While the arcade market has been in peril in western territories for years, it actually received a new lease on life in the 00s in Japan and some Asian territories. In addition to the places being hangouts for kids, gaming types visited them for a good opportunity to play games locally with friends or others they happened to meet. It’s why those territories continued to enjoy games in arcades while we had to wait for the home releases in the west.
But the second wind arcades received is starting winding down Japan, thanks to multiple economic factors that would dominate this entire post. The last few years have seen several closures, especially for the smaller, independent establishments. Many of those still standing are of the “Club Sega” variety, and considering that, it’s no surprise Sega’s one of the companies still announcing arcade games when even developers like Arc System Works are seemingly starting to throw in the towel.
One new game is House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn, whose reveal was a big surprise for several reasons. This will be the first new House of the Dead game since Overkill, which first released for Wii in February 2009 — nearly nine years ago. Overkill was handled by the London-based Headstrong Games, so it’s been even longer since the last Japanese-developed installment. Specifically, that was House of the Dead 4, which released first in Japanese arcades in July 2005. Scarlet Dawn shows that Sega still believes there’s a future for the franchise, and how money can still be made from it in arcades — even though they have to support their establishments with titles.
It’s evident this is a serious effort on Sega’s part just from taking a glance at it, as it’s a good-looking project. It’s being made in Unreal Engine 4, and is using a theater-style arcade cabinet to increase the number of zombies that can fit on the screen simultaneously. This is another light gun game that will be suitable for one to two players, and the larger hordes of zombies should make this a more intense experience compared to previous installments. The arcade machine will also have air cannons and vibrating seats, which will activate at certain points during the game for immersion purposes. Basically, this will be the kind of experience that can only be presented in the arcade.
There’s footage of the game being played from the location testing. The character models look nice, but the most appealing aspect is how the voice acting is almost as bad as some from earlier installments, especially for the male protagonist. What’s shown isn’t quite on par with the legendary House of the Dead 2, but it’s good enough — in a bad way, I mean.
Scarlet Dawn doesn’t have a release date yet, but it should hit Japanese arcades sometime later this year. It could come to home consoles and PC afterward.
Sega also announced Sensen Senki, a card-battle game where players will control Chronos, a general who will command a team of four characters capable of using six different classes. Those classes are Fighter, Hunter, Sorcerer, Cleric, Knight, and Witch, all of which are rather typical for a fantasy-based game. Your Chronos will use those troops to fight other Chronos generals and their troops online, as the current details imply there isn’t much of an offline mode. This looks like a title designed specifically for Japan’s arcade market, and there’s very little chance that Sega will release this in western territories.
Meanwhile, one title finally coming home from arcades: Border Break for PlayStation 4. Plenty who’ve played or have been intrigued by the game have been awaiting a console release for years, ever since it released in Japanese arcades way back in September 2009. This is a 10-on-10 mecha multiplayer game whose battles occur over large, sprawling maps big enough to have room for multiple players. The game has four types of weapons available: Assault, heavy fire, raid, and support weapons, and allows for players to customize a mecha to their liking.
This will release as a free-to-play game whose gameplay aspects will be entirely free, and it also won’t include the kind of stamina meter that infests other games of this type. Instead, players can pay to obtain parts and weapons quicker, and Sega is considering including the option to purchase alternate pilots. This port will arrive around nine years after the arcade release, and Sega didn’t feel that it could be successful enough as a standard retail game, so this sounds like a good approach.
The home version of Border Break will release sometime this year. Before that, though, open beta sessions will be held on specific days in February. There doesn’t appear to be that much text, so hopefully Sega is at least considering releasing the game outside Japan.
It’s nice that Sega is still supporting arcades, though one franchise has conspicuously been missing in action: Virtua Fighter. I’d like to believe that a new game could be revealed as part of their arcade plans soon, in a timely move given that the franchise will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. There are no signs as to whether Sega wants to fund another big-budget fighting game, but given the renewed popularity of the genre, it would be nice to have another contender. They should specify how they’ll celebrate the anniversary, which will show how much they still care about the franchise… if they acknowledge it at all.
The continued interest in arcades from Sega could be short-lived, but it’s nostalgic to see. It will depend on whether these games make enough revenue from their time in the amusement centers, which will be shown through financial sheets at the end of their fiscal quarters.