Japanese Arcades and the iPad Invadercade

Taito recently announced their own joystick accessory for the iPad, the Invadercade. The case features Space Invaders artwork, one joystick and one fire button. It’s sole purpose is to house an iPad running Space Invaders. That’s why this accessory reminds me more of the golden age of arcade games than the iCade does. Arcades are one of many entertainment options in Japan and even though the arcade’s hardware is not advanced as it used to be, many new games are first tested in arcades before ported to consoles.

The Invadercade “designed for one game” case is reminiscent of early arcade machines. Back in the day, a machine was designed for one game only with not only specific artwork but specific controls as well. Pole Position and Sprint had steering wheel(s) and proper pedals for example:

Sega’s Hang-on allowed you to sit on a motor bike and Atari’s BattleZone had proper goggles. Obviously these goggles would be useless for most other games. Once the game wasn’t as popular anymore the arcade hall’s owner could only sell the machine or throw it away. Moving the heavy machines from one place to the other was also a hassle. For some games, conversion boards were sold: The game’s board, roms and cabinet art work was sold to the operator who then put it into a similar machine.

Typing games are hard to find. Sega developed a couple of them like Typing of the Dead and Lupin Sansei: The Typing. The zombie one is fun – type those zombies to dead!

Donkey Kong was developed on the Radar Scope hardware, the first game Shigeru Miyamoto designed for Nintendo. Radar Scope was largely unsuccessful in the States so the president of Nintendo of America asked for a game which could be used to replace it. Miyamoto developed Donkey Kong which became hugely successful, thus saving Nintendo USA from having to dump a large number of unsold machines.

In the mid-80’s leading Japanese arcade developers created the JAMMA standard which made changing the board much easier. Here are typical arcade machines which are used for multiple games:
Seoul Arcade 3

These machines are used for everything – from Puzzle Bobble to Virtua Fighter 5. Even the art work is generic, giving you no clue about the game unless you look at the screen.

Obviously these games alone wouldn’t attract customers. The games have usually been ported to consoles long ago so their only advantages are the good arcade stick and playing against strangers.

Some games aren’t suited for generic cases anywhere, like Taiko no Tatsujin:

Graphics are not important for music games so these stay fresh for a longer time. Most arcades have at least one music game usually near the entrance.

More rare are simulator games like Densha de Go! (train simulator):
Densha de go

Or what about flying an airplane? (from an arcade hall in Seoul)

Seoul Arcade 4

Taito’s Invadercade is nowhere near as sophisticated and it’s possible that it may be used for other games. So far only support for Space Invaders HD has been announced. I’m not a big fan of the original, but the remake Space Invaders Infinity Gene is awesome. Hopefully Infinity Gene will be supported sometime after the Invadercade goes on sale (October 11 in Japan). The case will cost gamers 15800 Yen and includes stereo speakers.

So iPad plus Invadercade must be the first mini arcade with different games, right? Nope…

Mia Jaap

Journalist, developer and passionate about Japanese and Korean language. Japan is my #1 country for travelling, penguins my favourite animals.

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