My 2021 Raw Thrills Wishlist

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.