If you’re even slightly familiar with my blog, you probably already know that I am a huge proponent of standard cabinet releases for each and every arcade game. Sure, deluxe experiences are nice—I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the theater-style presentations of Jurassic Park Arcade or Dark Escape 4D—but it becomes problematic when deluxe cabinets are the only option available to operators. Deluxe cabinets are expensive (for both operators and players) and can sometimes dominate huge chunks of floor space that could have otherwise been dedicated to more games. Not every arcade is Dave and Buster’s, people.
Given my beliefs on the subject, I’m always very excited when recently released arcade games receive the standard treatment. Take SEGA’s Target Bravo: Operation G.H.O.S.T., for example. Target Bravo: Operation G.H.O.S.T. is a 2016 update to 2011’s Operation G.H.O.S.T. game (pictured below). It’s essentially the same game, with a few content additions and, of course, the new environmental deluxe cabinet. While the 2011 version wasn’t exactly small (it had a 55-inch monitor), it wasn’t an encased, sit-down “experience” either.
For a while, it seemed like deluxe Operation: G.H.O.S.T. was the definitive version. But now, 7 years after the release of the original game, SEGA has dropped a new, cost-effective, space-conscious version of Operation: G.H.O.S.T. Operators can now purchase the 2016 software update (with the Time Attack mode) in a form factor more suited to smaller locations. The standard cabinet is a regular, upright design with a smaller, 43-inch monitor—a design more akin to Terminator: Salvation than Jurassic Park Arcade. This is exactly what we needed. SEGA may very well be the only developer that still cares about smaller arcades and street venues.
Unfortunately, there are a few snags I’ve gotten hung up on with this news. First and foremost, Target Bravo: Operation G.H.O.S.T. is not a new game. It is a 2016 content update to a 2011 game only just now receiving a standard cabinet option in 2018. When you really think about it, SEGA hasn’t exactly done anything revolutionary here. This is a 7-year-old game, complete with aging graphics and presentation. Should I really be praising SEGA for rehashing the same 2011 game a second time? SEGA only has two new games on the horizon—Transformers: Shadows Rising and House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn—despite there being a full-year’s time since their last game, Daytona Championship USA. Raw Thrills has churned out like, what, four games in that time? To make matters worse, SEGA hasn’t even pretended to promote the standard release of Operation: G.H.O.S.T. No videos, no social media posts, no nothing. Not even so much as a press release.
I dunno. It’s a tricky thing. But speaking of Daytona Championship USA, SEGA just recently dropped a standard cabinet for that game, too. Daytona is, like I said, SEGA’s most recently released video arcade game, so now is as good of a time as any for another cab variant. The marquee no longer has a 32-inch spectator monitor, and is now just the front of the iconic Hornet vehicle. Additionally, many of the flashy bells and whistles (such as the modeled engine and color-changing lighting) have been removed from the seat. The actual gameplay monitor, while still fairly large, is now 43 inches, as opposed to the original 47-inch display. Other than that, the standard version is essentially the same experience. All controls are in tact (including the four-way shifter) and the player camera is still always watching over us.
Based on those mild aesthetic changes alone, it is starkly clear that the standard version of Daytona Championship USA is much more cost-effective than its deluxe counterpart. This is good—great even. Here’s the thing, though: It’s not that much smaller…like, at all. The monitor may be the slightest bit narrower, but everything else seems to be the same size. It’s still a tall game that juts out a few feet into the game floor. Yes, it’s cheaper, and I appreciate that—oh, I appreciate that so, so much—but it still doesn’t quite accommodate smaller arcades where every square inch counts. Perhaps a stand-up version with no seat would have remedied this. (However, I’m pretty sure upright racing games are a thing of the past. I haven’t seen a racing game without a seat since the original Fast and the Furious in 2004.) As you can see by the original version pictured below, it's pretty similar.
The other problem: Just…why? I’m so happy that SEGA still provides operators with standard cabinets, but…the game itself isn’t necessarily anything to write home about. Daytona Championship USA was the first arcade racer I’ve ever played that felt inherently broken. The dead zone in the steering wheel was so garishly wide that the game was rendered nigh unplayable. I wanted the new Daytona to be awesome; I wanted SEGA to come out on top. But this…it just didn’t work. And it really is a shame, because the music and graphics are so, so fun. The gameplay, however, is not quite there, which makes the standard cabinet a bit of a lost cause. Why should SEGA enable more operators to buy the new Daytona when it’s nothing like the original? (For money, obviously, but you know what I mean.)
I’m oftentimes conflicted about SEGA Amusements. They make some good games here and there, but overall, they seem like a hollow shell of what SEGA’s arcade division used to be. SEGA Amusements is not AM2 or Amusement Vision or any of those great teams of yesteryear. It’s unfortunate but true. And if you couldn’t tell, I’m not super fond of SEGA’s Western arcade output these days. But then, they go and release standard cabinets—something even Raw Thrills has neglected to do in recent years—and I’m like, “Is SEGA Amusements really as bad as I think they are?”
I don’t want to say yes, but I don’t know. At the very least, I know this is not the SEGA of the 1990’s.
But here’s to the future. Keep it real, ya sweaty nerds.
Also, I think Transformers: Shadows Rising is now available to purchase! It has a listing on SEGA's website! Good job not announcing your new game, you woefully incompetent company. I can't stand SEGA Amusements.