Sega and Sammy host first joint-arcade exhibit

Newly merged companies show off Romance of the Three Kingdoms title, new OutRun 2, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum.

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TOKYO--Sega and Sammy, for the first time since their merger, have opened an arcade machine exhibit for distributors in Japan. A number of upcoming titles from the two companies were on display at the exhibit, though the focus was on Sega's new game based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, titled Sangokushi Taisen.

Slated to debut in arcades in the spring, Sangokushi Taisen is a real-time strategic action game that looks similar to Koei's Kessen series. Much like Sega's latest arcade title The Quest of D, Sangokushi Taisen is played with the use of trading cards, and it also allows you to go against gamers in other arcades via its network connection. To play Sangokushi Taisen, you first need to acquire a starter's deck that comes with a set of warlord cards. You play the game by placing the cards on the flat arcade table, and when you move the cards around, the warlords and their soldiers will move accordingly on the game screen in front of the table.

The game is played one-on-one against a human opponent--the person sitting next to you, or someone in another arcade. When you're playing against a person in another arcade, you'll automatically be matched with someone who is about your same strength. If no opponents can be found, you'll be going against a computer opponent. Your game ranking and other information will be stored on an IC card, much like Virtua Fighter 4 and other recent arcade games by Sega and Sammy.

Your objective in Sangokushi Taisen is to beat your opponent's warlords and take down their castle. To do that, you'll have to take advantage of your characters' strength. Each of the warlords has various parameters, such as power, intelligence, and solider type. The solider type is especially vital in playing the game, since it determines the characteristic of the warlord and its unit. There are five types of soldiers in Sangokushi Taisen: foot soldiers, which are average fighters; seizing soldiers, which excel in breaking down the enemy castle; archers, which have long range and are strong against spearmen; cavalrymen, who are faster than other types of soldiers and strong against archers; and spearmen, who can do major damage to enemies directly in front of them, and are strong against cavalrymen in particular.

In addition, each warlord also has their own special move, which you can execute by rubbing the warlord's card on the table and pressing a button. The specials have different effects, such as to power up your unit's attacks, make your unit move faster, constantly make your unit regain life, and to power down the enemies within a certain range. Each warlord has a cost of between one to three points, and you can’t use more than eight points' worth of warlords in one game.

Gamers who enjoy collecting cards should note that Sega is collaborating with Kodansha Publishing to have its manga artists draw the character pictures imprinted on the cards. Kodansha is best known for its manga weekly Shonen Magazine. One of the artists who will be drawing for the game is Hiro Mashima, author of the manga series "Rave."

Another major title displayed at the exhibit by Sega was Outrun 2: Special Tours, which will hit arcades in December. The game is an upgraded edition of Outrun 2, with 15 additional courses based on various locations in America, which means that the game now has double the number of stages. You'll be able to play the game in 10 different Ferraris this time: the eight cars from Outrun 2, plus a Ferrari 512BB, and a Ferrari 250GTO. Old-school gamers will appreciate that you can play through the game with the original music from the 1980's Outrun and Turbo Outrun.

One title on display that few expected to see was SNK Playmore's Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, which will be released on Sammy's Atomiswave platform next year. While the game at the exhibit was only 30 percent complete and was limited to the use of eight characters, it gave some insight into the game's system.

Neo Geo Battle Coliseum will feature two-on-two tag-team battles. It will feature characters from various Neo Geo titles including third-party games, namely ADK's World Heroes and Aggressors of Dark Combat. The game plays with a single round per match, much like SNK Playmore’s recent tag-team game, The King of Fighters 2003. However, a big difference with Neo Geo Battle Coliseum is that you lose when either of your characters gets knocked out by the opponent.

Neo Geo Battle Coliseum will use the same five-button control layout as King of Fighters Neowave. Two buttons will be used for punches of different strengths, two buttons will be used for kicks, and the remaining button will be used for switching between the characters. Characters that were available in the show's demo were Yuki, Ai, Hanzo (World Heroes), Tung Fu Rue (Fatal Fury), Asura (Samurai Shodown), Haohmaru (Samurai Shodown), Rock Howard (Garou: Mark of the Wolves), Kaede (The Last Blade), and Kisara (Agressors of Dark Combat). Other characters confirmed to appear in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum since our previous coverage from the AM Show in September are:

Mr. Big (Art Of Fighting series)
Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters series)
Iori Yagami (King of Fighters series)
Shermie (King of Fighters series)
Mr. Karate (Ryo Sakazaki from Buriki One)
Robert Garcia (Art Of Fighting series)
Lee Pailong (Art Of Fighting series)
Hotaru Futaba (Garou: Mark of the Wolves)
Kaede (The Last Blade series)
Moriya Minakata (The Last Blade series)
Akari Ichijou (The Last Blade series)
Cyber Woo (King of the Monsters series)

Another third-party title that was shown at the exhibit was Grev's Senkou no Rondo, which is slated to hit arcades in the spring on Sega's Naomi platform. Senkou no Rondo is a new breed of shooting game where you fight against a single opponent face-to-face. While Senkou no Rondo’s stage backgrounds are distinctly those of a shooting game, there are life bars on the top of the screen like a fighting game. Your objective in the game is to win two rounds by depleting the enemy's life meter with the use of bullet fire and close-range attacks.

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