Ongeki

img_20180905_105401

The latest in rhythm game crazes to take over the arcades recently is Ongeki from Sega. For those who have been there, the rhythm game culture can be a bit intense as they often fade from existence as soon as they hit their time in the sun. Games like Love Live which used to have lines that extended for day, are now barely noticeable.

img_20180905_105351

Control wise, the game features 6 face buttons as well as two larger buttons on the side a few inches off the ground, as well as a joystick to control your character movement. The game is ambidextrous and will have at times swapping between left and right handed play and things can get really crazy on later difficulty levels.

img_20180905_105646

The general gist of the game is that you control your party on screen to dodge enemy attacks as well as navigate a course that you travel down as the song progresses. The notes that you hit on screen are you “attacks” so to speak that take down the enemies health gage. The character movement being controlled directly by the player is a nice touch and adds a level not often seen inside a rhythm game.

img_20180905_105942

Completing the various levels rewards you with cards! The game features cards you directly unlock in-game via spending currency that you earn though playing. It also has a gacha system at the card printing machine where you can spend credits to roll for super rare cards the easy way. One thing to note, the game is actually a pretty good value on Yen to play time if you avoid spending extra on booster items. Ongeki uses the new style GP system seen in most major titles these days. With a 300yen purchase (if the arcade allows it) easily being enough to cover 30-45 minutes of playtime depending on the song. The downside to this however is that the machines are often crowded with a line forming at every hour but the very early ones.

img_20180905_110415

Upon finishing a a song, your characters gain exp and relationship points which enhance their stats to various degrees, although only the story characters have the Relationship points. The various collaboration characters only had the standard levels.

All in all I had a blast playing this game, the side buttons do start to hurt your hand after a while and the game does recommend these rather hilarious fingerless gloves that can be found in many stores for a few hundred yen. All of the hardcore players seemed to use them as I found my hands hurting after about 30 minutes of play. Mostly due to the side button use. While I highly doubt we will ever see this game come to the US since it is a Sega developed one, I look forward to playing it again.

 

Soul Reverse

img_20180830_215207

A newer game to hit the arcades is Sega’s Soul Reverse, using the same cabinet that Fate/GO uses without the card printing ability. The control layout is similar but a little more complex with 4 buttons instead of 2. It’s not bad value wise as everyday you get a free credit to play with, on top of being able to buy more “time.” Time being the system inplace that newer titles have been using such as Kantai Collection and Fate/GO, where you can buy a limited amount of time to play and then that timer ticks down constantly as you play.

img_20180830_220627

Soul Reverse features a pretty standard console like equipment screen where you can change out your settings and view stats. Your characters appearance dynamically changes as well. I should mention that the character creator is actually pretty good for an arcade title.

img_20180830_215410

Gameplay plays out on a rather large map with two teams fighting in real time to take over territory and capture objectives. A few bosses exist through out the map for each side as well that are actually quite strong can obliterate you with ease. Throughout the map a few action spots exist where you can mount a raptor or man a cannon, though they didn’t seem to have much use in the early stages.

img_20180830_215504

As you fight forward you can fill your special Soul gauges which allow you to transform into a several types of heroic legends and you gain some pretty massive bonuses. They seem to be pretty much required to have a chance at killing the enemy’s bosses, at least at the early levels.

img_20180830_220419

At the end of every match your rewarded with what everyone loves, loot. Your not guranteed loot for your main class, but it also allows you to switch classes whenever you feel like it so that’s not really a bad thing. You can liquidate any excess loot as well for materials to strengthen your equipment as well.

All in all it’s a fairly fun game, but I feel like it’s just short of being awesome. It doesn’t seem very popular currently, but I would like to see it gain some legs, maybe the upcoming Persona collaboration will help.

 

 

Initial D Zero – Location Test

img_20170118_150449

Today marked what I think is the final location test for Initial D Zero before it releases in March. I had missed the August one, and I was certainly not going to miss this one. I arrived early to the arcade where it was being held. The Sega nearest the Akihabara station exit. There was a decent sized line for being midday, but I guess a lot of Tokyo’s residents don’t really have much to do.

First things first some impressions on DZero and how it has changed from its predecessor D8.

img_20170118_150442

Absolutely the most prominent change is the addition of a full gated shifter, It was actually much higher in quality than I thought and expected something along the lines of what Wangan uses, but this felt much more like an actual car’s transmission. Its easy to select gears and it opens up a whole new method of technique by being able to straight shift from 6th to 2nd instead of having to progress downward sequentially.  If you make a mistake while shifting the “neutral” position switches the car to Automatic until you fix your gear shift so you shouldn’t have any races ruined via a shifting mistake either.

img_20170118_145444

The cabinet itself is also much sharper since its the first time the cabinet has been upgraded since Initial D 4 back in 2007. The speakers are better, the seats are nicer and the screen is 100x better than D8 which can be seen next to Zero in the above image for comparison. My only complaint would be that the wheel felt just a touch too small, but that can probably feel normal after playing for a bit.

The game also runs a good deal smoother and sharper, I believe the general engine is roughly the same as D8, but the framerate is boosted and the resolution got a serious bump up, My guess would be from 720p to 1080p

The small but noticeable changes to the screen really do bring out the detail in the courses though as well as increase the sense of speed while racing.

Gameplay wise, its hard to judge the game with a Spec 0 car, but even from Spec 0 you can tell the entire physics are overhauled, it seemed like Sega wanted to take away a lot of janky techniques are are so commonplace in D8 and trying the execute them would pretty much torpedo your race as observed even with people with higher spec cars (they upgrade pretty quickly, though this could just be for the test). The cars in general can really drift around corners without much effort and it felt much more like Initial D than the prior entries to the series.

Also the speed range has been dramatically shifted on a lot of courses. Hakone for example runs a great deal faster than it had in D8 while Akina runs a great deal slower, owing for more along the lines of the anime than the games.

The only downside to the entirety of DZero is the elimination of Eurobeat to some generic trash, I wasn’t the only person who felt this as some would opt to turn off the BGM completely, maybe Sega will realize what their fan-base enjoys and go back to some Eurobeat? Though I suspect this may be more inline with what the Studio behind the D movies wishes and not so much on Sega’s end.

Overall, DZero is a dramatic upgrade from the previous iterations, I really hope it comes to the U.S. sometime, but I’m really not holding my breath. As the addition of the gated shifter and overall enhancements to gameplay and making the entry barrier a lot easier to cross. The Aime card addition is nice as well as it’s one less card to carry around. I am glad they kept the driver portraits and the character customization as well.

 

 

Gundam UC Card Builder

IMG_20160711_201517

Big thanks go out to a reader for sponsoring a run through of Gundam UC Card Builder. The latest in the Gundam collectable card based arcade games, Gundam UC Card Builder offers quite a bit. It’s currently still on its first set of cards, with an expansion due out next week that should double the amount of cards offered by the game.

One thing to note is the slightly higher cost of entry to play, as a starter deck is available from the terminal that includes 2 Mobile Suits, 2 Pilots and even some sleeves for the cards for 300 yen. Then each play is 300 yen, or 500 Yen for two plays. While that is steep each actual mission does take a significant amount of time, and you are rewarded with a new random card for each mission.

IMG_20160726_213220

When you insert your coins and scan your Banapass or Aime card, you’ll be taken to the main menu that has several options.

IMG_20160728_215547

From right to left you have the vs mode which pits you against another throughout Japan, The mission mode where you undertake missions against the AI opponents. And the tutorial mode where you can practice and learn the game, a solid choice for beginners, but for my purposes, it’s into mission mode.

IMG_20160728_215615

List list of missions will appear with their difficulty and other information, the two shown above are Industrial 7 and Jaburo which Gundam fans will be well familiar with. After selecting the mission that you wish to under take, its time to set up your mobile suits and pilots.

IMG_20160728_220927

By placing your cards on the touch screen below, the characters and the suits you have chosen will appear on the main display above showing their stats, and various weapon types that are used depending on the mode they are set too. So we have Amuro going out in the Aqua Type Gundam, Char heading out in the ReZel and Mash in a GM Striker. You can note the costs that each pair has, typically relative to their stats you are only allowed a certain number of points to send out.

IMG_20160728_215659

After you have chosen your main unit, you have the opportunity to set up your support units which are used when you make Strike Attacks, which will be covered shortly, but this allows for cards that you have collected but do not use to still have some value in that they can help support your main team.

IMG_20160728_215755

It takes a bit to get used to playing a very large dual screen game, but all in all its not too difficult to get the hang of. On lower play area, is where you control all the action, when you are actively controlling a card you can change the various options for that unit, such as the mode its in, which effects how it hands the main damage dealing attack. Moving a mobile suit is a simple as sliding the card across the screen, it’s important to pay attention to the facing of the card, as in the heat of battle its easy to end up with some one facing the wrong way.

IMG_20160728_215838

As you interact with the screen on the bottom, all the action plays out up above. Here we can see each units current health, their direction as well as your teams remaining points and the time remaining in the battle. This particular arena is an open area, but many have various obstacles such has asteroids or other types of objects that can hinder mobility or line of sight. Every unit has a basic auto attack that deals very small damage, but where the damage really comes from are Strike Attacks and Strike Operations.

IMG_20160728_220628

By keeping the enemy in your field of vision, you can charge up a devastatingly powerful attack, though the enemy units are more than able to hit you with them as well. Managing and manipulating these Strike Operations are the key to victory. To pull off a strike attack, you need to charge up enough points, and then press the magical button that will light up signaling you can strike.

IMG_20160728_215830

There are two main types of charged attacks, a standard Strike Attack, which is easier to pull off and takes less effort, but it deals much less damage and has a high chance of missing than a Strike Operation, which one can select by using the lower card screen while moving a unit.

IMG_20160728_215911

Once a Strike Operation is commenced you have a short time to select a from the various assist units that you can set beforehand, in this case, Char’s base damage is 10700 with a 90% chance of hitting, The target has 11380 total health. So we can pump up the damage a bit by using some assist points, these you can expend through out the fight on offense and defense to get a massive boost. By calling on Katz, I can increase my damage by roughly 4500… but he comes with a heavy penalty to accuracy… because Katz just generally is bad at everything. But Generic Soldier and his GM offers more than enough extra damage and even an accuracy boost to grab a clean kill.

IMG_20160728_220724

The match continues until the first team runs out of points left to spend. So there is some strategy to using a a flood of low cost suits compared to more powerful high cost ones. It makes me wonder if they saw the system that Gundam EX uses and decided to take bits from it with the cost system.

IMG_20160728_220751

After completing a mission you’re rewarded with a card prize, there is also the option to double up and get a second card for 100 yen extra. It is kind of fun to collect the cards and also to hope for one of the super rare cards to be spat out.

That about covers Gundam UC Build in a nutshell. It’s a surprisingly hectic game and micromanaging everything with three different suits can be a bit challenging yet fun.

I’ll be continuing to cover more games and game centers but if there’s an arcade game you want to see covered like Gundam UC Build and want to sponsor a play  you can even request for the cards earned in that play though, just drop me a message.

 

 

 

Kantai Collection – Arcade

IMG_20160721_225919

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 minutes  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.

IMG_20160721_224641

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.

IMG_20160721_214719

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.

IMG_20160721_223927

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.

IMG_20160721_224113

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.

IMG_20160721_224756

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.

IMG_20160721_224232

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.

IMG_20160721_214245

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.

IMG_20160721_224457

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.

IMG_20160721_225812

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.

IMG_20160721_225723

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wonderland Wars

IMG_20160707_203105

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

IMG_20160707_213359

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.

IMG_20160707_213413

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.

IMG_20160707_213427

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.

IMG_20160707_203011

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

IMG_20160707_203124

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.

wlw20160709_161807.mp4_snapshot_00.03_[2016.07.09_22.18.23]

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.

wlw20160709_161807.mp4_snapshot_00.52_[2016.07.09_22.20.47]

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.

wlw20160709_161807.mp4_snapshot_04.23_[2016.07.09_22.26.48]

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.

wlw20160709_161807.mp4_snapshot_05.28_[2016.07.09_22.28.15]

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 depleted  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.

wlw20160709_161807.mp4_snapshot_08.39_[2016.07.09_22.31.46]

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.

IMG_20160707_204302

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.