Thursday, June 10, 2010

Return Of The Killer Arcade Games

BACK in the middle of this decade, between 2005 to 2006 to be more specific, I was a regular contributor for the now defunct GamesMaster, then the best gaming magazine in the country. It was actually the Phillippine edition of a franchise that originated in the UK. Although I was also contributing to other publications, I had a lot of fun with this particular gig as it allows me to enjoy my passion for videogames while making money out of playing them. Let’s just say that it does give a special meaning to work and play.

Aside from reviewing games, of course, I also got a chance to write for GamesMaster’s other sections, notably RetroActive, where classic videogames are revisited and Game Over, the last page editorial on anything gaming-related, mostly something to wax nostalgic about.

Here’s a slightly updated version of what I wrote for the magazine’s Game Over section back in 2005. What do you know? It’s still relevant after all these years.


THEY’RE back.

Easy to learn and often hard to master, arcade games are short and sweet videogames that have no saved states, no extra lives and no second chances. It’s just you, the arcade stick and plenty of coins or in the case of places like Time Zone, a lot of credits. You have to be really, really good to master the nuances, earn replays and save money, if that’s actually possible, on these games.

I have to admit that arcades gave me my first taste of videogames. Having discovered them in the original Harrison Plaza, coin-operated classics like Pacman, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Breakout were mesmerizing in all their jagged and blocky glory back in the day. As games started to look better, I took to later titles like the Mortal Kombat, Streetfighter and Tekken series like fish takes to water. Ditto with racers like Daytona USA and the original San Francisco Rush and gun shooting franchises like Virtua Cop and The House Of The Dead.

Not that you can’t play these games at home. Ports of these titles and more in consoles like the Sega Megadrive, the Super NES, the original Sony PlayStation and the Sega Dreamcast were often just as good if not even better as their arcade versions. But as longer and more complex gaming genres like RPG’s, real time strategy and stealth games began to emerge, the lack of depth of arcade games were exposed and their popularity declined. It also didn’t help that a large segment of the gaming population are now going online (a word they like to throw around nowadays is “massive”) as even the increasingly rare home conversions of recent titles are no longer a big deal for game reviewers who mostly dismisses them as shallow time-wasters.

As an arcade gamer by heart belonging to a country where the following of such games did not really took a major hit, I am saddened by this development as it has come to a point where recent arcade releases are mostly no longer being ported to the current generation of gaming platforms. I can understand why as good as they are, musical games like Percussion Freaks won’t play as well as home as they would in the arcades. But given the chance, I’m pretty sure that even with its limitations, there’s still a lot of fun and thrill value in the Midnight Maximum Tune series as there is in the Need for Speed franchise, which incidentally has also recently hit the arcades. Label me that dreaded title of “casual gamer” but yes, I do want to play Virtua Cop 3 and other recent gun shooters like L.A. Machineguns and Ghost Squad at home. And oh, man, can it really be just a matter of time before the latest installment of that wacky Metal Slug game becomes arcade-exclusive only?

I hope not because if this is some kind of a battle line to separate the hardcore from the average gamers, then whoever thought of it has no idea how hardcore and real an arcade gamer can ever get. It takes a lot of skill and more than great reflexes to master the arcades. I’d like to believe that there is a strong market segment for these kinds of games, something that gaming developers for PC’s and consoles should be foolhardy to ignore.

I don’t know about you but I think it’s a great time to go back to the arcades. And if the recent arcade conversions of Guitar Hero and Street Fighter 4 are any indication, the game is certainly far from over.

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