (And it was a million times better than the home port. While not a shoddy port by any means, Cruis’n World is just so much better in arcade form.) After playing Cruis’n World for the first time, I came to the conclusion that it was the best game in the entire Cruis’n series. The tracks were fun and varied, the car selection was unique, the rubberbanding wasn’t terribly offensive, and the soundtrack was great (Vince Pontarelli is the man). To top it off, hitting animals on the road was even funnier in this game, and the Bill Clinton ending sequence was perhaps the funniest and cleverest in the entire series. Cruis’n World is a well-made game and a true testament to the genius of Eugene Jarvis. Now if only my next experience with a Cruis’n arcade game had been this wonderful….
I played Cruis’n Blast at Chuck-E-Cheese’s back in October, and it was about as “okay” as I expected it to be. It was definitely nowhere near as good as the classic Cruis’n or FnF games, but it also wasn’t terrible. As an arcade racer, Cruis’n Blast succeeded pretty well. The steering wasn’t quite as responsive as I would have liked, and there was no break pedal or four-way shifter. However, it was still a LOT of fun. It felt well-made, polished. It wasn’t a cheap game. The only real problem that I had with Cruis’n Blast is that it didn’t quite succeed as a Cruis’n game. As I’ve explained in countless YouTube comments, Cruis’n Blast is woefully content-dry. There were only five tracks (as opposed to the 14 tracks in the original Cruis’n games and the 20-plus tracks in the FnF games); there were fewer customization options than in the FnF games; there were no free races for first place in single-player; there was no “Cruise” single-player mode; and there was no Bill Clinton ending sequence. It just felt a bit…soulless. It felt like The Fast and the Furious more than it felt like a Cruis’n game, but it also lacked much of what made the FnF games good. Sure, Cruis’n Blast was fun—but it wasn’t what it should have been. Play it if you feel like it. It’d be better to just track down good ol’ Cruis’n World.
After Burner Climax
After Burner Climax was pretty dang fun. It probably wasn’t nearly as perfect as I made it out to be in my review, but it was still a fine game. As far as aerial rail shooter-type games go, it’s certainly one of the best. (Even if it is way too short.) The “Climax” function was wonderful; charging up that meter and clearing a screen of dudes in slow-motion was always a “blast.” (I hate myself, too.) But you see, After Burner Climax exposed me to more than just high-octane gameplay. With this game, I experienced this glories of motion seats for the very first time. My life has been forever impacted by the sheer awesome of the motion seat. When you turn that flight stick and feel the seat move for the very first time, try to tell me that your life didn’t immediately change. (Spoiler alert: Your life will change drastically.)
Jurassic Park Arcade
This was the second-most recent arcade game I beat this year. first time I stumbled upon this game was at a mall in Louisville back in 2016 and blew $13 bucks on it. When I went to that mall again in November of this year, I made sure to complete the game in its entirety, just in case I never saw it again. (The struggle of being geographically isolated from arcades is real.) Jurassic Park Arcade was a heckuva lot better than I thought it would be—and I mean it. I don’t think you all realize how strong of a bias against spray-and-pray rail shooters I have. I’ve always been a much bigger fan of traditional point-and-shoot rail shooters like Time Crisis and Target: Terror, and that’s just a fact. Jurassic Park Arcade, however, proved to me that the machine gun-heavy rail shooters of the 2010s could still be amazing given the proper care. Jurassic Park was no Let’s Go Island or Deadstorm Pirates, because it wasn’t boring. It was crammed full with hidden weapons and secrets, and the game felt joyously grand in its scope. Could the graphics have been a little better? Sure. But that’s not what we play games for, kiddos. We play games because they’re fun, and Jurassic Park Arcade provided me with a fun experience that vastly exceeded my expectations. (And it’s really easy to master. I only died 10 times during my first playthrough. I can’t wait to play it again.)
The Fast and the Furious: DRIFT
And here we are at the most recent arcade game I’ve beaten this year—and probably the last one I’ll get to play, too. The FnF games are top-notch racing titles: incredibly exciting, incredibly acrobatic. However, the rubberbanding is a legendary, which is the only real detractor to the experience beyond something as superficial as graphics. I won’t detail my thoughts too much here, because I’ve got a really special article about the game coming in 2018. I might do a review, too. We’ll see, kiddos.
Games I’m Hoping to Play in 2018
But of course, we can’t just live in the past. Since this year was so great, I’m already planning out which games I wanna get my hands on next year. There are just…so…many…cool…games! (Let’s spam ellipses, why don’t we.)
Time Crisis 5
Back in March, I did actually get to play this game. What keeps it from being in the above list is that, unfortunately, I never got to play through the whole game. I got three credits worth of dual-pedal glory before I had to leave the Dave and Buster’s—forever. (Or at least until next year.) I almost can’t describe how much fun it was to experience dual-pedal Time Crisis for the first time. You know what I was saying about being in a motion seat for the first time? It’s kind of the same thing. When you try out some newfangled out-of-home entertainment experience for the first time, your mind is gonna be blown. Beyond that, though, Time Crisis 5 was a fantastic game. The dual-pedal feature felt like a natural evolution of the series—at least more natural than mult-screen battles. And even if they stripped this game of the Time Crisis license, it would still feel amazing. It’s a highly polished traditional point-and-shoot rail shooter that I simply cannot WAIT to play again.
Maximum Tune 5
I still haven’t played Maximum Tune 5 this year, but it’s understandable that I haven’t. The initial was release was very limited, after all. I’m sure not all operators were willing to purchase the (more expensive) four-player unit. However, now that the two-player unit is available, I foresee Maximum Tune 5 being much more widely available in the coming year. With that being said, I really hope I get to play MT5 in 2018. The idea of a full-fledged simulation racer being available in the arcade market is incredibly exciting to me. Though they’ve never been my favorite racers, I’ve always enjoyed the Gran Turismo games. If Maximum Tune 5 (with all of its vehicles and tracks and customization) is anything like GT, then sign me up immediately. Beyond that, MT5 just looks a lot more refined than some of the other racers we’ve gotten in recent years. I know that sounds totally subjective, but I think it’s true. Besides being packed to the literal and figurative brim with extra content and features, MT5 is a visually stunning game. Sometimes—just sometimes—that goes a long way in differentiating the good from the great. Also, I really wanna use Banapassport. It just looks so COOL to have all of my stats SAVED like that! Why don’t we get more of that in the United States? It’s like the industry is afraid to evolve past PIN codes, for crying out loud!
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead was on my very first Arcade Hype List back in February of 2017…and I still haven’t played it. From everything I've seen, it looks like one of Play Mechanix’s finest rail shooters. To top it off, it mixes the point-and-shoot gameplay of more traditional rail shooters with some “modern sensibilities” and a wicked cool crossbow controller. While I have no particular attachment to the intellectual property, I do think the game itself will be a blast to play when I finally get the chance to do so. Granted, the graphics ARE pretty subpar (which is baffling, given that this is, you know, an arcade game). But as I’ve said earlier in this article, do we play games for the graphics? Absolutely not! (Though it would boost The Walking Dead’s awesomeness considerably. Just a thought.)
The House of the Dead
If my “A Plea to Sega for The House of the Dead 5” was any indication, I really want to play one of The House of the Dead games. Any of ‘em. I used to absolutely love watching the attract mode and people playing the original game at the Roller Dome Fun Plex. The thought of it just leaves me so...nostalgic, I guess. (Even if I'm not old enough to feel “true” nostalgia.) If I got even a few minutes with one of these games, I'd probably die. They're all such well-made, perfect rail shooters. (And you all know how much I love rail shooters.) In my opinion, The House of the Dead series went above and beyond what anyone could have ever asked for. Fun gameplay, varied enemies, wicked bosses, great graphics, wonderful music—the whole gosh darned nine proverbial yards. Maybe I’ll get to play one of these bad dudes in 2018. (And believe it or not, I might just get to purchase one in January. It’s a semi-long story, but it may not fall through. We’ll have to see.)
Though I don’t talk about this one too terribly much here on my blog, I talk about it excessively everywhere else. Let me tell ya—I really, really want to play CarnEvil. Everthing about CarnEvil screams “irreverent 90’s Midway,” and I love it. It’s gory, the music is phenomenal, the enemy and boss designs are beyond genius, and above all, the game is flat-out hilarious. CarnEvil is a genuinely creative game, and it’s got a healthy helping plenty of humor, too. I am almost feel bad stalling out right here, but I don’t think there’s much more I can say. CarnEvil’s just one of those iconic games, ya know? But like, the kind that never gets ported and thusly slips under a lot of people’s radars. You know what I’m saying.
While maybe not quite as exciting as CarnEvil, Cruis’n Exotica is another Midway game that I’m just dying to play. I’ve played Cruis’n USA, Cruis’n World, and Cruis’n Blast, so it’s only natural that I should play Exotica, right? It’s probably not the pinnacle of perfection that Cruis’n World was, but I think I’ll still have a bunch of fun with it. I mean, it’s Cruis’n, after all. Cruis’n is THE fun arcade racer. Besides, Exotica ups the whacky factor considerably. Wouldn’t you want to drive in Atlantis as an alien while listening to weird grunge rock/electronic music hybrids? I would; I most certainly would.
War: Final Assault
Considering my “scathing commentary” of the product video, you probably don’t assume that War: Final Assault is one of the games I want to play in 2018. Well, it is, kiddos, so deal with it. War: Final Assault represents the knock-off Midway awesomeness of 90’s Atari: it’s gory, challenging, and ludicrously hammy. And besides, it’s an arcade first-/third-person shooter. I’ve wanted to play an FPS in arcades for a LONG time. The fact that (hopefully) my first arcade FPS experience will be War: Final Assault just makes it that much better.
NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC
Yeah, this one’s a real fun-like game. NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC is the only 3D title in the NBA Jam series (otherwise known as the greatest basketball games of all time), but I’m not sure if it’s the best. NBA Hangtime is pretty radical, my people. But yeah, the main reason I put this bad dude on the list is because I’ve had bucket-loads of fun playing the Nintendo 64 version. Seriously, Midway made some FUN games. I need some more 90’s Midway in my life. However, now that I think about it, I might be better off going with NBA Jam or NBA Hangtime. (Hangtime was an especially awesome arcade basketball game.)
My Top 5 Most Popular Articles of 2017
You know, it’s kinda fun to look at which articles are most popular at the end of the year. It let’s me know what you all (the totally rad readers) are most interested in. The results were mostly what I expected, with just a few surprises.