marvelous, 2019

wacca was the exciting new arcade rhythm game back when i first started getting into them a couple of years ago. it’s quite attention-grabbing, with its circular screen and giant light-up ring controller (translator’s note: "wacca" (輪っか) means ring in japanese). despite this, when i saw one of the first cabs in japan deployed prominently at the front of the rhythm game section at an akihabara arcade, it wasn’t difficult to find an opening and play. meanwhile, there was always an (albeit short) line to play on one of the 6+ chunithm cabs. a portent of things to come, perhaps.

stateside, though, it was a completely different story. brand-new cabs were shipped out to every round 1, possibly a first for some of them. some even got two! but this time, the hype was there: people were actually playing. to be fair, many were casuals just checking it out for a credit or two because the cab looks interesting, however i also started seeing a few regulars who started getting kinda good (pretty rare at mine). even one of my friends got pretty deep into it. there were regular updates with tons of new original bangers by the game’s headlining “hardcore tano-c” team, veteran rhythm game music composers spurned by evil corporate behemoth konami and now striking it out on their own. the whole thing felt very soulful, and they even rolled out a US server right away for the american players used to years of being chronically neglected by konami and co. (although the game itself was completely untranslated).

wacca was one of the first examples of the most recent trend in arcade rhythm game design, which seems to be heavily themed around “funky controllers that cannot be replicated easily at home”. in retrospect, “just slap a couple of buttons together” is way too easy for any sufficiently-motivated nerd to copy and thus eat into your bottom line by playing at home for free, especially since you can even buy the same buttons they use on the actual arcade cabs directly from the manufacturer in some cases. the response in modern arcade rhythm game design has been to create increasingly exotic or unwieldy controls that are difficult to replicate for home enthusiasts and even the professional chinese knock-off artists who mass produce home controllers. many of them are in the shape of a circle (wacca, music diver, chrono circle) because scientifically circles are the hardest shape to replicate (i think). i for one have no qualms with this trend since i think the whole point of arcade games should be to offer gaming experiences that you can't really have at home. back in the old days, this meant going down to the arcade to play pacman and stuff because computer hardware that could run video games was prohibitively expensive then, and now it means going to the arcade to play circle games.

alas, wacca was not to last. it’s hard to say what did it in exactly but i think the game just came out at a really bad time: right before covid, which of course led to many lengthy arcade closures. combined with the initial lack of traction in japan, i think that was enough to snuff it out in the crib, although they certainly got a good couple years and several versions out of it. from what i saw, i think the game certainly had enough American devotees to potentially keep it afloat for years to come, but unfortunately the management seemed to care only about the performance in the japanese domestic market like many japanese companies. now the offline wacca cabs sit there in round 1, permanently offline, though they still seem to get a lot of foot traffic from casuals trying it out. the wacca regulars, on the other hand, have all disappeared. i’d like to think that perhaps they were able to pick up a cheap cab shipped out of japan and now play on the unofficial network fans have set up.

personally, i’ve been pretty lukewarm about wacca from the start. i got off on the wrong foot with it because i made the horrific mistake of first playing it in japan and logging in with my e-amusement pass, which for some reason made it completely incompatible with the US server. every time i tried to log in back home, it would say “Error: This card has data from another region”. i tried to log in online and see if there was some way to delete my japanese profile or disconnect the card but could find no way to do it. this meant that if i wanted to play with an actual account, i would have had to get a new amusement IC card (for some reason it wouldn’t take a pasmo card instead like some games), which would be a whole hassle and really left a sour taste in my mouth.

with regards to gameplay, it mostly feels to me like a strictly worse version of chunithm where the gimmick is “slide your hands all around the ring” instead of chunithm’s “raise your hands up and wiggle them around” air notes. i didn’t play many very difficult charts in wacca so take this with a grain of salt, but it felt like they didn’t make as much use of the whole ring as they could have, mostly keeping charts down at the bottom like chunithm (my friend who played a lot of wacca vehemently protests this so maybe i’m wrong). this puts it more or less on par with chunithm, but what made it worse to me is that for some reason the graphical design of the game or something just made charts unclear and hard to read. i felt like i would miss notes only because i couldn’t see them properly, which was really frustrating. this could have been caused by any number of things: poor color scheme, notes too thin, low-resolution screen.

either way, i don’t think the game was necessarily bad, it just wasn’t for me. one thing that irks me, though, is that they always seem to add the songs i would be most excited for to games i don’t really play, and possibly the worst example of this happened with wacca. one of the catchiest anime ops i have ever heard is the first pripara opening, “make it”. it’s the kind of song that should never-ever make it into an arcade rhythm game because it’s from a second-rate idol show watched only by little girls and deranged moriwacky makoto maniacs, and yet somehow of course it makes it into wacca and pretty much only wacca. not only that, they added it twice because they also added an original remix version! those were pretty much the only songs i played on wacca whenever i spotted a free credit. unfortunately since they were licenses, now that the cabs are offline they have both been removed and consequently i never play wacca anymore.