We had some time to kill prior to the HP movie on my birthday, so we went to an arcade. We also saw one of the finest examples of Engrish I have seen in awhile:
“Do you like bowling?
Let’s play bowling.
Breaking down the pins
And get hot communication.”
Sometimes I can tell what they are “going for”, this, though, remains a mystery.
The arcade was really cool because I got to see the new trend in Japanese arcade machines: card game machines. If you have ever seen the anime Yugio it is like that. Essentially it is a field about a foot and a half to two feet wide and a little over that in length. You buy actual cards to play the game. They are like Pokemon, Magic, or baseball collectors cards. The field can read the cards’ information (probably though magnetic encoding). So you place the cards on the field to load them into the game. For example, there was a soccer game. You placed one card in each position to fill your team bracket. The cards were all J-League stars. You played the game in real time with a controller. You could make substitutions and swap players by moving cards. There was another game that involved medieval combat. It was turn based and you placed your cards on the field and moved them around when it was your “turn” it was much more like a game of Magic. If you want your infantry to fall back behind your archers you just move the infantry card back behind the archers. There are screens everywhere so that spectators can watch the battle animations and follow the tactile map. The medieval war game pitted about five people against each other. It was epic and awesome! The soccer game was one-on-one, with a huge screen switching between the games currently being played. The way most of these card type games work is you get a new card just for playing, but the winner has a slightly higher chance to get a better card.
There are also the swiping card games. These are also about collecting cards and are more for little kids. There is currently a dress up game that his huge among young girls. The machine is a card reader and at the beginning of the game you are told where and to what type of party your girl is going. You then have to dress her by swiping various cards through the reader. So if you want her in blue high heel shoes you have to have the blue high heel shoes’ card. Once you have dressed your girl she goes to the dance and you have to push the buttons in time with the music. You automatically get a new card for playing. It is funny to see girls and moms lined up with moms riffling through giant binders filled with cards looking for the perfect tiara accessory. The game is basically a very high tech paper doll. Last year’s hit version of the game was a beetle fighting game for boys.
The final card game type has also hit America; the saved data card type games. It is personified State Side with Derby Club. This was an insanely popular game in Japan and has spawned a franchise. You play as a club owner with a basic horse. By entering and winning races you earn money. You can then train your horse, buy new horses, bread horses, buy high quality food and equipment etc so you can win more races. All your information is stored on a magnetic card. You never have to start over. You can pick up where you left off on any Derby Club machine. This theme has spread like wildfire in Japan. Many games (from shooters, to sports games) now allow you to store information on cards that can be loaded into the arcade machine. Derby Club II was a bigger hit than I, and spawned several Derby knock-offs. There are numerous other sports related versions. Then there are some innovations. There is a dragon game where you make a dragon giving it a distinct look, moves, abilities, and attributes. You then battle the dragon against other user created dragons. The winner of the match is given so many points that he or she can use to upgrade their dragon. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see this in fighting games in the very near future (if it is not already used). With Soul Caliber III coming to Japan soon and the success of wrestling games C.A.W. modes, the “create your own fighter” will no doubt spread to the arcade realm.
I also got Dan a copy of “Smack Down!: Here Comes the Pain” at the used game store. Dan enjoys non-button smashing fighting games, and the WWE games provide an interesting take on the “fighting” game. I hope he likes it. I got it for him because I have promised to buy Dan a beer so many times (for all his Japanese help) that I was really deep in debt! So I thought I could clear the books right then and there. A funny thing about the game is the Japanese title is “Exciting Pro Wrestling 5”. Something got lost in translation there.
You cannot rent games in Japan (thanks Nintendo). Which, in some ways, is a real blessing. Renting games is partially what killed the arcade in the US. In Japan arcades are still very much alive and well, and I am loving it! Japan is such an awesome place to be a geek!