A new year ushers in a new beginning. The year 2021 may prove an especially crucial new beginning across the entire globe as we exit the “coronavirus era” and enter whatever life looks like going forward.
What this does mean for us arcade-going individuals? Quite simply, it’s high time for to write our annual wishlists in preparation. While we as the consumer certainly aren’t in charge of what comes next, I don’t think it hurts for us to at least let our desires be heard.
Since they’re such a behemoth in the industry—and I follow their developments so closely—I figured I’d kick the year off with a Raw Thrills wishlist. Goodness knows there’s plenty I want!
Target: Terror 2
Long-time Wilcox Arcade readers are undoubtedly aware of my undying fondness for the unabashed masterpiece that is Target: Terror. Because it still doesn’t exist—and I crave it so dang badly—I’m wishing for Target: Terror 2 for again.
I’m nothing if not predictable.
I’ve always considered Target: Terror “the last Eugene Jarvis game,” or at least the last to carry on that ‘90s Midway spirit so many of us know and love. There exists nothing as violent, raucous, and downright amusing to play in today’s arcades. That alone makes this a supremely special title.
Beyond that, I’m just a little bummed that Target: Terror, one of Raw Thrills’ few original IPs, hasn’t seen any love since the Gold upgrade all the way back in 2006. If Big Buck Hunter is still going to this day, I feel strongly convinced that a certain other rail shooter should, too.
Funnily enough, a sequel was, in fact, teased at the end of Target: Terror via an enigmatic “To be continued…” message following the president’s kidnapping. (It makes sense in context.) I see no reason why 2021 can’t be the year said continuation comes to fruition.
At risk of sound needy, I have a few requests for a hypothetical Target: Terror 2. First and foremost, I’d rather there be no comprises made to the gameplay or content. If anything, the game should dive deeper than ever before, with an engaging narrative, greater enemy variety, and more achievements.
The last thing I want is for Target: Terror to turn into a simplified, spray-and-pray party a la Jurassic Park Arcade. While I certainly enjoy that style of gameplay, it’s far from why I fell in love with the original. We fans require something tough as nails and infinitely rewarding.
I’d also be tickled pink if Raw Thrills brought back Vikas Deo and Deep Sharma for the soundtrack. Yes, I know the company has shifted to licensing from Killer Tracks or hiring What The Hale Music, but a little arcade boy can dream. The Target: Terror soundtrack was flippin’ killer, yo.
Concerning the cabinet, y’all already know I’d prefer something modest, but certain upgrades are in order after 17 years of dormancy, the most pivotal of which being a 4K UHD monitor and gun recoil. These are simply modern enhancements that gamers have come to expect.
What I really crave is something that gets my blood pumping and tickles me pink. We like to keep things lighthearted here at Wilcox Arcade, ya know? Target: Terror is just that sort of game in my eyes.
My only worry—one that I previously mentioned in the 2018 wishlist—is that Target: Terror simply may not be possible anymore. Raw Thrills is a different company. Coin-op is a different industry. I’d prefer no sequel to one than that misses the point of the original. (See: Cruis’n Blast or Super Bikes 3.)
Still, this is my wishlist, and I’m optimistic about the future. Seeing a true Target: Terror 2 in 2021 would blow my feeble mind to smithereens. That’s precisely why I placed it at the top.
Dirty Pigskin Football 2
While I promise this list won’t comprise entirely of repeats from 2018, I kindly ask you to indulge me once more, as Dirty Pigskin Football 2 is yet another game I desperately desire that still doesn’t exist. That being said, I have a feeling it could actually come to fruition in the near future.
Like I said last time, the primary reason I want Dirty Pigskin Football 2 is because it’s essentially NFL Blitz in all but name. Considering that the arcade sports genre is all but dead—especially in, you know, actual arcades—I think we’re overdue for the return of this tried and true formula.
The other reason? Well, as strange as it sounds, I miss classic Play Mechanix. Before partnering with Raw Thrills, the George Petro-led company put out a lot of interesting IPs that we’ve yet to see return in any capacity. I have to wonder if that’s down to messy licensing or lack of interest.
If we were to get this hypothetical sequel, the biggest improvements I’d want are more teams and fields. The way I see it, when you don’t have the NFL license to work with, imbuing a sense of personality becomes especially crucial. Fortunately, this is an area in which the first game already exceled.
On the subject of “more,” Dirty Pigskin Football 2 would undoubtedly need a wider variety of tackles. Not to say the first was entry was tame—far from it—but every good sequel needs to up the ante in some fashion. I’ll leave whether or not they go full-on “Blitz: The League” up to Play Mechanix. (They totally should.)
Since I’ve never played the it, I don’t know if the original had any secret codes, but the sequel totally should. Wouldn’t it be so funny if we could punch in numbers and play as the developers? Doubly so if we could save our progress to a memory card or the cloud.
With any sequel should hopefully come visual enhancements. Although I hate saying it, AtomisWave games are showing their age. Dirty Pigskin Football 2 should pack in the polygons and crank the resolution up to 4K to stand out in an increasingly flashy sports game market.
Circling back to what I mentioned earlier, I’m reasonably confident that Dirty Pigskin Football 2 could happen, mostly because I’ve heard rumors that Raw Thrills is working on a new football game. Only time will tell whether there’s any credence to said rumors, but I’m still pumped as all crud.
I’m just pleading that they don’t go with some totally different IP for this potential release. While I’m usually a fan of new IPs, it pains me to see so many neat Raw Thrills/Play Mechanix legacy franchises gather dust. I’d imagine the artists and programmers who worked on these titles are more saddened than I am.
I’m sure a brand-spanking new football game of any brand will excite me (as long as they don’t implement collectible cards a la Injustice Arcade). I’d be especially excited if it were Dirty Pigskin Football 2.
Johnny Nero Action Hero 2
Remember when I was droning on about classic Play Mechanix? Let’s talk about that some more, focusing on an I.C.E.-published, comic-inspired rail shooter by the name of Johnny Nero Action Hero.
For those who didn’t catch this one, don’t worry that you missed out. I thoroughly enjoyed Johnny Nero as a kid, but when I went back and replayed it in high school, I found it somewhat clunky. This is exactly why I want a sequel.
Sequels are meant to improve upon what came before. In the case of a middling title like this, the improvement ceiling is darn near endless. Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix have the golden opportunity to take what what worked—and what didn’t—and churn out something legendarily better.
Watching gameplay footage now, I’m practically drooling over the untapped potential in Johnny Nero Action Hero. The concept of a hammy comic homage is brilliant; the execution was just a tad flawed.
Improved presentation and snappier gameplay would do wonders in a modern release. Heck, if Raw Thrills were a more narrative-focused studio, I could even see them launching this into a long-running series similar to Time Crisis, The House of the Dead, or Uncharted. Tell me that wouldn’t be wicked cool.
As with my proposed Target: Terror 2, Johnny Nero Action Hero 2 can’t become a spray-and-pray shooter without completely comprising what made the original entertaining. The problem is that Raw Thrills doesn’t really do traditional rail shooters anymore outside of Big Buck Hunter.
I have no idea if a Johnny Nero sequel is possible—nor if Play Mechanix or Raw Thrills would remotely entertain such a project—but I’m holding out hope that it comes someday. We gamers crave Nero at his finest.
Nex Machina Death Machine
Nex Machina Death Machine is a wish I have no faith in whatsoever but will gladly make to satisfy my own wistful fancies.
Born as a partnership between Eugene Jarvis and Housemarque, Nex Machina Death Machine was intended as the coin-op version of the 2017 PC/console twin-stick shooter. We were granted the smallest taste of what was to come—a cabinet render—before the project was quietly swept under the rug.
Although Housemarque has decidedly moved on to, erm, different pastures, I firmly believe Raw Thrills could still lead the charge on the abandoned arcade release. Imagine how awesome it would be if they smacked us with that news in 2021. I, for one, would lose my flipping mind.
The latest news on Nex Machina Death Machine came all the way back in 2018, which admittedly makes this an unlikely prospect.
An original IP
If the company’s history is anything to go by, a brand-new IP from Raw Thrills is admittedly unlikely. Even when I include everything from Play Mechanix and Specular Interactive, I’m struggling to recall even 10 titles.
All I want more than anything in the world is for the hardworking artists at Raw Thrills to get the chance to come up with their own concept, their own story, their own characters, and their own gameplay mechanics totally from scratch, unfettered by the restraints of a license.
Every time I bring this up to anyone in the industry—not just Raw Thrills—they always tell me that they need licenses to draw in players. The thing is, every major IP comes from humble beginnings. You don’t birth a mega-hit franchise without taking that initial risk on one original project.
Arcades may be losing player mindshare partly due this aversion to original IPs. Where is our Minecraft, our Undertale, our Fortnite, our Fall Guys, our Among Us? Attaching licenses to rail shooters and drivers only goes so far when arcades aren’t the epicenter of compelling concepts anymore.
This is real shame given that arcades used to be the birthplace of practically every original IP. Such giants of gaming as Mario, Pac-Man, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Dance Dance Revolution, and countless others all got their start in coin-op. Those sorts of success stories are now relegated solely to consoles.
But I digress. To reiterate my actual wish, I’d lose my gosh darned mind if the friendly folks at Raw Thrills got to craft something of their creation in 2021. They definitely deserve the chance to shine.
As much as I love new games, I not only have a soft spot for the oldies but also see a potentially lucrative opportunity for Raw Thrills in digging them up. Allow me to better explain what I mean.
By my definition, retro anthologies are compilations of multiple older titles in a single, cohesive package. Examples such as Atari Anthology, Capcom Classics Collection, Midway Arcade Treasures, Pac-Man’s Pixel Bash, SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1, and Taito Legends most immediately come to mind.
While not “retro” at the time of their respective releases, I believe collections like the Area 51/Maximum Force duo cab and Midway’s Sports Station (featuring NFL Blitz 2000 Gold and NBA Showtime Gold) fill a similar role by packing more content into less floor space.
Golly, that’s not even taking into account the numerous HD collections that have hit the home console market since the PS3/Xbox 360 era began. Never has it been easier to relive entire series—including Ratchet & Clank, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid, and many more—with new coats of paint.
Why the arcade industry never fully jumped on this bandwagon is a mystery to me. There are hundreds of titles just plain begging to be rereleased in modern cabinets with updated HD visuals at bare minimum. (I’m a proud passenger of the 4K UHD hype train myself.)
Operators face a constant push and pull keeping beloved in classics in rotation and battling increasingly finicky maintenance as those same machines age. Why not sell them a handful of games in one updated cabinet for the utmost convenience? It’s a no-brainer to me.
Raw Thrills would stand to benefit greatly from pursuing the retro anthology angle by licensing classic Midway titles or rereleasing some of their own titles for current day coin-op. How about a Cruis’n HD Trilogy? A Mortal Kombat HD Tetralogy? A Terminator Salvation/Aliens Armaggedon 4K duo cab?
My top request for such a strategy is that the antology cabinets are produced a cheaply as possible so that players pay no more than $0.25 or $0.50 per credit. The whole point of retro anthologies is that they’re cheap and convenient. If they weren’t, we’d all just buy the original copies of the compiled games on eBay.
I obviously don’t want to exclusively play old games for the rest of time. All I’m saying is that enhanced rereleases would be a cost-effective means of providing future generations with the opportunity to play these titles as they were intended: in arcades. I’m honestly surprised no one else has pushed for this like I have.
Unfortunately, based on what Eugene Jarvis said in a recent interview with Adam Pratt of Arcade Heroes, I don't think retro anthologies are in the cards for Raw Thrills any time soon. I’m still crossing my fingers.
Less focus on redemption/more traditional video games
I’m fully cognizant of the fact that ticket redemption is here to stay. Especially in the COVID-19 era, I believe that arcade operators will continue to lean on the “safest bets” possible when it comes to game selection. However, this is my wishlist, and I’m reaching for the heckin’ stars.
Lately, it seems to me that Raw Thrills is placing a stronger focus on ticket redemption, with even traditional video games like Super Bikes 3, Centipede Chaos, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles featuring optional redemption modes. That’s not even mentioning games built almost predominately around redemption like Slither.io Arcade and Nerf Arcade.
Yes, I know people like these sorts of games. I guess I’m just a bit flustered by the sheer volume of ticket-based releases. While I used to consider Raw Thrills the primary video game manufacturer in the United States, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to stand by that claim.
Thankfully, traditional video games from Raw Thrills still exist in some capacity. Just look toward Big Buck Hunter Reloaded or Nitro Trucks (the latter of which is admittedly a touch drier on content) as radiant examples. I guess I’m simply craving more of a good thing.
Did you really think I’d publish a wishlist without asking for standard cabinets? Dream on, dudes and dudettes. Y’all know I’m gonna keep begging for smaller form factors and lower costs until the day I die.
Arcade cabinets continue to grow in size and expense to the point of absurdity. I believe the industry needs to scale back before it leaves all the “small-time” operators in the dust—especially in the wake of coronavirus-related financial struggles. I doubt anyone wants to spend $35,000 on a single game right now.
From Raw Thrills in particular, I’d be oh-so delighted if they released upright cabinets alongside their deluxe variants. Whether a rail shooter, driver, or anything in between, there’s nothing quite as classic as standing up to play a video game. In fact, I vastly prefer standing when I play games, even at home.
Here’s hoping we getting tinier, less expensive variants of current and upcoming Raw Thrills titles as we enter 2021. No matter how long it takes, I’m not giving up on the dream, haha.
Despite the continued uncertainty of the COVID era, I find myself looking forward to what's to come from Raw Thrills in 2021. I can say, at the very least, that I'm excited for Big Buck Hunter: Reloaded.
Most of what I've written in this list is not likely to see the light of day, but I still really enjoy conjuring up ideas in the first quarter of a given year. I'm sure I can speak for all of us when I say it's more fun than complaining about industry trends.
But yeah, this marks the end of the article. You came; you saw; you conquered. If you want more Wilcox Arcade goodness every single week, make sure to follow me on Twitter or join my Discord server. Thanks for reading.