I grew up with an arcade up the street from me. I only went there once and it has now been replaced by a furniture store. You don’t see many arcades in the USA anymore. That is quite the opposite of what is going on in Japan. Arcades seem to be thriving, especially in Akihabara which is considered the cultural centre for all things computer games, manga, and anime-related.
I think we took the JR (Japan Rail) to get there and then just walked North(?). There might have been a few transfers, but I can’t remember exactly HOW we got there, but we got there. Right out of the exit we are bombarded with neon’s and brightly painted buildings touting anime and manga characters that I was (and still am) unfamiliar with. We kept walking until we found an arcade that we liked, actually I think it was the first arcade we came across but we liked what we saw. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos while inside but let me tell you, it was pretty cool. The arcades that I grew up with were always on a single floor and spread out over a vast, expansive space that was more like a warehouse. With space and land at a premium all things in Japan grow UP and not out.
Once inside we went up an escalator that snaked up the building. We passed through floors with various games ranging from a ‘Rock Band’ like game to a floor that was entirely pink and filled with games meant for smaller & younger children. After staking out the entire place we went back down a few floors and found some games to play. The first one I played was a classic zombie shoot-em-up only as you held the gun in your hand it monitored your heart rate and whenever a zombie or another creature popped out and surprised me, I would see the meter spike. A truly fun and unique experience, even if I did die within the first 10 minutes.
The second game I tried was called ‘Quiz Magic Academy’. I had no idea what the game was about or what it did. I just sat down, dropped in some Yen and started playing…or at least I tried to play. Little did I know that I stumbled upon a word/quiz game – in Japanese! I selected my character, who rode a rocket ship instead of a broom like the other witches/wizards and I was off.
Then the questions started coming.
I had no idea what they were asking or what the answers were. I just pushed the buttons on the screen hoping for something good to happen. I got one or two right, clearly on accident, and this game felt like it went on for an hour because I was doing so poorly. Mercifully, the game ended and no one was near me to see how poorly I did, although I’m sure they could just look at my face and see that I was in a daze because my ass just got kicked.
After leaving that arcade we ventured up the street to find another arcade. As luck, and proximity, would have it we found one a few buildings away. We walked inside and could see that this one was different. This arcade was filled with games that allowed you the opportunity to win prizes! From stuffed Pikachu’s to figurines and body pillows with scantily-clad manga girls on them. I stuck to the games with Pokemon prizes in them, because that was the only thing I was familiar with in that entire shop.
After trying my hand at the classic claw game trying to catch a plush Bulbasaur, and failing, I sat down to play a version of Pokemon. Finally! Something I knew how to play without having to know Japanese! I selected my Pokemon and proceeded to battle. I missed my opportunity to catch two of them but the third was mine. I sent out that Pokeball and boom! I caught a Garchomp! Relishing in my victory I gave myself a small round of applause and then I heard something rattle around at my feet. I looked down and saw a prize slot and a cartridge. I picked it up and saw it was Garchomp. Apparently you could use the cartridges in the game itself as you battled other Pokemon. I then came to the realization that you can actually carry around Pokemon in your bag and be ready for battle at any arcade that had this game. I didn’t care about that. I only cared that I literally caught a Pokemon in Japan! My life is complete.