Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hitting the Arcade

A new barcade called Start Bar opened in town in this re-purposed warehouse down by the ballpark.

It's a gorgeous building and the owners did a great job of capturing pop-culture ideas of arcade culture. The restrooms have Space Invaders built into the tiles. There's a huge Andy Worhole inspired collage of Billy Mitchell on one wall. There's neon lights and a price counter hearkening to your favorite roller skating rink.

Even their pint glasses have the Start Bar logo on one side and the Konami code on the other.

They really nailed the right feel

The arcade experience is really different when you have adult money. In the early 90s, I scrapped quarters together to play the Simpsons. Now, we bought $30 worth of tokens without thinking twice and filled one of those paper solo cups with the purple and green swirls with our plentiful bounty.

First up was the Game of Thrones pinball machine by Stern. I'm not very good at pinball, but I love it a ton, so I usually try out the new tables. This one felt great. It was an easier table, but had challenges if you wanted to play slightly more advanced.

You could join one of the houses and each one would give you some sort of bonus, multiplayer, extra ball, etc. During the game, you could wage war against one of the other houses and if I understood right, if you beat them you got their bonus as well.

After some pizza and garlic knots, we moved onto a game near and dear to me and my brother's hearts, Gauntlet Legends.

We had this game on PS1 and played the crap out of it. It was one of the few games that our four player dongle would work with and no one was left out of playing.

It's still incredibly fun, but when you're pumping money into the game in real time you realize how much of a quarter monster this game is.

Like in previous entries, your health continually counts down, friendly fire takes it down, and grim reapers hide in random treasure chests and drain your life quickly. With four players, on average two of us were throwing another quarter into the slot per level.

We went too far to give up and kept putting quarters into it until we beat the dragon... and then it opened up the next set of levels. We had to call it after having probably thrown $10 into the machine.

After this, a machine that kept switching between Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 caught our eyes. We played a few rounds and it felt really off but none of us could figure out why until about the third round. We realized that the 2nd player buttons were a mirror of player 1's, which made being second player incredibly hard. On top of that, the kick and punch buttons seemed to be swapped around from what my muscle memory wanted to press.

I have a feeling this was a home built cabinet because I can't see Midway releasing this thing into the world.

Boys and girls split off at this point with the guys going to play NFL Blitz 2000 in one of the most exciting games I've ever watched. Brett overtook Nick with 10 seconds left. First time in the history of the game that Nick has lost with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The ladies finished with a light gun game called Terror Target Gold. It's one of those games that's sort of the cornerstone of the early 90s arcade. Digitized sprites pop on the screen and you have to shoot them before they shoot you.

The game was slightly in poor taste. There were a lot of suicide bombers in airports and on airplanes. That felt sort of weird, especially since this game came out post 911.

But the ladies killed it. Even unlocked the hidden hijacked airplane level where they were unceremoniously killed by a suicide bomber in the cockpit, which I would assume is the last room in the game.

Overall we left satisfied. One in our group had never been to an arcade before and she was already talking about the next time we go. The issue is, with it being so near the ball park and in a sort of hot part of town, this place is going to be packed every weekend. We got there right when they opened at noon and had a solid 45 minutes of an almost empty place, but by the time we left at 2:30, there were lines at every machine.

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