Indie darling Nippon Marathon is coming soon to exA-Arcadia—bringing with it a host of exciting, exclusive goodies.
Nippon Marathon Turbo Hyper Running went on location test at Ikebukuro Gesen Mikado in Takadanobaba, Tokyo from August 18 to 24, where Japanese players had their first opportunity to explore the latest iteration of the game.
(While I wish so, so dearly we’d get a location test in the United States—something exA-Arcadia has been very quiet about—I can be patient.)
To gain more insight into the development of their first coin-op conversion, I spoke with Onion Soup Interactive developers Amy and Andy Madin.
This version of the fringe foot-racing title, bearing the colorful “Turbo Hyper Running” subtitle, will boast new characters, new stages, and even “more madness,” apparently.
The first new character revealed is Hato, a beefy pigeon with a man’s body in questionably revealing wrestling gear. Hato is the current Champion Wrestler from the IWPG (Insane Wrestling Pigeon Grapple) Championship.
“Hato is derived from [our] passion in both WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling,” Amy explained. “We thought it would be fun to have a serious wrestler enter the Nippon Marathon (of course with no referral to his Pigeon head). We thought he’d fit into the Nippon Marathon universe very well.”
“Everyone loves Hato,” she said. “He always gets a lot of love.”
The second character revealed is Anabelle, member of the British Royal Family and V-tuber. Since many Japanese YouTubers are virtual characters, the team thought making Annabelle a V-Tuber would be a “fun twist.”
“We decided to introduce something small to remind players that the developers are British,” Amy said. “During our six month stay in Japan, we found that the Japanese were interested to speak to us about the Royal Family, and many had dreams of visiting London. So we thought the addition of a British Character would resonate well with them.”
“Annabelle is definitely a more anime-inspired model,” she added. “We wanted to make her a more distinct model. Plus we actually had extra plans for her. We wanted to start a ‘VTuber’ channel where Annabelle would play games. So she needed to be a higher resolution model.”
“Yeah, I think they're probably a little higher in polycount,” Andy agreed, “and for Annabelle, her face is definitely more anime for sure, and it's very intentional!”
The two new characters are actually voiced by the developers to add a "personal touch."
The reception for these characters, Amy added, has been very positive, with many the console players of wanting them to be added as a DLC.
The arcade version will also bring forth three new levels, all of which sound like a blast. Amy said these levels are part of a marathon section called “Special Route." This brings the course count to a total of nine. The six courses from the home version are split into Route A and B.
KAWA RIVER RUN
MURA TEMPLE VILLAGE
SUPER ICHIBA SWEEP
UNSAFE SAKE FACILITY
STEAMY STEAMY MONKEYS
JINKO EKI STATION
THE HANAMI INCIDENT
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
"The new courses [are] kinda like remixes designed to better suit the arcade environment," Andy said. "They are crazy!
“The Hanami Incident” is a course inspired by the Hanami spring event, where the Japanese come together with family, friends, and/or work colleagues to enjoy a picnic under the cherry blossom trees. In this level, runners will tear through throngs of partygoers, “causing the havoc that you would expect in the Nippon Marathon.”
“Welcome to the Jungle” is a mash-up of iconic Nippon Marathon moments along with existing course “Super Ichi Ba Sweep.” In this cityscape, players will run across rooftops and contend with busy roads, traffic cones, and—in true Nippon Marathon fashion—Shiba Inu.
“Oita” is a remix of the home version's L.O.B.S.T.E.R. mode. In this beach-themed course, named after the Oita prefecture, players will encounter a number of game show trappings from silly obstacles and swinging hammers to broken bridges and water slides. (And L.O.B.S.T.E.R. host Jack Cactus himself.)
Unfortunately, at the request of the publisher, the L.O.B.S.T.E.R. and Go-Go Trolley modes were removed from the arcade version, “as the core racing mechanic was seen as the priority.”
According to the Onion Soup Interactive website, “This is the Nippon Marathon on caffeine.” The primary goal is to amp up the insanity of the experience. "Overall the game becomes much more competitive," Andy said.
“We've been playing with scoring mechanisms and fail-states to better serve the arcade environment and at the moment we're just balancing that out,” he said.
“I think the gameplay changes really," he continued. "The faster pace, more aggressive courses, and the possibility of being knocked out completely during a race (you can use a credit to continue and hop right back in) makes the game much more competitive, so I guess this is ‘Nippon Marathon – Extreme Consequences!’”
New to the HUD are two hearts, a life-based feature that “may or may not” make it into the final game.
“In terms of being really specific, the features are really still evolving, so I can't confirm anything concrete just yet,” he noted.
Even so, it’s clear Turbo Hyper Running will be distinct in many ways from its home console counterpart. Onion Soup Interactive is taking care in bringing it to coin-op.
Andy was pleasantly surprised by the involvement of arcade operators in Tokyo. “When our title was tested publicly at the Ikebukuro location we received really detailed reports containing usage statistics, revenue, etc., and a lot of anecdotal comments from gamers,” he said.
“Things like what they liked the most and what they found difficult or confusing. Of course, there were detailed bug reports too. The operator gave us a lot of insight into what matters most to them. They were very happy and surprised to see that fans travelled across the country to play the game, which is so cool for us!”
Producing a title for arcades has been an especially interesting process for the team. “Arcades are noisy places, there's no room for subtlety. The player might only have a single go at your game and you want to ensure they have fun regardless of their ability, but also the arcade operator needs revenue, so the balance is so different from consoles/PC,” Andy said.
“The arcade features a lot of tweaks to speed up play and to ensure players aren't sat on the sidelines for long, the AI had to be improved significantly, too,” he continued. “The control scheme needed to be adjusted to accommodate a three-button setup and the digital axis too.”
“In the end, though,” he said, “we just want to satisfy the requirements of making an arcade port without sacrificing the key element of Nippon Marathon—a group of friends or strangers coming together and laughing along at the unpredictable silliness of Nippon Marathon.”
While the projected release date is listed as "Q3 2019" on the exA-Arcadia website, we'll have to wait for a more accurate—and possible—time frame.
Until then, all we can do is keep it real…and keep it Nippon, I guess.