Shoot Outside of the Screen

This is going to be a somewhat unusual post, because unlike my previous ones, I’m not reviewing anything here. I’m introducing a new category to my portion of the blog, one dealing with whatever miscellaneous items I decide to put in. Kind of a long winded intro to a post that’s fairly simple by comparison, but oh well.

As the title might have clued some arcade-loving readers in, this post is about rail shooters, and my thoughts on them. I’m an avid fan of rail shooters. Absolutely love them and cannot get enough of them (not necessarily in one sitting. A lot of them tend to exacerbate carpal tunnel, after all). The title stems from one of my favorite video game series of all time, The House of the Dead (where the announcer prompts you to perform said action in order to reload. In the arcade ones anyway, on consoles you get a button for it. No idea what the Wii one is since I don’t have a Wii yet. Digression over). This post isn’t really about a specific game or series, though.

Light gun games evolved over decades of putting cabinets in arcades, getting player feedback, and refining. Something too easy would be removed, something too hard would be fixed. This went on for a while, but it’s come to a stop. Why? The advent of “next gen” graphics. Said graphics have utterly killed the rail shooter scene for the most part, and there are hardly any new properties being released in arcades as a result. The most recent this blogger can think of that’s arcade-specific is The House of the Dead 4 Special or maybe Time Crisis 4, though the latter received a port to the PlayStation 3. I mention that port for a very specific reason: it failed commercially, due to the utterly ridiculous peripheral released with it, the GunCon3. I own the game and GC3 and can safely say it’s a hassle to set up and the calibration of the gun is virtually impossible due to the small LED reading lights required for minute portions of the game being extremely fickle. Couple that with the second weakest entry in the series I’ve played, and you have yourself a bit of a problem.

Rail shooters are by their nature usually very difficult or of only average difficulty (it’s a rare one that is legitimately easy), and as such once the game is cleared, there’s generally nothing else to do. The player was guided by the hand through the game, and unless it offers branching paths like some The House of the Dead games do, there’s little else to explore in the game. Short length and lack of replayability serve to make developers shy away from this sort of game, especially considering arcades are hardly frequented as they used to be and consoles are much harder to develop for than they used to be, what with how complex games are nowadays.

The one saving grace for rail shooters is the Wii. It gets a lot of flak for having a seemingly endless stream of rail shooters intermixed in the hardcore games it gets, with titles like Ghost Squad, The House of the Dead: Overkill, and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (and soon Darkside Chronicles!) standing out in particular. People I know don’t seem to like the Wii because of this, they want more games like Super Mario Galaxy or Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Hardcore games? Well, sure, but the debate between hardcore and casual is something else entirely. My problem is people seem to want the genre to die and then turn around and hypocritically claim they wish arcades weren’t losing so much business, etc.

The rail shooter is a dying breed, and gamers are the only ones who can keep it alive. If you never liked a rail shooter, I’m not asking you to. If you do like rail shooters, I ask you to support them, in arcades if you have them nearby. All that’s left are games that have been released already and are just having cabinets shuffled around by this point. BlazBlue, a single game, single handedly rekindled the interest in fighting games for many people. Let’s work toward a similarly influential rail shooter.


~ by Vaikyuko on November 14, 2009.

2 Responses to “Shoot Outside of the Screen”

  1. I’m also a big fan of rail shooters. I played a ton of Virtua Cop, HotD and Time Crisis back in the day.

  2. I’m not a big fan of rail shooters,but i’m eagerly awaiting Darkside Chronicles too.RPGs and stuff are fun,but sometimes all you need is a gun and some heads to asplode~

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