My Thoughts on the Recent Release of Deadpool Pinball; the Impending Release of StepManiaX; and the Continued Existence of Strike Harbinger

August 13, 2018

I’ve got some real neat-like stuff to talk about today, kiddos. We have the fancy new Deadpool pin from Stern, a location test for StepManiaX, and—gasp—an update on Strike Harbinger? Man, this musta been one heckuva week, because I’m diggin’ all this news. (And don’t worry; I’ll try to address the all the new Exa-Arcadia deets from California Extreme at some point. One post at a time, boys and girls. One post at a time.)

            So without further ado, let’s get totally crackin’!

Deadpool pinball seems pretty cool.

Despite my undying devotion to the arcade industry, one sector I routinely ignore is one of the most important: pinball. It’s not for lack of interest—quite the contrary. Pinball is just not something I’m super familiar with. So even if I do love all the exciting new stuff coming out from Stern and Jersey Jack these days, I tend to stay quiet. I know what “feels” like fun pin, but I don’t really know the ins and outs of the mechanics. What can I say? I’m more of a video guy myself. Still, when something does catch my eye, I try to jump on it. Usually, I throw pinball into a “news dump”-style post, like I’m doing today.

            Yes.

            Even though I’m a semi-avid comic book fan (as you may remember from my brief stint as “Wilcox Arcade and Comics” back in mid-2017), I’ve never been super in to Deadpool. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a comical, tongue-in-cheek book (otherwise, I wouldn’t read Squirrel Girl); I’m just not a big fan of the humor the big DP brings to the table. A merc with a mouth is a funny concept. But, uh…I dunno. A lot of the darker, more violent humor isn’t for me.

            I ain’t no fool, though. I know that Deadpool and superheroes at large are HUGE right now. Stern has chosen an excellent license that I’m sure will appeal to collectors and casual arcade-goers alike, and that’s the real balance they have to strike in today’s market. With two movies and dozens of comics behind him, Deadpool is popular enough to resonate with a good number of people. This is good. I enjoy it.

            As far as actual representation of the IP goes, it seems that Stern has done a pretty solid job. Zombie Yeti Studios churned out some absolutely gorgeous, comic-esque artwork that really brings the pin to life. The art seems to have some sense of humor about it (like the amusing “OOF” letter targets). Operators will be relieved to know that there’s definitely nothing raunchy, though. If you’re a Marvel fan, you’ll also be treated to characters Wolverine, Dazzler, Domino, and Colossus as they battle against infamous villains Juggernaut, Sabretooth, Mystique, Sauron, and Mr. Sinister throughout the game. Some of the pin art is dependent on which model one purchases, but each version is distinct and attractive in its own way.

            What I’m definitely interested in is all the neat stuff that happens on the LCD monitor. There’s definitely a classic 2D video game vibe to the art style, and I’m sure there will be plenty of amusing shenanigans going on as you play. (Try as I may, I can never seem to watch the screen and the playfield at the same time. It’s still fun, though.) At least I'll be able to hear Nolan North's beautiful voice as he reprises his role as the one true video game Deadpool. That will be nice.

            Here’s where the more technical stuff comes into play (literally). Deadpool is designed by George Gomez and programmed by Tanio Klyce. As with all Stern releases, the complexity of the playfield is also dependent on which version you purchase. (From what I can tell, though, the differences aren’t oppressively huge.) The toys are particularly amusing. Like Arcade Heroes pointed out, the Deadpool bobble-head guy is one of the more prominent features, and he looks very fun. Plus, there’s that totally sick Katana ramp. I really like all the iconic comic characters littering the field. To me, the plastic cut-outs of characters look really clean, but one can apparently upgrade for select 3D models. (If you’re into that kind of thing, I guess.)

            The Pro version of Deadpool retails at $5,999.00 and features a three-bank drop target which guards the “custom molded” Lil’ Deadpool bash toy target. There’s also two stainless steel and wireform ramps with, of course, the Katana sword ramp return. (Click the gallery for the full images, if that's not clear.)

 

            The Premium model retails at $7,599.00 and features an additional 8 drop targets, a motorized disco ball will disco illumination effects, custom molded Wolverine and Dazzler action figures, and a custom molded chimichanga truck time machine. The Premium model includes an actuated up/down ramp that feeds the right flipper from the left orbit. Plus, you get a custom “Deadpool’s Mix Tape” cassette featuring 11 original music tracks. Cool stuff.

 

            The Limited Edition model, like always, is where things get really wild. As the name implies, the model is limited to 500 units globally. It include an exclusive mirrored backglass, anti-reflection pinball glass, a shaker motor, exclusive art blades, and powder-coated metal flake Deadpool Red side armor, hinges, and front lockdown moldng. The LE models come with a 12-inch vinyl LP featuring the same 11 original music tracks. I’m so confused as to why they didn’t just release the soundtrack on CD for those of us who aren’t using older mediums. But then again, this is so obviously designed for hardcore collectors. All yours for only $8,999.00!

 

 

            So yeah, Deadpool pinball sounds really flippin’ cool. (Haha, I’m original AND funny.) I’m sure I’ll be able to find it at some “retrocade” in the coming months, because they seem to make exceptions for new pinball tables. But until then, I guess we’ll sit on our hands and hold in our hype. After all, there’s no way to tell if this thing is really fun until we play it, right?

            So wait. Darned impatient kids.

 

Coin-operated StepManiaX is so close to being tangible that I can almost taste it.

Back in April, I wrote an article on the planned coin-operated release of Step Revolution’s StepManiaX, an exer-game/rhythm game from Kyle Ward, the renowned creator of In The Groove and ReRave. Currently, one can only find the game in odd locations like fitness centers, schools, and non-profit venues, because…well, those are the groups the game was initially targeted to, what with its initial “exergaming” shtick. But now, StepManiaX is really, truly on its way to arcades for everyone to enjoy, and I am oh-so terribly excited.

            Step Revolution recently released a promotional flyer for the arcade version of the game, and it seems to confirm that StepManiaX is, in fact, awesome. The flyer touts the large touchscreen, which can be used to “…easily navigate the game, select music, and adjust player options without the need to memorize complex button combinations or codes.” I absolutely love this harmless jab at older versions of Dance Dance Revolution. Being the small 17-year-old boy I am, I’ve grown up with 2016’s DDR Ace, which eliminated some of the strife in selecting difficulty and options. Imagine my confusion when I played SuperNOVA and had to hold down the green button to bring up the options screen. That was weird, and certainly not very intuitive for first-time players. That’s why, as small as it may be, I’m glad StepManiaX is striving for simplicity. Everyone should be able to enjoy rhythm games, and it starts with lowering the barrier to entry. So yeah, the touchscreen interface sounds pretty nice.

            The flyer describes the cabinet in similarly flattering terms. I absolutely love the idea of “compact form factor,” “[high] performance standards,” and “minimal operator maintenance….” This is an arcade game, and as such, it must consider the needs of operators. With a size-conscious design, StepManiaX will likely be able to fit in a number of street venues alongside family entertainment centers. With minimal maintenance (something pretty much every arcade game manufacturer promises), operators won’t have to worry as much about the costs of running these darned dancing games. And as a player, I totally dig high performance standards. I want SMX to feel just as good—if not better—than DDR, and I betcha it will.

            We certainly can’t forget the music in a rhythm game, though. StepManiaX boasts over 80 songs with “…a wide selection of music genres.” This is new: Apparently, operators can control the song list via built-in song management. What exactly does that mean? Could that be removing less popular songs? Or perhaps limiting which songs are played for a local tournament? Honestly, I’m darn curious, and I hope we get more information on this soon. At the very least, I’m totally down with the content updates Step Revolution is promising. Adding additional music is a great way to keep the game fresh post-release, and doing it through Internet network downloads is the freshest way to stay fresh.

            One thing I’ve been stoked about since the day I first read about StepManiaX is the free smartphone app used for tracking individual progress and scores. I think it’s clear how much I absolutely adore e-AMUSEMENT in Dance Dance Revolution A, and this is no different. For the longest time, American arcade game developers have avoided online connectivity in their games. But now, we’re seeing progress. With an intuitive smartphone app, SMX will give players incentives to come back to their local arcade. The Internet expands the appeal of arcade games. I want to see more technology like this from other developers, like Raw Thrills.

            StepManiaX is exciting, isn’t it? What makes this even better is that we know, with absolutely certainly, that the arcade version will be a reality very soon. Arcade Heroes reports that there will be a location test at 8 On The Break in Dunellen, New Jersey “…as early as next week (pending the arrival of the shipment).” AH also states that another major location test at a large overseas venue will be announced soon. And to make matters even better, there are “strong possibilities” of the game coming to some of the major trade shows like IAAPA 2018! We don’t have a release date yet, but we will be playing StepManiaX in arcades this year, boys and girls. That…that is very exciting. I’m so happy.

            Let’s all cross our fingers and hope for the best, am I right?

 

Strike Harbinger, thank goodness, is still a real thing.

Ah, Strike Harbinger—the hyper-modern third-person rail shooter based upon the SEGA classic Space Harrier. Developed by HitSparks Games, Strike Harbinger promises to channel all the classic goodness of “…high-speed forward flying and shooting…” and take it to next level with “…modern technologies and game design, while engaging the player with a compelling sci-fi mythos and quest.” The title promises to differentiate itself with aiming ability, close-range weapon attacks and an energy resource system. The PC and arcade versions of the game target 120FPS gameplay on 1440p monitors. Plus, there might be some cool motion simulation on the deluxe version of the arcade cabinet. It’s all very exciting stuff, and it’s been in development since 2016. The only problem?

            Strike Harbinger has been a bit silent as of late.

            As I wrote in my “Six Upcoming Indie Arcade Games” article back in April, it seemed that the game had gone a bit dark. The last time we had seen it was at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in October 2017. There were still solid social media posts on occasion, but there wasn’t a ton of new information dropping. And that’s okay; not everything has to be a big update. But I dunno…Strike Harbinger just seemed so ambitious that you had to wonder if it would really come out in 2018. Game development is no easy feat.

            But hark! In the distance! News that one of my personal favorite indie arcade games is alive and well! On August 9th, the official Strike Harbinger Twitter page tweeted the following: We'll be back @GameOnExpo this weekend! As we've shifted dev efforts towards completion, our demo is the same but the station has been upgraded with newer hardware and a Nixeus EDG 144hz screen with adaptive sync! Come enjoy the high framerates with us in Phoenix, AZ!” This was so, so good to read. I needed to know that this kick-butt, wicked cool game was on its way, and now, I do know.

            Aren’t y’all just as tickled as I am? Boy gosh dang howdy.

After that article, I hope your weekly Arcade Hype Meter is sufficiently satisfied. Maybe it’s not a ton of news, but it’s news that makes me happy. Sappy as it may sound, arcades are so special to me. If I’m not livin’ my life to start a print Wilcox Arcade magazine and open a national chain of arcades bigger than the freaking Dave and Buster’s, then I ain’t livin’ at all. This is what I enjoy. This is what I want. And if something else comes up along the way, I’ll do that, too. I’m not offending by the idea of writing a book or creating a television cartoon.

            Don’t ya just love optimism?

            Now go away. I do not like you.

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