So, the worst thing about the whole global pandemic thing – apart from, you know, millions of deaths and a crippling blow dealt to the global economy – is that the entire country went into lockdown literally the same MONTH as a Round 1 Arcade finally opened up sorta close to me, like less than an hour’s drive away.
Just to really drive this home, I actually did get to walk in during their first week of operation, but I was kind of in a rush and didn’t want to figure out their payment card system so I mostly walked around, drooled – figuratively – over their bank of Project Diva arcade machines, and planned to come back and sink a good bit of disposable income into said machines as soon as I had a little more time.
Then the world went straight to hell. So that didn’t happen.
On the other hand, I recently had a birthday, and the mask mandates are off, and I have a good friend who obsesses about Japanese crane games and Round 1 happens to have a bunch of those machines. So her and I and her husband went down to Round 1 to celebrate me getting slightly older, and she proceeded to win FIVE plushies and a Hatsune Miku figurine.
I won nothing. I have not spent hours watching YouTube videos of people playing crane games, to be fair. It would have been unreasonable to expect the same degree of success without extensive preparation.
But it did give me the chance to finally try out one of those Project Diva arcade machines, and it was…
It was OK. After playing the heck out of all three PSP games, and three Vita games, and even some time spent with Future Tone on PS4… it was just OK. It turns out that I may be a little jaded and that the arcade experience really didn’t offer anything extra except for needing to pay by the song. Roughly TWO DOLLARS per song, thanks to Round 1’s ruinous dollar-to-credit exchange rate.
NEAR the Project Diva machines, however, there was this thing:
And this drew me to it like a summer insect about to end its life with a sudden arcing sound and the smell of burned wings.
Then I went through the process of trying to figure out how to play it. This included needing to make a login account, then going through a fairly involved tutorial to cover all of the machine’s controls.
Speaking of which, WHOOO MAMA. Let’s sum things up. You’ve got a touchscreen, where you need to tap notes as a clock hand sweeps through them. You’ve also got clicky buttons around the edge of the screen, where you need to tap and occasionally hold notes, and the screen is surrounded by this massive rotating ring which contains the clicky buttons, is rotated during hold notes, and which is occasionally spun for screen-filling spin notes. During all of this, the light-up pad you are standing on is pulsing and throbbing to the music so you are getting bombarded with light and sound and thumping bass.
Frankly, I want a rhythm game to give me an experience as close as possible to illegal drugs without actually BEING illegal drugs, and this is it.
After a few plays, I also noticed that my Apple Watch was giving me exercise minutes just for the way I was dancing along to aforementioned light/sound/bass. Yes, I am a very large, very bald middle-aged man and I was dancing to anime girls singing catchy music in public. Nobody called the police, however, so maybe they were assuming I would simply have a heart attack and that would take care of the problem.
Rhythm games: They Make Your Watch Happy With You.
In addition to the genuine JOY to be had in playing Chrono Circle, it has the login system I mentioned, which lets you either use an IC card (which I did not have) or scan a QR code with your phone to log in to the game’s servers so it can track your play history and progression for purposes of unlocking new songs. It also tracks how you are doing compared to other players on the same machine AND worldwide.
For arcade rats Of A Certain Age, this is like going back 40 years to the days when you would stare with envy at the initials on the high score list. Just, you know, the people on the high score list are in freakin’ Japan.
So, to sum things up, I am in love with this game and Round 1 is about to make a small but regular income off me.
Side note: very close to the Chrono Circle machine is a “Tetote Connect” cabinet, which is a rhythm game where you play by high-fiving cute anime girls. One play session of that had me feeling like I was about to lose my fingerprints. Apparently you are supposed to wear gloves to prevent this. Will report my findings later.
Also, both Chrono Circle and Tetote Connect machines give you three songs for the same price as a single Project Diva song. I’m not sure the reasoning there but I suspect it contributes to the number of people I saw playing Project Diva while I was in the arcade. Which was zero.