Save Point brought a whole bevy of Japanese arcade music games to DragonCon this year. I am of two minds of them: it’s definitely niche and I’m in favor of that, and it’s nice to see a genre like this represented well. But they brought so many of them, and they were stationed close to the board gaming area, which made it very difficult to be heard there. Throughout most of the con you had to nearly shout to be heard in that area! I couldn’t get into any board games because of it. Hopefully next year they’ll find a way to better isolate the music games from attractions more suited to a quiet atmosphere.
Still, I will set aside my grudge against wrecking my Le Havre experience this year in order to document, via my cell phone, the many music games that appeared in 2023. Here we go:
That just may exhaust what I can milk from my DragonCon attendance this year. Back to our usual beats!
DragonCon has had a variety of gaming options going back at least a decade.
They used to have, for a surprisingly long time really, a set of networked Battletech pods that some people would dutifully bring every year, with N64-level graphics, that had a dedicated following. The pods were made up in an immersive fashion, in a way that suggested perhaps a connection to the old Battletech Centers, which appear to still be in operation. I hear those stopped coming to DragonCon due to COVID and have yet to return. Weirdly, the pen-and-paper version of Battletech itself, which was almost dead for a long while, made it to DragonCon this year in huge fashion.
They have a board game area where for a $10 fee you can check out a game to play for a while. Sadly I found that area completely unusable this year, despite bringing two of my own board games (Le Havre and Caylus) to play there: its proximity to the music arcade game area (post forthcoming on that) made it impossible to be heard except by almost shouting. There were other tables, but also a lot of competition between Magic, dexterity games, demos, figure painting, Warhammer, Battletech, and a big area devoted to “US Army E-sports,” a phrase that fills me with sadness to type.
Also on the gaming floor was an area where one could check out PC and console games and systems and play them. I found their selection a bit lacking; I have a few personal systems I had emailed them about bringing, but as in the past when I’ve reached out about such things, I never got a response. I suppose that’s understandable, but it’d have been nice to let people play Dreamcast or Saturn games from my own collection.
The console gaming group ran three “challenge run” tournaments where you could try to complete objectives on NES games for prizes. I entered all three (finish all the levels in Super Mario Bros 3 World 1, finish any five levels of Mega Man 2, and a Link to the Past randomizer) but despite playing fairly well, by my standards at least, didn’t win any of them. Pretty good game players among DragonCon’s visitors this year!
Somewhere at the convention was a setup for Artemis Bridge Simulator, which could be thought of as a more elaborate and serious-minded version of Spaceteam. Its location didn’t lie tangent to my con travels this year, but it was mentioned in the con materials. (I suspect it was upstairs somewhere in the Westin.)
I had thought to bring my 2DS and see if I could get some Street Passes, with big conventions like DragonCon being one of the few places left that one could hope to get significant activity, but the odds that more than a handful had thought to both bring their 3DS-type systems and have them on their persons and in sleep mode through the con seem to be slim in 2023. Anyway, I didn’t bring mine.
So now we come to the Gamecube “panels,” which were actually just a bunch of Gamecubes and Wiis set up with classic Gamecube games, along with some entertaining display decoration. No speakers, no podiums, just a bunch of seats, systems, players, and some staff.
There were four of these this year, each late at night in the Westin Augusta ballroom, themed after multiplayer, Super Mario, Zelda and Smash Bros, in order. Really though, they all were primarily multiplayer themed. I showed up for two nights, the first and Zelda ones, and on Zelda night I mostly spent the time showing people how to finish NES The Legend of Zelda, giving directions for getting through the overworld and dungeons from memory. The people there expressed concern over the game’s difficulty, and how many of them couldn’t complete it, as a kid or even now; evidently they don’t watch many speedrunners.
There were the predictable Melee players, of course. Super Smash Bros Melee’s influence on the series, and on gaming as a whole, is unmistakable. After all, each Nintendo console since then has had to have support for Gamecube controllers, in some way, just to allow Melee masters to have their favorite playstyles, and Nintendo keeps making (or at least licensing) the production of new Gamecube-compatible controllers specifically for that scene.
But my favorite game at the Gamecube panels had to have been Kirby Air Ride, in City Trial mode. I’ve mentioned my fondness for this game here before, but to give a brief refresher: multiple Kirbys zoom around on Warp Stars, whose speeds rival those of the cars in F-Zero, through a large (though not too large) city area, searching for powerups, and boxes that contain more powerups. Players can interact with each other, and can change vehicles. Random events occur. After a set time, they’re all thrown into a random event (from a large selection) with the customized vehicle they made during the game. It’s a surprising amount of fun, and I was pleased to find other players there at least as fanatical about City Trial as I was. I think it’s one of the best multiplayer games on the system.
I had brought a few multiplayer Gamecube games of my own, including Wario Ware: Mega Party Games ($900 on Amazon!) and Ribbit King ($362), but as with the console group they were uninterested. Understandable of course, I brought them along only in the off chance. Just, slightly sad.
Here are pictures I took of the Gamecube event:
Next time, a look at the many music games they had this year. I think that’s the extent of my game-related pictures, so please be patient a little longer!
More low-effort posts about game things spotted at Atlanta’s pop culture mega-convention.
A Cosmic Smash cabinet!
That recent arcade port of NES obscurity Mr. Gimmick!
A 2007 arcade version of Rhythm Heaven, completely in Japanese! This was perhaps the coolest game at the convention.
Sadly blurry in this shot, but: Space Invaders! Without the color overlay though. The monitor didn’t work for like two entire days, too.
Twilight Zone pinball, this picture being of the time I nearly completed the door but lost my last ball before collecting that hated Question Mark! (Don’t worry though, the next day I came back and did it, and played Lost In The Zone. I left with the #2 score on the machine–although oddly, it seems someone else who plays these games also has my initials? JWH? Their Terminator 2 machine’s scoreboard is full of JWH but I’ve never played it!)
The games were brought this year by Save Point, who mostly provided Japanese games and some pinballs, and Joystick Gamebar, which provided a good number or retro arcade machines and more pinball, including that Twilight Zone.
I’ve got hundreds of pictures that I’ve yet to sift through. More tomorrow!
For some reason, the Hilton Atlanta’s public spaces were decorated with a Mario theme. Here’s some documentation:
Right about now is where I’d put in some pseudo-witty comment about this, but as I write this I’m still at the convention. I needed something fairly low effort to put up, and these pictures were already on my phone. This also explains the tuber-esque quality of the images. More photos tomorrow, probably!