Monday, February 20, 2012

Arcade

Over 20 years old (technically 100 yrs. old) and its still one of the best (and now underrated) methods of Video Game Entertainment ever.
Review By TehGladiator
Over 100 years ago back when the Civil War was concluded about one score ago before this specific date here arrives a new invention known as the Penny Arcade. The basic attractions here were basically those such as Test your strength machines and Peep shows (yeah the latter was pretty much a precursor to porn). It attracted a decent amount of audience through the years even through the turn of the century into the 1900's. However what really got things going was during the 1920's and 1930's during the Great Depression oh sure Movies, Film Shorts (both Live Action & Animated) did a great job keeping the misery-stricken Americans from more dire grief but the Arcades did a pretty decent job as well. What truly made it possible was an invention called Pinball made by the man with the surname of Gottlieb, it was one of the original games that has been given that age old moniker of ''easy to learn, difficult to master''. 

And even though the World War-driven fear into the US population ended in the early 1950's (well for the most part aside from the ''Communist hunts'') Pinball games remained to be a VERY popular source of entertainment throughout the decades (heck even today). Though of course all that changed in 1974 when a man know known as Nolan Bushnell invented a humble little gem known as PONG, while yes it has been said that Pong was not THE very first electronic Video game ever made but it went ahead and became the first game to attract Video Games into the Arcade Industry. Which is of course why we are all here today in a Video Game website such as this. Even though the console industry was REALLY struggling back then with oscurities such as the Channel F system and there was also the fact that aside from Pong there were not a lot of huge hit games in Arcades during the 1970's. Though of course that soon changed....

When the 1980's first came in things went VERY much for the better in the industry. Games such as Asteroids from Atari and of COURSE Namco's favorite mascot Pac-Man appeared and there was plenty to rejoice about. The US Arcade Industry went on a absolute boon as many of the games out there went incredibly popular (ESPECIALLY those such as Pac-Man) as it made a LOT of money and its financial success is what invented the thought of Video Games going better than Movie's Box Office Grosses. (Which fortunately happenend about 20 years later though of course thats a different story.) One TRULY admirable aspect of the industry back then was that originality was HIGHLY encouraged back in those days which lead into a highly unique variety of creative titles. 

And while the Console Industry was far from a bomb back then the early 1980's was a absolute ''Golden Age'' for the Arcade Industry. And the absolute beauty of its popularity of the time is that it went TRULY for all ages it was far from being just a ''Kiddy Fad'' as how plenty of people played it whether they were young kids all the way to fully grown adults played arcade games proudly and plenty. Unfortunately the infamous dark age that is the ''Great Video Game Crash of 1983'' came in and while the Console Industry was a lot more into fault (thanks to some of Atari's blunders like the infamous E.T and their nearly equally infamously bad Pac-Man port into the ol' AT26K) just about EVERYONE involved in the industry back then suffered and sadly Arcades did too. However fortunately the greatness that is Super Mario Bros. came in on the much-loved console that is the NES. (Though to be honest I sometimes wonder if Nintendo REALLY should've made it for the Arcade also at the time of its release. I'm perfectly well aware of the game that is ''Super Mario Bros. Vs.'' but that came in a few years afterwards. 

And considering on how immensely popular the SMB game went I seriously doubt that a seemingly simultaneously Arcade release would've bombed. Super Mario Bros. is FAR from being the only console game that could've went well in the Arcade Industry, but in all honesty there is just far too many like that game to list.) And now don't get me wrong I like console gaming I really do but isn't it kinda sadly ironic on how during the early 1980's the Arcade Inustry was doing great while the console industry did decent. And nowadays one score later the console industry is doing excellent while the Arcade Industry is doing rather...average-at-best? I dunno about you but it definitely is for me.

The Arcade Industry tried very hard to lick its financial wounds during the mid & late 1980's. Some went out actually pretty decently with gamers such as Atari's Gauntlet and Marble Madness alongside with Capcom's Final Fight while some went rather subpar like Capcom's Street Fighter. Though fortunately another great change happenend in 1991 and its name was Street Fighter II. Yes Capcom's extremely famous genre game got MANY people back into the Arcades and fortunately it wasn't the only ace up their sleave. They also had the highly praised game that is Alien Vs. Predater, the Dungeons & Dragons brawler series and more. 

Other companies such as Konami for ONE example were most definitely no slouches either as they have delivered still classic titles such as TMNT, X-Men and The Simpsons. (And the latter is STILL only in Arcades). While other games such as the now HIGH controversial Mortal Kombat came in too, along with the various racing & shotter titles. Heck Nintendo made the ''PlayChoice'' where you can play all sorts of NES games at a Arcade and it actually did well. Unfortunately when they decided to get certain SNES titles they only gave a rather limited release and then pretty much stopped. (WHY?! I dunno...) Some companies did good while others didn't do as well. But fortunately not a lot of games out there flopped. However the high success only REALLY lasted until the mid-90's came and pretty much only fans of the genres ever really bothered coming in at all. Luckily in about 1997 Konami was the ''Savior'' this time with their highly unique & innovative title now VERY well known as ''Dance Dance Revolution'' it attracted various gamers and even plenty of Non-gamers back into Arcades as well. Though unfortunately after a few years, only DDR players were mainly the only really mainstream attention the Arcades are really getting. (Though Capcom did start getting more attention from 2D fighter/Marvel Comic Book from the ''Marvel Vs.'' series which started at the time.) You see the problem with these ''Arcade Industry Saviors'' is that they were pretty much relied on for mainstream attention unlike the ''Golden Age'' in which EVERY game was giving it plenty of minstream attention. 

There is also the factor that the Originality Mantra weaken a bit over time ESPECIALLY during for the Street Fighter series back then. After Street Fighter II was released it was the ONLY official sequel for years and what Capcom did was just released ''updated versions'' which was just basically SF2 with different concepts added in. My theory is that things would've been better if they made ACTUAL sequels instead of just updated versions, oh sure those aformentioned versions were not bombs but I doubt that actual sequels would've been that either. The only thing remotely close was Super Street Fighter II, while its true that Darkstalkers came in at 1994 and was actually once popular. But sadly that didn't last really long, and unfortunately when the mid-1990's came Capcom for the most part stopped their 2D brawler genre game for the Arcade.

It can be argued that Konami can be just as guilty since the only big difference between the DDR sequels are its songs and animations. BUT the DDR series didn't leave as much room for innovation & besides Konami didn't rely on that alone as well. Companies like Sega & Namco also tried to truly keep the industry afloat with Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Soul Edge/Caliber along with various sorts of driving/racing/shooter games. It was enough to attract a good amount of fans but sadly not enough to keep the industry in stronger condition.

One nasty thing thats been frequnetly said is that the US Arcade Industry is very nearly dead. (If so then how come PLENTY of people still go to Arcades in Arcade centers like Boomers and even in a good amount of Movie Theaters. And while the future for Arcade Centers may not be completely clear its EXTREMELY doubtful that they'll ever leave Movie Theaters.) And its also been highly said that Arcades in the US are suppose to be dead in the near future. Ok then if Arcades are so inherently going to die than I must ask you this question WHY IS THE ARCADE INDUSTRY PERFECTLY ALIVE AND WELL IN JAPAN?! Yes throughout the years Arcades have been and still are perfectly alive & well in the good ol' land of the rising sun. HOWEVER contrary to popular opinion the Arcade Industry is NOT doing as utterly atrociously people say it is. 

Unfortunately the thing is they are mainly just attracting fans of certain genres for the most part nowadays. (Though not always cause I still see PLENTY of people play games like Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga.) To make matters worse while companies like Konami, Sega, Namco and Capcom are trying to please more than just genre fans there are PLENTY of companies out there whom are barely if any making efforts at ALL which is extremely unfortunate. But still even in today's really popular games such as ''Soul Caliber II'' and ''House of the Dead III'' are still played rather frequently despite the fact that their console counterparts are perfect availible to get. One other misconception is that Console Games are inherently going to be always stronger than Arcade Games which is HIGHLY false. (Heck even when a Arcade Port ITSELF is not bad the graphics are normally stronger like the original Dead or Alive game.) 

And there is also the fact that a good amount of Arcades like Boomers are not exactly in danger of bankruptcy either. So overall there is a fine difference between ''nearly dead'' to ''more underground'' and dispite popular opinion its more of the latter than the former. One other thing you can describe the Arcade Industry is kinda like Real Estate as the age ol' mantra of ''Location! Location! Location!'' applies here as well. Some places have a rather sub-par selection of arcades and arcade games but in certain places in the country there are arcades with GREAT selections such as certain fun centers in California, a very known place called ''FunSpot'' in New Hampshire and even in certain places in South Florida and more. So in another words Arcades can be just like Pawn shops they can be VERY good in some places and be not all that much in others. (Even though unfortunately what is possibly the biggest problem is that the whole place is not like those specific locations. The thing is what made the Arcade Industry so great in the early 80's is that it went well everywhere and not just in certain areas. Which is most likely THE biggest reason why do a good amount of people doubt the Arcade Industry so much.)

However some certain problems is on nowadays the charge of playing the game can be a bit too much (such as a Dollar a game) and while that doesn't happen TOO often but increasing the price was a good intentioned attempt to add more profits that didn't end too well. Oh sure the ecomonic structures of the early 1980's and the more recent years are different but a good amount of people will STILL prefer playing the games at a quarter each game. (Then again the most they should go for is $0.50 to start the game but a quarter for each continue.) And there is also on how the older games there are starting to fall apart a bit by their controls being awfull inrespsonsive, graphics going glitchy among other things. Though to be fair the ''wear&tear'' of age can damage ANY sort of Video Game and console games have been just as guilty as well. 

Unfortunately unlike console games you have to rely on the efficentcy and compentency of the managers of the arcade. And while plenty of them have got a LOT better other the years there are still some rather... ''questionable'' sorts out there. Even though there has been a history of bad Arcade ports (Pac-Man for Atari, Revulotion X for SNES, Alien Vs. Predator for almost all the early 1990's consoles) but their console counterparts can be just as good if not better. And while the console games that're are just as good may not be too much trouble there is the factor of the games that're better. (Which is mainly for fighting games due to on how console versions have a LOT more options & sometimes have more gameplay concepts like different playable characters.) But the good news is that its not a TRULY deep wound as despite the fact that the console versions of games such as ''Soul Caliber II'' and ''Guilty Gear XX: The Midnight Carnival'' are still being played in Arcades. The easiest games to find are Soul Caliber II, Tekken 4, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, Crazy Taxi, The Grid, DDR and Time Crisis. 

And while its VERY nice that these games are making sure that the Arcade Industry will not truly die but it would be a lot better if a LOT more games were a lot easier to find. I mean heck there are even a good amount of more recent games that're harder to find nowadays as well. (Though finding a good amount of them is not utterly impossible thanks to recent games such as the Ultracade which can have over 86 classics in one machine which its price range of owning it is from 2000-5000$ bucks while the site is STILL going to get more Arcade Classics to place in like the 1982 classic Dragon's Lair. Not too mention that aforementioned place in New Hampshire for one example.)

In conclusion I strongly state that despite the odds against it I wholeheartedly agree that the potential for greatness in the US Arcade Industry is still ALIVE and well. Condemn me a overly optimistic fool if you wish but I still say that the Arcade is absolutely not and I repeat NOT just some ''dying fad''. Its a respectable institution of Video Gaming with a absolutely rich industry as the American Industry deserves JUST as much health as it does in Japan. Fortunately even after all these years there are certain companies whom STILL won't give up like Sega and Sammy. (And even Midway with the upcoming Gauntlet game.) Will their efforts finally be able to TRULY bring this industry in more? Whose to say? But all I am saying is that I definitely hope so...

+ A wonderful and I repeat WONDERFUL history of various great titles throughout the years. (And some of them are still mainly Arcade only)
+ The quality of an arcade game can be surprisingly better than you think many MANY times
+ Finding the Classics of Arcades can be hard to do BUT compilations like the Ultracade can make things a lot easier. (Not too mention certain places like the FunSpot center in Laconia, New Hampshire)
+ Despite what a good amount of naysayers say the Arcade Industry STILL has quite the potential in many ways and fortunately there are some companies like Sega & Konami whom still see it. (ESPECIALLY since the Japanese Arcade Industry is perfectly alive & well) But considering the future plans of certain companies that just might change
+ The amount of full-fledge Arcades may be dwindling over the years BUT they'll most likely NEVER completely disappear in Theaters

- Even though there are certain arcade places like Boomers and the like, the US arcade Industry is still doing rather mediocre (and the fact that games can nowadays be sometimes charge for a dollar did help)
- Companies like Sega & Konami are not exactly doing ENOUGH yet in utilizing the Arcade Industry's potential in the US while a great portion of companies out there are barely doing anything at all (And the fact that a good amount of the more common games like F-Zero GX are having some rather limited releases doesn't help either)
- Plenty of older machines need maitenance and lets just say they don't always get it. (So in another words incompetent owners are an existant problem. Not all Arcade Owners are grossly incompetent but those who are like that are still out there.)
- A very good amount of Arcades rely on the same games a bit too much (and aside from Pinball most of the non-Video Game Arcade Games there are not that great IMO.)
- Arcade Ports from consoles can be good but some of them can end up to be utterly atrocious. And there are a good amount of console games that you'll most likely wish were in Arcades first. And there is also on how Arcade games can be a bit less built than their console counterparts.

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