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198X offers solace for the arcade generation today

Arcade teen dramaventure 198X is out today, or at least its first chapter is. Developers Hi-Bit Studios call it “a coming-of-age story told through multiple games and genres”. What that means is five loosely connected arcade games channelling Outrun, R-Type, Final Fight and Ninja Spirit, plus a dungeon-crawling RPG, all in the service of a larger story. While I still say the sprites are more ’90s than ’80s (but won’t get bogged down in that argument again), I can’t deny that they are gorgeous looking, both within the games and during the story vignettes.

While I’ve not gotten my hands on the game, I’ve virtually peeked over a friend’s shoulder and watched the first half of it (give or take) streamed, and it absolutely nails the arcade aesthetic. It’s not as intense as actual ’80s arcade games, of course. The opening beat ’em up segment has relatively passive enemies and they can be kept in line easily. The shmup segment lets you take a hit or two more than expected, and the driving segment is a low-impact ride designed to deliver narration rather than challenge. Still, I’d love to see all of them expanded into full length (and full-challenge) games, but I’m an old-school arcade nerd.

There’s rumblings in the treehouse of a review, but I’m not sure who’s working on that. What I’m most curious about is what Hi-Bit have planned for the release of the rest of the story, as no date or plans are listed on either its store pages or official site. Early adopters on Steam mention that it’s around an hour and a half long if you’re decent at arcade-style games, and the checkpoints and continues are generous (presumably the kid has a pocket full of coins) even if you’re not.

198X is out now for £9/€10/$10 on Steam and a little cheaper (for the UK, at least) on GOG.

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Dominic Tarason


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