Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Interview with Maasaki Kukino

Chase H.Q. is one of my favourite arcade games. I remember playing the sit down cabinet down the seaside with my Grandparents back in the late eighties. There had been a number of semi sequels and spin offs, but it wasn’t until 2007 that a true sequel was released, almost two decades later.

Produced by Gamewax, Chase H.Q.2 is great fun and an awesome modern update of the original. The game was designed by Maasaki Kukino, a true veteran in the arcade industry.

Chase H.Q.2 at the ATEI 2007 show in London.

Mr Kukino worked for Konami between 1986 and 2003, and his portfolio includes Haunted Castle, Crime Fighters, Asterix, Run and Gun, and Silent Scope. In 2003 Mr Kukino joined Gamewax and directed/designed Valve Limit, Akuma, and Chase H.Q.2. In 2007 Mr Kukino joined SNK Playmore and produced King of Fighters XII and XIII, left in 2011 to work for a Chinese games developer Wahlep Tec, and in 2013 returned to SNK Playmore. In 2015 he left the company again to work for video game developer Sotsu.

I recently got in touch with Mr Kukino and he has kindly agreed to answer some questions regarding Chase H.Q.2 and his time in the industry.

Dear Japan, Arcades & Gaming 

My name is Masaaki Kukino. 
Sorry for my late reply. 
I am pleased to answer you! 
Please check to the following answer.

What are your memories of the original Chase H.Q. arcade release?
I was working for Konami when original Chase H.Q. arcade was released. It's game concept was so amazing! It was not only a racing game, it was "a car chase game". Chase H.Q. was a threat to our game.

What led to the decision to make a sequel to Chase H.Q.?
TAITO decided. TAITO asked it to GAMEWAX.

How long was Chase H.Q.2 in development and how large was the development team?
It took approximately six months. But we were under development, TAITO largely changed the game design. The development team was 3 artists and 2 programmers.

Was there any input or involvement with developers of the original Chase H.Q.?

Do you have any sketches or concept art for Chase H.Q.2 that you would be willing to share?
Sorry,Because we were given development in trust, TAITO owns all copyrights.

Were there any ideas which didn’t make it into the final game?
I had lots of ideas. I would like to make it more exiting and I want more impacts. But we had no time..... And when it was under development, I left GAMEWAX. I still regret it.

What was the most challenging aspect of making Chase H.Q.2.?
Car action such as the film.

I have read that there were different versions of Chase H.Q.2 released. Please can you verify this and tell us about the differences?
Sorry,I don't know.

How did you find living and working in London during your time with Gamewax?
When I worked for Konami, we planned making a video game studio in London. And a Japanese guy founded the company. I'd like to live in London again. Because London is so exciting and beautiful city for me. I love everything of UK. Even bad weather!

What are your favourite arcade and console games?
Hahaha! my games. SILENT SCOPEs, Crime Fighters, Asterix, Run and Gun, Winding Heat, Racing Jam...everything!

Of all the games you have produced, which one are you most proud of?

Finally please can you tell us a little bit about the projects you a currently involved with.
I am making a mobile game. It is the 80s arcade beat'em-up style game with my pixel art. We will release it in Christmas! (2016)

This is the article about my new game. http://mag.mo5.com/actu/96357/enter-the-kaiju-la-revanche-du-beat-em-up-16-bit-sur-mobiles/


Masaaki Kukino

Many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. And many thanks for producing so many excellent titles which I’m sure will be enjoyed by gamers for many years to come.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

New Arrival – Chase H.Q.2 Upright

About The Cab
Chase H.Q.2 was released in 2007.  The game had a fairly limited release, and it wasn’t until 2013 that I finally played it, having stumbled across a machine in the departure lounge at Luton airport.  It then took me another couple of years to track down a nice Chase H.Q.2 upright cab in fully working condition.  I’ve seen quite a few sit down machines over the years, but the upright is more scarce.  I have heard that just twenty of the upright cabinets were produced.  The game is great fun and an awesome modern update of the original.

Here are some pics of the internals.

A look at the Taito Type X+ hardware.  I like how the mobo sits on its own shelf which slides out easily. 

The Good
-The cab is fully working!
-The cab is solid, well built and in excellent condition overall.
-No someone hasn’t scrapped the monitor and fitted a LCD, it was like that from factory.  It’s a 23” Happ TFT LCD.  Because of the LCD the machine is fairly compact.

- I love how the cabinet design is similar to the original classic, right down to the flashing pursuit lights.
-Overall the side artwork is very nice.  I love how Taito pays homage to their history!

-The force feedback steering works perfectly.
-The cab is nice and clean inside.   
-It came complete with keys
-Take a look at Nancy.  What’s not to like!

The Not So Good
-Unfortunately the steering panel overlay is missing.  I’m also on the lookout for the pop card/topper and instruction manual.
-There are a few areas where the side art edges have some wear.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Let's Do the Timewarp Arcade Again

Timewarp Arcade in Bridgwater, Somerset has a great selection of titles from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s as well as some pretty obscure gems.  To quote Timewarp Arcade, “Our aim is to provide a nice mix of known classics as well as those unusual and slightly random games that didn’t get home conversions or you won’t find on Mame.” 

My gaming highlights include Club Kart: European Session DLX, Crazy Taxi, League Bowling, Ninja Baseball Batman, Rave Racer, Rolling Extreme, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time and Terra Diver.

Rolling Extreme / ROLLing eX.tr.me (Street Luge) – Gaelco - 1999

It was the first time I had ever come across Rolling Extreme. Developed by the Spanish company Gaelco, the game has the player racing on a street luge, leaning the seat to steer and punching opponents out of the way.  The game is a lot of fun and certainly different!

Vapor TRX – Atari Games – 1998

I really want to play Vapor TRX.  A futuristic racer, the game and cabinet seem heavily inspired by S.T.U.N. Runner.  The later Atari games are pretty rare these days.  The game is currently out of order and awaiting repairs. 

As well as arcade machines, the arcade also has pool tables, air hockey, pinball tables, a dance machine, and retro and modern consoles. 

The entry price is £6.50 per person and all the machines are on free-play.  With a welcoming atmosphere, great value and something for everyone, I had an awesome time at Timewarp Arcade and am already looking forward to my next visit.

Thursday, 16 February 2017


On an unusually warm Christmas Eve, we ventured down to Weston-super-Mare.

Grand Pier

“The ultimate 21st Century indoor theme park”, proclaims the Grand Pier website.  In addition to amusements, there are various fair ground type rides and attractions, giving it an almost Sega Joypolis vibe.

The pier has a good selection of modern games, as well as a surprising number of dedicated cabs from the nineties which was great to see.  All the machines I played were in nice condition and fully working, although the pinball table playfields looked pretty dirty.

Tank! Tank! Tank! – Bandai Namco – 2009

It was great to see this four player Tank! Tank! Tank! set up.  The pseudo sequel to Namco’s awesome Tokyo Wars, the game is great fun.

F1 Simulator – Cruden B.V.

It was the first time I had seen F1 Simulator.  This motion based simulator has been developed by the Dutch company Cruden B.V., a designer and manufacturer of driving simulators for the automotive, motorsport and marine industries. 

I would love to tell you how awesome it was, but the game didn’t go down all that well after just having an all you can eat Chinese buffet in town.

The House of the Dead, THOTD2 and THOTDIII – Sega AM1 / WOW Entertainment – 1996, 1998 and 2002 respectively

Far more palatable was this House of the Dead trio. 

It was great to see these cabs side by side, and I had a few credits on the original.  The game played well and the sound was nice and loud.  With its gruesome visuals and cheesy voice acting, the game is still loads of fun.  However I couldn’t help thinking that they really need to add the fourth game to the line-up.

Something old, something new.

There were two of these Space Invader cabs on site.  Both machines had received LCD conversions.

The pier has a nice range of attractions and we really enjoyed our afternoon there.

There are two arcades along the road opposite the pier.  They didn’t have anything of note videogame wise, but they did have these two new pinball tables.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

EAG International Expo 2017

This was my first visit to EAG Expo, the annual trade show for the amusement industry, held at the ExCel London Exhibition Centre.  The show encompasses all aspects of the industry, including gambling and redemption.  But it was the video games I came here for, and there was a decent selection of new releases on display.  Best of all, all the games were set to free play.

Daytona Championship USA - Sega

Without doubt the game I was most excited about.  The cabinet itself is very striking, with its 47” LED screen, video billboard marquee, engine under the seat and cool lighting effects.

The game was great fun and proved popular throughout the show.  The music is a slightly reworked version of the original and just as catchy!

The game has six tracks - two beginner, two advanced and two expert.  The two expert tracks were not available for play at the show.  This build was 75% complete.

Below is some game footage.

Daytona International Speedway – Beginner

Lakeside Castle – Advanced

Dinosaur Canyon – Advanced ‘Classic’

The game currently uses an ‘up / down’ gear shifter.

Whilst the game feels more like a reboot and doesn’t stray too far from the original, I can’t wait to see Daytona back in the arcades.  I hope it’s a success and paves the way for the return of more Sega franchises.

The Walking Dead – Play Mechanix / Raw Thrills

The game was great fun and proved very popular.  I’m not familiar with the show, but this didn’t hamper my enjoyment.  The cross bow controller complete with reload feature is very cool and worked well.  As the player progressed, there was a selection of weapons that could be picked up, including hammer, nail gun and stilson.  I liked the mixture of being inundated by zombies and the relentless shooting, and ‘bullet time’ action events requiring precision shots.

Cruis ‘n Blast – Raw Thrills / Nintendo

This is definitely more of a fantasy racer.  Pressing the tunes button reveals the ‘hidden’ vehicles, which include a London bus, helicopter and a triceratops.  One level saw me racing a triceratops through London on top of a train whilst avoiding the London Eye.  Yes really.

Space Invaders Frenzy – Raw Thrills

Whilst the game keeps the Space Invaders theme, the gameplay of the original is exchanged for relentless shooting.

Ghost Busters – ICE / Play Mechanix / Raw Thrills

Shoot ping pong balls at ghosts and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  I love Ghost Busters, and this was something different and good fun.

Mario & Sonic At The Rio 2016 Olympic Games Arcade Edition – Nintendo / Sega

A bit like track and field, but were you actually have to run!

Sadly there were no videogames on the Electrocoin stand, but they did have some nice new pinball releases on display.

Heighway Pinball
I was looking forward to playing Alien pinball, but unfortunately it had some teething problems.

The show even had a couple of classics.

Please Zoltar, I’m really happy to see a new Daytona, but can we have OutRun3?

There seems to be a boom in gaming aimed at the really young. 

I’m sure my four year old daughter would have loved it here and kind of regret not bringing her along.  One such game was ‘Let’s Go Safari’, by Sega.  The player drives and learns about animals, and even had a button to set off fireworks!

Some freebies I managed to grab.  Check out that Daytona water!

Some more pics of the show.