Friday, June 27, 2008

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Where Are You Hiding Arcade Cabinet??

You remember them well from when you were a wee tyke. The flashing lights, the loud bells and chimes, the sticky floors, the awesome artwork on the sides. Yes, I am talking about your local video arcade. Back in the 80's, these establishments of entertainment were all over. But it seems that like many vestiges from our past (drive-in theaters, roller rinks), the tall, upright cabinets are dissapearing from the landscape. People would rather plunk down hundred of dollars on consoles and expensive computers and buy $50 games that they play for a couple of weeks and forget about it. Few carry pocket-fulls of quarters and traverse the aisles of video arcade machines. Yet the iconic figures contained in these machines are still alive. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, X-Men, The Simpsons game, Street Fighter, and so on.

In my city, there were a bunch of arcades where a hyperactive kid could spend his pesos. Tilt, Aladdin's Castle, two different Golflands, Chuck E Cheese, Nickel City. Now, only Golfland, CeC, and Nickel City remain.

So, in order to rekindle my love of joystick action (don't read into that statement), I ventured to Nickel City (with my two brothers), one of the last frontiers of arcade gaming. And surprisingly enough, the place is still alive and doing well.

Nickel City is a fun place to kill some time and some aliens (in Alien vs. Predator). Most games only cost one nickel per credit. Some of the newer games cost upwards of 10 nickels (50 cents ain't bad). And there is a whole row of FREE PLAY games. This is where I spent most of my time. King of Dragons, Knights of the Round Table, Fighter's History, World Cup '94, Pac-Man, and Altered Beast were my games of choice. In addition to the free games, there are of course the ticket games. You know, the well crafted machines with funny artwork that steal your precious coins when you pop them into those skinny slots. I probably wasted half of my $5 dollar bag of nickels on these traps. And did I have any tickets to show for it? Well yeah, but I didn't hit any bonuses on these games.

My brother AJ and I also spent some quality time with one of our greatest joys, Pop a Shot. As brothers who are always trying to one-up one another, mini hoop action was a fine challenge (he wouldn't play DDR). But it wasn't my day. He pretty much shut everyone down and not only got the high score, but then proceeded to beat his own high score more than once. It was quite amazing, actually. All the little kids were captivated by his jumpshot on the six foot hoop.

Of course, being the benevolent older brother that I am, I game him a slow golf clap and toasted his victories. NOT. You've got to understand something, after 20 years of competition, you don't let something that has a big influence in your life (hoops) become an embarassing moment. So I challenged AJ to another arcade classic, air hockey. Needless to say, fueled by Laffy Taffy and Arizona Ice Tea, I got the better of him in this round. The score was 7-4, total domination.
I then proceeded to find my youngest sibling, Wes. He was playing another favorite of ours, Mega Man: The Power Battle. As Mega Man and his cooler brother, Proto Man, we took down Dr. Wily and his robot minions, while only spending about a forty cents on three playthroughs. You can't go wrong with that.
After an hour and a half of playing, I still had two dollars of video entertainment left. So I spent some time playing some games from two of my favorite genres, fighting and sidescrolling. Tekken 2, Street Fighter II, Power Stone 2, Tech Romancer, Virtua Fighter Evolution, Cybots, The Fallen Angels, King of Fighters '96, Puzzle Fighter, The Simpsons, X-Men, Blood Brothers, and even some Metal Slug 6 action.

With no nickels left and enough tickets to spend on Abba Zabbas and Now and Laters, we jammed on over to the free game section. Sure, a bunch of the machines weren't operating and a few had graphical glitches, but they were FREE! AJ and I played Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man to see who would last the longest. Once again, I blew him away, even though the joystick wouldn't turn Pac-Man right! Eat that ghosties!

So with candy in hand and childish grins on our faces, we departed Nickel City. After two and half hours of quality fun and only $5 dollars spent (take that movie theater), we left knowing that sometime down the road during summer, we would return. Hopefully, some of the machines we wanted to play (Dungeons and Dragons side scroller) would be functioning. If you have the chance to visit your local arcade, do it soon, because you don't know how long it's going to be there!