I love Arcades Machines.
I remember vividly going to Mablethorpe in the 1980’s and noticing a strange looking machine outside of a building with bright Neon Lights. The machine in question was indeed Space Harrier by SEGA. It was simple and addictive with the catchiest music, of which SEGA is famous for. I loaded up on coins and spent my first hour sat outside in the baking sun, getting thrown around by the Space Harrier Arcade cabinet. I had never seen anything like this before. It was incredible, exhilarating, a complete adrenalin rush. I wanted more.
Another few hours later and I had played Outrun, After Burner and Super Hang-On. All of which are absolute classics. When I started to run out of money I would head over to the normal standup arcade machines, which included classics such as Vigilante and Wonderboy. At only 10p for one credit, they were great value for money. At the time 10p would also buy you a Wham bar or 10 Mojos, so with 20p I would be in heaven.
I remember going to the change counter with a £10 note. “Can I have 10p’s please?” a lady would pull a few levers and the 10p’s would roll down a metal slide, with my hands ready to grab them. Brilliant! Although later replaced by Floor Walkers and then machines.
My next experience of the Arcades was a few years later in the Nottingham Market Square. Every year a small market would fill up the square, only this time a very small arcade appeared. It featured an unknown game at the time, which for some reason was impossible to get to, because of all the teenagers surrounding it. That game was Street Fighter 2. I never imagined something so simple as two people fighting each other would make such an impact on myself and of course the world. The moment I saw Ken, Ryu and friends, like everyone else, I was hooked. Any money I had was gone in a matter of minutes. To throw a fireball was simply awesome and much more exciting than the fighting games I had played previously at home computer.
The next game I played was Final Fight (which incidentally was a PCB I owned and played via a Supergun in the late 90’s). It was released in 1989 but I didn’t play it till the early 90’s. A game which even to this day I speak of which fondness and passion. You play as Guy, Cody or Haggar in Metro City. Your girlfriend or daughter (if you choose Haggar) has been kidnapped and it is your job to rescue her and beat some bad guys up along the way until you reach the final boss, Belger. Belger is the head of Mad Gear, the gang who consistently take a beating on each level. Looking back Belger was slightly controversial because he was disabled and you had to beat him up. An absolute gem of a game and one which set the benchmark for all scrolling beat em ups. I am so fortunate to have played it in the Arcades.
By the 90’s, Arcades were everywhere I went. I wanted to piece of this. 1998 I saw an advert advertised in the local newspaper. Floor Walker wanted. Where? Only Namco. Oh My God! This is my change to work for the company that bought Pole Position and Pac-Man to the Arcade loving population. I had to do that job and I did. I loved it. Minimum wage, ridiculous hours and 8 hours being surround by some of my favorite Arcade games. I was in heaven. Sega Rally, Daytona, Point Blank, Alpine Racer, Marvel vs Street Fighter, House of the Dead 2, Virtual Figher to name a few. There was one minor problem however. I was not allowed to play them. I could clean them, look at them and watch people play. I didn’t care though. I was working in an Arcade. I was there at a time when Arcades were slowly starting to disappear as people were using Home Consoles more. It was possible the last change I had to work in an Arcade and I did it.
I went back to Mablethorpe early this year. I was disapointed by what I saw. Each Arcade had nearly all the floor space filled with gift machines and grab a cuddly toy machine. The Arcades I remembered so fondly had gone. The atmosphere, smokey enviroment, teenagers, the experts who never played a game but gave you advice on how to play it, gone too. The only games I saw, Outrun 2 and House of the Dead III could both be played on the Xbox which shares virtually the same hardware. Thats the problem. If you can get the exact game for your Xbox or Playstation. Why would you need to spend money playing it in an Arcade? An Arcade machine has to be special. It needs to offer an experience you won’t find at home, it needs to be an Arcade exclusive.
It only takes 1 game to do this. 1 game can do so much. Space Harrier fueled my addiction in the 80’s. Street Fighter 2 got me hooked in the 90’s. Ridge Racer made me buy a Playstation. Thanks to Halo I bought an Xbox.
Street Fighter IV may be the game that gets everyone in the Arcades again.