Small arms games finally feel good on modern screens. It’s time Namco, Sega and more brought them back


It’s time to bring back a classic genre.

What kinds of games have suffered such a painful decline that the genre almost no longer exists? Brawlers, perhaps – Final Fight characters now live inside Street Fighter, and attempts to revive Golden Ax have stalled – although it can be argued that a certain breed of game 3D character action grew out of that, and last year we had a solid revival in Streets of Rage 4. Arcade sports games seem to have pulled out of the mainstream – independent efforts appear every now and then. , but I wonder if we’ll ever have a game like NBA Jam, Red Card Football, or NFL Blitz.

But no. The most ailing of all kinds is the light gun shooter – and it’s not even completely the games’ fault.

It’s fair to say that the games were partly to blame. In the mid-2000s, titles like Time Crisis 4 and a slew of Wii small arms shooters came out – but at a time when games swelled in size, length, and complexity, roller coasters were an hour long. of an arcade game with small arms additional bonuses seemed a less than generous value proposition. Some games packed with extra modes to try and make up for that – slightly lousy first-person shooter-style extras that arguably dragged the rest of the pack down. Releasing a bunch of all-time FPS games didn’t help either – things like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 delivered the cinematic feel that was previously the province of arcade shooters.

It wasn’t entirely the games’ fault, however. The other factor was technology. As the world moved to LCD and LED flat screens, lightweight guns had one problem: The traditional mechanism by which the gun registers where you point flat on the screen doesn’t work on modern screens. That’s why, if you bought one of the few PS3 small arms games, you had to throw a bunch of bullshit around your TV to play. This is why the genre was so prevalent on Wii, where a sensor bar was an integral part of the console setup. That’s why in real-life arcades, modern shooting machines like the newer House of the Dead have huge bezels around the screen – they hide the sensors.

This generation’s sales of small arms games have proven the grim truth. People couldn’t be bothered by this stuff. I barely played Time Crisis 4, a game that I had played several times in arcades, because I was too lazy to play with the sensors. In many ways, TC4’s PS4 release seemed to herald the end, perfectly exemplified in Namco’s hideous GunCon 3 accessory design, smashing a series of iconic PlayStation light pistols with a hideous design who soldered a Wii Nunchuk to the front of the gun, a concession to the previously mentioned add-on modes designed to flesh out the set.

On Wii, however, the genre was booming. Endless gun-shaped plastic shells for the Wii Remote filled every bargain in the country. But the Wii Light pistols had an open secret: They weren’t quite right. The Wii solution worked like a mouse pointer, which meant that instead of instinctively aiming, you dragged a cursor across the screen. The cursor wasn’t even as precise as where you were actually aiming, and that meant the magical feeling of being a sniper, a true Clint Eastwood – was gone. You were a guy who moved a laser pointer.

For years, a solution seemed out of reach. But finally, we have one: the Sinden Light Gun. This solution comes from a small arms fanboy in the UK, who after servo-control to create a prototype of his idea led him to Kickstarter. This Kickstarter (which, full disclosure, I supported) raised £ 239,000, and since the guns started shipping an additional £ 1.75million has been raised for further production runs via IndieGoGo.

The Sinden raised so much money because it darn well works. It looks like black magic. In many cases, it actually seems more accurate than the lightweight CRT guns it aims to replace. It’s no longer crowdfunding – it’s a fledgling business for its creator. The pistols now come in multiple colors (red, blue, and black) and can be used with or without arcade-style recoil when you squeeze the trigger or pull its pump reload.

Here is a basic explanation of how it works. Rather than a simple sensor, the barrel of the light pistol actually contains a camera. On the game side, a small border is drawn around the visual output of the game – depending on the conditions you are playing in, it can be as little as 1% or 2% of the screen. When the gun is pointed at the screen, rather than at the game, it searches for the border – then uses smart image recognition and a software trick to figure out where exactly in that border you’re aiming. He then sends that back to the game, and … shoots that target, militia soldier, duck, or alien.

No sliders (unless you want them). Very little lag. Minimal or zero calibration specific to the game. It’s a dream. Yes, the first setup was a bit of a hassle – the Sinden setup app gives you a lot of options in a very raw, unfiltered, and yet unpolished way, so I had to look into the official wiki and ask for advice to the beautiful Discord Community that has sprung up around the gun. Once I got past that it was okay. I experimented with my Sinden light pistols, pushing them as far as they could go, and, well – they just work. Simple like.

When I say I pushed them I mean how far they can go beyond light pistols or traditional pointers. For example, the 3D tracking technology built into the software means the gun is always accurate when standing at an angle to the screen. As long as he can see the border, it works. I played the early stages of Time Crisis standing at a wrong 45 degree angle – it worked really well. Moving around mid-game will not lose your calibration. In general, you can stand further back, at angles, and actively move more than with the alternatives.

I tried different screens – a 50in 4K OLED, an older 24in LCD screen that sits behind the protective plexiglass front of an arcade machine, and a larger curved LED screen. Everything worked. This was all possible with two pistols and players too. I even ran it on a projector, which meant House of the Dead on a 100 inch screen, which is, you know, the dream. (By the way, the 3D tracking makes me wonder if the Konami Police 9/11 arcade shooter, which had a full body detection setup, could somehow be emulated with this gun).

The Sinden Gun is most comfortable on a PC or Raspberry Pi, but is actually compatible with a range of older machines, including PS1 and PS2, although you will need a Raspberry Pi or similar. as an “intermediate” machine to run the software. Some of the Light Gun PC games designed to be played with the mouse only work with this gun, like the old discontinued versions of House of the Dead 1-3. There are even a decent number of small arms shooters lurking on Steam. And, of course, the gun pairs perfectly with modern or classic arcade shooter emulators or dumps – as long as you’re allowed to play it.

In any event. I am amazed by this thing. It’s amazing technology, and what’s particularly exciting is that in many ways it’s still in its infancy. Production is still very “independent”, and the software is always regularly updated to bring more features, settings, stability and functionality. Maybe I was predisposed to hope it worked; I’m a fan of small arms, own a few arcade machines, had used a lot of functional but less satisfying Wii-style weapons for emulation, and supported the kickstarter. But it has already generously exceeded my expectations. The biggest downside, while subjective, is probably the price, which is reasonable but not exactly cheap – £ 80 for a recoilless weapon, £ 130 with and £ 155 / £ 250 for two-player packs with or without recoil. . But it is hoped, if these things take off, that mass production could bring prices down.

And that brings me to the final point of this article. Video Game Publishers – Calling You. Bandai Namco, Sega – you are a couple in particular – there is no more excuse. Light Gun Games can now run on modern screens. It’s time for the Time Crisis, Point Blank, House of the Dead and Virtua Cop collections on modern hardware. We’ve heard of remakes of HOTD 1 and 2 before – but honestly, these games don’t need to be remade or even remastered. They just need to work, and to be compatible with this new technology – which is already the case thanks to PC emulation. If a developer builds a port and does not support technology similar to this, they should remove it. There is also a range of newer small arms games that have been trapped in arcades – Time Crisis 5, House of the Dead 4, and Scarlet Dawn, and many arcade shooters from other publishers have no ports. of attachment.

Sinden Gun technology is owned by its creator, but he has already shown a willingness to work with third parties. Arcade1Up mini-arcade cabinet producer has used Sinden technology for the weapons of its Big Buck Hunter machine, which is now available, and the Polymega all-in-one retro console is launching an officially licensed weapon powered by Sinden to that players can experience classic shooters on their Machines. Sinden’s software could easily run in the background on PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch – and the PC solution already exists. All we need are official versions of the games and the publishers to pick up the phone and license this technology.

Basically: it’s time for GunCon 4, powered by Sinden. We can dream, right? And even if that doesn’t happen, at least we now have a reliable and accurate way to play the classics.

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