The annual Amusement Machine Operators' Union show in Japan is a dealer-oriented event that gives a sneak preview of arcade games coming out in the near future. For the past few years, video games at the AOU were mostly networked table games, such as mahjong and card battles. This year, though, fighting games stormed center stage at the event. Nearly 10 titles were shown at the AOU, and it seems that 2008 will definitely see the genre well-represented in Japanese arcades.
The biggest crowd at this year's AOU show was at Capcom's booth. The company announced earlier in the month that it will have Street Fighter IV playable at the show, and it delivered on that promise with all the known characters being on offer. SNK Playmore's King of Fighters XII was also in hand in teaser trailer form. Unlike SFIV, KOFXII will stick to its old roots and continue to play with 2D graphics, albeit completely redrawn in high resolution. KOFXII is slated for release in 2008.
Arc System Works introduced a new fighter titled Blazblue. The game takes place in a futuristic sci-fi atmosphere, and the characters are drawn in cel-shaded 2D art, albeit with high-resolution graphics. Some parts of the game's background, such as spectators, are drawn in 2D, while other parts, such as statues and marble tiled floors, are drawn in 3D. Blazblue is slated for a November release in Japan.
Arcana Heart 2, developed by Examu, also made its first public appearance at AOU 2008. Similar to its previous installation, all the characters in the game are female. Six new characters are introduced in Arcana Heart 2--Petra, Catherine, Zenia, Dorothy, Elsa, and Clarice--and they were all playable. The game is slated for release in March in Japan.
Also on hand was the male-character-dominated Sengou Basara X from Capcom. Developed by Arc System Works, the game plays in Guilty Gear X-style 2D graphics and features the heroes from the Sengoku Basara series: Date Masamune, Sanada Yukimura, Maeda Keiji, Chosokabe Motochika, Mouri Motonari, Uesugi Kenshin, Oichi, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tadakatsu Honda. Sengoku Basara X is slated for a spring release in Japan.
In terms of sword-slashing games, SNK Playmore also showed off its next installment in the Samurai Spirits (aka Samurai Shodown) series. Samurai Spirits Sen is a 3D-fighting game that has dropped the traditional 2D formula in favor of a system similar to Namco Bandai's Soul Calibur series. Samurai Spirits Sen has more realistic graphics than any previous entry in the Samurai Shodown series and some moves were taken out or toned down to seem less implausible. Characters still have their trademark moves, though: Charlotte has her power gradation and Hanzo has his Mozu Otoshi throw. But the game seems to be based more on chain combo attacks, and it plays quite differently from previous installments.
Half of Samurai Shodown Sen's roster is returning characters, while the other half is totally new. Returning characters include Haohmaru, Genjuro, Ukyo, Nakoruru, Rimururu, Hanzo, Galford, Charlotte, Kyoshiro, Wanfu, Kazuki, and Sougetsu. The new characters include Suzuhime, Chiyo, Jinbei, J, Angelica, Kim, Black Hawk, Gallows, Walther, Killian, and Claude. Samurai Shodown Sen is slated for an April 17 release in Japan.
SNK Playmore used its AOU presentation to announce it was rereleasing a decade-old title. The King of Fighters 98: Ultimate Match was originally planned for a PlayStation 2 release but is now coming out for arcades on March 18. The game is fundamentally an updated version of KOF98 with additional characters and enhancements. The game features a total of 59 characters, including Eiji Kisaragi, Kasumi Todo, Mr. Big, Wolfgang Krauser, King, Blue Mary, Yamazaki, and Geese Howard. While most are from the original game, some additional moves have been added, especially for the previously existing alternate characters so that they'll play differently from their normal versions.
Capcom also had a fighting game based on Type Moon characters. Fate: Unlimited Codes is a 3D game that plays with 2D mechanics, similar to Street Fighter IV. The characters are versatile, ranging from an average-looking kid in a shirt, a long-haired lady in bondage, and a fighter in shiny golden armor. The controls are relatively standard; three buttons are used for attacks of different strengths, and there's a fourth button for deflecting attacks. As an interesting addition, the game features a move that's more powerful than a super attack. The catch is that only one person can do it per round, meaning if the opponent does it first, the other player won't be able to pull it off. Fate: Unlimited Codes is slated for a June release in Japan.