It’s springtime, and with holidays like Golden Week on the horizon in Japan, this is traditionally a popular season for new arcade game launches over there. Slightly less so in recent years with how their arcade industry has been going, but this year there are a couple of new titles that just released at the end of March.

We don’t always give over full posts to Japan-only titles here on AH, however with both the overseas interest in them and slightly inaccurate perception held by some that none are being made there now, more English coverage can’t hurt. In talking with Ted (who helped produce this piece), this was agreed upon.

Let’s check what is new out in the Land of the Rising Sun:

Polaris Chord

First up, the more well-known of the two. Konami have released their latest rhythm game, Polaris Chord, to Japanese arcades. First revealed last August, this one has launched slightly quicker than expected. Indeed, there is a suggestion it was originally supposed to arrive in May:

As previously mentioned in early coverage, the first point of comparison to this title should be Sega’s Chunithm. Polaris Chord notably resembles it in several respects. Sega’s arcade rhythm games have trended more popular than others for some time now, to the extent that Chunithm‘s influence can be seen in mobile titles. Konami have clearly been mindful of this; in fact, an attempt to ape its elements was made already with New Pop’n Music Welcome To Wonderland!, seen once at JAEPO 2020 before disappearing.

Of course, Polaris Chord isn’t purely a Chunithm clone. Differences include what looks like a heavier emphasis on licenced viral songs by VTubers, over inhouse sound teams. The game’s wider ‘video content creation’ theme supports this. Additional controls are levers, functioning similar to Sound Voltex knobs (which features via characters). And like Sega’s Ongeki, gacha is very integrated. To indicate how much… backgrounds and this top screen show character animations… but only if you cough up more money.

From the first few days of operation, albeit from our Western standpoint, opinions look mixed. Rhythm game diehards have criticized it for having less in common with older Bemani titles. At the same time though, it does look like there’s been positive attention from younger generations; a quick glance at social media shows fanart and such. That audience is most definitely where Konami are pushing Polaris Chord towards – some might claim cynical pandering. But bringing new blood into arcades is of course key for this biz to survive and thrive.

Breaking Down Hard Puncher Arcade

The other new release for Japan here is a curious one, marking something of a milestone for the relevant company. Here we have the first ever new arcade product made specifically by and for GiGO – Breaking Down Hard Puncher Arcade:Breaking Down by Genda

Now most will associate GiGO with locations (e.g. those from Sega), but Genda’s M&A approach has expanded into production companies. We have also known that they planned to make some of their own machines for a while, so this release is their first dip into that pool. One would think with the emphasis on cranes they’d do those first – apparently not (!). It also appears that GiGO are not the sole developer. Breaking Down, the titular Japanese boxing firm, planned and conceived it. And as you can see both above and below, the cabinet is clearly the one made by Taito for Sonic Blast Heroes. It’s possible they were commissioned to work on it too.

In the launch PR, there are even mentions of plans to hold a nationwide tournament on the game. This could work, as although only 200 machines have been made, they are available at 170~ GiGO locations. Some can be seen on the first day of operation in these photos at flagship Tokyo venues, from arcade boxer fanatic @fWeQMYbzWKQiJsm. There’s always at least one dedicated fan for every genre out there, no matter how niche 🙂

Will They Remain Japan-Only?

The question on most any arcade fan’s mind regarding games out of Japan will always be whether they will release outside of their homeland. After years of seeing this not happen for most titles out of the country, it is understandable. That doesn’t stop people from asking it again and again though… so before anyone does so here:

In terms of Polaris Chord, an implication that comes part and parcel with most Konami titles now is whether it will be carried in the US via Round1. Unfortunately, recent examples like worldwide R1 exclusive Dance aRound have been confirmed to come over much closer to their initial Japanese release. Not only that, but Polaris Chord’s gacha mechanics could problematize things legally in some states. So, the received wisdom has been that it likely won’t thus far. However, if it goes on to be a decent-sized domestic success, I could see a localized version being prepared someday. If not, there’s always unofficial imports.

As for Breaking Down Hard Puncher… although the name won’t take overseas, boxing machines have always done exceedingly well here. They remain so hot that even traditional redemption manufacturers are beginning to produce their own. Despite this, we haven’t seen a video example like it out West for some time. With a retheme to a more relevant license it could work. It is also worth noting that Genda do have US businesses, owning the Kiddleton facilities and Enterrium. They’ve even expressed interest in opening GiGO locations, but time will only tell if they go in that direction. The same goes for Europe too.

In the meantime, what do you think of these two new arcade games for Japan? Would you like to see Polaris Chord or Breaking Down Hard Puncher Arcade release overseas?

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