The GTI Asia China Expo has come and gone, and it’s wake are a slew of new arcade games meant primarily for the Chinese and broader Asian market. Though we’ve already discussed one of the exciting titles brought to the show (the Beat Saber virtual reality rhythm game from Hyperbolic Magnetism), something else came up that absolutely demanded my attention.
Universal Space (UNIS), a leading manufacturer of amusement machines in China, returned to the GTI Expo this year with a pretty decent booth, as pictured below. (Let’s all thank Adam Pratt of ArcadeHeroes.com for finding that, by the way.) But feel free to ignore literally everything except for the pair of brand-new, four-player soccer games on the right-most side of the photo.
This soccer/football title, one of the first we’ve seen in a while, is housed in a fairly upright cabinet with four individual player terminals, much like Pac-Man Battle Royale and Virtua Tennis 4. Naturally, each player has a single joystick at their disposal for movement. Much more interesting, however, is the kicking “mechanic”. Though Namco already pioneered the concept way back in 2001 with World Kicks, this UNIS soccer game places a physical soccer ball at the player’s feet for, you know, actual kicking. If it’s anything like World Kicks, players will be able to control the intensity of their in-game kicks through a physical input.
Maybe it’s a little silly, but I’m oh-so tickled by this feature. The arcade experience has always been about creating an experience gamers can’t get at home. And well…I guess I don’t usually kick a real soccer ball to play FIFA or PES! As Adam Pratt mentions in his original article, this could very well be a maintenance nightmare for operators, but oh golly does it look fun. I need to experience this. Seriously—can you all even imagine how unabashedly silly this would be with a full group of people?
Speaking of a full group of people, this UNIS soccer game may very well support up to eight simultaneous players. As Pratt also pointed out, the text “4&4” can be made out in the bottom-left corner of the promotional banner looming over the cabinets. While just an assumption, this most likely means that two cabinets are linkable for heated four-versus-four match-ups. Eight people huddling over their control panels and kicking the crud out of a soccer ball? Why, it sounds positively enthralling, boys and girls.
Even though we have literally no English-language information available on this title yet, I already want it so, so badly. There is, of course, one hurdle to jump first: an official Western release.
It’s no secret that many traditional, joystick-based video arcade games never see official releases in Western regions. Whether we like or not, racing games, rail shooters, and ticket redemption dominate most of our arcades. But I am of the belief that the industry is changing—drastically and rapidly. We’ve seen the popularity of more traditional, genre-diverse indie titles such as Killer Queen, Skycurser, Rashlander, Tipsy Raccoons, and Cosmotrons. We’ve seen the hype-fueling intrigue of the many games being unveiled for the Exa-Arcadia kit system. We’ve even seen offerings from major developers, such as the aforementioned Pac-Man Battle Royal from Namco and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Raw Thrills. We are at the forefront of a massive revolution in the arcade industry because—get this!—not every game is a racer or shooter anymore. Times are a-changin’.
For most of us, a new soccer game is a pretty big deal. Despite the worldwide popularity of the sport, we don’t see a ton of soccer titles in arcades. (Heck, we don’t see many sports titles at all.) This UNIS soccer game, were it to come to the U.S., could be monumental. Even in China, coming from a primarily redemption-focused developer like UNIS, I imagine a true soccer video game could be pretty exciting.
We cannot lose this momentum. If other developers don’t follow in Namco and Raw Thrills’s footsteps, we may never see a true of traditional arcade gaming. This UNIS soccer game could be the final piece of the puzzle—the last chapter in a thrilling trilogy. As important as indie developers are, we need the backing of major game manufacturers to make real change. What we need is this gosh danged UNIS soccer game.
I must admit that my motivation for pushing for this so hard is fueled partly by self-interest. I love arcade sports titles, and I want to kick the crud out of a soccer ball attached to a cabinet. However, I truly do believe that getting this UNIS soccer game in the West would be incredibly healthy for the industry. We’ve seen a lot of “same-y” arcade racers and shooters; surely it’s time for some experimentation. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles already proved that a joystick game could achieve great success in the modern arcade industry. So what comes next?
There's been a rather disheartening dearth of sports titles in the modern arcade industry. Sure, there's Golden Tee Golf every single year, but that's just one game. We don't see anything like NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, or even Dirty Pigskin Football these days, which is a darn shame. With this soccer game, UNIS has the opportunity to make real change. All they gotta do is take it.
At the very least, I think this game should grace Europe. (I mean, soccer/football is basically a religion over there.) But using my small blogging podium, I’m gonna push real, real hard for UNIS to bring this soccer game to the U.S.
What do you all think about this exciting, 4v4-title? Do you want to see it come to the West? Would you play it play it if it came over? Do you even see it as viable in our industry? So many questions, so much discussion. Voice your thoughts in the comments below. And if you really, really want it, reach out to UNIS at universal-space.com/contact-us.
Also, I really wish I knew the actual title of this game. I am tired of calling it “this game”.