summary: My experience playing Wacca and other arcade rhythm games for the first time
You might know that I love the music label Hardcore Tano*C. They have the honour of being my current favourite posse of sad DJ men. (yes, I am a fan of more than one posse of sad DJ men). I love them so much they have a whole shrine on this very site! Lucky them tbh, I don't do that for just anyone.
As a certified Tano*C enjoyer, I know a lot of useless information about them. Like how they have their own rhythm game, Wacca. I had a whole section about Wacca when I was drafting the text for the shrine, but then I thought it was kind of silly to talk about a game I had never actually played. As fun as it looks on YouTube, you can't really judge it if you haven't played, right?
And tbh, I thought I'd never be able to play it. We obviously have arcades here, but rhythm games are nowhere to be seen. Like you will go to a seaside pier and maybe there will be one 10+ year old DDR clone if you're lucky. It's honestly really sad. I don't play console, PC or smartphone games anymore but I know if I had an arcade with proper rhythm games near me I would visit a lot. There's something "larger than life" about these kinds of games with the crazy control schemes, huge screens and of course, anime girls. Still, apparently that's not what people want from arcades here.
However, after some research using the great zenius-i-vanisher arcade finder, It turns out, there is one (1) Wacca console in the whole of the UK. It's at FreePlayCity, which is in North London. This place is aimed specifically at "gamers" and rhythm game fans. Hence why they have more interesting stuff than your typical arcade.
I don't live in London, but I live near enough that it's not difficult to take a day trip. Just as I was noncommittally considering taking a visit, I heard the devastating news: Wacca's online services are going to be taken down in August. It's safe to say that the game is on its way out.
This filled me with a new sense of urgency. I mean, I don't think they'll get rid of the machine once it goes offline, like I don't think it'll completely stop working? But still, I didn't know that for sure. I still didn't want to take the risk that it could be gone soon. This could be the final chance!
So now it's summer, and I have a lot of free time. I thought it was finally time to do some first hand Tano*C research! Wacca here we come.
I decided to bring my best friend along for moral support, since I don't like travelling very far on my own. We had to get the train, and then the tube to the arcade. I've never taken the tube without my parents (Londoners are screaming as I write this) so I was a little nervous about getting lost. Luckily, it was ridiculously easy. Plus, I've been watching a lot of Not Just Bikes videos so it really made me appreciate how convenient our public transport is.
Once we got off the tube it was a 10 minute walk to the industrial estate where the arcade is, this was also easy to find. But it turns out, trying to find the building itself was the real challenge. It's a bit of a maze. Luckily, the directions on their twitter helped!
To the right is a pic of the outside. As you can see, it's kind of unassuming. The inside is pretty big though. It's £10 per person to enter, and you get free play on all the machines!
Obviously, I did not just have a turn on Wacca then leave. Here I will quickly review the other games I played!
Pop'n Music fans, please tell me if this is funny.
I completely took the L while playing Pop'n Music. It's super cute tho, I can see why it's so popular. I love all the cute characters.
Meanwhile, I picked up jubeat festo immediately and loved it. The machine is super pretty and the touch screen reminds me of jelly cubes. I also like the tropical theme. The online matching thing was kind of annoying (I never worked out if there was a way to turn it off) but apart from that I loved it. Tapping the screen is a pretty intuitive mechanic and felt like you were hacking a computer in a sci-fi movie or something. Wikipedia compares it to Whac-a-mole and that definitely feels apt!
Right in the corner they had Beatmania IIDX. I was kinda underwhelmed since it's meant to be The Rhythm Game™. But for me, the buttons are kinda cramped and not that satisfying to press. I love the record spinning mechanic though.
Meanwhile, Taiko no Tatsujin is as fun as people say. Getting to play with the actual drums is super satisying, if loud. I feel like the sensors weren't 100% accurate since they have to deal with a lot of wacking. Selecting a song is kinda hard though imo cause it's all in Japanese and there is no visual element. Like it doesn't do the thing other games do where you get a album cover preview or a banner. It's Kanji all the way down and the song previews were difficult to hear for me. However, while I was blindly selecting a song I somehow accidentally managed to select Polyrhythm by Perfume??? What a good coincidence lol.
They took everything from me
I think maimai is very cute! The sliding mechanic is hard to get the hang of but I think I got it in the end. Although they get points docked for not being able to licence capsule songs and just having two terrible covers???? I'm a huge capsule fan so to me this is like heresy. Then again, it's not like Yasutaka Nakata needs any more money.
I did not have fun playing Museca. Probably because I chose a really hard lapix song because I didn't recognize any of the other artists and I thought I could handle how hard it was. I absolutely couldn't though lmao. Also, the worst part is that in the mode I chose you can't "fail" or exit out of the game once it starts so I was stuck completely floundering in the difficulty. It felt super embarrassing with all the rhythm game pros around me OTL.
shhhh he's sleeping
Me and bestie played DDR together. We were bad, but I was especially bad because of my tiny legs. This is all I am going to disclose.
Sound Voltex was turned off which was sad since for me it feels pretty iconic. Apparently it's hard though, so maybe that was good. I'd just be embarrassing myself even more 😭
Groove Coaster meanwhile, was an unexpected hit with me and bestie (they liked all the Undertale music) I've seen footage of it before and was kinda underwhelmed. But it's actually soooo fun to play. Getting into a "groove" (heh) was super satisfying! And all the effects flying at you on the huge screen are great. My only criticism is that their token waifu mascot is just kinda generic. Although, she reminds you to collect your things when you finish a session and I think that's cute :)
Dancerush sadly wasn't working. This was very crushing for me since it's the other reason I went apart from Wacca. I wanted to play Crazy Shuffle :((( Still, just being in its presence while turned off was a little awe inspiring. It's really big!
Yes, I was playing on easy mode
Speaking of awe inspiring, here she is! The main event.
I have to say, it's super satisfying to play. It's weird but the touch panel has a nice texture... It's kinda squishy almost.
As for the gameplay, it's very easy to understand. The screen and touchpad are circular. When the notes on screen hit the judgement line, you tap the corresponding area on the touchpad. There are different types of notes as well, where you hold a note or move your hands in a certain direction.
Hold notes could sometimes ruin the momentum of the song, but when they come in at the right time it's great. All the "woosh" sound effects are fun. Maimai gets visually compared to a washing machine, but Wacca actually feels like being in a washing machine almost.
The UI is really intuitive and easy to navigate since it's so colourful and bright. Plus, the text was in English. I also love the designs of the mascots; Elisabeth, Lily and Rune. They're so cute! (Elizabeth and Lily are floating next to this container rn)
Obviously, the song choice is good! Pretty much every member of Hardcore Tano*C has contributed to the tracklist. If you're not a Hardcore Tano*C fan there's still a variety of songs to choose from. Like you have the token Touhou, anime and vocaloid options. But really I think most people are there for the Tano*C songs. Or at least I was lol.
My favourite map that I played was Battle No. 1! It was hard but I had to... and it was super fun despite the difficulty. I wish I'd had more goes at it honestly, but I didn't want to hog the machine. Looking back I should have just not worried about it lol.
While some rhythm games make the player look extremely cool, Wacca is not one of those. Like, it's recommended to wear gloves which already makes you look like a bit of a twat, and on top of that you're desperately pawing at a circular screen and waving your arms around, as opposed to delicately tapping or whatever. I wonder if this lack of "coolness" perhaps contributed to its downfall. Although I mean you are playing a rhythm game. There's not a lot of dignity to begin with lol.
I suspect the actual reason is more likely to do with the design of the game itself. I imagine the unique and frankly huge touchpad with all the sensors makes it a pretty expensive machine to manufacture and therefore expensive for arcades to buy. If people aren't flocking to it en masse, I can imagine it's hard to justify the cost.
But it's definitely by no means a bad game. I can safely say that Wacca doesn't deserve its early death. If you have the opportunity to play, I would recommend it while you still can!
As for the overall experience, I think my preferred setting of listening to rhythm game music is still when I'm by myself and there are no stakes. This is a good thing since doing this is way cheaper and easier than going on a day trip to London. In fact I'm literally getting paid if I'm listening at work lol...
I would go again but it was a long day and pretty expensive overall when you include travel. But I would go again! And I think the £10 entry fee is actually pretty good value. There are a couple of similar rhythm game arcades in London, but I think this is the cheapest and also the only one with a WACCA console. Tbh, that's enough for me to want to pay another visit. My brother is actually a rhythm game fan (he is an osu! enjoyer) so I want to visit with him next time.