Figureheads was a Japan-only Squenix megafranchise that just never quite came to be. But while it lasted it was killer.

You controlled your ranger in 3rd-person gun combat while also directing an AI robot squad. The controls were busy, the action raucous and the concept almost impenetrable. But those things haven’t stopped other hits from hitting.

Running your AI team online against other players made for nuts tactics and a special new experience.

But ouch! when your new megaseries fucks it.

You’ve invented your robot-AI-squad-based tactical deathmatch; you’ve commissioned all-new scenario IP, cubic kilometres of 3D assets, arty intro movies, pristine voice and foley; you’ve had a specially designed mouse and hand-formed buttonset put into production; you’ve sold onto yen-burning Tokyo floorspace; and you’ve made sure the titlescreen girls have their knickers visible.

All that just shreds moolah – but the hits make it worth it! Billions annually and fans loyal for a decade. Aspiring for that adds to the humiliation of splatdrop failure.

Figureheads showed up in Tokyo’s finest shithole basements in 2017. By 2018 you couldn’t even see the stains where it sat.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people