For better or worse, arcades will never be the same.
The year 1992. The place, Aladdins Castle arcade. As i step into the darkness the stale stench of camel cigarette smoke fills my eight year old lungs. My feet stick to the filthy carpet as i make my way passed the crowded Street Figther 2 machine. I dare not stop at Street Figther. I was in no mood for public humiliation by kids twice my age. I wasnt there for Street Fighter any way. I was here for something much more glorious.
I reached into my grass stained Osh-Koshs and pulled out a couple golded tokens. Less than three minutes later GAME OVER. But i couldnt have been more satisfied. After all where else can you hack, slash, (and shoot lasers for some reason) as Wolverine? This game has it all! The art was amazing, based on the 1980's X-men animated series pilot "Pryde of the X-Men" that never took off. (if you can find it get it) And better yet you could play with up to five other friends. Ill admit that i never played with more than one other friend.
Magneto at his finest.
This game had it all! Play as Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, or Dazzler (or as i like to call her, a slightly better version of jubilee). And with so many awesome X-men an equal amount of awesome foes Pyro, Blob, Wendigo, Nimrod, The White Queen, Juggernaut, Mystique, and of course the mighty Magneto. And to this day, the only place you officially fild this is at an old arcade.
My parents had given me fifteen minutes to spend in here while they waited for me outside so i had some time to kill. A few machines over was another cartoon based game i loved. The simpsons! Another multiplayer game that i never played with another friend.
Makes me wanna do the Bart man.
If none of you have ever had the privilege of playing this gem of a game i must tell you, its the best simpsons game. I guess that doesnt say much if you compare it to The Simpsons Wrestling, but trust me, its a classic.This game is your standard beat em up starring all the Simpsons stars: Bart, Marge, Homer and Lisa are your playable characters trying to rescue baby Maggie from the evil Mr.Burns.
Marge and in charge!
The game was actually quite innovative at the time by including the use of various weapons found in game. Also a new feature that allowed two players to perform a special combined attack against a single enemy was new at the time. Also the fact that all the voice actors for the simpsons were used in the game was a first. But i think the one thing that made it best for me was the fact that i was being bad by playing it. My parents didnt let me watch the simpsons on tv, much less play the game. It was that very allure of "being bad" that made me love the arcade even more.
"ill tell you when ive had enough!"
The best way i could sum up an arcade in the late eighties and early nineties was a night club for kids. Aladdin's Castle was where kids would go to smoke, curse, fight and have fun. A very seedy place where it wasnt uncommon to see the police haul someone out for selling pot. My parents didnt like me being there at all, in fact i couldnt go in unless i was in eye view at all time. Hell my parents didnt even like going to that side of the mall because of the reputation it had for being trouble, no thanks to the arcade im sure. Lets just put it this way, my folks were used to the times when you could play some Ms.Pac-Man without getting stabbed. Wich brings me to my last stop on Arcade Memory Lane.
THE Ms. Pac-Man
If i ever had a token left before i had to leave, i would always make time for my beloved Ms.Pac-Man. Dont let her hear this, but one of my favorite things about her was that she was so cheap. Always just one token. I cant really say why but i have always preferred Ms.Pac-Man over just plain ol Pac-Man. I think it must have been the music that accompanied what probably was the first ever cut scenes.Or maybe it was just that vintage feel, i mean she just has old oozing out of her cabinet. Say what you will about good ol' Ms.Pac-Man but when you go into todays arcades is Killer Instinct still around? How about Mortal Kombat 2? Nope, but just about every other arcade in America STILL has an old Ms.Pac-Man hidden away in some dusty corner.
A sight of things to come.
Arcades as we know them are going the way of the buffalo. I know that "things today suck, things back then ruled" articles are over used, but this is just an insight on how i think things are going to end up for arcades. In the mid nineties, home consoles began to put good ol arcade machines out of business, with affordable games with better graphics who could compete? Well the arcade industry thought it could.
Tokens=Tickets. Tickets=Cheap Crap
A few years later as home consoles became more popular and arcade graphics started to become obsolete, Aladdins Castle moved to a new location and re-nammed itseld Namco:TimeOut. It was a bright, clean place with none of the bad stuff i had come to enjoy at the old location. Also gone were many of my favorite games. In there place? Machines that involve me hitting a bag, or kicking a ball, or stepping on an arrow to win tickets for "prizes" that my 11 year old mind knew were just cheap crap. I must admit this change from old school games to interactive games did give the arcade industry a short boost. That is until Nintendo dropped its arcade atomic bomb onto the world.
For so long the arcades always had the "Well we offer something you cant get anywhere else" attitude. Nintendo listened then promptly gave the finger to the arcade industry. Now i could punch bags and kick balls in the privacy of my own home. Sounds dirty doesnt it? Well thats just it, its not dirty at all. You see even though TimeOut was cleaner and was pretty much crime free, as the nineties went on, parents got more paranoid about the safety of arcades. The Wii became an answer to that paranoia, and in the process killed the arcade industry.
I wandered into a TimeOut a few weeks ago, now nearing my 24th birthday. I hoped to relive some of that old wonder at the arcade so i got five bucks worth of tokens and walked around. I almost cried when i saw that it had pretty much become a claw machine/ Dance Dance Revolution warehouse. I found my Ms. Pac-man in a cluttered corner unplugged and covered in graffiti. I walked back to the counter to try and get a refund for the tokens when out of the corner of my eye, like a beacon of home, i spotted The Simpsons Game! Needless to say thats where my five dollars went. And to top it all off, one of my tokens was an old banged up Aladdins Castle token. I infact did shed a tear.
This was my first article here on RetroJunk.com. Ive been a reader for years though, so i know how ugly you ciritics can be. Please forgive me for the typos and just plain bad parts and remember,keep it golden.