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The Amusement Machine Show Experience

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The Amusement Machine Show is an annual event that takes place in Makuhari Messe, a convention center just outside Tokyo, Japan. Companies use this event to reveal cutting edge technology in arcade gaming and the latest adorable and quirky mascots.

Unko-san definitely fits into the latter category. Those of you who speak Japanese will already know that this translates to "Mr. Poo," and the name is apt. Mr. Poo, who was in attendance at the convention, lives on an island with lots of similar-looking friends and you can buy them all in plush form or as a keychain. A large-scale robotic version of Unko-san roamed the front of the booth, posing for photographs with children. Both his eyebrows and 'tail' wiggled independently. The booth staff noted my mixture of fascination and horror and offered me a cardboard Unko-san hat

I also attended an event hosted by Sega to promote Answer x Answer 2, an arcade trivia game. Comedy double act W Engine took part and played the game in front of a large group of hardcore stand-up fans. Perhaps more interesting than the group and the game were the trailers for Shining Force Cross and Tetris Dekaris, which I played later.

Unlike similar trade shows open to the public, the Amusement Machine Show is more sparsely attended. I waited only twenty minutes before I was able to try one of the latest arcade games that those in the know are talking about. Tetris Dekaris is the arcade version of Tetris with a single player mode, collaborative mode, and versus mode. The difference is that the controller is an oversized neon joystick that rises to just above your waist. You rest your hands on the globe and tap the button on the side to rotate the falling blocks. When your opponent is beating you, the large joystick vibrates.

This seems like a smart way to adapt Tetris for arcade gaming, where simply porting the game isn't going to offer anything new. By using a gimmick like the aforementioned control system, people will definitely want to try it out when they see it.

For the anime figure fans, there were Neon Genesis Evangelion human-scale figures on display. They stood at about the same height as the average human, but their anime proportions were not quite what I'd describe as 'human scale.' Two of the most famous characters from the show, Rei and Asuka, are available for 430,000 yen each, which is around 4,670 US dollars. The EVA-01 Unit is also available in a slightly bigger size.

Once last aspect of the event I enjoyed were the free casino machines. Gambling is illegal in Japan, but there are plenty of loopholes. Of the games available that offer a gambling-like experience, pachinko is probably the most popular. However, the pachinko halls are loud, smoky, and pretty intimidating. At certain manufacturers' booths, I was able to get a cupful of game coins to play as many times as I was able within the 'mini-casino' atmosphere of the booth, without having to confront the negative aspects of Japanese casinos.

Overall, it was a great look at some of the new arcade games that are coming up this year and next without the crowds I usually associate with these kinds of shows. That left me more room to wander around and more chances to plays the games themselves. The event is well worth it for those in Japan and something to keep an eye on for those overseas.

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