It’s funny how some memories stick, isn’t it? I had only been to the ExCel Centre in London once before dropping in at the EAG show on Wednesday, for the consumer gaming event GameStars Live in 2004. Somehow though, five and a half years from that event, I was able to perfectly remember the layout of the Custom House DLR station that serves the venue, as well as the vast hallway leading into the main exhibition hall. As it turns out, familiarity would be the key theme which ran through the day.
Wandering around the new show, it seemed very much like the ATEI show I attended last year. Of course, there was no accompanying media registration panic this time, and not having to deal with two areas split across the upper level of Earl’s Court was nice. Getting in was a simple process (though this may have something to do with my late entry), and the staff on hand were nice and helpful. The organisational aspect of the show, given that it was running for the first year, was fine and left me free to use my short time at the show well.
The striking thing about EAG 2010 is that the exhibitors were, by and large, fairly conservative in their offerings. The standard genres were well-represented: shooting, driving and music games all maintained their popularity, and redemption games were everywhere as usual. However, the commotion caused by fighting games at ATEI in the past (Tekken 6 in 2008, and Street Fighter IV in 2009) was absent, and manufacturers seemed to focus on widening the market for their tried and true hits. Even where unusual ideas were present, such as Giant Tetris, Go Go Grand Prix, and The BishiBashi, an element of familiarity was retained in order to reduce risks – perhaps an effect of the economic situation, which has only grown worse since last year.
All that having been said, the financial pressure ensured that the exhibitors at EAG were fielding a strong line-up of games for 2010, with the best of the last couple of years on show as well as the games which will be taking companies forward. And, having compiled a 1700-word monster report on the show, you’ll need to hit the post break for the detailed EAG rundown!
Starting off with Bandai Namco, I got my first chance to play Tank!Tank!Tank!, which struck me as being a cartoonish cross between Sega’s old arcade tank game Alien Front and the PS2/Xbox 360 cult hit Earth Defense Force. After a quick picture, you’re thrust into a destructible city environment to battle against enemies including a bunch of giant spiders and a huge dragon thing. The screen is oriented vertically in order to capture the carnage, which accumulates quickly thanks to pick-ups including multi-missile racks and machine guns. You’re given infinite lives but you’re playing against a time limit, meaning that any deaths still have an impact due to respawning time. I really enjoyed this, and hope to see it in arcades soon.
Deadstorm Pirates was also on show, in both motion and non-motion cabinets. To get an idea of what this two-player fixed gun shooter is like, imagine Sega’s Let’s Go Jungle! with a supernatural pirate theme reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. It certainly looks nice and plays well, with some fun events involving turning the central wheel, but it will face some stiff competition later in the year (more on that later). Other Namco video game offerings included last year’s Nirin, now in its final cabinet. Also showing were redemption products including the Clena-Flex crane game, and a new game called Go Go Grand Prix. It’s a four-player slot-car racing game, highly reminiscent of the classic Scalextric toys, and looked like fantastic fun.
Bandai Namco’s stand was also exhibiting Raw Thrills games, which the company distributes in Europe. The big attraction was Terminator Salvation, a lightgun shooter based on last year’s blockbuster film sequel. It is visually fantastic, with lots of the familiar T-800 models trying to kill you to ensure the extinction of humanity. Unfortunately, I was unable to play this due to its popularity! Last year’s excellent H2Overdrive was also on show, now with a snazzy motion cabinet.
Sega has been putting a lot of effort into becoming a one-stop shop for operators – as well as its own new games and repairs, Sega now handles used game sales and European distribution for a number of other companies. As a result, new games weren’t the priority on Sega’s stand, and much space was given over to games from the last couple of years, such as Sega Rally 3, Rambo, Harley Davidson and Hummer, the latter of which is now available in a twin cabinet as well as the original motion cabinet. The big, exciting news from the stand is the presence of Let’s Go Island!, the sequel to the popular 2006 release Let’s Go Jungle!. While the game wasn’t ready for the show, the video (which has now been posted on this site) shows that a motion cabinet is in development for the game. We’ll bring you more on this when we get a chance to play it.
In new-but-old news, Sega Racing Classic (the licence-free return of Daytona USA) was also at the show. I have mixed feelings on this one – on the one hand, the game has always been fantastic and it’s still very popular, with old cabinets still running to this day. The cabinet design helps here: the original Daytona wheel is being used again, and the bright LCD monitor really brings out the vivid colours typical of Sega’s arcade output – especially when compared to the battle-scarred original cabinets, many of which sport horrible burn-in on their rear projection screens. The ability to easily source parts for repair must also be a plus for operators! However, there are definitely some problems with the game, from any point of view. Gamers will be interested to know that unlike the original Daytona USA, which supported up to 8 linked cabinets, Sega Racing Classic will only support up to 4 players. Plus, as the game is simply the 1994 Model 2 game running in HD, the visuals do suffer a bit – the low-resolution textures are noticeably smeared. Worse yet, there’s no added content to entice old hands, which is a real shame considering the extra courses that were created for the arcade sequel, as well as Saturn and Dreamcast versions. Ultimately, the game will live and die on its price – the new Ringwide hardware is used to power the game, and operators may find themselves unwilling to give up their old hardware if the price is wrong – particularly those with 8-player showpiece set-ups.
Elsewhere on the stand, Sega was showing off its popular UFO Catcher range of crane games, as well as the accompanying range of prizes from Sega Prize Europe. The Sonic All-Stars air hockey and basketball games were also on show, giving us a glimpse of the company’s famous mascot, and Giant Tetris puts a “big” spin on the old puzzler (You’re fired – Ed.). Meanwhile, products distributed for other companies include Andamiro’s Pump It Up NX Absolute – the latest version of the hardcore dancing game, the UFO Stomper, Typhoon and XD Theater offerings from Triotech, as well as other machines by the companies above, plus ICE, Pan Amusements and Gameconcepts.
On to GlobalVR’s Twisted, which is heavily reminiscent of the old Dreamcast racing game Stunt GP in a variety of ways. The good ones include the nice course designs, featuring loops and other fun things, and the overall nice visuals. However, the game loaded slowly, lacked charm and was far too easy – my first credit saw me making a couple of big mistakes (including an incident where I hit Start instead of Boost, resulting in a last-place respawn) and yet still easily placing 1st. It’s a shame, because I had some high hopes for this one. Also at the show from GlobalVR, Need for Speed Carbon, making a return from previous years.
At Electrocoin’s stand, I was unable to play Rassen’s Vulcan M as it was not operating when I passed it, which was greatly disappointing since I had heard some good things about it. Taito’s D1GP Arcade was running, however, as was the company’s lightgun game Panic Museum. It’s another shooter, this time with a historical theme – the first stage contains mummies and other ancient Egyptian themed enemies. It’s similar in pace and B-movie tone to the original House of the Dead – rather than swarming the player with enemies, the game is played in darkness with the gun doubling as a torch, forcing a more moderate pace to allow the player to locate threats.
Konami’s section mainly played host to some strong games we’ve seen before – Dance Dance Revolution X, Guitar Hero Arcade and GTI Club, the latter having adopted a less showy cabinet design for its Western release than the model shown at ATEI last year. The new game on show is one which surprised and delighted me – The BishiBashi! The first new game in the series in some years, it has the same kind of insane mini-game action that put a mad grin on my face after last year’s ATEI, when I played a game with some of the DDR:UK guys. This time, games include such things as catching fish rolls, waking a cat and eating ice cream. The cabinet appeared to be a Japanese model, so it may be a while before this shows up in Western arcades.
Unfortunately, my time at EAG was all too brief, so I managed to miss out on a lot of interesting games. Fortunately, it seems that most of those have been featured in our other EAG posts, so hopefully there won’t be anyone out there upset that we didn’t cover their games this time. Still, with all that information sloshing around in your mind now, I’m sure you’ll have some thoughts on the show and the games, and it must be a great relief to discover that you can speak your brains in the comments or on the forum. We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts!