Around the turn of the millennium, the first version of the multiplayer first-person shooter Counter-Strike was released. It was originally developed by Jess Cliffe and Minh Le as a modification to the popular PC and console title Half-Life. However, by the time the fifth iteration of the beta rolled around, Valve Corporation became heavily involved in the development and eventually acquired publishing rights to the game.
Following the retail release of Counter-Strike in November 2000, the franchise has grown from strength to strength. More than two decades later, its newest title in the series, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), has become a popular Esports title in its own right.
It has attracted professional Esports teams from all four corners of the world, who compete (and snipe) for map supremacy. The biggest CS:GO Esports events are covered by the leading online sportsbooks too, with DraftKings currently offering markets on the CS:GO IEM Rio competition. This site is currently the number-one recommended operator at OddsChecker, based on the strength of its promotions, which are eligible for use on Esports events.
The nuts and bolts of Counter-Strike NEO under the bonnet
The undisputed commercial success of the original Counter-Strike game saw many players insist that it would translate seamlessly into the arcade gaming world. Sure enough, Namco took on the mantle to develop and publish an arcade version of Counter-Strike in 2003. Counter-Strike NEO was powered by a Linux operating system and featured NVIDIA graphics.
There are many major and subtle differences between Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike NEO. NEO benefitted from the creation of new game maps, which were a breath of fresh air for regular Counter-Strike players. The game mechanics and array of weapons were the only constant between the two games, if truth be told.
Namco had to work hard to localise the game for a Japanese audience
Counter-Strike NEO is not based on the principal scenario of counter-terrorist versus terrorist factions. Instead, the two factions involved are rebranded as ‘Cosmopolitan Special Forces’ (CSF) and ‘NEO’. The decision to switch-up the factions in NEO was based on concerns that the original Counter-Strike game was too gritty and aggressive for Japanese gaming conventions. It’s a valid statement when you consider anime-themed games have generally ruled the roost here for a generation. The concept was therefore flipped, turning the game into a futuristic cyborg-esque game to tone down the realism of the original.
The developers at Namco also tweaked some of the now-iconic sayings from the original Counter-Strike. The likes of “bomb has been planted” and “terrorists win” over the player radios were also major overhauls. The new radio announcer was a female in the NEO arcade game, successfully softening the game’s feel and ensuring a fully localized game.
Namco’s LEDZone: The perfect companion for Counter-Strike NEO
Namco has always been an ambitious innovator in the world of arcade gaming. In the early 2000s, the company developed a new service dubbed LEDZone which was designed to make it possible for arcade cabinets to connect to one another akin to Local Area Network (LAN) games. Counter-Strike NEO was one of the pioneers of Namco’s LEDZone, enticing players to internet gaming cafes across the Japanese capital of Tokyo.
Players would flock to the gaming cafes to play Counter-Strike NEO, with the venues adopting a pay-as-you-play model. Each player was assigned a game card, with their individual progress and results stored within it. The LEDZone servers collated the data on each player’s style to deliver a fully personalized service, recommending ways for players to switch-up and improve their gameplay.
Namco’s LEDZone compatibility with Counter-Strike NEO still lent itself brilliantly to the creation of ‘clan wars’, which became an influential part of the NEO community. Namco eventually began to host exclusive Counter-Strike NEO events hosted by various internet café stores throughout Tokyo. This was one of the first instances of competitive gaming in the first-person shooter genre.
Namco also utilized their LEDZone servers to gauge the typical patterns of gameplay from players. The developers of Counter-Strike NEO responded to these patterns by creating new patches for the game to offer a fresh challenge. Namco was also conscious of player retention and developed additional single-player missions and mini-game updates to keep things interesting.
Completing these mini-games and in-game challenges earned players ‘currency’ known as karma. Competitors gave their opponents karma currency as a compliment for their gamesmanship, all of which was tracked by the LEDZone servers.
A look at another Counter-Strike NEO spin-off: -WHITE MEMORIES-
Aside from Counter-Strike NEO, there was a separate spin-off to the original Counter-Strike release that was the brainchild of development studio Romancework. Counter-Strike NEO -WHITE MEMORIES- was a visual novel game, featuring the original soundtrack of the PC game. With 12 ‘episodes’, the storyline and aspects of the game are akin to the Counter-Strike original.
Powered by Flash, it was naturally put out to pasture with all the other Flash plugin games when HTML5 arrived to steal the show. However, there are some archived links that still make it possible to download -WHITE MEMORIES- and enjoy it at your leisure.
The storyline of Counter-Strike NEO -WHITE MEMORIES- centers on the main character Shou. He is something of a rebel, not that you would know it on the surface. Shou is a very quiet, private character who doesn’t open up easily to others around him.
-WHITE MEMORIES- is another prime example of the softening of the original Counter-Strike title for a Japanese audience. The visual novel includes a character called Maki, who is Shou’s sole love interest. Like Shou, Maki is another distant and closed off character. She begins to acknowledge her mutual feelings for Shou following her rescue.
There are two other characters within -WHITE MEMORIES-, Oumar and Reonof. The former is a very bubbly and cheerful soul. He almost acts as Shou’s guardian angel, the voice of positivity when things go wrong. Meanwhile, Reonof is the undisputed fighter of the plot, a senior in combat on the battlefield.
Counter-Strike NEO and -WHITE MEMORIES- are just two of the most successful spin-offs of this iconic first-person shooter. NEO helped this title become an undisputed arcade giant in the 2000s.
CREDIT: Main Image source: Photo