Kantai Collection – Arcade

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Being one of the most popular titles in the Japanese otaku world currently, its no surprise that the arcade game usually sports impossibly long lines. Deciding that it was finally time to give this game ago, I visited a game center in Akihabara where each machine is limited to one play only. It happened to be a rather slow Thursday night so I was able to play without too long of a wait.

To go into more detail, for 3 credits you get 900 GP, which acts as a overall timer as well as a currency. Just about everything you want to do takes from your GP, including spending time in the menu systems, which could be a bit daunting at first. The in-game tutorial for first timers does explain the basics fairly well even for non Japanese speakers and with a small amount of poking around, they become fairly simple to navigate. Though anyone who has experience with the Japanese Web Game will feel right at home. GP is also used for sending your fleet out on sorties in attempts to get items to help your fleet as well as completing missions for EXP and the chance at a card drop from the mission it self. A typical 900 GP play usually lasts for about 30 minutesĀ  depending on your mission selection.

First things first however, lets talk about the games control system, as seen above there’s very few actual controls, though they work perfectly well for the game play. The game features a full touch screen, as well as a naval themed controls in the wheel and the throttle and one button which is used to fire your selected weapon group.

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All of which are fairly straight forward to use to control your fleet. There was a nice gimmick to controlling your fleet on screen with these types of controls, and the responsiveness is what you what expect from controlling a ship. Though it does take some delicate control to evade enemy attacks and set your own up.

The real fun though is in building and collecting your fleet, Each time you complete a mission you have the option of paying an extra 100 yen to have the game print you off an IC card of a ship that can drop from that mission on the spot. You can also construct ships as well, back at base using your resources that you collect on missions. The ships you have collected can be put in the ship slot on the cabinet and will show up available for use in your fleet.

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The Construction Menu for ships.

The construction menu allows to spend various resources to try to get ships, there’s also a chance to get a rare holographic ship card, some of which can sell in second hand shops for upwards of 10,000 Yen, with the most expensive that I have seen at 64,000 yen or about 600 USD at the time of writing. There’s plenty of different ship classes all with different stats and weapon armaments from Destroyers to Battleships. How the player sets up their fleet is what allows for the completion of harder and harder missions as sometimes you need the speedy yet weak Destroyers or the monstrous Aircraft Carriers to best complete your mission.

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Sortie selection screen

When you have your fleet set up and are ready to send them out on a sortie, you are taken to the mission select screen, there is a really good amount of missions to go through. Each progressing in difficulty and each with varying ideal setups for your fleet. Once you select the mission you undertake, the battle/exploration segment starts.

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Each Mission has an overall time that you are allowed to complete it in to get the full rewards, your ships various speed stats effect how well they can traverse the sea to either hunt down the enemy ships or resources. In the above image, we only have a vague idea of where the enemy is and are en route to their believed location. If your have your ships outfitted with scout planes you can send them ahead to reveal large amounts of area where there may be items to aid your fleet, or of course the enemy you need to obliterate.

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Once found, the true battle starts and you begin to close in on their location, the various ship classes have different firing ranges, and once in range a target will appear around an enemy and start off big but rapidly get smaller. It turns into a timing game of sorts as the perfect shot carries the most damage, but if your timing is just even a bit off you will wind up completely missing your mark. On the contrary a safe shot will almost always hit but carry little weight behind it. While your setting your shots up however, the enemy is doing the same. You can swap between the main cannons, short range rapid fire guns as well as Torpedoes and available aircraft. Torpedoes of note are hard to set up but can deal extremely large amounts of damage and really helps the small destroyers dish out the hurt.

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A couple of times I almost got caught with tunnel vision as my fleet was about to run straight into an enemy bombardment, and from what I have seen of the later missions, it takes some serious control to pull off the right shot without getting obliterated yourself. But if you play it too safe, eventually time will run out leaving you with a bad review and little experience from the battle. The ship the performed the best is crowned MVP and gets a large experience boost. Its easy to tell which one it was since they will be the one featured on the screen like Shimakaze below.

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After the battle is over your taken to the results screen which is pretty standard, every ship that participated is rewarded experience which levels them up and increases their over all stats. Your “Character” the admiral also gains experience points which allows for more resources to be stored and such. You will also be given the chance to draw a card for 100 yen, the first few missions it will probably be best to draw the cards to round your fleet out unless you happen to buy some in a secondhand shop or grab then through gacha’s like I did. And the later missions that have a chance to drop specific rare cards it could very well be critical to draw and hope for good luck.

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New Fleet Member “Destroyer” Samidare

After the battle your taken back to the main menu where you can continue to go on sorties or try to construct or repair your ships. Its also important to resupply them as well if you plan on undertaking more sorties.

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Resupply Menu

One important thing that seems to be of key success to upgrading your fleet is to construct new weapons to replace the default weapons on your ships. It’s done in the same way as constructing a ship, and can lead to some major upgrades, as there’s the potential for rare and powerful guns, utility items and aircraft.

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New Cannons, Uncommon Rarity

There is a crazy amount of depth to this arcade game, with a boatload of ships to collect, weapons to craft and missions to undertake. Playing for an hour felt like I barely scratched the surface and I plan to play again in the near future and try to add to my collection. I can see why the game has a constant hour plus wait to play. If you happen to have the chance to play, its absolutely worth checking out regardless of whether you are a fan of KanColle before playing.

 

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Takadanobaba

Deciding to head to a bit of a different area of Tokyo this time, I ventured up to Takadanobaba which is a station on the JR Yamanote line, its 2 stops from Shinjuku and 2 stops from Ikebukuro by train, leaving this as a much more quaint area since many people would head to either of those two destinations over this one.

Its location however does not prevent it from having a pair of quality game centers, a Taito Game Station, and a local place simply called Mikado.

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Taito Station Takadanobaba is located on the 6th floor of a large department store called Big Box that’s attached to the station. Though the entrance can be a bit tricky to find as the easiest way is via elevator, once inside though your greeted with a rather spacious arcade which is fairly rare for a game center outside of Odaiba. This Taito Station offers several benefits to playing at a more centralized area such as Akihabara or Shinjuku. For starters it is a fairly quiet arcade, both in terms of noise and player base, it also has a solid selection of Medal Games for players looking to try those out as well. Many of the game machines have USB charging ports added to them so if your concerned over the battery life of your phone or other device you can charge right up while playing.

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Though this arcade does offer some disadvantages as well, It is large and spacious, though it lacks somewhat in personality. The arcade it self does not have any major specialties in games, though it does have a solid mix, the number of machines available for even popular titles is usually about 4-6, where as in Akihabara for example the more popular games can see 16-20 cabinets without much issue. One thing to note is that while there is no smoking at the game machines themselves, the smoking areas were often congested and overwhelmed by a plume of smoke, so if heavy smoke is a concern be sure to avoid those areas.

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For Takadanobaba, while Taito station caters to the modern gamer with the popular titles like Gundam EX, Wangan 5 DX, Wonderland Wars and so forth, the best game center in this area has none of those games.

Situated along side the train tracks, lies Mikado, an excellent little nook game center that is not easily found as it rests along a rather dim street that does not see much traffic.

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Mikado is rather rare for Tokyo in that it caters to fans of Retro games of all types, from Sports games to Fighting Games to Shmups, just about all kinds are represented here. The first floor contains some awesome titles like Power Drift and Metal Hawk, as well as others like Tank Force and Star Blade. These titles may not sound familiar for those that grew up outside of Japan, as I don’t remember seeing any of these in any Arcades back home. But they offer a blast of what Game Centers offered some 25 years ago.

While the first floor offers all sorts of experiences, the second floor is home to some serious fighting games. The walls littered with tournament brackets and tournament sign ups, I lost count of how many fighting games were offered up here. Everything from the latest BlazBlue title, to Street Fighter II and pretty much everything in-between could be found up here.

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I was half tempted to go down the line trying all the different titles here, but time would not permit it, so that will have to wait for another day. Mikado is absolutely worth the trip for fans of late 80’s-90’s. Will very well have a more detailed look at Mikado sometime in the future as the it was shortly before closing time when I arrived.

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Takadanobaba station is a good choice to visit if looking for a more quaint experience outside of the major stations. Whether its new or old you can most likely find the place to play at here, though try to look up where Mikado is ahead of time as it is a tricky place to find.

Gallery – Taito and Mikado

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Kantai Collection Arcade Cards

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While, I haven’t been able to play it yet, due to the lines typically being more than 2 hours long. I did manage to buy some cards though a card gacha machine in Akihabara. They are pretty high quality, really sturdy and the holographic ones are well done.

While browsing through the shops that sell the cards, I saw that one of them sells for about 7500 yen. Not too bad for a 1000 yen investment!

This game is high on my priority list to play so I think I’ll try venturing out to some Game Centers outside of the major station areas, or just have to suck it up one night and wait. My usually game center has one of the machines up on a projector so people in line can watch… I think I would freak out if that machine I landed, so I don’t think I will be trying it out there.

 

Wonderland Wars

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As mentioned previously, Wonderland Wars, is one of the hottest games in game centers all across Japan. I’ve been asked more than once while playing just how to play and how the game works, as navigating Japanese menus can be time-consuming or bothersome for those who are unfamiliar with the language. In actuality it’s very easy to get started and anyone who has played a MOBA before will be able to grasp the gameplay very quickly. The game offers a robust tutorial for first time players that can take upwards of 30 minutes to complete, its free of charge too, so for those that are interested they should go ahead and try it.

The Main Menu

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The menu shows various information such as your tickets remaining and the amount of in game currency you currently have on the bottom left. It takes 2 tickets to start a game, and you can buy 8 Tickets for 500 yen, so it works out to about 125 yen per play, and given that a typical game will run about 8 minutes, it’s a pretty solid deal. On the right hand side, you have the main multiplayer option at the top. This mode will match 4 people on 4 people, it does a fairly good job of balancing the skill levels so even if you’re a complete novice at the game, you wont get totally blown out. The middle option is the story mode, there are some neat fights in this mode that the standard multiplayer mode does not have, so those looking for something a little different from the standard 4v4 battle can look here. the last option is this customize menu. Here you can outfit your characters with the various cards that you collect through playing.

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The top option being the card customization page, and the bottom option being the page where you can change your title that is displayed on your Library Pass.

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In the card screen, your presented with a large amount of the cards you have collected and the skill cards that the chosen character can use. Here we have the character Merou, like all characters she can have 4 Active skills, 3 Passive Assists and 1 Soul card. Not getting into too much detail, but the assist cards you choose will drastically change the way your chosen character plays, as they can boost and lower your Basic Attack power, your Drawing distance, and the overall speed of your character. There’s pretty much an endless amount of customization you can use and a lot of fun is had in finding the right build for your set up. With skills each character has 4 slots, and 5 over all skills, so it’s up to the player to choose which to use and which not too. These skills can also be leveled up by collecting more cards via playing.

Multiplayer

The standard multiplayer takes the form of a 4 vs 4 battle. Usually you will be matched up with 4 players of fairly even skill levels, though on occasion you may be matched up with an AI if not enough players are found across Japan, this is more likely to happen midday during the workweek, as the game centers in general are much less crowded.

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The very first thing to do however is to choose a character, you have to go about unlocking them through Events or by earning the in-game currency “Spell Leafs.” There are 21 currently with several being variations on each other, usually a “Dark” form of some kind. The shown character was mentioned earlier Merou, mine currently is Level 12 as shown above, through playing with a character and earning general experience points their various stats will increase, the amounts aren’t major. So even if you have a Level 6 Character, they are still more than useable, and usually when matched up with other players, the characters will all be close in level. To look closely at a characters stats, the HP and MP meters should be pretty self-explanatory for anyone familiar with video games. The other stats can be a little more complicated though. The first stat is the strength of their basic attack. The second is their drawing attack, which we will cover shortly, and the final stat is the characters move speed. The cast themselves have base stats which get enhanced their the chosen assist cards, so while some players may prefer to have a powerful Drawing attack, others may prioritize speed. The different combos really ensure that no two heroes are alike, even if they may have similar attacks.

Controls

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Wonderland Wars has a really fun control style, one hand controls the joystick, and one controls the stylus. The joystick has an evasive button which allows for quick dodging and the stylus has a button which changes the attack type from the basic straight attack to the drawing attack. Learning when to use each type of attack as your disposal is critical to having success in player vs player matches. While the controls are simple in nature, often times drawing and being precise while moving and attacking at moving target is much harder than it would seem. Though the satisfaction of landing a direct hit is every bit as pleasing as landing a skill shot in a game like DotA 2 or LoL.

Gameplay

The most important part of any game however, should be the Gameplay. In Wonderland Wars, two teams of 4 face off on a 3 lane map with fog of war ladled jungle areas between the lanes that are ripe for ganking. From my experience, the best team setups include 3 Laning heroes who are good at long range attacks, with a support or a ganking hero roaming. Though on occasion there are several different set ups I have seen from the team pairings.

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The pregame screen shows various information, such as your teams cast members, the opposing team, you can also view their skill and assist loadout to determine which match-ups are favorable to you and which are not.

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For the ingame hud, it’s fairly simple, the mini map in the top right shows your teammates, yourself, and your creeps, as well as enemy heroes that are visible to your team. The map is interactable with the stylus so you can call out various things to your opponents such as missing heroes, if you need help, or if you think the team should push an area hard. It does a pretty good job to make up for the lack of communication that playing in a game center brings. It also shows your available skills, the time remaining and your teams health bar and exp bar.

For attacking you use the main stylus and you draw the path you want your attack to take, it’s a lot harder than it seems as to hit your enemy you need to get really good at deception and prediction. Aside from that, mind games are a really big part of the initial laning phase in Wonderland, as if your opponent is too aggressive or on reverse if you are too agressive and ignore the creeps too much you can quickly find your tower destroyed and the enemy team up some precious exp.

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As you level up, you gain access to the skill cards that you set in your customization menu before the game. These skills can be anything from attack skills, to healing or buffing skills, as well as the characters Ultimate ability which can be used to get out a pinch, but only once per game. Leveling up also gives access to your assist cards, here in the above picture our team hit level 5 which activated two of my support cards and increased my attack power at the cost of my max HP lowering. Controlling the exp game is one of the critical elements, and even if you take a bunch of early towers, if you do it haphazardly you may find yourself in a tight spot in the late game.

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When either team suffers enough damage, a soul will appear randomly chosen from the equipped souls of the team. These souls will march down a lane either doing massive damage or giving the surrounding heroes a hefty buff, failing to eliminate a soul can cause serous issues and may even cost a team a game, so they should always be a priority to focus down.

Each team has a health bar, that is depletedĀ  through killing enemy heroes and downing their towers, at the end of time, or if another team manages to totally deplete the other teams hp bar. The team with the higher bar remaining wins.

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Following either a win or a loss, you go to the results screen where you are graded on your performance and earn exp towards the next level on your library pass which unlocks various items such as ingame currency, item drops, and sometimes characters or the ability to carry more cards.

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This game is really a lot of fun and offers deep gameplay and accessibility, I wish it was possibly to bring overseas, but the smaller player base may make bringing an arcade MOBA over a difficult task. And the lag issues that would come from pitting people in Japan against those in the U.S. or Europe a tough hurdle to overcome. If anyone visits Japan though and is a fan of the MOBA genre, they should be sure to try this game out, its an excellent way to spend a night in a game center.

Please check out the video below for a full match and feel free to comment or send any questions my way, I’ll be happy to answer them.

Club Sega Akihabara

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To start, I think it would be best to cover what is one of the most popular arcades in the mecca of Video Game and Otaku culture, Akihabara.

Club Sega is one of four arcades owned by Sega in Akihabara alone, the others being Sega Gigo and another just labeled Sega about a 30 second walk south, and one near the station entrance.

For those who aren’t all too familiar with Japan’s Game Centers, they can be overwhelming, often packed full on weekends, and sometimes even the smell of cigarettes can be overwhelming. But, finding the right game to play at the right places can make or break your experience in a Game Center. Every location draws out a different type of player and a different fan base.

Club Sega in Akihabara is 6 floors of arcade heaven, each with their own variety of the latest in Japanese gaming. The first three floors of which are mostly devoted to the Japanese Crane game. Which are decidedly more skill based than their American counterpart, as with the right touch and a little luck as well its possible to win some very neat prizes. Floor 1 and 2 is dominated by prizes for Love Live! School Idol Project and Kantai Collection, both properties which are tremendously popular in Akihabara, bring droves of fans to try to win some prizes. Floor 3 caters to Shounen properties along the lines of Dragon Ball and One Piece, fans of those series can still find a prize or two waiting for them if they want to test their skill.

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Things begin to open up a touch more while climbing up the floors here, or depending on how you look at it, this is where 100 Yen coins come to die. Floor 4 is home to what is easily the most popular game at this location, Kantai Collection. Kantai Collection is an arcade port of a Japanese Browser game that became largely popular just a few years ago, in where you collect and assemble a fleet of “Ship-Girls” and send them out on various missions or exploration. There’s a strong collectable aspect to this game, in that when you either construct or discover a new ship on a mission, the arcade machine gives you a physical card which you then can use in your fleet on future missions. Though a full game report will hopefully come at a later date, the lines have been incredibly long.

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Typical Ship-Girl

Floor 4 of Club Sega is home to other games as well, the second most popular being Wonderland Wars. Perhaps the first arcade based MOBA to catch on, Wonderland Wars in a PVP based game in the same vein as DotA 2 or League of Legends. In Wonderland Wars teams of 4 face off against each other to try to push each others towers down, while also trying to defeat each-other to ultimately come out on top victorious. The game mechanics we will cover at a later date, but one thing to note is the innovative control system which really makes the game shine.

IMG_20160703_210024 2.0.jpgPlayers control all the action using a joystick to move their chosen character and perform various evasive moves, and the stylus which is used for attacking and interacting with the skills they have chosen for their own character, expect a detailed write up in the very near future about how this all works, but it’s an easy task to sink a couple hours into this game as the accessibility and match length is comparable to Overwatch leaving for shorter fast paced matches that really click together in the arcade format.

The fourth floor is home to other games as well, the latest Gundam U.C Build Fighters calls its home here, as does Dissidia Final Fantasy which is an arcade version of the fighting game series for the PSP some time ago. Theres several standard fighting games such as Tekken 7 and Nesica X Live, but Club Sega in Akihabara does definitely not make a home of fighting games. Rounding out the 4th floor is World Club Championship Football, a simulation type game where you train a Football Club against other players and try to win a championship, and the latest Sengoku Taisen game.

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Floor 5 caters to fans of a more hands on variety as two games in particular take up the majority of the space. Gunslinger Stratos 3 and Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5 DX are the go to games here. Gunslinger Stratos being a fairly complex arena fighting game where you control your character using a set of two light guns with controls and the ability to link them together to form one larger gun via magnets. While Wangan consists of high speed Japanese Street Racing on representations of actual highways though out the Tokyo and Osaka region. The 8 Machines here are often a hot spot for the region and this floor may very well be the racing game capital of Tokyo. Also in the racing category is Initial D Arcade Stage 8, the 8th entry in the long running Initial D franchise, this game lets you live out life as a Japanese Drift Racer and race along the actual courses from various spots in Japan and from the Anime/Manga series.

 

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The top floor, is home to all of the rhythm games you could ever hope to want to play, represented are Project Diva, Museca, Crossbeats Rev. Sunshine, MaiMai Pink Plus, Sound Voltex 3, Various Beat Mania versions, and Chunithm Plus which does away with buttons and instead is played on a touch sensitive bar. Chunithm’s popularity is incredibly high right now, and the machines are often full up with a queue waiting for a chance to play.

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Club Sega Akihabara is what some call a haven of games, nearly every major game is represented here, with some exceptions, Gundam Ex Vs Maxi Boost On is not represented here and is still one of the most played and fiercely competitive games in all of Japan. Sega though has really spread the genres out really well though with the amount of locations that they hold in Akiba, as Gundam can be found heavily in their other locations, as well as Fighting Games in general, if you looking to get into that scene and challenge some of the best Japan has to offer this is not the arcade for you. But what sets Club Sega above some of its competitors is this location has no smoking at the machines themselves, only in designated areas, so its possible to game and not inhale a couple packs of cigarettes second hand.

Although, the centers vending options leave much to be desired, as most of the drinks are standard fare for Japan and the lone vending not serving drinks is an ice cream vending machine.

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