Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Walk Down Arcade Lane

I’ll be getting back to ARGO soon. I’m looking forward to it. But I have yet to have the time. I did have the time to venture into my local arcade though.

I haven’t been to the arcade for a while. The last time was about 2 months ago when I went and played a couple of rounds of Street Fighter IV. It wasn’t a complete success. I didn’t win any of the 3 matches that I played. Regardless, it was fun and I at least picked off one round per bout. I was happy with that as I haven’t played a fighter using a stick for quite a while, perhaps a year or so before this time. Even before that I hardly used one. Where I lived before there weren’t any arcades. I had also become accustomed to playing fighting games using a controller, specifically the DualShock.

Back to this recent trip. The arcade that is nearby is clean, and modern. It’s a nice atmosphere and there is a good mixture of games. The games are a pretty standard bunch, but a decent variety never the less. Just to give you an idea; Street Fighter IV, King of Fighter XIII, Tekken 6, Initial D, Lethal Enforcers 3, House of the Dead 4, Drum-Mania, Beat-Mania, King of Fighter 2002, Gundam vs, Warriors of Valour and a bunch more. Some rhythm, some card and some sport. Like I said, it’s a good mix.

I’m always happy that smoking is no longer allowed inside; it makes for a breathable atmosphere. Some other arcades still get away with it, but they are usually loaded with slots and horse racing. Anyway, I start by taking a tour around the place, have a scout around the machines and see the other guys playing. There is a reasonable amount of space and it isn’t completely packed out. Walking around isn’t a difficult task and I can take my time and spectate without burdening.

So it’s time to step up to the plate! I’m not looking for competition, I just want to play. First up is Lethal Enforcers 3. I don’t know why I chose to play this, perhaps it’s my desire to play Time Crisis. Before I played, I studied the flow of the game a little – which isn’t a complex – but there is a problem; the screen seems to be screwed. It’s showing a double image. It’s not a massive staggering of the images, but it’s certainly notable. Regardless of this, I pop in some coins and take a blast.

The game is simple enough but different for a Light Gun game in some aspects. I am to compete against my AI partner to try and amass the highest score. During the gameplay - bar the text that says I’m ‘leading’ - I don’t take any notice of this gaming element. I chose my character (I don’t think that there is a difference between the available options) and choose my AI buddy-come-rival. Or vice versa, which ever fits.

The main in-game mechanic that works as the game's core interactive feature is that of a shield. It’s basically the Time Crisis’ cover system on the go. It works, but the raising of the gun that triggers it can be either too sensitive, or unresponsive. Add that to the screen issues and it’s far from a fun play experience. It’s a shame really; it’s set up as a decent enough shooter, it’s just marred by hardware issues. I played and completed the first level and then lost my three lives on the second level and didn’t “CONTINUE” in the 9 seconds that they offered me.

One machine that I was eyeing up since I entered was King of Fighters XIII. I love the King of Fighters series. I love the characters and back stories. This was a game that I had been waiting to play for a long time. Playmore reworked the sprites and art direction for XII – a game I also never played – so I was longing to see how it looked on a crisp display. This was going to be my first jump back into KoF since XI, a game that I loved and believe had the strongest fighting system. Some purists may argue that that honour belongs to 2002 or even 98. But I loved XI, it was the one I found to be the most fun and the varied roster really offered a lot. Bar the last boss it’s the best to date…in my opinion that is. It’s the one I enjoy the most at any rate.

So here I am, on the back of playing my favourite entry into my second favourite fighting game series (Guilty Gear being my favourite). Normally I would be a little nervy because I wouldn’t know the caliber of my opponent. King of Fighters has a player base that is usually pretty dedicated and skilled. But in this case, the screen for the second player was broken. It displayed but it was distorted and unclear, an odd blessing perhaps…

Well anyway, here we go. I have been waiting an age for this. In go the coins and up pops the select. I won’t take too many risk with my selection and I go for a team that consists of Terry, K’ and Maxima. The colour select via a list is a cool alternative to pressing different buttons. I try to colour code my team to be red. My first match-up is the Hero Team (I’m unsure of the actual name in this version) which consists of Kyo, Benimaru and Daimon. Before the match started I twizzled the stick and drubbed the buttons to get the feel. I wasn’t liking the stick. Anyway, a combination of poor skill and move spamming AI made my excited and giddy persona drop to that of a man being marked by a storm cloud. I wasn’t happy. I KO’d one of the Hero Team. But that didn’t matter. It wasn’t a consolation. I couldn’t do any moves. I played like shit.

At this point, I rapidly jiggle the stick feigning control malfunctions to any onlookers. The head of the stick looked like it had been gnawed on anyway, so it helped support my act. But I had waited over 2 years to play the updated version of KoF that I wasn’t going to stop there. I dropped in another coin and selected a new team. This time I chose Kim, Ash and Kula. Kula is an odd choice, I’m not good with her and I can’t remember her moves. I dunno what to tell ya… I still picked the colours, nothing uniform, just whatever.

The fight gets underway and this time I’m having a bit more luck, but not much. My Kim is easily bested and deservedly so. I played like crap. I’m up against K’s team this time. K’ busted my ass. Now I had Ash. I like playing as Ash and it seemed so did the cabinet. I was able to pull of some moves and string some stuff together. I took down K’. It was at this stage that I really took a look and saw what Playmore had put together. Some of Ash’s animations are sublime. They have put in such a great effort to capture the characters in more ways than just stylizing the basic sprite, and Ash’s crouching weak punch really shows this. Anyway, Maxima settled me pretty quickly in the next round. The same light work was made of Kula. I won’t play again. I don’t want to be ridiculed by the machine anymore.

I had time for one last game and for this, I chose Virtual Tennis 3. I always seem to end up playing it at some point. It’s just an excellent game. And to play, I chose and excellent player; Federer. Or I cop-out and take the easy route. Take whichever reason you prefer.

My first match-up was against Blake. I only dropped one point in the first set in which I played some great base line shots. Or so I thought. I was proud of myself again. I gave a mental middle finger to King of Fighters. The second round I lost, and this just confirmed once more what was known since Super Tennis; I can only play at the bottom of the screen. But I won once we changed again. Now onto the second round!

This is a game that makes you look good while playing. It’s simple to pick up and rewarding to play. Each strike of the ball is delayed a fraction of a second to act as the impact, and this works wonderfully. It feels heavy when you strike, just as it should. You feel agile and responsive and truly feel like you are controlling the strokes and the player. I win through the second match with great pleasure and self-satisfaction. David Nalbandian would likely want to punch me in my smug face.

The next match, I play through the first game and lose, but I’m okay. I love how this game plays. But then I get a phone call. It’s time to go. But I’m happy to leave on this note; a high note of satisfaction. It felt like I could play good. The game made me look good. On the other hand, Kind of Fighters made me look like I had no fingers.

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