My 2018 Raw Thrills Wishlist

January 22, 2018

It’s 2018, people. (Well, I guess it’s been 2018 for a while, but I’m trying to make a point here.) Since it’s 2018, it’s time to start looking forward to 2018 arcade games! I look forward to Raw Thrills’s output in particular. We’ve been promised two HUGE games in 2018: Nex Machina Death Machine and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The former is a tough-as-nails overhead twin-stick shooter; the latter is a 3D sidescrolling beat ‘em up. If those two games don’t immediately show you that Raw Thrills is going to dominate this year, I don’t what will.

            Raw Thrills has always been one of my all-time favorite arcade developers. And since Raw Thrills starting to take more risks, I decided I’d compile a short of list of games I’d like to see from them in 2018. Most of it is pretty unrealistic, but I still think player input is always a good thing. Sure, I’m just one player. But still, I can try. And we can all try! Player input is important, after all. If you agree with this list, you can send it Raw Thrills’s way. If you want to see different games this year, write your own list and send it to Raw Thrills! Because this is how we make change. Arcades will never become uber-popular again if we don’t share what we want with developers.

            Anyway, that’s over; let’s move on. Throw it in the trash. It’s time to look at some horribly unrealistic video game fantasies.

Target: Terror 2

Target: Terror 2 is probably the most realistic desire on this list—but just barely. It’s a rail shooter, sure; but it’s also the “outdated” point-and-shoot, ten-bullet, shoot-offscreen-to-reload kind of rail shooter. Raw Thrills doesn’t really make these kinds of games anymore. And the industry as a whole seems to have dropped this style, too. (Even the new House of the Dead game will be using an uzi, based on recent  reports.) The closest thing we’ve gotten recently is Time Crisis 5, and that was from Namco.

            What makes Target: Terror 2 even more unlikely is what makes it even more of a relic than it already is: motion-capture. When the original Target: Terror dropped in 2004, it already looked “dated”. Using live actors in video games hadn’t been a thing since the late-90’s. But in 2018? Even the slick HD mocap Raw Thrills can do now (I’ve seen the Big Buck HD Western-themed minigame), many players would still scoff at it. What people don’t seem to realize is that motion-capture, like pixel art, is a deliberate design decision. Eugene Jarvis chose that artstyle for a reason, and the game does not take itself seriously—at all. I’m afraid that in our polygon-pushing times, people would be even less capable of understanding that a game like Target: Terror is 100 percent tongue-in-cheek.

            To top it all off, the original Target: Terror was a very, very gory game. I’m not sure how well that would fly in 2018 arcades. Sure, we’ve Dark Escape 4D and The Walking Dead, but those feel like anomalies. Games tend to be a lot more family-friendly in today’s arcades.

            But despite all the odds—despite the numerous reasons I just named that would actually discourage Raw Thrills from making Target: Terror 2 (oops)—I still really, really want it. BAD. Target: Terror is a FUN game. Blowing up a dude’s head and watching the ridiculous, exaggerated reaction is always satisfying. Target: Terror 2 would provide the arcade industry with a (much-needed) dose of humor. Arcade games, particularly Midway games, used to be funny. Now, not so much. But by bringing Target: Terror back, we can have more fun shooting terrorists and get a good laugh out of our 45 minutes at the arcade. Target: Terror 2 is not the game we deserve; it’s the game we need.

            However, if Target: Terror does in fact come back, I have a few requests. For one thing, we need some recoil in those guns. I get that Target: Terror was supposed to be a cost-effective game, but after Time Crisis, I can’t go back to guns that don’t have any force-feedback. And while we’re subject of cost, Target: Terror 2 needs to be released in a standard cabinet form. There can be a deluxe environmental cabinet, too; that doesn’t bother me. All I ask is that a cost-effective standard cab also be released.

           My final request is one that would probably be addressed anyway: Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, tone down the difficulty. Target: Terror was a funny game, sure. But sometimes, no matter how funny a game is, you can’t justify putting in more quarters. Target: Terror straddled that line way too much, and that’s probably why it hasn’t been remembered as a classic yet, despite deserving that recognition. Modern arcade games have become considerably easier (just play Jurassic Park Arcade, for instance), so I think this would be fixed anyway. Still, I want this to be known. Please, Eugene Jarvis, make the game a bit more fair. (Then again, I’d have to play Target: Terror a little more before I criticize it too much. I've just heard from a number of sources that the game is intensely difficult.) I think the perfect way to keep the game tough while also keeping it fair would be to outline enemies in red when they’re about too shoot, like what was done in Terminator Salvation. That was a genius game mechanic, and I think it would make Target: Terror 2 that much better. You know, if it ever comes out.

            I can dream.

 

Dirty Pigskin Football 2

If Dirty Pigskin Football 2 (or DPF 2018, if they go the yearly-naming route) became a real thing, I bet ya it’d be one of the biggest left-fielders in Raw Thrills history. It’s certainly not a game anyone remembers. Dirty Pigskin Football is an obscure Atomiswave game that Play Mechanix released quietly in 2006. It was the pre-Raw Thrills and Big Buck Hunter Pro days; the days when Play Mechanix games varied wildly in quality. “So Dustin,” you’re probably saying. “If Dirty Pigskin Football is obscure and rarely remembered, why do you want a sequel so badly?” I’m so, so glad you asked.

            Dirty Pigskin Football is NFL Blitz 2006 in all but name. It relies on that same pass- and run-based gameplay, and it’s got LOTS of violent tackles. Clearly, Play Mechanix really wanted to bring back the glorious, wonderful days of over-the-top Midway arcade sports games. Of course, Play Mechanix didn’t go the officially-licensed route (I doubt that any arcade developer could compete with EA for the NFL license at this point), but that was okay. Since they didn’t have any real teams at their disposal, Play Mechanix crafted eight original teams. Each one of these teams is completely unique and has their own amusing charm. Even the flipping fields are a joy to look at! No, scratch that—even the music and sound effects are fun! Dirty Pigskin Football is packed with personality and charm—and I wanna see more of that in 2018!

            Bringing Dirty Pigskin Football 2 to arcades could potentially rejuvenate the sports genre in the industry. It makes football so simple—and so funny, with all those colorful teams and fields—that even casual players might give the game a whirl. Dirty Pigskin Football 2 would be so awesome. Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills know what they’re doing; just imagine the updated gameplay and graphics! They could keep the old teams in the game and add eight entirely new teams! Sixteen gosh danged teams!

            Of course, even with all of this fantasy I’m throwing at you, I should still keep things somewhat grounded in reality, for everyone’s sakes. It is highly, highly unlikely that Dirty Pigskin Football 2 will ever be made. Like I said, it’s one of those super-obscure games from the first ten years of Play Mechanix’s existence. There is no nostalgia; there is no community around the game pushing for it to come back. And beyond that, I just don’t know if sports games would work in arcades anymore. It’s sickening to see people at school clamoring over yearly EA Sports ripoffs (sorry, “games”) and their hyper-realism. Arcade-y sports games just might not make it anymore, especially without an NFL license. When you consider that the large majority of modern arcade games are racing games and rail shooters, it makes Dirty Pigskin Football 2 seem even more unlikely.

            However, I continue to hold on to my gosh danged hope. Bringing back DPF (perhaps as a reboot) would be the perfect opportunity for Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills to bring an entire GENRE back to arcades, just like they’re doing with Nex Machina and TMNT 2018! It would be fantastic and totally kick some life into the arcade industry. And besides, I really, REALLY want Dirty Pigskin Football 2. I want it so badly! You can’t find the original game anywhere because it’s so darn obscure! Please Play Mechanix, please!

            I’m sorry. That was probably a bit sad to read.

            I’m a sad little man; that’s what I am.

 

An original 2D- or 3D-platformer

Okay, okay. In all honesty, this request is 100 percent self-centered. (Full disclosure: I'm a GIGANTIC fan of 3D-platformers. I play all of 'em—even the bad ones!) Raw Thrills is definitely attempting to bring more genres (beat ‘em ups and twin-stick shooters) back into the arcades, so I figured I’d suggest some new genres myself. It’s been a very, very long time since we’ve seen platformers in arcades. The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are Contra, Bionic Commando, and Super Mario VS. But here’s the thing: Platformers could work beautifully in arcades.

            The way many platformers are designed are very conducive to arcade gameplay. All an arcade platformer needs is a timer (already common within the genre) and slightly increased difficulty. This would be quite easy, I think, to implement, at least as far as 2D-platformers go. Due to the somewhat open-world design of many 3D-platformers, I think it might be a bit more difficult to make the transition to arcades. However, a 3D-platformer that follows the linear structure of games like Super Mario 3D Land or Pac-Man World would work beautifully in arcades.

            I don’t know if anyone at Raw Thrills has any background working on these types of games, but I’m sure they could do it. They’re a darn good development studio! I’m sure that, if they picked up a good license (some animated TV show or something), they could push platformers back into arcades. If they were to make a platformer (which hopefully they will) my one recommendation would be that they use analogue sticks instead of joysticks. Joysticks are great, but not for platformers. Analogue sticks are already commonplace on Japanese arcade games, but we haven’t really adopted it here in the West. I suggest it for precision alone.

            So yeah, let’s hope Raw Thrills sees my lofty wish and it becomes a reality. Because that’s how things work.

            I’m being sarcastic.

 

An original first- or third-person shooter

I’m not sure if this is more or less likely than an arcade platformer, but it’s still pretty implausible. First-person shooters lived a very brief life in arcades. The two most notable FPS games (The Grid from Midway and War: Final Assault from Atari) have faded into near-obscurity. (Unless you’re a huge fan of arcades, of course.) Japan has tried a few FPS arcade games, mostly as an attempt to boost the popularity of the genre as a whole. (It’s not too big in Japan.) Off the top of my head,  I can think of just a few: that Metal Gear Solid game, that Half-Life game, and that Left 4 Dead game. If even Japan can’t make arcade first-person shooters work, then perhaps all hope is lost in the West.

            But to that, I say no—a big no! Raw Thrills is a force to be reckoned with. If anyone can successfully bring the genre to arcades, it’s them. First- and third-person shooters are already hugely popular on PCs and consoles. If we can simplify the genre, add some timers, and play up the competitive nature of the games, I think that FPS games can land themselves in arcades. The way I see it, first-person shooters would have community not unlike that of 90’s fighting game nuts. A select group of super-hardcore players would form a strong competitive scene around arcade shooters and play them religiously. The only real problem is that most gaming communities are online these days. People…people really don’t like leaving their houses anymore.

            But knowing Raw Thrills’s propensity for making masterpieces out of movie and TV licenses (and dominating the arcade industry in general), I think they could pull it off. Maybe—just maybe. While of course I’d much rather see them create an original IP (why don’t they do that anymore?!), I’d completely understand if the safest way to bring first- and third-person shooters to arcades would be through a well-known license. I know you’re all tired of seeing first-person shooters on consoles. I am, too. (The darned games have oversaturated the gaming industry.) But the way I see it, there’s not better way to push arcades into the mainstream than by pushing gaming’s most mainstream genre into arcades.

            Also, I really wanted Uncharted arcade. Seriously, I want a game that feels just like Uncharted but in arcades. Also, I want it to be more arcade-y. Uncharted is sometimes too realistic for my tastes.

            I have very wild dreams.

 

A Super Smash Bros.-style fighting game

We all know that it's been a long time since fighting games have been a mainstay of arcades. Sure, there have been a few half-hearted attempts here and there (Street Fighter IV and Tekken 6, for instance), but we haven't seen arcade fighting games on a large scale on quite a while. Naturally, I have no idea what Raw Thrills's real intentions behind creating Injustice Arcade were, but here are my assumptions. Raw Thrills wanted to test the waters for a real arcade fighting game by porting an existing fighting game in the most casual-friendly form possible. If this were in fact the intention behind Injustice Arcade, I might be a little more forgiving of it.

            But I have an idea for Raw Thrills that might work just as well, if not better, than porting the mobile version of Injustice Arcade. To really bring fighting games back, Raw Thrills can create their very own Smash Bros. "clone". Or heck, they could even make a spiritual successor to Power Stone! What makes these games so perfect for arcades is their ease of play. Almost anyone can understand Smash Bros. or Power Stone. The fact that they're both four-player games makes them even more appealing to the average arcade gamer. If Raw Thrills can make a brand-new game in lieu of one of these games, I see no reason why more traditional fighting games can't eventually be thrusted back into the mainstream.

            There are, of course, three ways that Raw Thrills can go about this. They can either make a crossover featuring all of their original characters, create an entirely new roster of original characters, or they can choose a well-known license and make a brawler out of it. I honestly don't recommend using their preexisting characters. It's hard to even come up with a good roster! Johnny Nero Action Hero, a deer from Big Buck Hunter, maybe a terrorist from Target: Terror, some vehicles from H2Overdrive and Dirty Drivin'...? As much as I'd like it to work, I really don't think it would.

            Creating an original character roster is definitely what I recommend the most. We need more compelling original IPs in the arcade industry, and I think Raw Thrills could do it. I personally would not be satisfied with anything less than 15 characters, but that's just me. (I personally feel like eight- and twelve-character rosters are relics of the past.) If they create their own roster, they could even have some characters from their other games as unlockables. (So yes, Johnny Nero and the deer from Big Buck Hunter CAN be in the fictional Raw Thrills brawler!) Once they've got a stellar roster, they can sprinkle in some unique stages and BOOM! We've got Smash/Power Stone sort of brawler back in arcades.

             I'm going to assume, though, that Raw Thrills will choose an existing intellectual property to adapt into a brawler (also assuming they, you know, create a brand-new brawler). I would have no real problem with this, I guess. As long as it's a cool property, we're set. Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion was really cool. If Raw Thrills could do something like that with, say, the Nicktoons (they've done two games with Nickelodeon before!) we could have something special on our hands.

             My only other recommendation to Raw Thrills would be that they embrace the arcade experience. If Smash Bros. can do eight-player smash (which was admittedly way too much), Raw Thrills can do it, too. (Or, if it fits better on a control panel, five- or six-players. I think an eight-player arcade brawler would demand either a 100-inch monitor or splitting the players up on two separate cabinets.) But arcades have always been about multiplayer, and there are few genres that are as fun to play with other people as brawlers are. In my very honest opinion, creating a Smash- or Power Stone-style fighting game would be the very best thing that Raw Thrills could possibly do in 2018.

             I can only imagine how fun it would be to rub elbows in a heated match in an arcade brawler. Sigh.

             Please, Raw Thrills! Multiplayer arcade games rule!

 

Standard cabinets for recently released games

I've brought this up before, and I wanna bring it up again. The death of standard cabinets is perhaps the worst thing to have happened to arcades in recent years. Now, every racing game has to have an over-the-top $8,000 cabinet and every rail shooter has to have a massive $12,000 environmental theater cabinet. It's not that I dislike deluxe cabinets; on the contrary, I believe they greatly enhance the arcade experience. My real problem with deluxe cabinets is that they cripple players and small-time arcade operators alike. Not every arcade operator can afford cabinets of that magnitude. Not every operator can fit those cabinets in certain locations, like restaurants and movie theaters. Having deluxe cabinets as the only option severely limits the number of locations new arcade games can be in. It's a darn shame.

            I will admit that Sega and Namco have been very good about releasing standard cabinets for their games. Games like Let's Go Jungle, Transformers: Human Alliance, and Deadstorm Pirates have all gotten the standard upright treatment. However, in recent years, Raw Thrills seems to have completely abandoned upright cabinets. Their two newest shooters, Jurassic Park Arcade and The Walking Dead, have been on the market for a quite a while now, yet neither game has received a more cost-effective cabinet option. These are really, really good games. Unfortunately, we may not see Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead in some locations due to the facts that A) they're $12,000 each, and B) they're gargantuan cabinets. Raw Thrills already has multiple standard upright cabinet designs from back when they released Terminator Salvation. Why not reskin those cabs and rerelease Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead? Then, we could see these fantastic games in a variety of locations, both great and small. Why doesn't Raw Thrills do this?

            I have to wonder the same thing about Cruis'n Blast. The cabinet designs for H2Overdrive, Dirty Drivin', and Super Cars were all small and (seemingly) cost-effective. Cruis'n Blast, on the other hand, was released in a massive "cockpit" cabinet that retails at about $8,000. Why not release a smaller sit-down cabinet? Why not release a classic upright cabinet? Then, Cruis'n Blast can land itself in more locations. And it's not just about expanding a game's reach, either. The demand for standard arcade cabinets is also about creating a quality experience for the players. Not everyone wants to spend a $1.00 per credit. (I know I hate it.) What happened to the days of Raw Thrills games that were $0.50 or $0.75 per credit? What happened to the good ol' gosh danged days?

            I hope Raw Thrills considers churning out some standard cabinets in the future. I don't care what anyone says; by raising the barrier to entry so high ($12,000 games!!!), we're doing nothing but crippling the arcade industry. Operators wanna pay less; players wanna pay less. It's a win-win! Oh, and on the subject of Cruis'n Blast...

 

A Cruis’n Blast update

I know I’ve complained about Cruis’n Blast a lot, and it’s probably starting to get annoying by now. But here’s the thing: Cruis’n Blast didn't feel like a real Cruis'n sequel to me. It was very, very fun, but it was...empty. As I wrote in my review, it was kind of content-dry. (Certainly too dry to be ported to the Nintendo Switch, if that's what you're into.) I feel like we the players needed just a little more. And that…that’s my excuse for complaining more about this game. Because I don’t want to beat a dead horse, I’ll go over what I want to see in a Cruis’n update in short bullet points.

 

  • More tracks, pretty please. Five tracks is a little low for a 2017 arcade game. The original Cruis’n game had 14. The Fast and the Furious games had even more tracks by the time DRIFT and Super Cars came around. I love how intricate and detailed and beautiful the Cruis’n Blast tracks are, but I'm a little disheartened by how few there are. It makes the game feel somewhat incomplete.

  • A true single-player mode with free races for first place (and Bill Clinton). In the original Cruis’n trilogy, you could “Cruise the USA,” “Cruise the World,” or “Cruise Exotica.” These were single-player modes that granted you access to hidden tracks, gave you free races for first place, and had jolly ol’ Bill Clinton in the ending sequences. These modes made the Cruis’n games feel more content-rich and interesting. Without anything for a single player to do but play each of the tracks individually, Cruis’n Blast feels a bit empty. Also, it is just a little weird that you can only win a free race in multiplayer. (Maybe it's just an operator setting?) And furthermore, without a classic Bill Clinton ending sequence, Cruis’n Blast feels soulless. (I've had a lot of fun digitally editing my own Cruis'n Blast Bill Clinton pictures. I have too much free-time.)

  • More customization options. Like the Fast and the Furious games, Cruis’n Blast has vehicle upgrades. Here’s the problem: There are actually less upgrade options than in previous games. Sure, the upgrades were virtually useless in the face of brutal rubberbanding, but they were fun. I'd love to have ‘em back. And while we’re on the subject of customization, I really wouldn’t mind a character select screen. Cruis’n Exotica had one, after all. It would really just make Blast feel a lot more interesting than it is, even if selecting a character is kind of pointless.

 

            I guess I can stop complaining about Cruis’n Blast at this point. However, I implore all of you as fellow arcade enthusiasts to show Raw Thrills that we want more content. Cruis’n Blast did not have enough content, but with player feedback, we can get it improved. (Hopefully. Maybe.)

            I want to make it very clear that I like Raw Thrills a lot, though. Like, was that clear? Their games are good. Cruis'n was just too short, is all. Other than that, it was just as fun as every other Raw Thrills game. (Though I will admit that I've always have a soft spot for FnF: DRIFT and, more recently, the original Super Bikes. I've been playing the latter at my local Wal-Mart and beefing up my PIN-code profile.)

Raw Thrills is an awesome company that makes awesome games. It’s impossible to deny that, like I’ve said a million times by now, they dominate the industry. That’s why it’s so important to tell Raw Thrills what we want to play. Their decisions shape the entire arcade scene! We want Raw Thrills to know what kind of games people really want! Of course, a few players making some noise on small arcade blogs (totally referring to myself here) might not spur a year-long game development cycle, but it’s certainly worth a try. All I know is that I can live without Target: Terror 2 and Dirty Pigskin Football 2. That would be…glorious.

            Despite the specifics on my list, I also really wouldn’t mind Raw Thrills creating something entirely unique. What was so exciting about arcades in the 80’s and 90’s (but mostly the 80’s) was that every game was unique. Everything was new—almost like developers were starting new genres with each game they released! Though it seems like everything has already been tried in video games already, I know it’s still possible. Remember when Uncharted came out, and now everyone wants to be like Uncharted? Stuff like that.

            If I were to make one last suggestion, it would be this: Give some indie developers a few opportunities to develop arcade titles. I think it would be absolutely genius on Raw Thrills’s part to approach more indie dev studios (like Housemarque) and give their games full arcade releases. It’ll benefit Raw Thrills by giving them more games to push into arcades; it’ll benefit indie developers by giving them the exposure they deserve.

            Also, I really, really want Raw Thrills merch. I want a Raw Thrills T-shirt so badly it's not even funny.

            I know I’m just some 16-year-old on the Internet, but I really hope my suggestions matter in some capacity. If you agree with anything I’ve said, comment below and share this article with others. We want Raw Thrills to hear us, right? Or, if you have your own wishlist for Raw Thrills’s 2018, write your own article and share it with me! We want to be heard, right? And believe me, Raw Thrills does listen. It is remarkably easy to reach out to them on Twitter. Tell ‘em what you want—politely, that is. (We can’t be entitled about this like we’re a bunch of Star Wars fans or something. That was a joke, by the way. Please don’t hurt me.)

            Well, I’m out. See ya ‘round, ya sweaty flippin’ nerds.

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