I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog and gaming in general over the past few months, largely as I have been busy getting married then catching up upon my return from my honeymoon. It is the honeymoon that is the source of this blog entry as we visited Japan, including two days out at Akihabara.
If you’ve not heard of it, Akihabara is the electric town of Tokyo and is the place to go if you are interested in electronics, games and err, maid cafes. There are huge stores selling all types of electronics, CDs, manga, figurines and games. What I was most keen to visit in Akihabara however was the arcades.
We actually had our first arcades experience a few days before our Akihabara trip, visiting a Taito Station in Shinjuku. The first thing that surprised me was the sheer quantity of claw machines. At first I thought the building we wandered into was just a claw machine arcade! As you’d expect, the claw machines were pretty rigged but with some cute and/or cool looking prizes we couldn’t resist. I even won a Pikachu!
Upstairs we found loads of arcade machines although not necessarily what I was expected. Rather than endless light gun, racing, bullet hell and side scrolling beat ’em ups, the games were on the whole very modern and sophisticated. They had tutorials. I spent half a bloody hour doing a tutorial! (Incidentally this was the most use I got out of a 100 yen coin) Many of the games looked to be strategy based where players bought cards to use with the games. Whilst we never gave them a go as we were in the mood for “cheap thrills”, it was fascinating to see that you could play and have a really involving experience that you might expect from a PC or console game. It really surprised me! The added use of cards seemed like a very clever way to earn extra pennies for the game developers as well.
The other most common type of games were music based. There were several machines where you’d be hitting buttons, pressing foot pedals and alike to the beat. They were great fun! However the noise of the venue made it impossible to hear the songs and my headphones never quite seemed to work, which was a shame.
When we first visited Akihabara we first went to a place called Super Potato. It was as awesome as the name. It consisted of two floors selling old consoles and games plus other little items. What a joy it was to reminisce about all the games I once had. If it wasn’t for the cost, having to haul them around for 2 weeks and the fact that they wouldn’t work in the UK then I would have bought about a dozen consoles! It was amazing! I settled for a mini Pikachu and some Mario sweeties. What made Super Potato extra exciting was the top floor where they had loads of old arcade machines. We had great fun playing Bomberman, along with my wife beating me senseless in Street Fighter. I wish we had stayed longer, although given we were usually pretty rubbish & died quickly we burnt through our coins pretty quickly!
I was then very keen to go to the Taito place famed for its bullet hell games, Taito Hey!, however unleashing my inner moron we went to Taito Station instead and I sulked about being disappointed that they weren’t there, although we got to enjoy another shot at the music games. We finished off the day at a SEGA arcade, enjoying Pokemon Tournament, House of the Dead 2, Project Diva and many more games.
The music games were definitely the highlight of our visit, but it was fun playing the light gun games and also fascinating as the SEGA and Taito buildings had so many claw machines with the remaining floors mainly comprising of card based games and music games.
When Typhoon Malakas hit Japan, our plans to visit the mountain region of Hakone were replaced by “lets try Akihabara again” and this time we visited the correct Taito building. It was wonderful playing the bullet hell games. Surprisingly the graphics were all retro and I suspect most, if not all, were old machines. I had expected to see a few more modern games with the colour and vibrancy of Geometry Wars, Beat Hazard etc. It was still great fun and I would have loved to have spent hours in there… although with my average life expectancy in the games being so low that would have cost a fortune!
So yeah, the arcades in Japan were great fun with some classic arcade machines but I was also surprised by the sophistication and depth of many games there, plus the number of claw machines!