It’s been a little over a year since I did an “unboxing” of an arcade machine – although that wasn’t of any new game, but a pair of oldies. Business just hasn’t been conducive since then to grabbing a lot of equipment, as I really need to pay off a few of the loans I have already. That said, opportunities still present themselves on occasion, as it did when I sold my Dance Dance Revolution Extreme for a good amount. Within a week of the wire clearing, Griffin Aerotech announced the pre-orders opening for their 2nd game, Enter The Gungeon – House of the Gundead and after seeing how people had reacted to the game online, I figured it would be a good one to try. I did grab GA’s first game, a shmup called Skycurser, but unfortunately shmups in my area don’t  do all that well (Dariusburst Another Chronicle has been the only exception but the cabinet really helps in that case).

Part of my logic is that light-gun games tend to do fairly well for me, although racers do edge them out on a 1:1 basis. Almost all of the gun games I have are licensed from something, one exception being LAI Games’ Outnumbered, but even that without a name has done fine, usually competing with Raw Thrills’ Aliens Armageddon. Given that ETG is well-known in gaming circles, and I liked aspects of what I saw from the arcade previews, it looks like the kind of game that would do well in my venue. The price was nice too, being half the $12k that so many games hover around these days.

The jury will be out for a few weeks to see how it performs of course, and there is a bit of competition in my place among gun games – it’s the 9th light-gun title we have now.

The only complaint I have so far is that I didn’t get tracking of any kind and didn’t know that it was arriving yesterday, until the freight guy called me up trying to figure out where to park. So that would have been nice so I could have been better prepared, as the arcade was busy and I was alone, so I couldn’t close up to go deal with it. Fortunately it was around the time where my brother was coming into work so I only had to leave the game outside for a few minutes. Here’s the unboxing:

Also since it arrived at a time where I was about to leave for home and I had a promised errand that I was supposed to be taking care of, I did rush things a little bit – didn’t connect the wiring for the start buttons nor the LEDs under the cab like I should have. I did get the buttons handled as shown but as of this moment, the LEDs still aren’t working and I’m not sure why, since I did connect them. I also had to remove the marquee this morning and turn the marquee light on, since the factory had set it to off. But it does look nicer now than it does at the end of the video:

House of the Gundead cabinet

I also got to play it for a direct capture this morning; That’s below but let me share some thoughts on the gameplay. I have not played ETG before but had heard of it. This game is based in the Gungeon universe, but is wholly unique and at least for the foreseeable future, is also exclusive to arcades. One also could probably argue that it is in the Skycurser universe, since the art style is similar (this makes sense, given the art director, Christopher Cruz, is the same between both games). In some ways, you could see this as being a game released in the 90s, although the lighting effects and the physics of the many destructible objects throughout are more modern. I like how it looks – “new wave retro” I suppose you could say. There does seem to be some minor stutters though, mainly when you’re doing a dodge, but hopefully that is something that can be corrected with software updates. More info and thoughts below the vid:

Sound-wise, the effects and the music are fantastic, pumped through a 2.1ch sound system with an amp. I did have to make some adjustments to that when we fired the game up, as it was all bass, but with some quick tweaking, it was fine.

The guns are a little different from what I’m used to encountering in the arcade – it uses Sinden light-guns, which are popular for use at home on MAME. From what another buyer of this one, and GA themselves have told me, there are modifications to the guns to improve their durability. I’m not sure if that means that you’d be able to just buy an off-the-shelf Sinden or not for a replacement, although it does seem like it would be better to have these enhanced ones. The force feedback on these isn’t the strongest you’ll have felt but what makes it interesting, and is apparently the reason for using these guns, is that it does change depending upon which gun you’re using. This is a cool little touch that adds appeal.

Aside from the trigger, you use the lower pump handle to reload (or shoot off-screen); Switch guns by pushing the D-Pad, and use your screen-clearing “Blank” by pushing either of the black buttons that are in front of the D-Pad. It’s always a little strange to encounter a D-Pad in arcades, but it is sensitive and easy to switch weapons with. I just hope that part is one that holds up under arcade wear ‘n tear.

There is a tutorial at the beginning to explain things, then you dive into the gungeon. I could be wrong about it procedurally generating levels but it does offer multiple paths, so there is plenty to come back to. Checking the internals, there does not appear to be any difficulty settings, so one thing that surprised me is how easy the first couple of stages are (it does ramp up on difficulty on stage 2 though). I will have to play it more to see if it is 1cc-able, but I do think that gamers will appreciate it not being the kind of game that kills you off after the hidden timer runs out.

I’d read some comparisons of the game to Time Crisis (from those who had played it at events) and there are two – a timer countdown in each room and the dodge feature. The latter is sort of like taking cover but without using a foot pedal. When enemies fire at you, there’s a chance to dodge their attack by shooting one of the targets that appear on the edge of the screen. At first I thought this would just be the same sort of thing throughout but the game spices things up by sometimes making the target move around the edges, or making you shoot certain ones in succession, or only one of the four can be hit for the dodge. A proper dodge is accompanied by a cool graphical effect of swooshing lights.

Speaking of cool, one thing you’re supposed to do is shoot destructible objects in each room, not just the enemies. Due to the countdown timer in place, you’ll want to make it fast, otherwise you can focus on skipping the enemies for a bit if you want – or just rush through like I did in the video above. Seeing how objects will react to getting shot isn’t something new that no game has done before but it’s still fun and on top of that, there are secrets to be uncovered. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s disappointing that so many arcade games seem to ignore secrets these days, making the games feel more sterile and “corporate.” So their presence in HotG is welcome.

Also welcome is that this has a leaderboard that actually shows up in the attract mode! Its sad and baffling that the industry that gave the world digital leaderboards has decided with many modern games to abandon them or screw them up to where they are pointless. Some of these have in-game scoring, then either no leaderboard at all or it never shows you the leaderboard again. Fortunately, HotG does not suffer from this issue and uses leaderboards like they used to be. Aside from scoring, there are also letter ranks, so to get both the top score and an S, you’ll need to be fast, accurate and blast the destructibles.  Between that and the many paths and guns to discover, the replay value on this one is high, and that’s something that gets a thumbs up from me.

All-in-all, I need to spend more time with it (after my shift or close, so I’m not worrying about customers the whole time) but so far, as a gamer I like what I’ve played. Aside from the positives I mentioned above, the game also has a wry sense of humor, which is something that I appreciate. As an operator, it always comes down to earnings but as I’ve been writing this up, the game has been getting played.

Have you played this one yet? If so, what did you think? If not, would you like on of your local arcades to grab one?

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