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Posts Tagged ‘Street Fighter IV’

ctown fair sign 2Last week, yours truly was called upon to protect the city and county of New York from the forces of evil.  Luckily, jurors get a whopping 2 hours for lunch and my local Hall of Justice is a few shorts blocks away from one of NYC’s truly hidden gems – Chinatown Fair.  Once famous for its dancing, tic-tac-toe playing chicken, Chinatown Fair is the city’s last bastion of the smoke filled, dimly lit arcade scene that bore nerd havens in malls and boardwalks around the country throughout the 80s and mid 90s.

I had last been in a proper arcade sometime in college (Pinball Pete’s represent!), but arcades had begun a quick and steady descent into obsolescence in this country some years before that.  Starting with the earliest consoles, each generation inched closer and closer to delivering a true arcade experience.

The Playstation/Saturn era finally delivered parity, but the home experience still came up short in perhaps the most critical area: competition.  This generation’s online matchmaking took care of that, and now  just about the closest thing you can find to an arcade in the States is some kind “Chuck E. Cheese for adults” nightmare with lots of bad food and fairly lame out-of-home-attraction type games.

SFIV

CF's networked SFIV cabinets - the only ones in NYC?

Chinatown Fair is unapologetic in its lineup and old-school decor.  The place is lined wall-to-wall with Capcom, SNK and Namco fighters.  A few big cabinet driving games, light-gun shooters, shmups and the obligatory Dance Dance Revolution machines round out the collection.

The latest additions to CF are all imports, as the scene’s still vibrant across the Pacific.  It was a good opportunity for me to see how arcade companies are adapting their hardware to suit more casual play styles, just like in console games.

A few driving and rhythm games at CF feature a proprietary card system that tracks players’ progress, much like a players’ club card in a casino.  So after a one-time nominal purchase on the actual game cabinet – for example, a racer based on the anime Initial D – the player can insert their card into any Initial D cabinet they encounter in any arcade in the world, and they’ll be able to use the car they’ve customized on the tracks they’ve unlocked progressing through the game.  It’s like having a savegame file that’s always with you, or an Xbox LIVE account that works in the arcade.

I thoroughly dug my visit to Chinatown Fair.  It feels like one of the divier spots from my time in Japan.   And I mean that as a huge compliment.  I can understand how the arcade business model got phased out, but it’s kind of a shame that there are so few of them left for younger gamers to experience.  If you happen to know of a particular good spot in your town, be sure and leave it in the comments.

I'm such a baller
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The NPD report for February came out last Thursday, and if the industry keeps up this pace, I may have to issue a teary, self-depricating apology for my New Year’s rant about release scheduling.  The first quarter of the year has always been pin-drop quiet, even during some of the industry’s best years.  It gave gamers, retailers, and developers a much needed breath after the holidays.  This year?  Not so much.

On a recent visit to GameStop, I had to choose from perennial favorite MLB The Show, the long-awaited Peggle: Dual Shot, the better than expected GTA: Chinatown Wars, and Street Fighter IV.  Of course, Resident Evil 5 just dropped, and Gears 2, Little Big Planet and the rock-out-with-your-plastic-axes-out games continue to get killer DLC on an a regular basis.  It’s unlikely that such a bountiful first quarter was 100% intentional.  Holiday release schedules get ambitious, marketing budgets get slashed, and before you know it, a locked-in holiday blockbuster gets shuffled into the following year.

However, I’m willing to give Capcom the benefit of the doubt with Street Fighter IV.  All along, they’ve been favoring a hardcore gamer audience in marketing this title, with a steady flow of info from their Capcom-Unity blog and Twitter feed.  And their down ‘n dirty “Fight Club” event was just about the only pre-launch promotion this year that I really, really wished I had worked on.  At the end of the day, this title exists for that hardcore, multi-system owning gamer that purchases over a dozen games a year.  Capcom was refreshingly unapologetic about it, and I’m glad to see they were rewarded for it.

Nintendo juggernauts like Wii Fit, Wii Play, and the Mario Kart titles will (very deservedly) continue to consume the best-seller list month in and month out, because there’s a new casual gamer born every minute.  I hope third parties continue to use different parts of the year and inspired, innovative promo to show their biggest fans how much they still care.

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The annual Games Convention is going on this week in Leipzig, Germany.  When it was first introduced in 2002, the GC was an oddity at best.  It falls on the calendar barely a month after E3 and before the Tokyo Game Show, is open to the public, and is a mostly console show seated in the heart of a decidedly PC-centric gaming scene.  So it was a surprise to see any big news come out of the show.

Six years and a confusing E3 metamorphasis later, Leipzig still isn’t a white-hot show by any stretch of the imagination.  Nintendo’s not attending this year, and Microsoft won’t be holding a press conference.  However, a few nuggets were saved from min-E3 and are making a big splash at the show this week.

Capcom will finally be showing the console version of Street Fighter IV.  The arcade game was still pretty fresh at E3, and they gave the public a pretty good look at the San Diego Comicon earlier this summer.  Smart move to sit on the console version.  But the big Leipzig news that caught my attention came out of Activision: Guitar Hero World Tour on the 360, PS2 and PS3 will be combatible with all the instruments from previous Guitar Hero games on those systems, and even Rock Band 1 & 2.  It’s about time.

World Tour’s set list, composition mode and exclusive bands are attractive, but Rock Band’s commitment to DLC and serious, curatorial take on the rhythem game are a tough act to follow.  It was shaping up to be a tough choice for gamers (including yours truly) this Christmas between the two… especially for those gamers who couldn’t possibly bring more toy instruments into their living room.

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