The All Nippon Amusement Machine Operators (AOU) Expo 2007 took a phenomenal slice of the Chiba's Makuhari Messe facility. AOU represents an operator's show, in contrast to JAMMA that is a manufacturers' show - both association events experiencing their own changes. The big players on the show floor:
Konami Digital Entertainment
The KDE booth represented an advanced amusement operation by the premiere amusement factory - though not the largest, the company showed a diverse selection of amusement product, and strong titles that enthralled many who ventured into the lair.
'Silent Hill: The Arcade' - The big surprise for AOU on the KDE booth was the appearance of another console / amusement crossover with the Silent Hill franchise. The game offered a two-player blasting feat in a modified Lethal Enforcer 4 cabinet, now with an enclosure shroud for the players to feel the full benefit of the audio roof speakers and full screen effects. The game uses the same LE gun layout, but with the addition of e-AMUSEMENT PASS.
'GuitarFreaks V4: Rock + Rock!' (BeMani Hardware) - was shown at AOU offering more of the same and a compelling lineup of tracks. Like all in the current series, it uses the e-AMUSEMENT enabled package. KDE takes on the Guitar Hero consumer dominance with their version, hoping to achieve bigger things. The ability to play 'Double Rock' (connected to a DrumMania cabinet) hoping to see amusement Jam sessions.
'DrumMania V4: Rock + Rock!' (BeMani Hardware) - Also offered e-AMSUEMENT support, with an updated selection of tunes. The machine also equipped with the 'Double Rock' feature that connects the game to the GuitarFreak system. For many in Asia the BeMani duo prove the bread-and-butter of most video coin-box - a foundation not seen internationally.
'Beatmania IIDX 14 GOLD' (BeMani Hardware) - Fresh from its premiere at ATEI'07 - this time with an operational e-AMUSEMENT PASS system, the workhorse of the BeMani franchise has a strong following from loyal fans on the forums.
'Dance Dance Revolution: SuperNOVA 2' (BeMani Hardware) - The company did bring an updated software release to AOU of the Euro release, as speculated by the expansive Dance Dance fan base, the conventional game with new titles and its e-AMUSEMENT feature equipped. Though the cabinet on display was a SuperNOVA machine, they were there to promote the SuperNOVA 2 update installed.
'Pop'n Music 15 Adventure' (BeMani Hardware) - The rhythm button bashing experience, with an enhanced e-AMSUEMENT capability and a lot of new moves, was the last of the BeMani hardware on display.
'Quiz Magic Academy IV' (Proprietary Hardware) - another Satellite Terminal (ST) system with four terminals and a central e-AMUSEMENT PASS dispenser, showed a fantasy tale quiz game that leaned heavily on the e-AMSUEMENT element.
'Eternal Knight' (Proprietary Hardware) - The lavish new RPG style game, building on a lot learned from the successful Monsters Gate franchise, this system offering a new take on the Satellite Terminal (ST) game system, with an impressive side-by-side terminal layout and overhead big display. Yet again the e-AMUSEMENT element was supported by a growing trend at AOU for touchscreen functionality in these pedestal-style ST platforms.
The first show where the Sammy name had been totally expunged from the corporate rundown - a dip in pachinko sales adding to the low-key appearance. SEGA had a big presence but showed product more for independent operations (rather than Big-Box games for SEGA sites).
'2 Spicy' (LindBergh Red) -The gun dual blaster was well received by the core market on the show floor. A new 'partition' design for the cabinet was displayed, hoping to enhance the two-player combat element - some show literature suggesting back-to-back cabinet placement - encouraging dual system purchase.
What has become the signature of the SEGA presentation, the company ran a three-day tournament on their Virtua Fighter set-up during AOU'07. The appearance of 'Virtua Fighter 5 VERSION B' (LindBergh) was given a big push to the loyal players - the company also revealed that a Version C is scheduled to hit the arcades in late 2007, around the same time that the PlayStation 3 version of the game would be established.
'Answer x Answer' (LindBergh) - The company made great play of the quick fire quiz game, released in a Satellite Terminal (ST) with four terminals and central card dispensing and audience display all under the ALL.NET and P-RAS 'Network Taisen Quiz' environment. Though we had no word of a translated international version, this machine mirrored a trend noted at AOU for games bridging Skill With Prizes (SWP) and Sector 16/21 European playing style - if not direct ports.
'Manic Panic Ghost' (Naomi) - The ATEI'07 premiere for the frantic screen-hitting game was this AOU appearance. The important thing for Stinger readers is the correction that the game, rather than previously stated by SAE executives, is in fact a Naomi architecture game not LindBergh - this is an interesting situation, as SEGA is known to have ceased DreamCast hardware release due to shortage of chip-sets (in effect Naomi hardware), so to see at least three Naomi-powered new releases at the show left questions on SEGA priorities.
'Dynamite Deka EX: Asian Dynamite' (Naomi) - A playable version was on display at the event, and found favor with fans of the series. The reality of international popularity will have to wait for an ASI showing of the game... hopefully in free play this time!
'Exzeal' (Proprietary Hardware) - The third party developer (Triangle Service) shoot-em-up based on the 'Trizeal' vertical coin-op shooter launched originally in 1983. This was one of three old-style shooters at a show possibly reflecting a renaissance for the genre - the possibility of a return to more practical cashbox fillers (drivers, shooters and beat-em-ups) opens an interesting chapter in Asian gaming that could reverberate internationally.
Kid Vending - now a defined element of the Asian amusement lineup, each booth of the main players had some form of product placement. 'Beetle DASH!' (Proprietary Hardware) - The eagerly awaited sequel to the phenomenon that is MushiKing - the new single button play concept and new 3D graphic experience offered a big potential at the show.
'Marine & Marine' (Proprietary Hardware) - The production version of that seen at previous Asian show, fish-on-fish action supported by a game element popularized by the company's kid vending phenomenon. 'Thomas The Tank Engine' (Proprietary Hardware) - The JAMMA and ATEI preview was followed by a group of systems on display at AOU, the importance of strong brand, in a reliable package meaning that kid vending could branch off into its own genre closer to toy than amusement.
Medal games - AOU offers a strong facility stocking filler element with the ground floor of venues supported with new videos and the top floors supported with the latest medal (coin) games. 'Club Majesty' (Proprietary Hardware) - Part of the multi-gaming style of ST system that the company is working on last seen with the 'SEGA Network Casino Club'. Containing poker and roulette games this system offers a casino style package on individual touchscreen terminals. How practical a SWP development would be, beyond straight casino application left in the hands of SEGA Gaming Europe?
'Toami-Gyo' (LindBergh) - The elusive top-down projected game, with actual coins on the playing field, saw a production system presentation. An interesting concept, soon to be followed with a software update.
Namco Bandai Games
The brand identification continued on the Namco booth with the giant 'Bandai Namco Games' banner over the Namco Bandai Games booth - the marketing material still saying NBG. Even after the explanation from ATEI'07 executives over the corporate structure, it is obvious now that Bandai executives are steering the lion's share of the new thinking behind the corporation's future - as seen on booth.
'Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3' (System N2) - The release of the eagerly awaited driver, saw four cabinets networked on the front of the booth and a good audience during the show - though player scoring fluctuated. No news on a possible kit update to Maximum Tunes in the field, the game going up against an expensive but deeper competitor, the port to N2 from SEGA licensed CHIHIRO hardware telling in the final release.
'Mario Kart: GP Arcade 2' (TriForce) - From JAMMA to ATEI, and now AOU'07 - it was hard to get too excited as close inspection still did not reveal major differences from the original, other than more tracks. A strong following however kept the game popular during the show.
'New Space Order' (System N2) - The game was displayed as a networked Satellite Terminal (ST) space combat MMOG game - using the same cabinet layout as the Counter Strike NEO game with ten connected terminals and a central display and card dispenser, the product able to update LEDZONE facilities with a new game package. The success of the LEDZONE franchise recently reflected in NBG financials (see below).
'Tekken 6 - Temporary Name' (PS3) - The company did show screens in a video from the coming AC Tekken 6 release, with brand new levels and two new characters, the series producer told audiences of the efforts to build on advances of the Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection release. The game proposes to have additional elements to that for the PS3 release of the game that has already been slated for mid-2007.
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