We trawl Scottish arcades for Sega games,
then film & write about them.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Further Portobello Thoughts: Light-Gun Games

Driving and shooting have been pretty common arcade themes for quite a long time now for very understandable reasons. Even if driving or shooting take a degree of skill to do properly, the fundamentals are basic enough that a casual arcade gamer can apply them pretty quickly and flexible enough that they can drive a respectable amount of variations and sub genres, not to mention the appeal of the novel control methods these games offer, even if the steering wheel or light-gun is a more common control method than the joystick in many arcades.

The dominance of these genres is pretty clear at Portobello, although there is a notable exception in Virtua Striker 2 '98. There hasn't been an update to this series since 2006, although its bright, saturated style would perhaps be a neat alternative on modern consoles to the largely more realistic style of the more popular football franchises around now. The cabinet appears to be in good condition, although I unfortunately didn't get a chance to play it as it was surprisingly pretty popular and I have to confess to not being particular eager to wait around for it to become free with the likes of Crazy Taxi and The House of the Dead II trying to magnetically draw pound coins from my pocket. (This is a lie, pound coins are not magnetic, so the theft magnets installed in Crazy Taxi cabinets don't work in the UK).

Sega's flagship light-gun series, The House of the Dead has (perhaps ironically considering its subject matter) been in pretty good health since its inception in 1997, spawning everything from Wii prequels and scrolling beat 'em ups to typing tutors and even crossing over for a cameo in Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing. Sadly, many The House of the Dead cabinets seem to be falling into disrepair and haunt arcades cursing people with ghosting, wonky light guns and broken sound. I  mean genuinely broken audio, not just the voice acting. The voice acting is awesome, I would never mock it. The House of the Dead II cabinet in Portobello is no exception to the broken cabinet rule, unfortunately, and shambles on pathetically with broken light-guns, snaring the unwary.

Gunblade NY from 1995 fairs better, with working guns but some ghosting. I can't use horror prose when writing about this game, sadly. I could say it was terrorised by some ghosting? No, I can't, the ghosting wasn't even that distracting. Gunblade is pretty novel in its 'shoot terrorists from a moving helicopter in a way that seems slightly unfair' conceit, but the lack of proximity to the enemies and size of the gun makes the game seem slightly cold and detached. Gunblade NY doesn't even have a Wikipedia page, but it does have a Wii release. I don't know what that says. Poor Gunblade NY. Maybe you could play it and make it feel better?

Rounding out the trilogy of light-gun games we found a Portobello is The Lost World: Jurassic Park from 1997. It's got a pretty cool cabinet modelled after the grey and red jeeps from the film and, unusually for a light gun game, invites the players to sit inside the cabinet. Sadly, you don't get to drive the jeep while a friend shoots velociraptors in a dinosaur themed update of Chase HQ. Thanks for nothing, Sega. I would play Chase HQ BC for hours. Get on it, Taito.

Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, Portobello's other movie tie-in Sega title, is a pretty fun on-rails shooter largely based around the original trilogies vehicle set pieces like the X-Wing trench run and speeder-bike chase on Endor. It's a pretty hard game to hate and still manages to imbue something as iconic as Star Wars with that bold, saturated Sega look. The arcade in Portobello was in possession of a pretty impressive sit-down cabinet for this one.

Overall, not the best selection of Sega light-gun games at Portobello. A working The House of the Dead would have been nice,  Gunblade is kind of middling and Sega's The Lost World never really made much of an impression. It's kind of a cool time capsule, but no Virtua Cop or it's sequels? That's criminal.


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