|The Massive Arcade Page
A Long Babble about Video Arcades of my youth and recent years ~ and the games in them....
Once upon a time, you could only - at best - buy dedicated game machines for your house, or even before that, you COULD NOT buy a dedicated machine for your house. Instead, video games were a highly social activity. You went to a place called a "Video Arcade" with a pocket full of change to enjoy some digital entertainment, usually with your friends.
And it was not a sole activity of just kids either, teens, adults, even middle aged people were in these arcades playing video games. Heck, the original video game - Pong, by Al Alcorn at Atari Corp under direction of Nolan Bushnell, was the first successful arcade game...and where was it placed? In a bar.
Video Arcades were a hot commodity, but of course, parents were not to happy with their kids going into these...ugh..."heathen dens" where "evil devil heavy metal music" played, and predatory middle aged men MIGHT be....and yeah, it was pretty legit, but once Atari released the 2600, and you could keep the kids at home in pure safety, instead of roaming around a room full of arcade machines, and not to mention, it was free, the death-warrant for the Arcade had been signed.Today, video arcades are pretty much dead outside of the "retro community" - a smoll lot of us who remember arcades, or are young and curious about how things were back then. Well I'm here to tell you all about it. See, I grew up right as the arcades began to lose business and die off.
How it Was Back Then
Video Arcades, in my time, were mostly places you found in your local shopping mall. Some franchises included Aladdin's Castle, Time Out Tunnel, and the Space Station. Where I lived, we had Aladdin's Castle. So we'll talk about Aladdin's Castle.
So as a small kid in the late 80's, it worked somewhat like this. You were dragged to the mall by your parents and/or older siblings, who wanted to do BORING Things like shop for clothes. You'd be dragged into J.C. Penneys, Dillards, The Gap, and whatever else to SIT on the stool or waiting chairs, sometimes for hours (especially if your family was largely female - I'm not being sexist, that's just how it was back then), bored out of your wits. This was before console games. Bringing merchandise back INTO A store at that time was ripe for you getting accused for stealing. As a kid, it was utterly frustrating because you had to patiently sit around and wait, with only your own brain for entertainment - which is harder when you know there are things out there....like toy stores and video arcades, that could entertain you. So to any family reading - THIS Is why I have so much damn paitience. YOu can thank my largely female family and many irritating mall visists where I did'nt get to go to the video arcade.
Where I lived - near Village Mall in Auburn - we had an Aladdin's Castle in back near the J.C. Penney. That was our video arcade. Back then, the video arcade usually sat in a smaller to medium-sized space. Aladdin's Castle was a quite sparse affair compared to the Space Station with it's spacey theme, or just about any "Barcade" today with an Alcohol license. The front fascia was blue and white, and had the red Aladdin's Castle logo with the genie lamp on it on the front. It was lit with neon around the sides. When you walked in, it was one of the brighter video arcades - actually, let's talk aesthetics...Video Arcades of the 1970's-1990's had one of three aesthetics...
The "Sparse" Aesthetic - Usually a repurposed, once-burned out, old building or mall shop repurposed as a video arcade. This was the look of a low-budget place, usually run by someone younger. Stark white walls, piping, fans, outdated stuff everywhere, not out of nostalgia, but because they could afford it. This is one of the few aesthetics that still exist - usually within a Dead Malls context, usually when they decided to keep a cheap arcade around to appear as a "functioning" mall even though it's one anchor store and the town's most hidden Karate class.
The Brown Showbiz Aesthetic - A similar one to early Showbiz Pizza or Chuck E. Cheese (more on that in a few paragraphs). This was usually a more "mature" arcade decorated in woodgrain, red carpet, sometimes with a tan or black pattern on it, subdued, soft-white type lighting, and walls painted tan, beige, or even carpeted in black, blue or brown (Carpet walls were a thing in the 80's). I call it this because "Brown" was a common color for high end, expensive, showbiz aesthetics in the early 80's. I usually date these places to be 1977 at the earliest, and the aesthetic lasted up until about 1986. That's the vibe. Sometimes fake plants were added to give a more "mature" appearance than there already was by making it look like a Ski Lodge crossed with Van-Halen's hotel room circa 1981.
The Neon And Darkness or "RetroWave" Aesthetic - We had one like this in Illinois when I lived there. A Dark video arcade, lit up by blacklights, neon lights, but sparsely, with hues of blue, pink, turquoise, maybe some yellow and white thrown in for aesthetic. IF blacklights they used a floor with neon patterns to make it look even more interesting. This aesthetic seemed to be quite popular in the 80's but lost favor after all the bad press about illicit activities like people snorting coke off the control panels of the arcade machines and child abductions occuring in the darkness of the local arcades. Today it's made a comeback for alcohol licensed Bar Cades as it's a very cool vibe, made even more popular by the Synthwave Genre subculture aesthetic knwon as "RetroWave". However, RetroWave differs by looking a bit more high-tech and over-done compared to the original Neon and Darkness aesthetic present in the real 1980's..
The Bright Pastel & Basic Colors Aesthetic - This was the aesthetic our local Village Mall Aladdin's Castle had. You walked inside and it was a fairly well lit video arcade with blue/pink pastel patterns down the walls, overshadowed by the actual arcade machines. These rooms had artwork similar to what you'd see on a Geometry Text Book with gradients, spheres, or stark, flat, 2D geometric figures in the 3 basic colors or pastels. This was likely a change created to appease parents who heard all the bad press about video arcades in the early 1980's by introducing bright lighting. I also found places like this tended to have a more present and known present operator than the older, darker places.
The Early 90's Aesthetic - A bit more sporty. Lighting went down again, to a more moderate level, but gone is the soft white, replaced by a mixture of sky lighting or natural light from the mall let in through huge windows easily checked by security. Pipes/poles and arbitrary webbing was a popular aesthetic, usually to blend in with the ticket machines you saw. This style lasted until the popularity of malls started to die out in the 2000's.
When you came into one of these Arcades at the time, we did not have magnetic stripe cards, hell, mom and your dad probably had to use one of those mechanical "credit card" machines in use at the store they were at. Instead, you used actual change - yep, mainley Quarters. Some places, like Aladdin's castle, instead issued "tokens", which were basically "Change" in the form of branded non-SEC backed currency only for arcade games. These tokens were what you used to play the games at the arcade. Usually they were good for about, $.25.
So you got your quarters or tokens. What do you do? Well, these places were organized in a particularly special way. The classic layout being to have the arcade machines up front, and pinball + any ticket generators like SkiBall in the back. Even bigger places sometimes had 2 separate sections for this. TIme Out Tunnel seems to have been unique by having all that mechanical stuff out front, but that's late 70's/early 80's for you.
Another source of games though was the "Children's Pizzaria REsturant" variety - ie Chuck E. Cheese, ie Showbiz Pizza, ie any other place Scott Cawthon drew inspiration from. These places worked like this. You came in, you got a wristband upon entry, you went to the "Party Room" to watch an Animatronics show that was like some kind of bizzario fever dream or nightmare about to happen, eating the most basic-b**** pizza on the planet, which was fine, we were kids, to us "Macaroni and Cheese" was fine dining! Then came the video arcade after Freddy Fazber's marsupial or ape cousin was s done terrifying, or entertaining us (or both).
Our Chuck E. Cheese was in Montgomery, and IIRC was originally a Showbiz Pizza Place beforehand - so I got to see the conversion I believe. The arcade took up the whole front of the store and the ticket counter was in the open and visible. The layout there was all the big name arcade games were on the left - in a hutch-like area - whicch had Pole Position II, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, and a claw machine. Across the way was a second area roped off to create a "path". This area had arcade games, rides, and the ticket machines mixed together. You had Spy Hunter and VS Super Mario Bros + Star Wars mixed in there, with a bunch of those cheesy amusement rides you'd see outside K-Mart, some were elaborate and cool through. IN the back somewhere was Skiball, and a Ballpit.
In these large scale arcade places, you would usually spend most of your time playing whatever appeals to you. FOr me, racing games were a favorite because there was no "steering wheel" on your NES or Atari console (and if they had one, it'd be expensive). For other's, later on at least, the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat style games were a popular "social" attraction, usually with up to 10 of us all huddled around watching up to 4 people duke it out on screen. It was a weird world because the brands were (mostly) different, you had Atari, you had Nintendo, Sega in some spots with their signature gray machines, you had also Williams, Bally, Midway, and others though as well.
Once you got bored of the arcade games, usually an hour or so in, you'd start with the "ticket machine" stuff - Skiball, that basketball thing, one of those dance games, and accumulate tickets. These would be handed over - just like today, for "prizes". These prize counters, as a kid, were basically a legal, child friendly form of "gambling". See, you'd look up there and there's some SUPER expensive thing - a game system, R/C vehicle, an inexpensive Electric Guitar, something in that "Get 90,000,000,000 tickets and you can win this". I doubt anyone ever actually won those items. If they did, feel free to shoot mme a line. I always wondered what really happened to that stuff since nobody seemed to ever be able to go further than a Frog pencil topper or an Abba Zabba candy bar. As an adult, I smell the scam like I smell the fresh scallops from the seafood place next door!
Of course, there were other places at the time to find video games. Most retail outlets had them up front, as did drug stores. So that the kids could bang out a few rounds of Donkey Kong or Cruisin' USA while mom and dad shop for toilet paper and groceries. My faovrite guitar shop had Donkey Kong for awhile in the mid 1990's, so when I was hanging out shopping guitars and wanted to take a break, I'd play that.But as home consoles and the PC caught up with the wonders of Arcade Machines, and malls fell out of favor because who wants to wade throw crowds of black-friday/christmas shoppers - especially post COVID-19 - the video arcade started to die out - kinda....or maybe not.
Arcade Games today
Arcade games for my generation are like what the Casinos are like for presumptiously alcoholic baby boomers. In the 2000's and 2010's, we saw the rise of the "Bar Cade". Basically, some hipster millennial such as myself, would lease or buy a cheap shop space in town that he could turn into his own 8-bit wonderland, and then procure a liquor license. The whole idea is to offer an area where ADULTS can come to play video games of their youth in a alcohol fueld stupor. Because there's no better way to get a bunch of otherwise sensible people to waste their coins on tokens for arcade machines, than to get them drunk on nostalgia. But I'll give it this, bar cades are more honest than Casinos, there's no $10000000 jackpot to win that you'll be telling everyone how much money you have on you about hoping to get lucky....it kind of reminds me of Rondell Sheridan's old skit from the 1990's about vegas...
That trip to vegas is loud and exciting! YOU'RE TELLING PEOPLE HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE ON YOU! "Yeah, uh, I got $10,000, I've been saving up all year!".....but that plane ride back, it's so quiet you can hear a pin drop, thata and the sobbing from the bathroom "(crying)you know by monday they'll know the money is missing!".
Thankfully, the barcade lacks all that, you know you're wasting money. It's a far more honest transaction than betting on the penny slots, winning $25, then losing it all because you decided to be a big shot. Here, you know you're losing money for entertainment, and it's a lot cheaper, especially if you stick to the Retro Row stuff - which is what the Peppermill Casino has in their arcade. A rule of thumb today, is all of the "classics" are going to be $.25 a play, though don't just assume by name that it's "retro". Sometimes they have these "multi-game Mame cabinets", or some kind of reissue like the Namco class of 81' Galaga/Ms. Pac-Man combo that generates a lot of revenue so they know they can charge twice to four times as much as play for the newer unit because a lot of people will play it because it's so popular.
Speaking of Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man, sometimes that's all you get for "old school" Arcade games today. I blame this on my generation whose looking for an "experience" vs. a "game". Me, I'm now what I self proclaim myself as a Gen Millexxer - I'm Millennial Age, but Gen Xer in behavior. Sorry, I don't want or need photorealistic 3D graphics and a car cockpit - you'll never reproduce the physics and reality of driving a manual car in an arcade game, no matter how many tilts you make. The US Military has good simulators, but those are millions of dollars, and they are a whole different animal from the arcade version. See, the arcades are therre to make money, and they're not going to make much money off of a casual middle aged person roaming in and playing $1 worth of Pac-Man vs. a revolving door of drunk Zoomers trying to drive a photorealistic Mercedes simulator in manual mode for comedy.
Thte arcades of the days of old are long gone now for the most part, replaced either by the sparse funcenters that a mall has just to keep it's barely functional appearances up, even though you might only find a handful of kids in there at most, and usually just one older guy playing Galaga usually (hi there, first High Score on this of the day).
Sometimes you find other retro-centric places that have arcade games today. I know that a sandwhich shop near where I live has a nice little retro arcade and a bunch of games spread throughout the building. However, the days of the pizza place, like Pizza Hut, with a Ghostbusters or Street Fighter machine are long over. . Go in there, all you'll find is a bunch of pizza guys wishing they were somewhere else, and maybe a TV with a football game on.
And let's talk about Children's Entertainment Resturants, like Chuck E Cheese. Today, it's a shadow of it's former self. When I was a kid, you had the animatronics hidden away in a "party room" where you watched the show, and then out front, you had a HUGE, sprawling arcade full of regular arcade machines: Spy Hunter, VS. Super Mario Bros., TMNT Arcade, Street Fighter, 1941, Gauntlet, Pole Position II, Star Wars - you know, and those amusement rides, usually some cool ones, plus a ballpit. But today, what you'll get is a singular big room, with a show-stage area. If they still have Animatronics, of course you're going to have the gaggle of kids asking where the Night Guard is and if the Animatronics get "quirky" at night - thanks to Five Nights at Freddy's. And of course, all of the arcade machines are replaced with kiddy, cringey, THEMED arcade games proprietary to cHuck E Cheese. No Pac-Man, no Spy Hunter, no Mario Bros - now you have "Mr. Munch's Maze" and "Roadway Rat Attack", or "Pete's Plumber Surprise" instead. About the only familiar game is Skiball. Luckily they have Flaming Finger, about the only thing left that resembles CEC of old. Man, they need to get Nolan back in the saddle again. Basically, if you're me, you'll eat some pizza, and then wander to the barcade next door, because that's where the classics are.Plus Arcades were hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember, in the olden days, people were asses and elbows everywhere in here, not exactly social distancing. Heck, even like that today at the barcades before the pandemic. Add to it a lot of the "nerds" who still like this stuff don't want to leave their house. I sure don't. No atari Shuffle 99 lives in Galaga for $.25 is going to be enough to make me want to share breathing space with other people these days. So most of us just download MAME or build a Mame Arcade cabinet.
The Games & Some Thoughts
Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1982)
Well, here it is, the O.G. Donkey Kong, Shigeru Miyamoto's 1st Game. Donkey Kong is one of the classic mainstays for many people, myself included. It was created originally in 1981-1982 to use up unsold Nintendo "Radar Scope" cabinets. This game put Shigeru on the map as a designer, and was the birth of Nintendo's biggest icons - Mario and Donkey Kong (of course).
In Donkey Kong you play as "Jumpman" - later renamed Mario (named after Mario Segali, Nintendo of America's Landlord), a construction worker whose girfriend Pauline has been obsconded with by the giant ape. You have to climb the rafters avoiding obstacles for multiple levels to save Pauline for high score.
The graphics, for the time, are incredibly good, and have held up well through the ages. My only complaint is some of these arcades for Donkey Kong tend to have a fuzzy or yellow tinted screen on them from years of cigarette smoke in the arcades tinting the lexan plate over the screen, or because of poor maintenance or a poor connection on the blue line for the picture (or the blue gain needing a boost or a recap causing a loss of blue).
It seems whoever was at Nintendo put a few too many filter caps on the sound because I always find the DOnkey Kong machine has the quietest volume of any in the arcade, and the highs are very soft - like a Stratocaster guitar with the tone control on 2. Even with my 6'4" head jammed under the speaker and over the screen, I sometimes struggle to hear the sound. But it's not really necessary.
The controls can be quite responsive, as long as they are upkept. I've seen a lot more abused Donkey Kong units over theh years where either rleft, right, or jump were a bit loosey goosey and that made it hard to play it well. It seems thte Santa Cruz Boardwalk unit we are looking at in most of these pictures is very well kept.Places I've Played This: The Auburn Guitar Shoppe (1995), CiCi's Pizza (2000), Nintendo of America (2008), Another Castle (2017), Next Level (2018), Press-Start Arcade & Bar (2018), Game Lab Arcade (2018), Santa Cruz Boardwalk (2022)
Donkey Kong Jr. (1982, Nintendo)
Donkey Kong Jr. is the sequel to Donkey kong (above). In this game, the tables turn, now Mario is the "bad guy", as he has obsconded with Donkey Kong in a cage and is being "Very mean" to him per something I read quoted from Miyamoto. So now, as Donkey Kong Jr., it's your job to rescue your father from Mario, in a multitude of zany levels including the jungle, insidie a computer, and some kind of sheild-warehouse-lock thing, while avoiding toilet snakes, birds dropping eggs, and electricity.
My first encounter with this game was on the NES, but my first encounter with the Arcade was in the break room when I worked at Nintendo of America - yep, that NOA - in Redmond. On break this was my go-to game (that or Super R-Type), and I got rather good at it. The game was on free play and took me a month to figure out how it worked (there was this rolled up piece of paper looking button sticking out of the coin slot you had to press to "insert a credit", lol, it looked so janky I thought it was some kind of broken thing NOA had yet to fix at first). The photograph is from one of the Bar Cades I've been to.
Donkey Kong Jr.'s graphics are about the same on par with the original Donkey Kong, just a little different due to the change in subject matter. I have to say the level designs show that they were more concerned with gameplay than some kind of cohesive "place", which makes it all the more amusing to look at. This form-follows-function approach to level design makes for a good game in the classic sense, and highly entertaining because of the oddness of everything.
Sound IIRC was a little better on this one, it seems someone pulled a few grounded caps from the sound circucit used in the original Donkey Kong, but I also find Audio is not as important in this one to me.
The controls are a little less as smooth on this particular one, with what feels like a bit of latency. But once you get used to it, you get used to it.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2008), Press Start Barcade (2018)
Frogger (1982, Sega)
Frogger is a 1982 game released by Sega where you play a frog who has to cross a busy street and a chaotic stream to make it to his home. Along the way you have to avoid cars and trucks, snakes, sinking-re-rising-lily-pads, crocodiles, and other assorted obstacles. You also have a time limit. My first experience with this one was on the Atari 2600 VCS as a kid, so getting to finally play the original Arcade version was quite a treat. I don't even think any arcade I visisted HAD this until I was an adult. Which given the popularity is really weird.
The graphics are about slightly less than NES level, which is pretty goody for 1982, though outshined a little by Nintendo in details.
The music and sound is pretty good, a lot less ear grating in some spots than the Atari 2600 version that I'm quite used to. Controls are nice and responsive, though it's a little odd getting used to the smoother animation of the arcade game. Something about that interaction where the frog actually KICKS to move rather than just makes plink noises as he moves.Places I've Played This: Another Castle (2017), Press-Start (2018), Game Lab (2018)
The Classics Every Place Has - Galaga & Ms. Pac-Man
If there are two games that just about every bloody arcade has had that I have been to, it'd be Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga. If there's nothing else there, there's always these two, and thank god, I can always find them there because some of these places have nothing but the NEW stuff I'm not all that keen on (as you will eventually see.
These two are so synonymous there's a MODERN version called the "Class of 81'" that combines both into the same unit. Sometimes it's found on those multi-arcade machines that people put in nowadays that have just about everything from a 1985 Aladdin's Castle built in. Sometimes I find hte O.G. versions standalone. Sometimes I find Ms. Pac-Man in a converted Pac-Man Cabinet or Galaga in a Galaxian converted cabinet. Yeah, "arcade conversions" are a thing, and it's not even that uncommon.
Ms. Pac-Man is actually the one of the two I find more relaxing because the controls don't require you to hold down at all to move, you just tap the joystick and there you are, moving where you need to. THere's no fire button, I can calmly play. . The thing about Ms. Pac-Man, as with a lot of arcade games, is you have to get into a "zone" of sorts - like I do when I'm playing guitar - there's a "Zone out" of sorts you go into when you really start winning/getting high scores.
Galaga - I have a funny story about that one. I used to play this a lot at the Aladdin's Castle at the Village Mall in Auburn. One day I came in there after some wandering around town to get a drink and chill for a bit. So I wander up to Galaga, and felt the static-electricity zap the arcade machine ~ apparently I was so tired I was inadvertantly doing the "Atari Shuffle" and had built up a charge ~ and what went off sounded like someone with the world's most insane car alarm! The machine made loud alarm noises, ringing, hiccuping, buzzing - scared the hell out of me - the attendant, in his office with a wire loom for something (probably Tekken 2 as that was around the time this happend), did'nt even come out to look or bother. I came back to the machine, and now I had 99 lives, and could basically "free play" Galaga for quite some time - so I did, for about 3 hours. That's the longest I've ever played an arcade game. I wish I had a camera with me - the high score I got with all those lives, lol.Places I've Played These: Aladdin's Castle (1988), Time Out (1989), Chuck E. Cheese (1989), Food World (1990), Regal Theatres (1997), Gas Stations, truck Stops, Casinos - you name it, I've probably played this there at some point or another if they have arcade machines in one form or another
Mario Bros. (1983, Nintendo)
Before Super Mario Bros. - the platformer that turned Mario into a household name, but after Donkey Kong and his rename from "Jumpman" into "Mario", came this release in 1983 introducing his then just pallet swapped brother Luigi. Mario Bros. is basically an arcade game where you play the Mario Bros, 2 Brooklyn plumbers, who are tasked with dealing with the zany wildlife in the sewer that includes turtles (later renamed Koopa Troopas), Fighter Flies, and Crabs. This aso introduces the "POW" block in stationary form, which we would not see again until the USA release of Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES in 1988 (which was just a modified Japanese game known as Doki Doki Panic).
It seems here is where Shigeru and his team were experimenting with Mario's physics abit, as he and Luigi tend to slide around on the platforms a bit, and start to have something resembling the often overlooked and seldom mentioned physics of the Bros. movement, which can be attributed big time to the success of the Mario franchise as a whole from the next release onward.
The Music and sound is pretty high quality, on par with the usual Nintendo standards. Actually, the theme of this game is a bit of a "prototype" of the familiar Super Mario Bros. theme song we'd hear only a couple years later.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Moon Patrol (1983, Atari)
Moon Patrol is a game that has you driving a vehicle side-scroller style across the moon, while attacking other enemies. I have only found this once or twice in an Arcade not a part of the multi-arcade-machines. This is one I've played only a handful of times here and there, but have not had the experience of dealing with that much so I don't have too much to write about it. What I do know is it's considered one of the classic arcade games of the 80's and thusly a bit surprising I don't find it everywhere.
Usually, if I go to an Arcade, I try to find these classic games that I never got to play in the heyday (because as a wee one I was more attracted to driving sims).Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Pac-Man (1981, Namco)
Ah yes, Pac-Man, this one is every-freakin-where. Little surprise, this was the first video game "mascot" to get as big as Mario or Freddy Fazbear. Pac-Man was every-bloody-wheree. I had a friggign Pac-Man beanie as an infant (which I still wore till I was 9). It's developer was inspired by eating a slice of Pizza and noticing the missing piece made a "mouth" type shape, and that inspired him to create the little yellow, pellet-eating, ball. Pac-Man was also one of the first games to traverse the largely male gaming lexicon, and bring more females into the game.
Of course, premise is the basic thing everyyone knows, run your little yellow Pac-Man ball guy around the maze to eat pellets, avoiding the 4 ghosts, unless you eat a "power pellet", then the ghosts turn blue and you can eat those as well. One of the things people in the 80's did was learn the "patterns" of ghost movement, apparently one can study the mechanics of Pac-Man long enough.
For being an all-time legend of a game, it's surprising how few and far between we see Pac-Man anymore in arcades. Above is a cocktail cabinet from somewhere I went on some tripi a long time ago, and it's out of order. It turns up a lot on those "multi-game" machines, which I suspect are just a Raspberry Pi jammed into an arcade cabinet running MAME, but you don't see a lot of the classic "standalone" games.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Pole Position (1981, Atari/Bally/midway?)
This....is the O.G. Arcade game for me, the one I was obsessed with as a little 5-6-7 year old little kid. Pole Position (and by extention, it's sequel, Pole Position II, which is my true favorite). In Pole Posistion, you race a formula 1 racecar. You run a qualifying lap, then get entered into the race. Nothing can replace thhe arcade experience of these because you have a steering wheel and a gearshifter, plus a gas, and sometimes a brake (sit-down) pedal. It's also tremendously hard to emulate apparently, I still have not got this nor the sequel properly working in Mame, and even then, they still are not as fun as the arcade because of the controls. So any time I see Pole Position or it's sequel. I'll stop and play it. I'm also quite good at this one.
Basically, you run a qualifying lap on the Fuji race course, then race the actual course, and if you win, you keep proceeding through courses for high score until you lose. Also, getting a high score on this is less as annoying, all you do is spin the wheel and hit the gas pedal - vs fighting a timer with a Joystick that has a slwoer response time. The Sit Down was nice because I could play multiple consecutive rounds and not worry about some jerk coming by and snagging my tokens off the dash.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Popeye (1981, Nintendo)
Did you know that originally, Donkey Kong was going to be a Popeye game? Yeah, I saw it in a documentary not long ago and found it quite surprising. It makes sense though, the engine seems quite close. Apparently it had something to do with negotiating the licensing for Popeye and King Syndicates or whatever, it was not ready yet, so Donkey Kong was made, then roughly a similar engine was built for Popeye.
In Popeye, you run around various platforms, grabbing things Olive Oil tosses out, like her love (hearts), all the while avoiding Brutus unless you can get your hand on a can of Spinach to beat the tar out of his toxic masculine ass. I have only found this in a handful of places but it's actually a fun run when I'm in a Donkey Kong mood.
It's kind of a funky vibe playing this one and knowing the history because on one hand, it has the "Nintendo Wacky" feel unique to Donkey Kong, but mixed with the low-key wackiness of the Popeye franchise.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Ah yes, Skiball, one I can't put a single brand or name to because everywhere has at least a few, the makers are not obvious, and they all are pretty much the same game regardless of maker. Basically, these machines are always found out back, or near that ubiqutous basketball machine, and the pinball machines. I took this picture at my last visit to Chuck E. Cheese - a headache and somewhat somber experience beceause it was nothing like I remembered. I recall my wife dragging me there because her friend's kids wanted to go, and I was into FNaF at the time, whatever that has to do with anything. This was maybe the only thing there as I remembered it. No TMNT The Arcade Game, no Pole Position, no Play CHoice 10, no VS System games, heck, no ballpit even - jjjust a bunch of CEC themed video games. Honestly, if you ask me, I think their failure was not bringing in the classics we all go there to play, and instead, bringing in these thematic games (I have another one later).
Premise is the same everywhere, put in your token(s), you get served a set number of...usually woodan balls about the size of a softball, then you throw them up the playfield like you're bowling, and the curved ramp at the end launches it up into one of the various holes which has an assigned amount of points. Most places this is one of those "ticket generators", so you'll be tossing balls up in there, and either end up ticked off you don't have enough tickets for a frog pencil topper, or you're like me and shocked how many you got for your piddly skiball game becase you don't expect much and were not playing it to get things at the prize counter anyway. This one is my wife's favorite game at the arcade so we always play this when we see one.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Space Invaders (1978, Midway)
Another Arcade classic you don't see too often anymore. I took this picture at a Casino in Reno, NV. So if you want to know where Space Invaders is (or was), go to the Peppermill on Virginia Street. I like these older 1970's games because it's low-pressure to play fast, and honestly, it's fun to learn t he mechanics. I'm also quite good at this due to all the playing of Space Invaders I've done on the Atari 2600 since I was about six or so.
Space Invaders is actually black and white, and the "color" given to it is done by way of colored par-can filters cut into strips and taped over the screen. I think this one was missing that, not like I cared, I enjoyed just GETTING to play this legend. Seriously, and supposedly Space Invaders was so popular when it came out it caused a coin shortage, and by extention, became the "killer app" that put the Atari 2600 on the map (probably also bolstered by sensationalist news outlets doing g articles on teenagers getting corrupted by dirty creepos at the video arcades). That said, in all my 35+ years playing video games, it took about as long to encounter Space Invaders, the only thing more shocking ot me would be any of those Kee games....or better yet, an original Nutting and Associates Computer Space or Pong, none of which I've encountered in the wild as of yet.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Sprint (1976, Atari/Kee)
Here it is, the oldest Arcade game I have ever seen or played in the Wild, Sprint, by Atari. Just look at this thing, I can hear the Disco with Syndrums and a Stringsynth, heavy on the Phaser, now! It's a black and white racing game that seems to be somewhat similar to Indy 500 for the atari 2600. It's 2 player, you race a car around a single screen track with a steering wheel and a shifter lever for speed - same ones used in Pole Position I believe (or similar).
And that's basically it, but it's really good, clean, simple fun, straight out of the 1970's. I just watched Joe's Arcade restorations work on these with a very interesting bit of technical info about the plastic "cone" that goes inside the steering wheel. I was surprised just how biig of a problem that was. That said, I really liked this game and played it quite a bit at the Everett Washington barcade I found it at. I think I also ran into it a second time at another arcade - I can't remember where though.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Defender II: Stargate (1983, Williams)
I'm familiar with Defender from playing that at home on the Atari 2600, but I've encountered Stargate a bunch of times in the wild. The one here is a pretty cool cocktail version that when in 2-player mode, it fllips the screen back and fourth so the current player can view it, kind of cool....probably also a good way to prevent burn in by changing the sides the patterns are on.
Actually, these cocktail games are pretty cool in general because you could sit down with something to drink and just set the glass on the screen, and not worry about it spilling because they are designed to drip liquids off the edges of the glass (if designed right). I think the thing that sucks about them thouggh, is that they are not all that ergonomic. I find these days, as a middle aged guy, whose also incredibly tall, it's quite difficult to be comfortable playing one of these as I hunch over the screen like a hunchback and try to work the controls in an uncomfortable position.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Star Wars: The Arcade Game (1983, Atari)
I think this may have been the first arcade machine I ever sat in as a baby. I vaguely recall the Illinois arcade...or was it St. Louis Missouri...at a mall that was dark and filled with purple and blue lights, and had this game in there, among a lot of others. Star Wars was every-freakin-where back then, and little surprise we got this arcade game.
Star Wars was a vector-based arcade game - meaning the graphics are drawn as lines instead of shapes from a "shapes table" full of sprites, giving it an interesting, wireframe look, except, unlike it's contemporary - Battlezone - it has COLOR vector graphics. Anyway, Star Wars simulates the final Death Star battle at the end of the first movie, you are to fly your X-Wing into the trenches of the Death Star and fire off a final round into the Exhaust port, and escape before the inevitable explosion and destruction of the Death Star.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Ivan Ironman Stewart's: Super Off-Road (1988)
Ivan Ironman Stewart was a Off-Road truck racer, best known for racing around in his Toyota Hilux desert racer pickup trucks. In the late 80's/early 90's he had a racing game released for PC, NES, and in the arcades, known as "Super Off-Road". This behemoth of an arcade game is a simultanious 4-player racing game where you race a truck around a stadium race track, single screen style. Remember Atari Sprint from earlier, this is like a updated version of that, with bouncier physics.
I have to be in the right mood for this one to play it well, I had a tendency to be a bit too crazy with the steering wheel on this one. What was rather cool was getting 4 hand-eye-coordination-challenged kids - including myself at the time - up to play this at the same time, a watch the chaos ensue, lol....you have the eone kid who just gives up, keeps spinning hte steering wheel around and round, while his little Toyota pickup looks like a dog chasing it's tail, LOL. You have me banging into every wall while over-reacting to the steering on a grand scale, then you have the other kid who is racing the track BACKWARDS - yep, you could do that too! THen there's the kid whos going really slow but doing well. Welcome to Aladdin's Castle, Auburn Alabama, 1989 - where 4 impatient little moronns make something ripe for an Episode of Family GUy 20 years later.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Tempest (1982, Midway)
This is one of my longtime faves. Tempest is a color vector arcade game where you use a paddle controller to spin a shooter device around some kind of tunnel-shaped thing, shooting aliens, avoiding spikes, and whatnot. Fun and addicting as heck, and it's one of my favorites. I was actually introduced to it via a music video (Rush, Subdivisions, the dude at the end is playing this with tension you could cut with a knife). I first played it on some Atari arcade collection I got in the early 2000's, and have since played a few different Arcades with this one there.
This thing just screams 1980's. It's the rright arcade game to slap a Rush tape into your Walkman to and have at with some fury. I still play this one to this day whenever it shows up.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Flaming' Finger?? (CHuck E Cheese)
What happens when a 30 year old guy who likes FNaF and remembers the Chuck-E-Cheese of old with it's regular, standard issue Arcade games and cigar smoking rat, shows up at a modern Chuck E Cheese, has a beer, and then, aside from feeling entirely wrong just by being there, now feels out of place because all the darned Arcade games are about as hokey and thematic as a FNaF minigame? Simple, you go to this, Flaming Finger I think it's called.
This game is basically a LED driven game. It renders a maze in orange, and you need to make it THROUGH that maze in an alotted amount of time. I was actually, surprisingly, quite good at this game, and it was the only one in the arcade that did not leave me feeling silly because it was about a rat fishing for eggs in the sea, or a rat racing go-karts, or Mr. Munch lost his car keys! Seriously, maybe this is why CEC failed, after all, somehow a Texan on a laptop in a car can come up with better mini games than that. This kind of reminded me of something you'd see in FNaF, which is another reason I played it. Not fun for a long spurt, but a fun little short spurt when you can't find Pole Posistion anywhere and already tired of Skiball.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
Tron Arcade (1982, Midway)
People say I look like Jeff Bridges, then they ask me if I've ever seen "Tron" - I only did about a little less than a year ago (2022). Well, I watched Tron, now I love that movie, and now, in Santa Cruz, I got to play the Arcade game. And wow, what an Arcade game this is. I mean, they included everything, the discus throwing, the grid-locked cycle vehicles, they have maps. This is a pretty complex game from 1982. I quite dig it, will need to dig into it some more the next time I see one.
Either way, color vector game, I love the aesthetic, and it's a pretty cool one in general. I wish I'd had a little more time and more currency to dig deeper on this one, but maybe I'll dig out MAME and play this one some as well. Who knows. That said, I liked what little I got to play that morning at the Boardwalk. Also cool is it has a joystick, a paddle, and some other controls, making it one of the more complex early 80's titles you can encounter.Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,
VS. Super Mario Bros. (1986, Nintendo)
Nintendo's VS. System was a quasi-NES Compatible system of games that could just facilitate swapping out a single board in an arcade cabinet to change the game. One of these of course, was a Arcade conversion of Super Mario Bros., known as VS. Super Mario Bros. VS Super Mario Bros. differs a little bit from Super Mario Bros in a number of ways. for starters, the levels are harder - more holes, more enemies, more difficult power-up placement. You also had to get 999 coins to get an extra life (think), and the levels were in a different order. It was sort of an amaglamation of the original Super Mario Bros., and Super Mario Brso 2. from Japan (not hte Doki Doki panic version, but the one Howard Lincoln said was "too hard" and "he could not fathom mr Miyamoto would make such a hard and unforgiving game" per the Gaming Historian's accounts). I even think some of the Japanese levels are in this arcade port IIRC.
This was the game that your smug classmate who got a NES thinks he's going to school everybody on at the arcade, and then proceeds to make a total ass of himself as the level layouts are slightly different, enemy placement is more tricky, and some of the levels are different. Now, let's not confuse this with the Play CHoice 10 - which would host the NORMAL NES version of Super Mario Bros. The VS System and Play CHoice 10 are two different animals - one houses these VS System Games that are harder versions of the NES games, and the other is basically a coin operated NES with the actual home versions stored inside, and instead, you paid for TIME to play the game rather than paying for losing all of your lives (well, that too).Places I've Played This: Nintendo of America (2007), Press Start, Fun Factory,