Title: Tokyo Wars
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
Date Published: 1995
Platforms: Arcade (Namco Super System 22)
Age Rating: N/A

In the mid-1990's the arcade videogame sector was in a healthier state than today. The recent shift towards texture-mapped, polygonal 3D had resulted in a proliferation of new games in the driving, shooting and fighting genres (the arcade holy trinity). Racing games, built as twin sit-down cabinets (often with system link capabilities to allow 4-16 players on adjacent cabs) had become popular even outside of traditional arcade venues, with realistic graphics and controls that appealed to a wider audience than just arcade diehards and kids. In a bid to differentiate their products in this new highly novelty-driven sector, Sega, Namco and Konami were beginning to experiment with adapting as many forms of transport as they could think of to the large cabinet form factor (horses, skis, jetskis, motorcycles...).

Namco were riding high on the success of Ridge Racer and Rave Racer, and naturally wanted to use the same technology in some more varied titles. One of the results was Tokyo Wars, a tank combat game (a genre pretty much unexploited since BattleZone) supporting two to eight players. The game shipped in two styles of cabinet, a traditional scale twin sit-down cabinet (the style you most commonly see used for Sega Rally in most places), and a deluxe version with 50" projection screens and pneumatic haptic control (to simulate recoil). As those of you with Maths GCSE may have figured out by now, up to four of these cabinets could be networked together. The tanks are controlled using a yoke-shaped steering wheel (with fire buttons for the tank cannon on the face), and accelerate and brake pedals.

Tokyo Wars is intended to be a competitive game- there is little point in playing alone against the A.I. At the start, each player chooses which of the two teams they want to join (white or green), and which model of tank they want to drive. Each of the teams is made up of twenty or so tanks, the remainder of the teams controlled by the A.I. The tanks drive around a modern urban environment (Tokyo, presumably) with the intention of destroying all the tanks on the other team. The game ends when the time limit expires or all of the tanks on one team have been vanquished. If a player's tank is destroyed, their control will switch to one of the remaining tanks on their team. The game is viewed from the first person. The screen display includes a time readout, an indicator of how many tanks remain on each team, a damage bar and a radar display of the surrounding area.

The gameplay, when played against human opponents, is fast, loud and easy to control. Steering the tank is very intuitive, and there are no dead ends or Austin Powers-style intractable 3 point turns to bog down the combat. Getting an enemy tank in your sights requires a fair amount of skill (with the exception of a few A.I. controlled Sunday drivers), and the tank's cannon has a delayed action with a longish reload time, making it impossible to spray shots around wildly. When it gets down to the last few tanks the game becomes a tense game of cat and mouse.

The graphics have dated in the familiar blocky, unfiltered way that is now largely taken for granted with the winding down of coin-op graphical enhancement. It looks pretty much like a Playstation game but at least maintains a high frame rate and ensures that the tanks are always distinguishable from their surroundings.

Although definitely rarer than most of the more traditional driving games around, Tokyo Wars must be at least reasonably popular, as I know of at least a handful of these machines that have been in active service practically since the game was launched. And it just goes to show that once in a while Namco have an original idea. (Unless you consider the game to be a thinly veiled rip-off of 1974's Tank!, in which case there's no pleasing you...)

There is a loose clone of Tokyo Wars, titled Tank Wars and created in Shockwave, available here:
http://www.shockwave.com/sw/content/tankwars

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