Another amusement trade show came and went this week and I had the opportunity to make a visit. It wasn’t a huge show but it is always good to reconnect with people and to check out the latest versions of the new games. Amusement Expo takes place every March and usually is held in Las Vegas so this year was an interesting adventure to get to know the Dallas-Fort Worth area outside of the airport.
Before I jump into the Expo, I wanted to mention that I had the chance to go and check out a few locations in the area. Round1USA & Main Event in Grapevine, TX; Pinstacks in Plano. Out of the 3, Round1USA had the most impressive arcade – filled with games both video and redemption with many Japanese games that I’ve written about in recent times but never figured I would see them in person. That included Gunslinger Stratos 3;Final Fantasy Theatrhythm; Museca; Grove Coaster 3; several NESiCAxLIVe games and more. It isn’t all Japanese-centric games where they had a healthy collection of Raw Thrills & Bandai Namco titles. I can’t recall seeing much from Sega although I wasn’t able to walk through the entire arcade being with some others. Main Event and Pinstack also had some good collections; the latter had a Monster Eye 5D which you rarely see outside of a trade show.
Amusement Expo 2017
Let’s start with games that we did not see at IAAPA 2016 or were introduced at the event. These videos have also been posted to our Vid.me channel, where you can send us a tip if you feel so inclined 😀 Also on Twitter, I caught a few people re-tweeting this event from the same show way back in 1993 – they certainly don’t do anything quite this fun anymore, which is a real shame:
Johnny Cage (Daniel Pesina) vs. Kung Lao (Anthony Marquez) at the 1993 AMOA coin-op trade show in Anaheim, California. FIGHT! pic.twitter.com/ub8AALYfFu
— Chris Bieniek (@vgephemera) March 19, 2017
Attack From Mars Pinball (Remake)
I recall hearing a mention that Planetary Pinball & Chicago Gaming Company was working on another 90s pinball remake but it was a surprise to come across this at the Expo. Attack From Mars was originally designed by George Gomez and released in 1995 by Bally; this remake comes in three editions. The video here mainly shows the LE & Premium, which have higher-quality toys, larger displays and in the case of LE, a topper that interacts with the game. Overall it looks great but part of the footage I had captured didn’t turn out so this is somewhat brief:
Catch The Light Frenzy
Barron Games International has been diversifying their game line-up over the years, expanding from air hockey to include more games specially made for kids as well as videmption. In selling competitive multiplayer titles like World Tour Foosball and Catch the Light, they have introduced the evolution of the latter with Catch The Light Frenzy.
This builds on the Catch The Light concept by increasing the number of possible players to 4 and adding a video component to it. Barron described it as combining Catch The Light and Quad Air together (Quad Air being one of their best selling air hockey titles).
The idea behind it is simple enough – when you see the buttons light up, hit them as quickly as possible for points. You are punished for hitting unlit buttons so you have to be careful. Simply get the most points within the round (adjustable by the operator – it can be as little as 10 seconds and as much as 2 minutes). Hits and scoring are shown on the monitor that is built into the playfield. The build shown is an early prototype with changes possibly going to be made to the height, with adjustability in mind.
Disney Crossy Road
This was first shown at EAG 2017 in place of Shooty Skies Arcade that had been seen at IAAPA. It’s the same thing as Crossy Road Arcade with Disney character skins and themed levels from movies like Finding Dory & Wreck-It Ralph.
This videmption title has been mentioned on the site previously. It is similar in style to the mobile & arcade game Timberman but features 2p competitive play, a chainsaw power-up and a quicker ending with the “Axe-Pot”.
Aerosmith & Batman 66 Pinball
Stern Pinball brought 8 games to the show, including Aerosmith & Batman 66. Both games are the first to feature large, color LCD displays instead of the monochromatic dot matrix ones that they have been using for years. I was unable to give Batman a spin as it was so popular but did manage to check out Aerosmith. I’m not really the target market for it but as a game, the Pro version was fun to play. The Toy Box mechanism was a nice surprise in that it works like a cross between the Ark of the Covenant toy from Indiana Jones and the hoop mechanism from NBA pinball. That said, some of the animations on this looked very odd, almost like some kind of flash game. Compared to the animations on Batman 66, there is a bit of room for improvement there. What I am happiest about is a simple change to the Start button. The larger convex design should hopefully mean that new/casual players will know what to do after inserting credits.
Justice League Air Hockey
This one was so new that it was a display model only – not playable at the show. Namco will be releasing it as a coin-only game later this year, tying it into the new Justice League movie that is launching this November.
Daytona Championship USA
After the unveil of Daytona Championship USA at IAAPA 2016, we’ve had to wait a few months to see how the game has progressed. The IAAPA build was reportedly around the 50% completion mark while the version at Amusement Expo is 95% finished. As I mentioned on Twitter the other day, Sega has begun taking orders for the game and according to a rep that I spoke with at the show, interest has been high for this one. They sound rather pleased about the orders placed already so we’ll see how things go into the Summer.
As for the changes, we now have all six tracks to race, the final two being the remaster of Seaside Street Galaxy and the new addition, Metro City.
The graphics have received various refinements since November, the most noticeable of them being the lighting & shadows. There are now bloom effects that were not present before; the shadows look realistic and damaged cars have more detail. Here’s a comparison between the two builds although it is one of those things where certain details are more noticeable in person than on camera:
Another concern has been the handling. As mentioned in November, I have not played the original Daytona in a very long time so I cannot comment on how Championship compares on that and force feedback. That said, there is a noticeable improvement in this area over what I played at IAAPA. I was hoping that the seat would have more feedback to it though – a subwoofer rumble or an ‘engine growl’ that I was told would be in the final. There is a scene in Dinosaur Canyon where some fighter jets fly over head – I remember that Rush 2049 did something like that but the whole seat rumbled when that happened. In this build of DCUSA, there’s a little rumble but it comes from the front speakers so it’s not the same effect.
The bad news to report (again) is that the game will ship with an Up-Down speed shifter. A rep did state that the H/4-speed shifter option will still be available as the software sees either component a 4-speed shifter with four recognized positions. As it is, you can still do 4-2-4 shifting for drifts but if you are used to the old way, it’s going to take some readjusting on your muscle memory. Since I don’t have that, double tapping worked fine for me.
The live marquee system has also been redesigned from what we saw at IAAPA. That prototype was somewhat static – now the billboard above each game features more animations and excitement. The completed game begins shipping soon and you should start finding it at select locations in April.
Space Invaders Frenzy (Ticketless Mode)
We broke news about Raw Thrills’ latest videmption game, Space Invaders Frenzy, last year. I also grabbed video of it from IAAPA. What I didn’t get at IAAPA was the “ticketless mode” in action, an operator selectable version of the game that plays more like a skill video game than a quick coin redemption event. As you can see here, the game is a bit different, with themed stages, power-ups and more. The Betson reps that played it for me said that they hadn’t experienced it this way yet but that they liked it better. One also told me that he has installed one out in Wyoming where the operator set it to ticketless mode and that it was apparently collecting $600/wk.
I had meant to get video of UNIS’ new Omni Arena VR 2-player setup. It had updated software from IAAPA and didn’t take up nearly as much space as the 5-player. It was quite popular when I did pass by it.
There was also a new VR tech involving wind called Whirlwind VR but I didn’t get the chance to try it. Kevin Williams (amusement industry & VR specialist) sounded impressed by it though.
Unit-E had another fine looking booth in a great area next to the food court. I gave World’s Fastest Drummer another spin, which was delayed on its release but will be launching before the Summer.
You know me, I’m not really into redemption but there was some new redemption pieces to be found. ICE had a new Madagascar ball catching game; Smart Industries had a new version of their Giant Crane that people were excited about; Andamiro had Paw Patrol and a Spongebob whacker game.
So that’s a wrap. Next year the expo goes back to Vegas. What are your thoughts about what this Amusement Expo 2017?