With exA-Arcadia set to release later this year, I'm all-consumed with hype. I’ve been over the reasons time and time again, so I won’t bore you with all that here. But I will tell you that, to satiate my own explosive excitement, I’ve taken some time to try out upcoming exA games on my Nintendo Switch.
The first of these is Nippon Marathon ($14.99 eShop, $19.99 physical). In this title, players are tasked with running and jumping in the “greatest marathon of Japan”, collecting fruit-based items and dodging bizarre obstacles along the way. Occasionally, races are interrupted by are brief minigames, too.
Though I could try to put this beautiful and bizarre experience into mortal words, I think you’ll get the clearest picture from the official “exA-Arcadia Announcement Trailer” (poorly edited title cards and all).
Nippon Marathon contains are four game modes, including:
Party Games (L.O.B.S.T.E.R. and Go-Go Trolley)
In Story Mode, players choose one of four eccentric characters (J DARWIN, Elizabeth Nishibori, Zenbei “XEN BAE”, or Snuguru Maestro) and power through all eight courses of the marathon. Sprinkled throughout the experience are quirky cutscenes detailing the overarching plot from the respective character’s perspective.
The mode is warm-natured and interesting to follow but admittedly becomes quite stale by the time you’ve 100-percent-completed all four paths. And while I found a good chunk of the writing funny, the dialogue (not voice acted, mind you) would sometimes go on and on in tedium. Plus, the writing isn’t exactly what I would call…mechanically sound.
Still, it’s a joy to get to know the four main characters, especially when story sequences are satisfying payoffs for such fun racetracks. The courses include:
Kawa River Run (in the Washi-Washi Doro district)
Mura Temple Village (in the Washi-Washi Doro district)
Super Ichiba Sweep (in the Kawasemi district)
Kawasemi City Sights (in the Kawasemi district)
Unsafe Sake Facility (in the Yama-Dori district)
Steamy Steamy Monkeys (in the Yama-Dori district)
Jinko Eki Station (in the Jinko district)
Neo Jinko (in the Jinko district)
In Versus Mode, one to four players can grab a controller and compete side-by-side in courses. Groups can participate in a Single Race, Half-Marathon (first four courses), Half-Marathon #2 (latter four courses), or Full Marathon, depending on the desired play session length.
I really, really enjoyed playing Versus Mode with my brothers. The scenarios and physics are so off-the-wall crazy that you’re almost always in for a hearty laugh. Unfortunately, after 15 hours of playtime, the comedy kinda wears off, but the core gameplay is refined enough to carry on in perpetuity.
Unlike Story Mode, all characters are at your disposal (once unlocked). Playable characters include:
Zenbei “XEN BAE”
In Party Games, two to eight players select one of two aforementioned minigames and takes turns competing for the highest score. The curiously named L.O.B.S.T.E.R. tasks players with running as far as they can through Surfin’ Jack Cactus’s randomly generated obstacle course before time runs out. (It makes sense in practice.)
Go-Go Trolley is…well, bowling. Players jump into a shopping and see how many pins they can topple over. Pretty self-explanatory but plenty amusing.
Both minigames are a lot of fun in their own right but, for me, have seen the least play overall. Perhaps it's their turn-based nature. Maybe it’s their more limited scope. Either way, my brothers and I sunk considerably more time into Versus Mode. And while I believe that will be the case for most players, it doesn’t mean the minigames are not worthwhile additions. Both L.O.B.S.T.E.R and Go-Go Trolley are good times to be had.
Overall, Nippon Marathon is a fairly robust package that I’ve had loads of fun with. Even with only the Switch version at my fingertips, I know this will make a fantastic addition to the exA-Arcadia library.
This is a weird, wacky, Twitch-streaming-friendly title. This is the kind of product that—fingers crossed—will be very popular in a great number of arcades. And by golly, I cannot wait to see it in action. (Hey, Onion Soup/PQube/exA-Arcadia: I’d be more than willing to review this game prior to release if someone sent me a review copy. Wink, wink; nudge, nudge.)
Since exA has so far been pretty hesitant to show actual arcade footage of their games, I’m not sure if the release will contain any graphical or technical enhancements, though both would be greatly appreciated. However, arcade-exclusive features are requirement of exA ports, so I’m hoping for at least some new characters and courses.
We actually don't have so much as a firm release date for exA-Arcadia, which is a little disappointing. There are countless fans and arcade operators—including myself—who would love nothing more than to support this game and others like it.
Until we get more details, though, this is as much of an “exA-Arcadia preview” as I can provide. If you enjoyed what you read, I recommend picking up a copy of Nippon Marathon. Not paid promotion, just really liked the game.
See ya next time!