Looking At Taito’s history As They Turn 60

arcadehero August 27, 2013 9
Looking At Taito’s history As They Turn 60

This past Friday was a date that was important to arcade and video game history but I did not realize that until I saw a message on Facebook from Taito. Here is what they had to say:

It’s our birthday!! 60 years ago today, in 1953, TAITO (then the Taito Trading Company) was founded by entrepreneur Michael Kogan.

In the beginning, TAITO was Japan’s first distiller and seller of vodka, and the manufacture of peanut vending machines followed, along with jukeboxes, mechanical and electromechanical games, and finally video games. (Poke around our Facebook timeline for photos from over the years!)

Today TAITO is still very active in many aspects of the entertainment business, with divisions handling arcade operations, the design and manufacture of new arcade games, the design and publishing of smartphone games and other digital content, and the creation of a wide variety of merchandise and crane game prizes.

We’d like to thank our fans for a wonderful 60 years, we wouldn’t be here without you! We look forward to spending the next 60 years with you as well!!

Their efforts have affected the industry worldwide more than once and so let’s celebrate by taking a stroll down memory lane of some of those titles. I’m not going to be able to mention every game they created and that’s probably not necessary but here are some that come to mind.

Click on the tabs to check out the various titles released during their respective periods. Please give each tab time to load, they are heavy on media so that may cause an issue on slower connections. Most flyers below from from Arcade Flyers.com; various links from Killer List of Videogames and System16.com

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Taito is mainly known for the games they created after Space Invaders but they were plenty busy before that. As the description above mentions, they built numerous entertainment devices before video games became known to the public at large. There is not a ton of information on those games but among those I could find included a pinball game called Crown Soccer Special or a mechanical shooting game Western Hill. [Image via System16]

westernhill

 

When video games landed Taito did what many other companies were doing – they copied Atari’s Pong. No points for the lack of originality but it was a sin many others shared in. They did introduce the idea to Japan, which was a market that Atari wasn’t focusing on right off the bat. Their version was called Elepong.

The flyer for Taito’s Elepong (1973). Source: Arcade Flyer Archive

The early 70s are full of games that are derived from sports titles. Taito was no exception,  including titles with straightforward names like Soccer, Basketball, or Pro Hockey. Like other companies at the time, they quickly realized that they would have to come up with some unique ideas to stay relevant. There is a grey area over who it was that produced the first racing game – Taito claims they did with Speed Race while Atari historians make the claim that Gran Trak 10 was the first. Either way they both were released around the same time and with Taito’s focus centered on Japan and Atari’s on the USA in 1974, for many customers the respective games would be the first for them. This game was designed by Tomohiro Nishikado and it was different enough from Gran Trak 10 to stand on its own – it offered selectable difficulty levels and had scrolling graphics on a vertical screen which was an important graphical innovation. It was also the first game to be brought to the US from Japan, released in the US by Midway under the name Wheels.

Breaking away from virtualizing sports games marked an important milestone for many companies. Taito got this recognition with their unique Western Gun. Cacti and rocks provided the cover as players duked it out with pistols in the allotted time.  Apart from the fresh concept, the game would make technological history when Taito would license the game out to Midway. Under Midway’s auspices, the name was changed to Gun Fight and instead of it being controlled by discrete logic chips, it would become the first video arcade game to use a microprocessor, the Intel 8080. The bump in power allowed the game to run smoother than the discrete logic cousins and soon those games would become antiques as all the cool games had to use microprocessors instead.

Video of the Midway microprocessor version

After various sports concepts had their day, military based games gained some popularity in the post-Vietnam War era. Companies like Atari and Midway had such games and Taito would be no exception. They developed a first person jet combat game called Interceptor; an anti-tank missile launching game called Missile X; a B-17 bomber simulator called Flying Fortress; a submarine mining game called Sub Hunter and a game with a mounted bazooka light-gun controller called Crossfire.

Many of these titles are not remembered with fond nostalgia as they never gained the popularity associated with a blockbuster title. That would soon change for Taito, hit the next tab to read about 1978 and the Golden Age.

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For some people, the “Golden Age of Video Games” began when Taito launched Space Invaders. I discuss that in my book The Arcade Experience and lay out why I personally think of that age starting with Atari’s Breakout but Space Invaders has legs to stand on with this claim. It certainly began a golden age for Taito and for a short time they focused on producing Space Invaders machines and nothing else to fill demand. The famous stories of arcades popping up in Japan with nothing but SI machines and the country suffering a brief shortage of coins because of the game are both true and fascinating. Midway benefited greatly from the relationship they had with Taito when it came to SI as they had the license to manufacture and sell the game in the US. One thing you get from the original arcade cabinet that is lost with many conversions/ports of SI (as well as the many sequels) is the holographic effect that was produced by using a half-silvered mirror that the image bounced off of. With real artwork behind the floating image of the game, it gave the invaders a slight depth effect which is cool to see.

The legacy of Space Invaders would go a long way for Taito as they released sequels and variations down the road. These included Space Invaders Part II/Deluxe (US version was the latter), Return of the Invaders (1985), Majestic Twelve/Super Space Invaders ’91, Space Invaders DX(1993), Space Invaders ’95, and Space Invaders Silver Anniversary(2003; two versions of this, one with 5 SI games and one with SI and Qix). Taito have had various celebrations for the 35th anniversary but aside from offering the original as a download on their NESiCAXLIVE network, no new original sequel was given the arcade treatment (instead the honor when to mobile devices with Space Invaders Infinity Gene).

Taito wasn’t content to be a one-hit wonder and so development of various other games continued. For a time nothing else came close to reproducing an SI effect and many of the games they released in 1979 and 1980 are forgotten by time – titles like Acrobat, Ozma Wars, Indian Battle, Steel WorkerLupin III, Top Bowler, and a few others. It was around this time that full color games were beginning to find their way into arcades, among Taito’s first was the Breakout / Football combination Field Goal:

Speaking of staying up on technical achievements, Taito would release the first talking video game in 1980 with Stratovox. The game is primarily known for the voice, the space combat is not too far off from something like Galaxian but it also had an element that would show up in Midway’s Defender not that long afterwards as the aliens can nab humans that float inside of the green orb on the left hand side of the screen.

Speaking of Stratovox, around the same time the company would create another space shooter that was an evolution of Space Invaders and was closer to something like Galaga called Phoenix. Destroy the evil space birds on your way to reach the shielded boss – an early example of a “boss fight” in video games. A company by the name of Centuri sold this in the US while Taito handled it at home in Japan.

The industry was really booming by 1981 and this was the year that Taito would release another well-known classic called Qix. Draw boxes on the screen to trap the Stix while avoiding the Sparx which could zap you. This abstract game style ended up being re-used in sequels (such as Volified) and some other variations done by other companies (often with adult-oriented games)

1981 also saw the release of games like Alpine Ski, Colony 7 and Frogs & Spiders, among others. Of those Alpine Ski is probably the most remembered. There was also the release of Taito’s Space Dungeon although some sources say 1981, some say 1982. It was a dual-stick game along the lines of Robotron 2084 but you could move among various rooms collecting treasure and moving up to the next level.

1982 would be a real golden year for the company and for gamers who enjoyed their products. Here are some names attached to some nostalgia – Jungle King/Hunt; Zoo Keeper; Wild Western; Birdie King; Front Line and Electric Yo-Yo. I was familiar most with Jungle Hunt and Front Line growing up since I had those games on my Atari 2600 although those were crude imitations of what the arcade versions offered. All of the listed titles were unique in their own ways and offered for arcades some of the variety that made an arcade of ’82 a wonder to visit.

Here is a flyer for Pirate Pete, which played exactly the same as Jungle Hunt differing in graphics only:

As 1983 rolled around and with it the slump of the game crash in the USA, Taito didn’t slow down in their number of releases although not as many stood out. The primary game from this year that out-shined the rest was their spy game, Elevator Action.

Also a couple of other notable releases this year included Tin Star, which was an evolution of Western Gun; Crack N’ Pop, a weird but fun game involving chickens, eggs and bombs and the mechanical game Ice Cold Beer which was a game of skill to move a pinball up a board using a bar. Avoid the holes and reach the top to win. Taito released a non-alcholic version of this called Zeke’s Peak and recently the idea has been given virtual treatment with Toccata Gaming’s Rock N’ Roll Verti-Go.

1984 wasn’t a slow one for Taito with them producing around 20 games this year alone. Of those the star would be the Great Swordsman, a one-on-one swordfighting game that established a complex fighting game with different styles of swordplay to choose from.

Let’s end this segment with the fad ridden life of laserdisc games. Taito did not produce anything that saved the LD from the quick grave it would go to but they got two years of life out of it. Their LD games included Laser Grand Prix, Cosmos Circuit, Ninja Hayate, and Time Gal(the latter two were released in Japan only). The latter two titles were adventure games adapted from anime shows but Laser Grand Prix and Cosmos Circuit tried to use the tech for racing (which is something that Sega, Namco and Midway also tried without success).

Head on over to the next tab for the remainder of the 80s!

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1985 began the era where Japanese based companies took the dominant lead in the creation of new content for arcade and home video games. American companies weren’t wiped off the map by the crash of ’83 but their bubble had burst and the competition from overseas was not to be underestimated.

One genre that the 80s became known for was the shooter. Taito already had established themselves here thanks to Space Invaders and in 1985 they released Return of the Invaders. But Taito did not ride just on the glory that SI brought and they churned out tons of shooters to fill arcades: Sky Destroyer, S.R.D. Mission, Halley’s Comet, Tokio, Tiger Heli, Insector X, Sky Shark, Truxton, Twin Cobra, Twin Hawk, Master of Weapon, Ashura Blaster, Asuka & Asuka, Megablast, and Syvalion to name a few. Among the shooters they put a lot of stock into would be Darius. Aside from gaining a reputation of fighting robotic fish in space and giving the player an in-the-face warning system, Darius easily stood out thanks to the super-wide screen setup that used a combination of angled glass and three monitors. The icing on this and the other Darius games was the music produced by the in-house band, Zuntata who is discussed in more detail below.

Here’s a working cabinet with the screens looking to be in perfect condition

It’s a little more obscure than some of the mentioned shooters so here is a video of Sky Destroyer which employed some scaling effects which was a big deal at the time.

Another genre that was popular in the 80s was that of martial arts. While the misconception that video games had died out completely after E.T. was released on the Atari 2600, in reality the arcade market stopped the slide in part thanks to martial arts games which proved themselves more effective at attracting new business than Laser Disc games had. For Taito’s part they had a number of titles to fit into this area in the second part of the decade – Nunchacken, Samurai Magic, The Ninja Warriors (which used Darius hardware and 3 screens), Kageki (a predecessor to Pit Fighter), Violence Fight, and Kuri Kinton.

Let’s go with one of the more obscure titles for the video

Its also worth mentioning Taito’s involvement in the Technos game Double Dragon. The game was created by Technos but licensed to Taito for the US/European side of distribution.

Taito wasn’t huge on licensing properties to convert the concept into an arcade game but they did take a stab at a couple of licenses such as Superman and Rambo III.

What Taito is also known for from these times are unique titles that further solidified their credibility in the video game market and culture.  Co-op gaming wasn’t anything new but throw in cute dinosaurs that can trap enemies in bubbles and you’ve got gaming gold. Bubble Bobble was quirky and a lot of fun. While it was a variation of another game called Fairyland Story, the enhancements to the play made it a bigger hit and its place as a classic was assured. A few of the characters that appeared in this one came from other Taito games such as Crack N’ Pop but for those it introduced, those have ended up in many other Taito titles, including the BB sequels and variations like the Rainbow Islands, Parasol Stars and Puzzle Bobble.

For fun, here is a prototype version of Bubble Bobble 2:

The same year Bubble Bobble shed its presence upon arcades, Taito would regain some love for knob controllers. This was primarily pushed by the release of Arkanoid, an updated twist on the Breakout concept 10 years after that was released. Power-ups and a colorful presentation drew the players in, making for another popular game to bring into a location. This spawned a few sequels including the Revenge of Doh and Arkanoid Returns. Some other spinner controlled games they would release afterwards included the very cutesy Plump Pop, and the labyrinth game Cameltry.

Snuggled into the mid-80s Taito created a couple more ways to grow their brand – one through the development and sale of karaoke machines, the other through the creation of an in-house music band that would create memorable songs for so many of Taito’s games from Bubble Bobble on up – ZUNTATA. Founded by Hisayoshi Ogura, they pioneered the concepts of video game soundtracks and they even have held live events numerous times in Japan. Currently their music is available through iTunes, Last.fm or it can be found for sale on Amazon.com; but given the chance its best to hear the music play out in the games that they were designed for. Their official website is here. Here is some footage of a concert they did in ’97, playing a song from Darius Gaiden.

The latter half of the 80s was more of a time where platformers and scrolling shooters ruled the day like kings drunk on their own power; the love for light-gun and racing games was still a shadow of what it would become. taito did release a few notable games that fit into these genres – the “Operation” series with Operation WOLF and Operation Thunderbolt; for racers/drivers there was the wild Chase H.Q. (which took inspiration from popular TV shows like Miami VICE) and Continental Circus. The latter game was supposed to say Continental Circuit, the mix-up solidifying  Taito’s reputation for “Engrish” use. Aside from the name, CC was notable in that it had a version with mounted 3D glasses to the cabinet that could be used for some stereoscopic 3D action.

Let’s end this period on a note about warrior/adventure games. Part of this was fueled by action flicks of the 80s where demi-god type heroes slashed or shot their way through hordes of bad guys. A variation of Great Swordsman called Gladiator was among the first of Taito’s library to do so and a little latter the Rastan series borrowed a cup of influence from Conan.  The 3rd Rastan, Warrior Blade went the Darius II double-screen route. Among the more obscure adventure games are the titles Kiki KaiKai and The Lost Castle in Darkmist (the former is considered to be in the “cute ’em up” category but one can see the influence it had on Darkmist a short time later). But among the most well-remembered titles in this area was Cadash, an attempt at a sidescrolling RPG. By linking two cabinets, up to four players traverse the demon infested land working up experience to level up and save the captured princess.

Head on over to the next tab for a look at Taito’s simulators!

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Video games had plenty of time to prove themselves on the marketplace but one area that was still just beginning to offer some exciting possibilities was the motion simulator realm. Arcades were a step on that path already so it was natural to move forward in that direction. Taito began to dabble with these developments in the late 80s and worked on them into the 90s, although they never reached the prominence that some of their friendly competitors like Sega or Namco did. Here are a few of Taito’s efforts worth noting.

Without the huge expense of beginning their own airline, Taito launched their virtual airlines with Midnight Landing(1987). This was branded with “Taito Air Lines” on the side and challenged players to land a commercial jet at night. A year later they followed up with Top Landing.

Keeping in line with the flight theme of simulators, Air Inferno was a way for Taito to offer some helicopter rescue simulation. This would be one of Taito’s first efforts into full 3D as well; it was released a year before Atari Games’ Steel Talons to boot.

After this Taito dabbled with some non-interactive motion simulators for a time, mainly with their Interactive Dynamic Accelrator or IDYA(1992). Yes it says interactive but it wasn’t really – you and a companion would just sit down insert the coins, press start and enjoy the virtual roller coaster ride. A year later Taito would release another non-interactive simulator with D3Bos, which was sort of an answer to Sega’s R360.

Probably realizing the issue in calling IDYA interactive when it wasn’t, Taito created IDYA2 which featured a steering wheel and allowed them to make the interactive claim. Here’s a video of that in action from the inside:

After that Taito didn’t spend much R&D on motion simulators but in 1997 they did release a train simulation game called Densha De Go! This spawned a few sequels including one released in 2012. Around that same time they released Power Shovel Simulator, which finally provided boys with Tonka trucks something larger to live out their excavating dreams with.

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The 90s started out strong for Taito as it did for many arcade companies but times would change in drastic measure in 10 years.

The company kept focus on certain genres that they had done well with in the previous decade, one of those being scrolling shooters. Starting the decade out with the intensity of games like Gun Frontier and AquaJack and closing with titles like RayCrisis and G Darius. In between those helpings of shoot ’em up action was titles like Metal Black and Galactic Storm. Galactic Storm was Taito’s answer on one side to competitor games like Galaxy Force II, and on the other fan service to fast-paced-in-your-face scaling graphics and explosions. Can one ever have enough of those?

The 90s was known mainly for the addiction to fighting games. Taito would throw out a few but they never really embraced the craze in the same way that many of their competitors did. Whether this helped or hurt them at the time is up for a debate but that can be saved for another post at another time. Everyone had some sort of Street Fighter II like game to share with the world and for their part, Taito had Violence Fight (actually released in 1989; the sequel came in ’92 when SF2 fever was still spreading like a plague) and in ’94 Kaiser Knuckle/Global Champion.  After that Taito decided that if they were going to do any 1-on-1 fighters they would be in 3D and thus came the Psychic Force series and Fighters’ Impact. Psychic Force would be found among the stranger fighting game titles to grace the arcade scene. Here’s Psychic Force 2012 from 1997/98, which allows us to safely imagine what would have happened last year above our cities had magical psychic powers existed.

They also had their own dinosaur fighting game to share before Atari had Primal Rage called Dino Rex. Those two games demonstrate how nice some ideas are on paper while not ending up so great in execution (although they did have their moments).

Speaking of fighters, Taito embraced the cousins of fighters up to ’93, the brawler. There was the anti-poaching Growl, the macho ThunderFox and the odd The Ninja Kids in 1990; the Rastan Trilogy wrapped up with Warrior Blade in ’91; and you had the sort-of Back To the Future II inspired Riding Fight tried to handle the genre with hoverboards. The genre still showed potential through games like Arabian Magic and the brawler/RPG Light Bringer . AM and LB were excellent games with wonderful detail – its too bad that many developers began to give up on the genre around ’94 to favor the fighters.

One of the flyers for the Light Bringer/Dungeon Magic arcade game

In what is the strangest/oddest/wackiest game to come from Taito that just so happened to be a scrolling fighter would have to be Pu.Li.Ru.La. An evil bad man steals the key to time and in the aftermath of towns receiving damage, two prancercizing kids are given magic sticks to stop the bad guy and get the time key back. Smash evil robots to turn them back into animals. It is an amusing game although some of the enemy designs while funny may also have you scratching your head a time or two. Especially when some of the digitized graphics start showing up around stage 3.

In the area between a scrolling fighter and the scrolling shooter are action-oriented games that might be put into a platformer category if they are not considered to technically be one of those two. Taito had a few of these but the primary one worth mentioning would be the excellent Elevator Action Returns, a sequel to Elevator Action from about 10 years prior and very different in the overall feel as it changes from a spy vs. spy game to blowing terrorists away. That sounds cliché now but it wasn’t so much in ’94 and it is an enjoyable game that is worth playing through several times. Also towards the end of the 90s when Taito launched their G-Net hardware they showed it off with a 3D game called Chaos Heat, where your commandos infiltrate a lab full of haywire robots that are askin’ for a beating.

One genre embraced more by Taito than several of their major competitors involved puzzles. Sure Tetris and KLAX received a fair amount of adoration but concepts like Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move also won the popularity contest that spawned a few sequels. Those and games like Cleopatra Fortune set the standard for imbuing puzzle games with characters and personality so that they became more interesting than finding fresh ways to match blocks together. The designers at Taito deserve props for taking some risks in this area to – from the dice matching game Palamedes, the challenging Tube-It, or the house building Land Maker, they tried something more than just churning out Tetris clones which would have been an easy way out.

Light-gun games found more favor with players in the 90s and Taito had a few ideas to share here although like the fighters they did not spend all of their time working on the next big light-gunner. For this decade they started out with the Aliens-inspired Space Gun. This provided foot pedals to control some of the action well before Time Crisis although instead of giving the player cover it was to allow them to backtrack in-game.

A lesser known light-gun game called Gunbuster (also called Operation Gunbuster) is also something that is one of the first efforts to provide some free roaming FPS gaming to arcades from the time when games like The Catacombs, Wolfenstein 3D or Blake Stone were hogging all of that attention. The player could use a joystick for movement and the light-gun for aiming, which also worked a lot like Wii Remotes do in FPS titles for that system, i.e. moving the view when you point the reticule at a certain boundary on the sides of the screen. Graphically there are some similarities with Space Gun but overall this would be superior to that as well as the popular FPS games found on the PC at the time. This also had support for up to four players across two screens, thus making it the first example for many players to experience the fun of a multiplayer FPS. This included 1-0n-1, 2-on-1 and 2-on-2 deathmatches thanks to the four guns mounted to the cabinet.

The Operation Wolf series has been mentioned and there was two games from this IP that came around in the 90s – Operation Wolf 3 in ’94 and Operation Tiger in ’99 which gave it that fresh 3D smell.

Racing titles received a bit more attention from Taito than the light-guns albeit Taito produced fewer racers in the 90s than in the 80s. They started the decade off with the monster truck off-road racing extravaganza Double Axel and their motorcycle racing sim WGP2. The company had some good fortune through the Chase H.Q. series of games  and they temporarily finished that up with Super Chase: Criminal Termination in 92′; they also released a game called Chase Bombers in ’94 although that was more of a Mario Kart racing kind of game than a Chase HQ one. They created some F1 racing games and had a couple of drivers to approach the more realistic/technical side of arcade racing with titles like Side-by-Side and Battle Gear (the latter looking to compete with the likes of InitialD) but the most fascinating racing creation by Taito in the 90s would have to be Dangerous Curves (1995). Attempting to do what few others have tried, one side of this game has a motorcycle controller, the other half is a car. This did make for an unbalanced way to try racing but it was different. Two cabinets could be supported for 4 person play.

Among other unique titles they cooked up in the 90s, Sonic Blast Man would have to be towards the top of that list. It was more physically involved than most other games at the time as players would hit punching bag with their might to smash the evil on-screen characters. This would spawn some sequels that were equally fun but it did end up creating a small legal headache for Taito in the US when some wrist injuries resulted in some lawsuits, which led to some settlements along with some unwanted PR.  The most recent sequel came out in 2011 and was called Sonic Blast Heroes.

Due to some of those legal troubles and some changes to the US market that they didn’t adapt quickly enough to, Taito would shutter their full US arcade operations by the end of the decade and afterwards would occasionally work with existing US manufacturers or distributors to get some of their content overseas. Head over to the sixth tab for the last part on this stroll down Taito Memory Lane

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With the arrival of a new millennium, Taito had pulled their arcade operations back out of the US and began to focus most of their efforts within the home market of Japan. The market slump that arcades experienced at this time certainly did not help but a lot of the games they had been developing were better accepted in Japan to begin with as players in the West embraced scrolling shooters and puzzle games with less enthusiasm. They did not give up on arcade development after this, even after being bought up by Square Enix in the middle of the decade. Here are a few of the games they brought to life in somewhat more recent times.

One thing Taito would become known for in the 00s would be creating a hardware platform that other Japanese companies could use to release their games on. It was a PC-in-a-box but many developers decided to use the platform irregardless of that tidbit. In this manner Taito has kept their name out there when the number of new games they have created themselves has dwindled in comparison to previous decades. The most recent design they have available is called the Taito Type X3, which so far has not had much made for it yet; the predecessors Type X and Type X2 both accumulated some decent software libraries over the past few years.

Among the first unique releases in the decade would be a sports game that at first glace could almost be mistaken for something that Konami had made, given their adoration of motion based controllers around the same time. That game was called Raizin Ping Pong (2002) and I do not believe it was very common outside of Japan.

Taito also released some games on hardware that was not designed by their in-house engineers, creating games for the Sega Naomi and Namco System 246 such as Zoids Infinity (2004) and Ex Zeus (2005)

Gunbusters did not sell well enough to bring on a slew of sequels but Taito did not give up on the FPS entirely. They came around in 2006 when they brought Valve’s Half-Life 2 to arcades with the Half-Life 2: Survivor revision (2006). The controls were unique with a dual joystick and pedal setup and the software tailored to the arcade experience. The game was tested in the US by Namco but the tests were lackluster so the only way to find it in the West was through the occasional import. The game did fine in Japan however. An upgrade kit to change the cabinet over to something fresh was released in 2009 by the name of Cyber Diver, which was an original FPS by Taito that used the Source engine.

cyberdiver

After that didn’t work out for the West, Taito tried out something that would be easy to sell to a Western audience – more racing/driving games. They had technical racers such as Battle Gear 4 and D1GP (2006) followed by the return of Chase H.Q. with Chase H.Q.2(2007). The premise remained the same – chase down bad guys on the run from the law in your invincible vehicle. Same their cars into submission within the allotted time. Pretty straightforward. Namco handled the manufacturing of the game in the US, Electrocoin in Europe. BG4 and D1GP were very limited in the West but did see some action in Japan. After this batch of traditional driving, they veered towards quirky games that introduced an exercise component in Hopping Road and Kickthrough Racers. The first had you mimicking a pogo stick to race; the other simulated a foot scooter. Both games were designed with an extra layer of “cute” to appeal to kids and they did receive limited Western releases as well.

The light-gun genre also has been given some love in these recent times, moreso than in Taito’s past. They haven’t resurrected the Operation Wolf series or given Space Gun another go (yet), opting instead to work on some new IPs like Haunted/Panic Museum (2010; Haunted in Japan, Panic in the US), Gaia Attack 4 (2010; 4 player handgun game) or the blending of rhythm and light-gun gaming with Music Gun Gun 1 & 2. Recently in 2012 and under the Square Enix banner they launched Gunslinger Stratos, a competitive arena-combat style game where players wield two hand-guns which can be physically combined for different styles of attacks. The game can be played locally or online as well.

gstratos

They have brought one series back and given it the light-gun angle, with Elevator Action Death Parade in 2010. Sticking with the anti-terrorist theme of Elevator Action Returns, this game features realistic elevator doors that open and close in front of the primary screen, a smaller 2nd screen showing what goes on while they are closed. This did get a limited release out West.

elevatoreag

That’s not to say that they abandoned unusual games that one expects to find in a Japanese Game Center. Their angry table flipping game Chabudai took some decent feigned anger to play as the player must pound on the table controller to build up some rage and then throw the table upwards and revel in the ensuing mayhem. Another game involving tables was The Tablecloth Hour which was all about trying to pull out the tablecloth from underneath a bunch of dishware. The cabinet has a real cloth to pull, although its unknown how often that would have to be replaced. Still, you have to hand it to them for trying out the risky possibilities of the business.

tablecloth-01l

One surprising development to come out of Taito in 2010 was the return of one of their shooter series, Darius. Dariusburst Another Chronicle (2010) was discussed at length on this blog from the Japanese release that generated city-block long lines to the limited release of the game out West. Suffice it to say, its an amazing game with more to explore than any other arcade game currently on the market, a game that doesn’t apologize for requiring skill at the hands of the players.

dbacexcab

Also in the headlines of Taito’s hardware work in these recent times has been the development of an arcade network that allows operators to download games straight to a cabinet. Called NESiCAxLIVE, its existence is to the dismay of hardware collectors but it does allow operators an opportunity to access a much larger library of content and for less; much like Steam or some other download service for a home entertainment device. the library has grown quickly, offering fighters, puzzlers, shooters, classics and more through a single platform. Currently Taito just focuses these efforts in Japan, the official NESiCA website is here. Here’s an upcoming game to be released on NESiCA, Do Not Fall.

The most recent stand-alone development for the company has been their rhythm game Groove Coaster Arcade, a bigscreen adaptation of their mobile app game. In addition to a sleek cabinet that reminds one of TRON Legacy, it features unique controllers which use some disc-joysticks of some kind to navigate the action. The game is coming soon to Japan and there is always a chance we could see it overseas but time will tell on that one.

groovecoast1

What else will Taito come up with in the future? Only time will tell but we are glad to have them around for arcades after these several decades.


9 Comments »

  1. Courage August 27, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Ha ha IDYA2 great game

  2. Kevin Williams August 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Hey ArcadeHeroes – we did run the anniversary and history news in our recent Asian special in the STinger Report:

    http://myemail.constantcontact.com/The-Stinger-Report—23-07-13.html?soid=1103295952658&aid=_GN80fQCjxs

    Please remember us poor guys out there!! 🙂

    • arcadehero August 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      Yes I did see that although I did not read in there that it was August 23rd, which is what caught me off guard (and lit the fire for me to put the post together since it was a lot closer than I had realized 😛 )

  3. chaos August 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    No mention of Double Dragon? I was sure that one was going to be on the list. Overall great article especially the section on the 21st century. Most of these games were never released in the US.

    • arcadehero August 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      Yes that is mentioned briefly after Ninja Warriors although it was technically a Technos game (just like Renegade was) so I wasn’t sure about spending a lot of time on it. 🙂

  4. 60Hz August 28, 2013 at 12:25 am - Reply

    Love it – great work!

    Taito is one of my favorite devs, something about there game has an honesty (for lack of a better term) to them. From space invaders, to darius, to psychic force – just really great experiences. space invaders ex rode that retro-future wave that’s still happening in the indie space. anyhoo, i’m hoping we will see even more from these guys.

  5. cat face August 28, 2013 at 5:04 am - Reply

    how the hell do I close the video ad that appears in the upper left? how annoying! Dear advertisers: No eyeballs for you, from me, today. just because your ad makes the article unreadable doesn’t mean you’ve now tricked me into looking at it and buying your product!

    • arcadehero August 28, 2013 at 6:28 am - Reply

      there shouldn’t be a video ad of any kind, we only have some static ads on the right to generate funds for the website but no video ads. If you had a screenshot I could see if there was anything on our end about that which can be fixed.

  6. Stiletto September 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    I’ve come across some sources that claim Cybersterra, Vertexer and Galactic Storm were available for Taito IDYA cabinet (as at least conversion kits), making it interactive for sure. Might be wrong though.
    Cave Speeder (for IDYA) is definitely laserdisc game though. (not mentioned at Dragon’s Lair Project either.) Interactiveness of Cave Speeder is debatable.

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