46th Amusement Machine Show – Are you amused?

The Amusement Machine Show is primarily an industry event held quietly behind closed doors. For two days, bigwigs discuss the mechanics of good gaming with specially selected “invitation only” guests. Judging by some of the less popular exhibits on the one public day, colorful gaming buttons and pristine gaming cabinets were some of the items in hot debate. Of course, at the end of these long days (presumably) being served by nervous booth babes in training, they all decide that the best way to get more gaming patrons is to offer a full day of free gaming for a 1,000 yen cover charge, rigging all of the UFO catchers to ensure one-time wins.

By far, this was the most obvious reason for the huge turnout. Many patrons carried multiple bags of prizes, greedily waiting in line again for yet another Hello Kitty, Disney, or Gloomy Bear win. This theory was backed by the express delivery service Kuro Neko Yamato conspicuously stationed at the exits. And though lines were likely shorter in the morning, as more and more patrons came to realize this scheme, waits quickly soared to hours and huge lines engulfed the complex. Overhearing a Nitele network reporter interview three middle aged women, each with three large tote bags overflowing with prizes, it became evident that some style of prize racketeering was definitely underway.

However, there were also a variety of other games – both new and old – available to any hand willing to wait. One of the UFO catcher style games that didn’t have a collectors’ edge was the Triple Catcher Ice by Atlus. Featuring a -25 degree Celsius inner cavity filled with small, individually packaged ice cream treats, and a three pronged claw to ensure a more fulfilling catch, this new innovation in crane game technology is sure to be a big hit this chilly winter. Deceptively mimicking a chimp research experiment in many ways, it will no doubt prove the ape’s capacity to forage for vital resources, drawn by pink metallic sheen and colorful buttons, in the coming months.

Another crane game oddity combined KRB1 miniature hobby robots with the prize hunting experience. Called Robocatcher, it actually debuted at the 45th Amusement Machine Show, winning first prize in the Popularity Category. The play mechanism involves a prize catching robot which walks around a flat arena littered with goods via a set of simple controls. Once the player has successfully used the robot to grasp a prize, they must then walk it over to the chute and drop it down to win. Though the game play is fast paced and invigorating, it has yet to make a big break into the amusement scene.

However, Robocatcher wasn’t the only older game to show its face. Banpresto’s amazing Senjou no Kizuna, originally released in 2005, made yet another appearance. Often dubbed the “Gundam Pod Game,” players are given the experience of piloting a Gundam from an actual cockpit. Using hands and feet to maneuver about a playing field with other human pilots, the objective is to damage the opponents’ army and overtake their base in 4 vs 4 battles which can include players from all over the country. Movements can be coordinated via headset microphones, and friends can play together so long as they start at the same time in the same arcade. In return, players are awarded points which can be used for upgrading and obtaining new Gundam for future battles. At this particular display, female assistants were wearing appropriately themed costumes, which added to the ambiance despite the disturbing array of pods.

One notable new release from Atlus combined shooting games with live ammunition. In Vulcan Wars, the player uses a simulated machine gun, which fires a series of yellow BB’s onto a projection screen. These are in turn rendered into environmental damage, affecting surrounding targets, vehicles, buildings, or dirt as the case may be.

Another new game that didn’t get much play was Street Fighter 4. Though the game is only testing at certain select arcades for the moment, one cabinet manufacturer used it as a display. Since the area wasn’t equipped to handle long lines, it allowed certain bold individuals to sit and play as long as they liked, to the disgust of others. On the other hand, 2-D fighting game Blazblue from Arc System Works, considered to be the spiritual successor of Guilty Gear, showed a lot of potential.

Of course, a good portion of the venue was dedicated to future toys and prizes, almost all of which were not available for photograph. Suffice to say, Fist of the North Star, Dragon Ball, Evangelion, Haruhi, Disney, and Sanrio all had extensive product lines. However, some of the more surprising comebacks were Cutie Honey, modeled after the 1990 design, and the classic Galaxy Express 999. From the latter series, in addition to character and train models, a life-scale replica of Emeraldas’s gravity saber is scheduled for release early next year. Also incredibly cute were a new line of stuffed Hello Kitties designed to resemble chocolate treats for a certain holiday coming this February. It was difficult not to try one.

It was in this area that we first encountered the product showcase girls getting in on the action, and enjoying whatever fruits there were to be had. However, they surprisingly walked freely throughout the venue on their breaks. Of note, this is in sharp contrast to other industry events. Indeed, it was precisely because of this that quite a few onlookers were able to witness the jewel of the crown: two sega booth girls playing punch-out despite high heels to relieve the stress of another long day’s hard work.

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