StepManiaX and Ninja Soldier (M2) Thoughts

April 11, 2018

Arcade news hasn’t been particularly slow lately, but I’ve been slow to writing about it. Luckily for me, I happened to stumble upon just the right inspiration. While my commentary on StepManiaX may be long overdue, this Ninja Soldier crud is totally topical. It balances out, right?

            So without further ado, let’s get crackin’.

StepManiaX may be beneficial to the American arcade industry.

I know I’m just the slightest bit late to the punch with this news, but I’ve been wanting to write an article about the coin-op version of StepManiaX since the very day word dropped on Arcade Heroes. Better late than never, ya know?

Although I don’t think I’ve ever really mentioned it on my blog, I am quite the Dance Dance Revolution freak. As far as skill level goes, I’m pretty average. But as far as dedication goes, I’m a straight-up addict. I play Max 2, Extreme 2, SuperNOVA 2, and DDR II for hours on end every day. It’s just that flipping fun. (And the local arcade operator at the Wal-Mart might be installing a DDR machine soon!)

            Since I’ve become such a DDR freak in the past school year, it should come as no surprise that I was super excited when I heard StepManiaX was receiving a coin-operated arcade release. Prior to now, the only version available was a free-play installation meant for “Home Fitness, Education, E-Sports, and Family Recreation Centers.” While this is certainly good as well, I definitely prefer a coin-op version that I can actually access. But I suppose I haven’t even told you yet: What is StepManiaX?

            Developed by the team at StepRevolution and helmed by the renowned Kyle Ward, StepManiaX is a new five-panel dancing game in which players step to the beat of the music. Like Dance Dance Revolution, the panels are arranged in the cardinal directions (left, down, up, right), with the addition of a center panel a la Pump It Up.

            For singles (only one dance pad), there are four difficulty levels: Basic, Easy, Hard, and Wild. For doubles (both dance pads), there are three difficulty levels: Dual, Full, and Team, the latter of which is meant for two players. And like any good arcade dancing game, there are plenty of customizable configurations, such as speed, effects, and more.

            One thing I find really interesting is how players save their progress. Unlike Dance Dance Revolution A or Pump It Up Prime 2, players won’t need a card or USB stick to save. All StepManiaX players need to do is download the mobile app to access their stats at any time. While I love using an Amusement Pass for DDR A, I will admit that, in today’s day and age, a mobile app is much more convenient. You never have to worry about forgetting a card at home!

            Step Revolution definitely strived for quality in the interface. The cabinet is a “Compact & durable all-in-one design that utilizes small form factor and minimal space.” I appreciate that they were going for versatility. We all know that arcade games have gotten way too big for their own good these days. It’s also important to note that Step Revolution promises reliability. Besides cabinet size, maintenance has always been one of the biggest hurdles in operating dancing arcade games. And of course, as far as player interface goes, I think things are looking pretty good. StepManiaX uses a “touchscreen navigation system”, as opposed to traditional buttons. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds fairly intuitive and easy to use.

            As far as variety goes, StepManiaX features over 80 songs, including new additions and older tracks from past Step Revolution games. Though there are new songs added with regularity, it’s clear that StepManiaX doesn’t have the sheer volume of songs that DDR A and PIU Prime 2 have. But it makes sense; StepManiaX hasn’t had two decades to build up its library like those other series have.

            The only thing I thought was weird about StepManiaX was how strongly emphasized the “exergame” designation was. Perhaps it just has to do with the crash of the rhythm game community in the U.S. in the late-2000s. Step Revolution may have wanted to distance themselves from DDR.

            But yeah, StepManiaX sounds pretty flipping cool. And luckily for us, a coin-operated version is on its way. (Eight on the Break is holding a location test for it soon.) But what’s so special about a new arcade dancing game? Why did I feel the need to write about it so badly?

            You know, I may just be some 17-year-old on the Internet, but I think there’s something about rhythm games—particularly dancing games—that’s perfect for the arcade environment. There’s this perfect balance of skill-based progression, industrial-strength hardware, public showcase, and sociality that make arcades a destination for dancing games. Sure, you can play DDR on your PS2—but is it even remotely the same experience? Like many arcade games, dancing games place extreme emphasis on building skill. And sure, you can do that just fine at home. But unless you’re willing to shell out at least $200, you’re stuck with so-so plastic mats. And when you play at home, you miss out on the incredible social environment found only in arcades. Playing with others, learning from others, and just plain showing off—it’s all great fun. That’s what makes the coin-op release of StepManiaX so exciting.

            Though we may not think about it as much now, it’s impossible to deny that dancing games breathed so much life back into the arcade industry in the early-2000s. Like fighting games in the 90’s, arcade developers found a surefire genre and ran with it. Dance Dance Revolution, Pump It Up, and In The Groove (but mostly DDR) were massively popular games that got kids everywhere to get off their couch and get in the arcades. It was ridiculous—but really flippin’ cool. If StepManiaX were some how able to replicate that success, as unlikely as it may be, we could have a real gem on our hands.

            Unfortunately, I don’t forsee this being entirely the case. While Dance Dance Revolution A may be fairly popular at Dave and Buster’s and Round1USA, it’s definitely not the same atmosphere as it used to be. Now, highly-skilled, highly-technical players dominate the machine, and casual players don’t get into it like they used to. The dancing game community is a lot different these days. It would be awesome if StepManiaX could capitalize on the hardcore players, but it’d be a miracle if they could appeal to casuals.

            Still, I have hope. Any new arcade game that isn’t a racing or shooting game is always welcome. And if Kyle Ward and the guys at Step Revolution can churn out a hit, it’s a double-win. All I know is that I plan to play StepManiaX as soon as possible once it drops in Spring/Summer of this year and will soon be on location test at the Eight on the Break arcade. At a cost-effective anticipated price of $8,000 to $9,000, I think StepManiaX will be a hit with operators.

 

A new Ninja Soldier arcade game may be coming to the West.

This new is much more recent and equally exciting. Arcade Heroes reported last week that a new Ninja Soldier arcade game is coming to arcades soon. Developed by M2 (an arcade, console, and mobile developer that often works with bigger studios such as Konami), this new Ninja Solider game is based on a recently discovered 30-year-old design draft found in the M2 warehouse. As such, the game flaunts a very “retro” aesthetic.

 

            The reason Arcade Heroes states Ninja Soldier may be receiving a Western release is because the official website is in both Japanese and English. Obviously, we don’t know for sure if Ninja Soldier really is destined for broader shores, but we can always cross our fingers diligently. (And perhaps contact M2, as well.) Apparently, according to 4Gamer, Ninja Soldier is the first sequence in M2’s plan to revive 2D shooting games, so that gives us even more hope.

            As always, I’m excited to see that a new Japanese arcade game might be making its way to the West. It is a little odd that we’ve so many shoot-em-ups lately, though. All of the currently revealed Exa-Arcadia titles are shmups, and now we’ve got Ninja Soldier. It’s almost kind of funny. We’ve been complaining about there being too many racing and shooting games in the modern arcade industry, but we may soon be complaining about too many shmups!

            Before I move on, I figured I could share some of the art with you:

 

            Hopefully we’ll see this one soon!

It’s nice to see cool arcades games popping up all the time these days. Whether it’s House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Exa-Arcadia titles, StepManiaX, or Ninja Soldier, it seems like something new and interesting is always just around the corner.

            I think I’ll spend more time on my blog next week, even though I need to be studying for AP exams. Believe it or not, I got to try out the brand-new TMNT game on location test at Arcadia in Gatlinburg, Tennessee last week. You have no idea how badly I want to write an article on that. For now, though, just know that TMNT was flipping FANTASTIC.

            Anyway, I’m out. Have a good day, kiddos.

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