Arcades are fun. The games within arcades—you know, arcade games—are also fun. These are two claims I feel very confident making public.
Even so, there are some aspects of the modern arcade landscape in which I see room for improvement, one being variety. As fun as many modern arcade games may be, I sometimes feel like the vast majority are rail shooters, drivers, and redemption pieces.
All I’m saying is that I’d love to see a broader swatch gameplay concepts grace game floors. What better way to express my thoughts than as a list?
Even if I can’t conceive platformers earning very well in today’s arcades, I sure as heck need more in my life. Platformers speak to me like few other genres can. Mixing them with arcade sensibilities is a recipe for success.
I’d wager that platformers haven’t been all that commonplace in the coin-op realm since the ‘80s. Donkey Kong, Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins, Psycho Solider, Bionic Commando, and Elevator Action are a handful of examples that come to mind, some of which don’t really count as platformers by modern parameters.
I actually can’t think of any 3D platformers that released to arcades, unless you count the 2.5D Congo Bongo. While they probably exist in some form or fashion, I certainly haven’t played them. That’s a side of platforming that could truly use some further exploration within our sector of gaming.
On the bright side, there’s a lone 2D platformer on the horizon: Gimmick! exAct☆Mix for Exa-Arcadia. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get my hands on that one—provided I have the opportunity to play locally.
Believe it or not, I don’t see the return of shooters in the current landscape as completely improbable. Considering how popular shooters are on consoles and PC, I think the arcade industry deserves a piece of that pie.
Shooters have never been terribly prevalent in arcades. I’m struggling to recall more than War: Final Assault, The Grid, Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand, Metal Gear Arcade, Left 4 Dead: Survivors, and Operation Gunbuster. The few that exist—particularly War and The Grid—make me crave the genre that much more.
I’m open to either first- or third-person shooters, because I enjoy both perspectives equally. The main problem with either viewpoint, though, is nailing down a consistent control scheme for the sake of approachability. Casual players are often weary of foreign layouts.
Admittedly, there’s not really a silver lining here. First- and third-person shooters have barely had a presence in coin-op to date. I don’t know if that’ll change any time soon.
Hack-and-slash action games
The hack-and-slash, or character action game, has always piqued my interest. To me, the hack-and-slash is an evolution of the beat-em-up—and we all know how beautifully beat-em-ups work in an arcade environment.
Using a YouTube compilation as my guide, I determined that there are some arcade hack-and-slash titles out there, such as Big Karnak, Blade Master, Ninja Kids, Rastan, and good ol’ Golden Axe. The problem is that most seem like beat-em-ups with swords. I’m looking for something more akin to Devil May Cry.
Again, I’m not sure whether contemporary character action games have ever seen the light of day in arcades, but I’m sure they have at least once before. I consider the hard-action, high-intensity combat this genre brings to the table a perfect match for the coin-op environment.
While there’s been no news yet, I’m hoping a hack-and-slash or two makes its way to Exa-Arcadia or Airframe in the future. Those two platforms are ideal for less “mainstream” concepts like this.
Among the four genres on list, the role-playing game is the only one that I myself don’t play very often. I guess I’ve just never been that jazzed about RPGs, turn-based or otherwise. Regardless, I recognize their importance.
RPGs had a much greater presence in arcades years ago, if titles like Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom, Dark Seal, Cadash, Tower of Druaga, and the Gauntlet series are anything to go by. Some were heavier on the RPG elements than others, of course.
From what I can tell, RPGs are still released fairly regularly to Japanese arcades, prime examples being Soul Reverse from Sega and Lord of Vermillion from Square Enix. Given the relative complexity of these experiences, I don’t expect to ever see stuff like this in the West.
The good news? There’s an arcade RPG by the name of Lightning Knights available worldwide right now through Exa-Arcadia. While it’s not anything crazy deep, you bet your beard I’m not complaining.
I’m all about experiencing everything gaming has to offer. Perhaps that explains why I’m so dead-set on having more options in arcades.
Is it likely that any of these genres would be financially feasible in the current coin-op landscape? Well…no, probably not. Arcades have become increasingly casual gaming destinations over time. The genres I’ve outlined above are anything but. I can do the math, if you catch my drift.
Nonetheless, a little arcade boy can dream, something I plan on doing until the end of time. Crazier things have happened, people.