Tokyo Game Centre series

Suzuka 8 Hours 2

Suzuka 8 Hours was a 1992 motorcycle racing game where you sit on tilting plastic bikes. Focusing on replicating the Japanese motorsport event of the same name (albeit with a slightly shorter time limit for your ¥100) it offered only one track, like a sort of po-faced Super Hang On. The Japan-only sequel hit the following year with four tracks, suggesting the original concept may have been a little restrictive in its purity.

It plays nicely enough even though it’s undeniably very dated, but it’s the cabinet that makes it. In contrast to my complaints about Space Harrier — where the movement of the sit-in part is a tacked-on novelty, quite unrelated to the game —here, it’s actually the control scheme. You tilt the bike to steer, and activate the throttle and brake lever on the handles. If even Tetris Dekarisu’s giant joystick gave a simple game some engaging physicality, you can imagine how involving it is to steer Suzuka completely with your body weight.

Suzuka is two-player and lots of fun, but climbing up on these bright red and green things with tiny retro screens is not as cool as sitting at the wheel of a slick modern racer. Of course it’s not fair to make that comparison, but with a few tweaks, I wonder if a modernised bike racing cabinet could compete in today’s arcade. It surprises me that there haven’t been more machines in this vein since the 90s.

A modern version of this cabinet could be so good.

 

How good a modern bike racer could be

How do we modernise Suzuka? First up, we upgrade the cabinet tech. The original lacks force feedback, leaving you to flop the bike around without any resistance. If instead it forcibly righted itself as you powered out of corners, and tilted backwards and forwards to simulate acceleration and deceleration, it would be thrilling. Add a gentle rumble through the bike for the engine and bumps in the racing surface and you’d have something incredibly immersive.

Next, we address the image issue: we need to rope in the groups of kids who head to the game centre for a night on the racers. Set it on the streets with some serious real bikes, or go Neo Tokyo and Akira it up. This is surely an accessible fantasy for boys and girls who actually do cruise the bright lights of Shibuya and Ikebukuro on scooters, bf/gf on the back. We could even make it into a date game by having player two ride pillion à la Double Dash — or even just adding a non-player seat to ride along and watch.

I’m imagining something along the lines of Gunslinger Stratos: manga-style IP with great 60" screens on stylishly produced cabinets in a row of four. We throw in all the mod cons of smart cards, player character progression, social sharing, and nationwide competitions, and it’s a hit.

I don’t think any such thing exists, unfortunately. So if you find an old Suzuka cab, jump on and imagine what it could be…

 

🎮💡

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