Event Report: StepManiaX at BASHCon

While anime/comic conventions are a dime a dozen these days, the area I live in is quite dry when it comes to gaming-focused events. Although it is predominantly based on tabletop gaming, the closest event attempting to capture this spirit is BASHCon. The console space gets dominated by Super Smash Bros., but the inclusion of a local vendor allows for plenty of interesting arcade machines to be implemented at an event with low admission costs and short lines to play the games.

The highlighted machine at the 2020 event was the recently-released StepManiaX, which serves as pretty much the only way to have an up-to-date dancing rhythm game machine for arcades that aren’t Round One or Dave & Busters. The machine lives on with the spirit of the popular In the Groove series, and this latest attempt to offer a DanceDanceRevolution alternative comes with a very sleek and user-friendly design.

While a DDR cabinet is a bulky spectacle of a cabinet, the StepManiaX setup has a narrow design for its base, with a wide, touch-screen monitor for its display. Despite its smaller design, it’s still an attention-grabber with the neon blue lighting and compact – yet powerful – speaker system.

The dance stage also echoes the sleek, yet functional, implementation of the main cabinet. StepManiaX adds a centered panel to step on, making it a 5-panel dancing game without the diagonal inputs of Andamiro’s Pump it Up series. StepManiaX’s stage also isn’t as bulky as the dance machines that come before it, with the bonus of not having screws and metal brackets jutting out of the design. The StepManiaX machine feels great on the feet, and, being a new machine, the inputs were flawless.

The meat of the gameplay feels just like the In the Groove games that came before StepManiaX, with staple songs from that series re-appearing for a nostalgia nod. The gameplay interface is very clean, leaving the majority of the screen space for the scrolling notes. Players will immediately notice the removal of the genre’s staple “static arrows” at the top of the screen to indicate where arrows must be input, but, from my understanding, it’s another interface element for which Konami has a patent claim. Even though it seems to be a strange “omission” for dancing game, I never felt it had an impact on my timing or gameplay.

The user interface is handled entirely through touch inputs, which is another facet of StepManiaX that allows it to streamline the game and eliminate extra machine space needed for buttons. The menus all flowed nicely together and the game gives plenty of options to the player that range from scrolling modifiers to a number of note/arrow skins.

A playerbase for the game attended the event specifically to play the game, so the multiple game modes also received much play. The doubles charts received some attention, as well as a co-op/team mode that has two players using the full scope of the pad to target color-coded arrows intended for a specified player. While my one day at the event only exposed me to a small fraction of the songs and charts available in StepManiaX, most of the doubles and co-op charts were very well designed.

The developer also seems very mindful of the long-term performance of the game, as one of the game’s multiple updates dropped during the event. The machine’s owner was still able to grab the update while at a remote event and apply it for an on-the-fly update that added more song content (including a new Boom Boom Dollar remix) to StepManiaX. Seeing the update applied in such an easy and practical manner was such a positive for the product on how it can implemented in virtually any arcade compared the internet-connection or hardware enforced updates of similar machines.

Overall, if you enjoyed In the Groove, there is a ton to like about StepManiaX. While I still very much enjoy Konami’s music game efforts, StepManiaX is proving to be one of the most viable alternatives to series in quite some time.

Outside of StepManiaX, I was able to put a little more time on pop’n music and Sound Voltex, but there was another Konami cabinet called Scotto at the event. Despite its strange design, most people stateside can begin to identify with it when you compare it to beer pong.

The Scotto cabinet is elongated in design, featuring a setup of pads players can bounce table-tennis style balls off of in the hopes of landing them inside a funnel. There is also a surface in front of the player that the ball has to bounce off first, and what results is actually a pretty intense game.

There are multiple game modes including a time attack where players have a few rounds to merely get as many points into the funnel as possible, a mission mode where players have to meet certain requirements within a time limit and a crazy trick mode that tasks players with bouncing the ball off very specific pads on the playfield and landing it inside the funnel.

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Scotto was one of those games that people had to see in action to understand the appeal. It largely sat unplayed the first part of the day, but after myself and a few other began playing, it clicked with others and then the lineup started forming. People began formulating personal-best scores in the time attack mode, and interest in the game grew.

It’s certainly a game that came out of nowhere for me, but I could see it being very successful in locations where groups of friends would gather and participate in competitive matches for points.

BASHCon also hosts a local indie developer called No Extra Lives, which has also been a gaming staple of the event for a number of years. The main attraction for the developer is a game called Epic Crab Battle, which is a cocktail-style multiplayer game.

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A player is seated at each end of the game display and they have the goal of navigating a tricky platforming field while a giant crab acts like Donkey Kong in continually lobbing barrels onto the playfield. The player needs to grab a bomb from their section of the game field and take it to the other end of the playfield to damage the opponent’s crab. Part of the game also relies on “defense” as you can also use your bomb to stop the other player and force them to respawn back in their own playfield if they get too close to your crab.

While I don’t have much interest in tabletop gaming overall, BASHCon still features a lot to do for attendees, including competitions, an open play area and a vendor section for purchases. It’s run by a student organization, so the costs are reasonably low for a weekend event, and it always helps that it is close. Hopefully the 2021 event will continue to deliver more arcade goodness with the support of local vendors.

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Categories: GemuBaka Events

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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