Following TwistedSupreme’s initial report yesterday, I got my chance to attend ATEI today. And, armed with a camera, a keen eye for games and a beard that makes small children cry, I decided to capture as much of the show as was practical in order to relay it to loyal readers such as yourself. Here follows a lengthy post with lots of pictures!
The first stand I took an in-depth look at was the Sega stand, with many thanks due to Patrick Michael for showing me around. The line-up showcased by Sega this year certainly leans on the conservative side of video games, following market demand. The showcase games were Harley Davidson, Hummer and R-Tuned, all of which are racing games catering to slightly different audiences. The other games shown were mainly of the lightgun genre.
Harley Davidson is very much as you might expect – the legendary motorcycles race on a variety of circuits. It’s aimed at the more casual end of the market, though it attracted a wide audience at the show and was popular throughout the day. Collecting tokens to get your bike to maximum performance is the key to the game (a concept familiar to Mario Kart Arcade GP players). The game looks good and is running on the Lindbergh board, with the version show being a deluxe motion model. This meant some excellent “engine” vibrations and leaning action. At this time, it’s uncertain as to whether a standard model will be produced. Licensed music is in from bands such as Deep Purple and Steppenwolf, in order to really get your motor running (You’re fired – Ed.).
Hummer is based on the well known gas-guzzling vehicles, as you might have guessed. Wanton destruction plays a major role in the game – you smash objects to get boost power, meaning that the typical racing line might not always be the best route. Additionally, the pair game mechanic from OutRun 2 SP SDX has returned – for those unfamiliar with it, this is where two drivers alternate control of a single vehicle, switching when the current player either reaches a checkpoint or crashes. It’s another good-looking Lindbergh game, and uses a motion platform similar to the OutRun setup mentioned above.
R-Tuned is a street racing game from AM2, going into direct competition with older games Need for Speed Underground and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. It’s another Lindbergh game (in my opinion, the best-looking of the three) and runs in the same cabinet as Sega RaceTV. In this game, players race heavily modified cars from real manufacturers around Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo (specifically, the Shibuya and Shinjuku districts). Taunts constantly come in from other drivers during the race, which is a neat atmospheric touch if you like that sort of thing. The game isn’t as hardcore as you might expect – boost is unlimited and drifting is done automatically, which gives the game a quirky handling model. However, this accessibility works for the game, allowing multiplayer games to get competitive quickly. The game has just started filtering into real locations – I saw a four cabinet linked set-up in the Trocadero after the show.
Other video games on display included:
– Sega Bass Fishing Challenge, which appears to be the old game reworked for trackball controls (and thus available as an upgrade kit for Golden Tee and Silver Strike Bowling).
– Sega Clay Challenge, a sports shooting game which seems pitched mainly in kit form, either as a full conversion or as an upgrade for the Atomiswave shooting games.
– Previous hits Sega Rally 3, Rambo, Primeval Hunt and Ghost Squad Evolution.
Moving onto other things, the Game Gate VU (distributed for Quasimoto Interactive) was on display, as it seems that at last there is a legal pay-per-play solution for console games. The machines themselves were of a high build quality and all seemed to be working well, with specific problems such as dashboard access having been considered. Operators running these cabinets will pay a small licensing fee each month (if I remember correctly, this was $8) and are restricted to the use of licensed titles only. However, those games can be bought off the shelf by the operator as any consumer would. Despite my photo of a photo of a wall in Halo 3 being distinctly uninteresting, this could well be an exciting bit of kit.
Brick People was one of the most inventive games of the show. As we’ve seen before, the concept revolves around placing bricks to allow the little people to move about and grab items. Additionally, minigames between stages require you to build a certain shape within a time limit. The game dispenses tickets for each play. I learned that the technology utilised in the game is surprisingly simple – a rear projection display with brick recognition handled by an infra-red sensor. This caught a lot of interest, and is my pick of redemption games from the show.
Missfits is a brand new redemption title developed by Sega Amusements Europe. It’s a simple ticket vending game, with players attempting to match various parts of a person by stopping rotating reels at the right time. Additionally, there is a jackpot which can be achieved if all possible parts have come up in recent play. Missfits is a low-cost game and could be one of those redemption concepts which catches on.
Other redemption games and rides included:
– UFO Stomper (distributed for Triotech), which appears to be a neat piece of technology. It certainly looks a great deal more accurate than floor panels I’ve seen elsewhere!
– Spongebob Ticket Boom, a simple timing-based redemption game featuring one of my least favourite characters ever. I’m pretty sure I’m not in the demographic this game is aimed at, mind you…
– Shoot This Win This, a lovely prize-o-tron.
– UFO Catcher, the ever-popular skill based crane game. Prize items being promoted were the newly-licensed Hello Kitty plush toys, Sonic X plush toys, Paddington Bear plush toys and Sega Vision portable media devices.
– Mini Rider 2, a small motion ride, XD Theater (Triotech), a larger one with wind, lightning flashes and such, and Typhoon (Triotech), a sequel to the Mad Wave motion ride.
A highly impressive showing from the Japanese company, with a fairly diverse range of games that should capture the hearts of both casual and core gamers. As well as having the largest line-up of rhythm games at the show, the company had a strong racing game, a non-traditional “lightgun” game, and a unique redemption game. Thanks to James Anderson for taking some time to talk to us in what appeared to be a very busy day.
Guitar Hero Arcade took pride of place on the stand, and clearly showed massive earnings potential – I had some real trouble getting to play the game, and then more in getting pictures. Unfortunately, in what I could only assume to be a calibration error of some sort, the game seemed to be about half a second off the timing shown on screen. Once I had adjusted my play to compensate, the game was the Guitar Hero that players worldwide know and love. The song list featured most of the songs that players of the console series have come to expect, though it should be noted that certain songs weren’t included (a friend of mine at the show noted that they seemed to be harder songs, by bands such as Slayer and Dragonforce). However, as Shaggy has mentioned on the forums, exclusive songs and free downloadable content are on the horizon, so we will have to wait to realise the game’s potential – it could go on for years. For those wondering about the arcade game’s guitar, click here to see it.
UBeat was on show, and is still the eye-catching and highly enjoyable game that it was while on test at the Trocadero. The distinctive cabinet design was certainly alluring, and it seemed to interest a number of visitors. For those who haven’t yet gotten a chance to play or read about the game, it’s a rhythm game, controlled by 16 buttons with individual screens. With such a relatively large play area, following the beat around the playfield becomes as much of a challenge as timing. The licensed songs are weighted towards the mainstream end of the market, with Scatman, Take On Me and YMCA likely to become the soundtrack to any arcade with this machine.
Dance Dance Revolution X is the final game in Konami’s rhythm line-up and celebrates ten years since the release of the original DDR (Dancing Stage here in Europe). The game seemed to attract a number of players over the course of the day, due in no small part to an impressive new cabinet. An impressive song list makes the game still more attractive. However, during the course of the day I had a chance to meet up with some cool guys from DDR:UK, who were left unconvinced, complaining of screen lag amongst other issues. As someone who hasn’t been able to regularly play a dancing game since Dancing Stage Euromix, I’ll defer to the judgement of hardcore players who know their game inside out.
GTI Club was housed in the most unusual and striking cabinet of the entire exhibition – between this and UBeat, it looks Konami has a real talent for this right now. The original GTI Club was a very enjoyable game in the mid-90s, and this new version carries on the tradition of zippy little cars battling for supremacy. The racing component of the game takes place on the city streets of the UK, France, Italy and the USA, and has a distinct quirk. The higher your difficulty level, the more freedom you have to choose a route, which is essential to avoiding traffic jams and other hazards. The game also has some additional play modes such as “bomb tag” and “car football”, giving the game some variety and increasing casual appeal.
Castlevania was the aforementioned “lightgun” game on show, and being hidden on the reverse side of the booth with its screen covered didn’t seem to do the game any favours with visitors. This is a real shame, as the game is actually quite cool. In a complete departure from the console games, you choose one of two characters and head off on your first-person way. Each character has a standard projectile weapon, but the catch is that it has limited ammunition and thus you would be advised to conserve it in favour of your main weapon, the whip. However, this only hits at close range and swinging the controller is slower than pressing a button, so you’ll constantly be weighing up your ammunition, the enemy’s distance and the urgency of the situation. Give this one a look, it’s a pleasant surprise.
Byon Byon is Konami’s redemption entry for the show, and takes a curious idea to a mad conclusion. You know in old cartoons, where a character would open something only to be knocked out by a boxing glove on a spring? It’s that sort of thing. You take control of an odd pointer with two handles, which you pull in to trigger the on-screen glove. The games themselves are a collection of minigames in the style of the old lightgun favourite Point Blank, with things such as picking the odd one out from a line-up of animals. At the end of the game, tickets are dispensed.
This brightly lit stand was an interesting mash-up of styles. As Namco Brent, the company has a diverse portfolio of games, taking in Namco’s own Japanese games, the American-developed wares of Raw Thrills and many redemption titles developed in (or adapted for) Europe. Namco’s product manager John Brennan was particularly keen to emphasise the latter and felt that at least some people were failing to given them the attention they deserved, favouring video games.
H2Overdrive (Raw Thrills) has clearly been getting you guys excited, with many thousands of hits for our recent coverage of the game. I am pleased to report that having spent some time getting to grips with the game, it is a real winner. Everything that made Hydro Thunder great is back – the varied and inventive courses, the ability to smash other boats out of the water, and the simple throttle control. No matter if you’re playing in single player or multiplayer mode, you’ll gain an upgrade on the boat you used after each race. Players are able to store their progress with the PIN keypad, as in previous Raw Thrills games. H2Overdrive looks astounding, running at a solid 60fps on a nice HD monitor. As I’m a sucker for good water effects anyway, I was very impressed. I’d recommend that everyone try this game out should they get the chance.
Nirin (Namco) is a fast-paced motorbike racer, set in a Japanese environment (thus contrasting it with Sega’s US-centric Harley Davidson). The game was in an unifinished cabinet, with a sign assuring showgoers that the final version would have 42″ monitors. The game itself has a simple but effective mechanic. Your boost gauge is built up by leaning the bike in turns, and automatically utilised when you return to an upright position. However, hitting walls or cars will drop the gauge, so adjusting the throttle to get through is the order of the day. The game is running on Namco’s System ESI board and looks good, though the bike doesn’t have the force feedback of Sega’s Harley Davidson model.
Big Buck Safari was there in Super Deluxe form, with an absolutely massive display. Other than that, it seems to be very much the same as the regular game, but I gather that the regular game has been doing quite well anyway. According to Namco’s product catalogue, tournament play is “coming soon” to the UK – can anyone shed some light on this?
Razing Storm was also at the show, though I didn’t actually have a chance to play it. This is sad, as it looks quite good and attracted a lot of attention.
Elsewhere on the Namco stand:
– The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which is still popular for whatever reason.
– Nicktoons Nitro, tucked into a little corner with other kid-focused products.
– Pump It Up Jump, in that same corner – a kiddified version of the popular dancing series.
– Pac-Man, in countertop form with an LCD display. It also included Galaxian and Ms. Pac-Man.
– A variety of redemption games, including the European-developed Knock Out Punch, the football-themed Hat Trick (adapted from a baseball-themed game, of all things), Deal or No Deal and others.
– The popular crane game Clena-Flex, which is in direct competition with Sega’s UFO Catcher line due to being a skill-based game. Right now, the Clena-Flex machines in the marketplace have been used in some pretty innovative ways – the idea isn’t always to use the crane to pick up the prize, but to push or apply leverage.
– A Doctor Who photo booth, based on the immensely popular and long-lived British sci-fi series. You can frame your photos with Daleks, Cybermen and the like.
Global VR’s stand was largely focused around showing off the company’s existing product line, with NASCAR, Need for Speed Carbon, Paradise Lost and Aliens: Extermination all floating about. However, there was one new game up for play, which was Justice League: Heroes United. The game is attractive to operators thanks to a low cost, recognisable characters and decent technology – the LCD monitor was undoubtedly very nice. However, players have been critical of the graphics shown in screenshots. I’ll agree with TwistedSupreme in that the graphics have come under some undue fire – the game runs at 60 frames per second in HD, and the character models don’t look bad. However, the environments really don’t look great, and the enemies lack variety. The game is similarly not so bad, but there are noticeable problems – the lack of enemy variety (again), very few combo possibilities and some pretty ineffective specials. The game is okay, but it could have been a lot better.
Elsewhere at the show
Highway Games was showing two of the most popular games of last year, in the absence of official representation. Street Fighter IV and Tekken 6 were given their own low-key showings at this booth, and attracted a hell of a lot of attention. One run by the stand saw a number of non-trade visitors being turned away from the Street Fighter machine. Talking to one company representative, I discovered that both games are very popular and they’re doing a roaring trade due to the lack of official distribution. As the only fighters at the show (save for a BlazBlue I apparently missed), they represented a good boost for Highway Games. Despite my longing, I’m still going to have to wait to play either of these games.
As well as a number of purikura photo booths and other such things, Daeseung Intercom were showing off DJ Max Technika (Pentavision). This touchscreen rhythm game is quite impressive! I’d not had a chance to read up on the game, so I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of play and high quality of songs and patterns. I was mainly confused by the line switching between the top and bottom of the screen. The unforgiving nature of the previous DJ Max games is most definitely there, too. It was also by this game that I had a chance encounter with a friend from another website, so a big shout to him!
This friend was heavily interested in Pump It Up NX Absolute (Andamiro). Watching him and some other high level players from across the UK, I was amazed at the level of skill on show. The game itself is as high quality as players have come to expect, but Andamiro have take the concept one step further with some insane additions to the game. The “brain trial” mode has players solving sums, memorising number sequences and counting objects in the middle of songs, adding another level of difficulty to the game. It seems that in the opinion of the hardcore players, the Pump It Up series is forging the way ahead in dancing games and competitors have some work to do in catching up. The machine was tagged with a notice that said it had been sold to the Trocadero, so watch out for it!
Lastly, Electrocoin was showing the newest games from Stern Pinball, CSI and Batman. These appeared to attract a lot of interest too, as you can see from the problems I had getting a decent picture of them. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a go on these either.
That’s going to be all for this show report, clocking in as it does at over 3100 words! Tomorrow, I’ll be back with some gossip and impressions from the show floor. Until then, enjoy!