POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, July 10, 2011 Share
Now that Summer is here and we are right in the middle of it, I was reminiscing about all the things that make Summer fun. Sadly, one of my favorite activities was going to video arcades. I spent many hours with friends at places like Show Biz Pizza, Chuck E. Cheese, and Celebration Station. With improvements in technology came better graphics and games developed for the home console market. This led to the death of the video arcade. It is a shame. Sure you can play cool games at home but arcades offered games that you could step inside and that would shake and rotate while you were playing. It was an experience that you just can't simulate at home. Unless you have tons of cash to buy your own machine and have it delivered. The days of playing Donkey Kong, Pacman, and Dragon's Lair are forever gone. Only a distant memory remains. There is still hope.
Just board a plane to any major Japanese city and you will find cool arcades that bring back the glorious days of childhood. I was in my late 20's living in Osaka City and going to college in nearby Hirakata City. In downtown Hirakata, I found arcades. Train stations had arcades with a huge Sega Game Center at the top of Kyoto Station. I could be a kid once again, especially with all the 80's pop music playing back in 2000. Those were good times.
One thing that I loved about Japanese games, is that it wasn't enough to stand at a Street Fighter II machine and smash buttons, Japan had more to offer. Several of my favorite games required active involvement like the Sega Deep Sea Fishing game where you use a rod and reel controller and you feel like you are hooking a marlin and it is up to you to land it. My buddy Eric and I would play that game for hours. Another fun game was a fireman sim that had a hose controller. A building would be engulfed in flames and it would be up to you to put out the fire by spraying water from your hose. My favorite was Eighteen Wheeler: American Pro Trucker. Ever since childhood, I always thought it would be so cool to drive a rig, thanks to shows like BJ and the Bear and movies such as Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy. So I was delighted to be able to sit inside a rig and attempt to drive from one part of the US to another. It was fun to be able to knock cars out of the way and get chased by the cops.
I never had the physical coordination for it so I didn't get very far at Dance Dance Revolution with the simple yet difficult to excel at floor controller. My friend Colin was a wiz at DDR and always attracted a small crowd wherever we happen to be at in Osaka. The crowd sometimes cheered him on. Something that you don't always experience in the states.
Japan also had games that were based on traditional Japanese Culture like Taiko: Drum Master. In that game you had two taiko drums and stick controllers. It was simple to play and quickly addicting for me. After a rough day teaching English and losing my mind, I would unwind by picking a Jpop hit and bang those drums until there was no anger left. My frustrations were gone and I felt renewed inside.
Japan also had a game that I have yet to see in the US. It probably exists somewhere. I was walking inside the covered shopping arcade of Shinsaibashi and passed a game center that had an usual game. I saw a businessman walking on a treadmill holding a leash controller. On the screen you could see his dog and the object was to walk your dog by moving a leash. Various obstacles with appear to prevent you from succeeding. The dog walking game looked like so much fun but I never got around to trying it out myself. I was too busy playing a game with a sword controller that you used to battle ninja and samurai in feudal Japan. I loved seeing new technology embracing the old and historic.
It is nice to be able to visit a country that is so young at heart. Whenever nostalgia hits me. Usually when I'm listening to Thomas Dolby The Golden Age of Wireless with the hit single, She Blinded Me with Science, it is nice to know I can still find a place where I can walk into a game center. The perfect place to show off my skills or get schooled by the younger generation. Japan has everything to offer the eternal child that refuses to grow up and step away from the joystick and buttons.
"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.
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