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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Wheaton Talks Decline Of The Arcade

February 11, 2007 10:30 AM |

- It's wandered around the blogosphere already, but over at the basically SFW bit of the often NSFW SuicideGirls, Wil Wheaton has an excellent post on the decline of arcades in the U.S..

He starts: "Though my family started with the Odyssey2 before moving to the Atari 2600 and Atari 400... much of my gaming took place in various arcades, or local businesses — pizza parlors, drug stores, bowling alleys, liquor stores and even a head shop — and they played such an important role in my life, I still have all kinds of very clear and powerful memories associated with certain games and the places I played them. It's good that I do, because arcades in America are vanishing like rainforests."

I'm not sure I was in quite the same era as Wheaton, but I like his emo clown sweater-wearing style: "But in the back of my mind, and on long lonely drives where a melancholy saxophone solo seemed to come out of nowhere to accompany me, I'd think about Tron, and Star Castle, and Mr. Do! and Zaxxon. I'd hear the jukebox playing Journey and Judas Priest and Asia and Van Halen. I'd smell the waffle cones and feel the quarters heavily banging against my thigh as they weighed down the pocket of my two-toned corduroy OP shorts, and I wouldn't miss the games as much as I'd miss the places where I played them."

Time Lapse Vector Game Art? Yum!

February 9, 2007 2:06 AM |

- Thanks to Andy Baio, I've been introduced to Rosemarie Fiore's vector arcade game time lapse pictures, which are pretty interesting, not least because they come from a fine artist and not a video game geek.

The explanation on her index page is fairly endearing: "These photographs are long exposures taken while playing video war games of the 80’s created by Atari, Centuri and Taito. The photographs were shot from video game screens while I played the games. By recording each second of an entire game on one frame of film, I captured complex patterns not normally seen by the eye."

Hey, and there's also something else GSW readers might like hanging out on her website: "“Evel Knievel Pinball Paintings” Entire games of pinball were recorded in oil paint while playing my 1979 Evel Knievel pinball machine. As I played, pinballs covered with oil paint moved across vellum fitted to the machine’s playboard creating the paintings. A video, "Balls of Steel" is exhibited with the paintings."

GameSetQ: Cool Retro Arcade Hangout Guide?

February 6, 2007 2:42 AM |

- Having managed to get my 'Watch Now' button working for movie rental service Netflix, I was checking out 'The Comedians Of Comedy' movie, which came before the Comedy Central series of the same name, and provides excellent geek comedy jam credentials.

Anyhow, along the way, there's a dream sequence involving metal/video game nerd Brian Posehn, who is wandering around Portland's Ground Kontrol in a daze, checking out all the gorgeous retro arcade machines for play in there. And it got me thinking - is there a directory/list of arcades that have decent classic arcade games in them, or are outfitted specifically for the retro enthusiast?

In the Bay Area, sure, there are some Nickel City and Dave & Busters locations, and there's the infamous Sunnyvale Golfland, which used to be a test arcade for a lot of the U.S. arcade manufacturers headquartered in Silicon Valley, but I don't think there's really a well-maintained retro arcade around here. In fact, the only decent one I can think of is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which has about 15 classic machines in and among its larger selection. Am I wrong? How about in your area of the country? GSW readers must be told!

ATEI Show Discovers Our Arcade Future

February 2, 2007 12:30 PM |

- Digging through a backlog of links, I don't think any blogs really spotted that Eurogamer has a really nice write-up of the ATEI 2007 arcade show in London, discussing "the UK's annual 'slot-machine' show held at Earl's Court".

There's some great stuff in here, too: "Manic Panic Crush, a Point Blank styled mini-game marathon has clearly looked to the DS for its inspiration. Boasting a 50-inch touch-screen (just think about the implications of that for a moment...) the game requires one or two players to use the 'Magic Wand' peripheral (essentially a big rubber sucker) to whack and swipe the screen in order to clear simple levels and bosses. Again, this is the kind of remarkable technology is simply not affordable/suitable for use in the home yet and, despite the basic gameplay, it signposted what might be possible in a few years' time."

Also, and YAY: "The final surprise of the show was Namco's Mario Kart Arcade GP2. The bright, primary-coloured cabinet houses four screens and kart seats and boasts as its dubious but proudly proclaimed USP: live play-by-play commentary which, according to the blurb, "makes the game intense". As well as featuring all the usual suspect characters the game introduces an incongruous-looking Mamechi "fresh from planet Tamagotchi", new courses and, controversially to long-time series fans, loads and loads of new items." Hadn't seen that anywhere either.

[UPDATE: Commenter 'fuse' has a really nice set of ATEI pictures up on his Flickr account, too, for those wanting to see a few more pics of the games, which also included the v.odd "2 Spicy" gun game and House Of The Dead 4 Special.]

Arcade Flyers Explores Capcom's Secret Files

January 21, 2007 5:15 PM |

- Thanks to James for passing on the following handy tip: "I just stumbled across something neat that seems to have flown under quite a few radars in October - Arcadeflyers.com has scanned a bunch of really interesting Capcom design booklets, the "Secret Files" series."

He continues: "The covers are all neat pastiches of other kinds of products - Power Stone chocolate, a Skullomania action figure and a Lego Strider II playset! The X-Men Vs Streetfighter one even mentions the Archie vs The Punisher crossover on one of its text pages."

Looks like the first set of Secret Files brochures (which are really mini-promotional magazines for each arcade game - were they given away in Japanese arcades or with Arcadia or similar?) were put up on Arcadeflyers back in 2003 or so, but the new ones only just arrived a couple of months back. Wonder if there are any newer unscanned ones since Strider II, which was back in 1999?

Coogan's Epic Gravitar Run, Revealed!

January 9, 2007 7:05 AM |

- Via new columnist Arttu's Solvalou.com, I spotted the homepage of Gravitar world record holder Dan Coogan, which is full of all kinds of gorgeous tips, stories, and interviews regarding the classic 1982 Atari vector monitor arcade game.

The biggest news, of course: "HIGH SCORE UPDATE: December 23, 2006: I surpassed my previous high score (3,652,700 on 9/8/03) with a new high score of 8,029,450. A NEW WORLD RECORD! Game play started at 10:15 AM Friday, December 22nd and ended at 9:30 AM Saturday, December 23, 2006 (23 hours 15 minutes). The game was recorded on digital video and refereed by Brien King." A totally awesome pic of Dan accompanies the announcement.

Elsewhere on the site, there's all kinds of awesome stuff - the full design documentation for Gravitar scanned in, including the Atari employee ID badges for creators Mike Hally and Rich Adam. There are also some newly updated, detailed email comments from both of the creators, including an important secret:

"[Rich Adam] answered a major question for me: Why is the game resetting? (frustrating, when you are playing for more than 10 hours and going for the world record, and suddenly it's "game over" ). Once the game stores more than 128 ships in it's memory, it can reset. Rich advised me to keep the total number of ships in reserve below 128 -- I did that and was able to break the Gravitar world record."

Feature: TNT Amusements' Arcade Infomercial Madness!

January 7, 2007 6:09 AM |

- [Regular 'Cinema Pixeldiso' columnist Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins has ventured away from his regular movie stomping ground to bring us this special report into a frankly insane arcade game infomercial from Pennsylvania-based TNT Amusements - full screencaps and analysis handily provided!]

Anyone that's familiar with the state of video game related television programming is well aware of how abysmal it is these days (though honestly, its always been really bad). Whatever show is usually hosted by either a brain dead supermodel that cue-cards everything or an obnoxious sexy gamer "grrll" that's "all in yo face!" And if its a guy, he's some overly sarcastic, too cool for school dude, often some former child star has-been that was chosen by the networks since their types "connect" with the youth of today.

The presentation is often slick... usually too slick. There's always an abundance of flashy graphics on-screen, but none of them from actual games. We often get is either crappy sketch comedy laced with leet-speak, or interviews with celebrities who at the end of their segment mention what they're favorite game is. Rappers always like Madden, the everyone in the pop-punk/emo skinny white guy rock act are big Grand Theft Auto fans, save the bassist who still likes Ms. Pac Man. Let's not even get started on the topic of award shows...

But there is one show out there that's good. Damn good. Its honest, its fresh, its funny, its educational. Its perhaps the best damn television program ever created to deal with the subject of video games, the first to do it right. It's...

Classic Arcade Magazine Reviews Break Out

December 27, 2006 12:18 AM |

- Over at Finnish-headquartered arcade megasite Solvalou.com, they've been adding reviews of arcade machines from consumer game mags, something that used to happen quite a bit 'back in the day', esp. in Europe.

There's some really fun stuff in here, like A.C.E's review of the ATEI 1990 show, including "reviews for Ameri Darts, Beast Busters, Final Fight and Shadow Dancer." In some ways, it's weird to consider that Final Fight is already 16 years old - is anyone out there feeling ancient already?

Or, alternatively, a Sinclair User report from 1992 which includes "reviews for B.O.T.T.S., Captain America, Captain Commando, Gun Baron, Mad Dog McCree, Spiderman, Starblade, Steel Talons, Super High Impact, Terminator 2 and Vendetta." Awesome to see arcade games drooled about from an era when they really did impress more than home systems [Via Jiji.]

Dynamite Deka Returns For Arcades, Implausibly

December 12, 2006 2:37 AM |

- Now, here's a bit of a surprise - Insomnia.ac has revealed their playtest impressions of Dynamite Deka Ex for arcades, a pretty surprising new update for the Dynamite Cop beat-em-up line, one that most people must have believed dead.

[EDIT: Thanks to Shih Tzu for reminding me/you in the comments: "Those of you who don't know it by the name "Dynamite Deka" might instead recognize the name "Die Hard Arcade", as the first game was released in the West with a slapped-on Die Hard license."]

The site's Alex Kierkegaard notes: "Sega's new Dynamite Deka is, if nothing else, an indication that the Japanese arcade industry must be going through a period of relative prosperity. Because not only is it obviously beyond mediocre, but it also belongs to a genre that was never very popular in arcades even during its heyday (I am referring to 3D brawlers -- the 2D variety was of course hugely popular back in the day). So if someone thinks they can make money with it then there must be enough money to go around in the first place. It's either that, or the people in charge of the purse strings at Sega's AM division have gone completely off their rockers. I am inclined to believe the first scenario."

He also explains: "For those of you who've never heard of the Dynamite Deka (lit.: Dynamite Detective) games, they are rather unique, quirky 3D beat 'em ups, consisting of a string of short, carefully-scripted fighting scenes, joined together with so-called Event Scenes (Shenmue-like Quick Time Events, though of course both DD games appeared long before Shenmue did). Dynamite Deka was released in arcades in 1996 for the STV board, with a Saturn port coming out in the same year, and Dynamite Deka 2 ~Karibu no Kaizoku Hen~ came out in 1998 for the Model 2, with a Dreamcast port following in 1999."

But for this new game: "What they did instead was give the game a minor facelift, and add a few lame twists here and there." So... maybe not the best, then?

GameSetPics: Las Vegas Arcade Trawl, Pt.1

December 8, 2006 9:04 AM |

Thanks to Brian over at Kotaku for some analysis of the recent GSW announcement that we're scaling back a bit. Also - thanks for all your kind comments on what GSW means to you - we really appreciate it. I think the point of the change is that I now feel like I can post when I want, rather than feel obligated to post X times per day. But I also think that, despite the fact I aspire to a Takahashi-like Zen statesmanship to my prose, I have a natural tendency toward the quirky and alternative which is basically not bypass-able.

Hence the fact that, though I'm in Las Vegas through Sunday on a little mini-holiday, I'm still posting pics of weird arcade machines from the Luxor's 'Games Of The Gods' arcade. I will never learn!

In this case, it's just me showing that practicing on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade version of Frogger really _has_ made me slightly better at the real arcade version. However, next to me was a regular arcadegoer racking up a _spectacular_ score on Galaga - he was up to 250,000 by the time I left, and the high score on the machine was 999,980, which I presume was also his, so... I felt a little humbled.

Now, you don't actually see many of these, so I figured it was worth a picture due to the _classic_ game name - Sammy's Atomiswave-powered street racing title, 'Faster Than Speed'. For those wanting to poke around more with the Atomiswave hardware (which is destined to be perhaps even cultier and obscure than the Neo Geo!), then the System16 entry for the game also lists all the other titles using the hardware. (Though I don't think it got a full release, I played Atomiswave puzzle title 'Sushi Bar' at some arcade show, for example, and it was rather awesome.)

Anyhow, 'Faster Than Speed'! Even my wife was rolling around chortling and suggesting other titles such as 'Louder Than Sound', so bad game naming derision is pretty much universal, I conclude.

Finally, a brand new U.S.-produced gun game in 2006? And not from Eugene Jarvis? Blimey, yes, it's Aliens Extermination from Global VR. I'm afraid to say that this particular machine had some heinous hardware issues - the entire game background was missing, maybe due to graphics card glitching. So the aliens were visible, but to be honest, it seemed a little iffy anyhow, with much shooting of small weapon power-up icons, and lots of similar jump-close alien behavior. Maybe the technical issues weren't doing it any favors, though.

[Incidentally, Las Vegas isn't spectacular for arcades, to be honest - the Luxor's arcade, which is one of the largest, didn't really have many new titles, and was practically deserted. But I will be checking out GameWorks at some point during the trip, just in case they have any beetle trading games or even Psy Phi (I wish!), and will likely get to the Pinball Hall Of Fame at some point.]