The best and the weirdest new games in Japanese arcades

When the going gets weird, the weird head to Akihabara

"While many claim that there are no arcades any more – the reality is that amusement machines now populate a diverse selection of venues," says Kevin Williams.

"Many of the latest amusement titles make land-fall in the UK in the capital, with one of the biggest and most up-to-date sites being the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus – with the latest new machines on test. Another major venue is the County Hall site just by the London Eye – run by Namco, offering a broad mix of the latest and greatest."

What is more, if you are particularly lucky, you might find that you live near to one of those chosen arcade sites where the likes of Sega, Konami and others like to drop in their latest machines for anonymous testing purposes.

TechRadar also understands that Konami usually tests machines in locations in West London close to its UK office. They also tend to do this without publicising the test so that they are able to "true" figures on the potential of the machine and see how the general public get on with the product, instead of getting skewed figures from core players.

DANCE to the music  konami s latest ddr machines are always popular

DANCE TO THE MUSIC: Konami's latest DDR machines are always popular

"The leading amusement manufacturers have special relationships with distributors in the UK who place many of the new releases on test at special locations," says Williams, "and these test sites are dotted around the capital."

The hardcore highlights of AOU 2010

While attendance was slightly down at AOU 2010, the excitement amongst the hardcore about new games such as Metal Gear Arcade and Gundam VS made visiting the show all the more worthwhile for the arcade faithful that had made their annual pilgrimage to the Makuhari Messe just outside of Tokyo.

"The 24th All Nippon Amusement Machine Operator's Union event (AOU'10) was a great mix of the weird and the wonderful," says Kevin Williams. "The crowds that filled the public day proved the still strong support in the home market that amusement has achieved."

METAL dreams  konami s 3d enabled metal gear arcade features head tracking

METAL DREAMS: Konami's 3D-enabled Metal Gear Arcade features head-tracking

In Williams' opinion, "Konami's Metal Gear Arcade was the game of the show; Sega also brought its own big concept game to the show with Project DIVA Arcade, competing with other games from Konami and Namco; and returning to a more traditional line, Namco Bandai have Deadstorm Pirates that offers two player enclosed cabinet shooting action with a strong graphical representation – based on the PS3 arcade hardware variant."

One of the big surprise successes at AOU was the appearance of the American developed gun game, Terminator Salvation – "based on the motion picture this old-school amusement shooter proved a game that can compete with the best of them," as did Taito's UK-developed GAIA ATTACK 4 – "a four-player shooting extravaganza that utilized a unique presentation of overlaid graphics on real world surroundings."

For the hardcore, a glimpse of a video demo of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown was the biggest thrill from Sega at this year's AOU, which game director Daiichi Katagiri promises will be the "ultimate form for Virtua Fighter 5." While a few other interesting titles from Sega were Border Break 1.5 and bonkers 2D fighter Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code.

TERMINATOR salvation  traditional hardcore arcade action

TERMINATOR SALVATION: Traditional hardcore arcade action

Namco Bandai's biggest AOU announcement was also a video teaser of the new Gundam fighting game, Gundam Extreme VS, which makes use of the PlayStation 3-based System 357 arcade board. Namco Bandai's pirate-themed gun game Dead Storm Pirates also attracted a lot of attention, as did street racer Wangan Midnight Maximum Tuned 3DX Plus.

Over at the Konami booth, rhythm-action fans were treated to new updates in the popular Bemani series including GuitarFreaks XG, DanceDanceRevolution X2, and jubeat knit.

But it was Konami's playable debut of the aforementioned Metal Gear Arcade that really stole the show, an offshoot of the PS3's Metal Gear Online in which everything is viewed in 3D via a rather fetching pair of 3D goggles which also feature head-tracking to allow you to control your sights in the game, set targets and scroll the screen with your head movements. In addition to that, you aim and fire with the game's gun peripheral, which also has a stick for moving your character.

METAL gear goggles  3d head tracking tech developed by konami

METAL GEAR GOGGLES: 3D head-tracking tech developed by Konami

It is the kind of experience the arcade was made for – a sublime gaming experience that is so technically advanced that we are unlikely to be able to replicate it on home console for some years to come.

If you can find the full eight cabinet setup in your local arcade, we urge you to throw some money at it, if you want a taste of what proper 3D gaming can be. Konami is actually planning to introduce goggle vending machines in arcades, for those gamers that don't like the idea of donning a headset worn by hundreds of others before them.