The AMOA Expo is a chance for owners and operators of arcades and amusement parks the chance to come face to face with the latest and greatest games that will soon become available to them for purchase or rent. People say that arcades are dead but coming to a show like this will remind people that arcades are alive and thriving and are just going about their business in a new and modern way.
My trip to Vegas to represent COIN-OP TV at the AMOA was a short-lived one. I only had time enough to attend one full day of the show. But the things I saw did delight and excite as I strolled up and down rows of arcade machines and other goodies.
All the big name companies were there representing and even small mom and pop shops made an appearance. Stern had an impressive booth that was showcasing some of their latest Pinball machines like ‘Elvis’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. As a special treat I got to meet and chat with Gary Stern himself briefly and I made sure to thank him for putting the lovely Courtney Friel on the ‘Poker World Tour’ pinball from Stern.
The next big company where I spent half the afternoon was at the Namco booth. The booth designs for Namco are always well made and they go out of their way to showcase the games and provide a comfortable enviroment for navigating. Namco was showcasing their new ‘Rockin’ Bowl-O-Rama’ which I first saw on display at E3 in May 2006. This machine is extremely well designed and looks superb and deserves to be every collector’s home or arcade.
Lucky for me – Namco brought along their ‘Pac-Man 25th Anniversary Edition’ standup on freeplay. I felt it was my duty to place high scores on ‘Ms. Pac-Man’ and ‘Galaga’ before leaving the show and that is just what I did.
The games on the 25th Anniversary Edition play and sound great – they seem improved over the previously released ‘Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga’ combo from 2000. Namco also had the new Soul Caliber arcade game on display for all to witness.
Sega had one of the larger booths with some fancy games on display. I had a chance to sit inside the jeep/cockpit of the game ‘Let’s Go Jungle’ which had two machine guns mounted inside and allowed for players to storm their way through the jungle fighting off hoards of bugs and other monsters as the camera panned and swished through the forest.
On the other side of Sega’s booth was the intrigueing and captivating kiddie-girl game ‘Love and Berry’. My friend in Japan told me that these games were the new craze oversea so I had to take a closer look. The gameplay is rather simple – you control one of the characters, either Love or Berry (both cute female Japanese school-girl types). The game drops out a collectible colorful card and you use it to choose which type of clothing your character will be wearing. If you do not have enough cards to fix up her outfit and hair then you have to perform challenges which mainly revolve around cute singing and dancing in which the player hits the buttons in time with clapping or music.
Call me crazy or cheesy but I was hooked in for at least 20 minutes just to see where the game would take me as the dancing and visuals were quite captivating. The only reason I stopped playing was because my neck started aching from having to lean forward (it’s for kids afterall) and because I didn’t want anyone to catch me pocketing some of the collectible cards. ‘Love and Berry’ will also come over for the Nintendo DS and I’m sure it will make for a popular game as long as the card slider interface can survive.
Before wrapping up at the Sega booth I got a look at the new ‘After Burner’ game. The original ‘After Burner’ sit-down game was one of my favorites as a kid. Nothing could compare to the realistic feel and gameplay ‘After Burner’ was able to unleash. I didn’t get a chance to hop on and play cause there was always a line of people in wait – but from what I saw and the expressions on the faces of people at the show – they all seemed to get a kick out of the new version.
Another highlight of the show was getting my hands on the new ‘Ultra Pins’ from Global VR. These are digital versions of Pinball classics that are housed in a pinball-like cabinet with flipper buttons on the side and a plunger to launch the digital ball. All sounds come out of the speakers mounted on the score-board display. I watched someone play for a while to see how the ball and game reacted. It is very strange watching pinball recreated on a digital landscape.
When I first jumped on to play the ‘Ultra Pins’ it took a while to get the timing and delay of the flippers but surprisingly after only a few minutes I was relaxed and slapping the ball around like a regular pinball wizard. The graphics and sounds do justice to the classic pinballs they are emulating. Information on these machines was limited and the games listed on the sides were not the same as what I played. My only initial complaint so far was that the flipper sounds come out of the speakers mounted at least 3 feet away from you – it’s distracting. For these ‘Ultra Pins’ to survive in the real world it will all depend on which classics are inside, how well they are emulated and what the price point ends up being.
While walking around the floor some other companies caught my eye like the Power Mate – which allows even the weakest man or woman the chance to get arcade cabinets up and down stairs easily.
Also, Coincepts were there showcasing their Timecade machines and finally to top it all off I had a chance to meet and chat with Roger Sharpe who organized the Pinball Tournament. It was great to see some modern classic pinballs like ‘Comet’ and ‘Addams Family’ as well as old favorites like ‘Wizard’ (1971) and ‘Central Park’ (1960) there for play.
That’s all from me at the AMOA Expo – maybe next year we’ll do some video coverage!