Arcade shoot ’em ups aren’t as strong as they used to be on the North American market, but the genre isn’t dead. Thanks to the efforts of some indie companies and now exA-Arcadia, fans of the genre have had a lot to enjoy and look forward to. ExA has been the biggest driving force for bringing the genre back to coin-op since the end of 2019, and today the roster expands with pre-orders opening for CAVE’s Akai Katana EXA Label (the word Akai being replaced with Crimson for regions outside of Japan).
This is not the first time that CAVE and exA have collaborated on a project; That took place with the release of DoDonPachi True Death Exa Label back in 2020. Thanks to interest in Japan, that became one of the best selling titles on the platform, and I’ve heard it performs extremely well on location there. Unveiled last summer, the new Akai Katana would be following the same pattern as what they did with DoDonPachi EXA, offering the original arcade version(with bug fixes), the Xbox 360 version, and much more. As it is, this is the ultimate edition (the Ultimate Director’s Cut, if you will) you will find of the game. To quote the game page:
In addition to a more accurate rendition of the arcade Original mode fixing unintended design & performance issues and bugs in the original release, additional game modes are available for the first time in arcades. The all new Ultimate mode provides a 2nd loop difficulty in any game mode for veteran players selectable from the start, Climax (Zetsu) is now playable in 16:9 aspect ratio and Slash (Shin), the Director’s Cut, adds a brand new stage and a true last boss for players to enjoy. EXA LABEL combines the best aspects of all modes for a whole new experience geared towards players of all levels with real-time difficulty adjustments in a brand new arranged mode only on exA-Arcadia.
I had the opportunity to play this at IAAPA 2021, but I was unable to film it due to a filming restriction on this and a couple of other early games. It had already enabled exA’s new tech that brings the input lag down to 1 frame, and while I didn’t have any equipment for measuring it all, I can say that it played exceptionally well and smooth. If you have never played Akai Katana but love CAVE-style shmups, then I can’t see how you can go wrong here.
The Shop page on the exA site currently has three listings for the game, which I’ll break down below. European customers can order the game through Red Sun Systems:
Complete Limited Edition: This comes with the same package as the Limited Edition (more details below), plus the specially decorated and signed exA board system. Quantities on this are limited, so once they’re gone, they’re gone; Definitely for the collector on this one. But if you want all of the collectible goodies without the system, then there’s the:
Limited Edition Software Kit: Comes with the game cart, A1 game poster, standard & Vewlix art set, Software Kit Autographed by Game Director TRP, a “CRIMSON KATANA EXA LABEL Themed Sanwa Joystick Accessories Set,” a KVClab Store Limited Poster and buyers can pick from 1 of 3 pop stand designs. Like the Complete LE package, once these are gone, they will not produce more.
Standard Software Kit: Comes with the standard exA game kit fare, which features the game cartridge, an A1 poster, and instruction sets, as you see below. Note that the cart for this kit is black, while for the LE’s it’s red. Looking at the price, this is going for the same amount that you can buy the aforementioned DoDonPachi EXA game.
The game is expected to begin shipping in February and while the JP market will certainly be most interested in it, the game is available worldwide and can work in any exA system. To that, another shmup is launching this month to the platform, Success’s Cotton Rock ‘N Roll.
What are your thoughts on this?