We trawl Scottish arcades for Sega games,
then film & write about them.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Beach Esplanade, Aberdeen

It's not unreasonable to expect a fifteen year old arcade game to be a little worse for wear. A lot of
them are visceral experiences, with pedals to be stomped, shotguns to be pumped, not to mention
those arcade machines that are literally designed to be hit. It's also not unreasonable to expect that
an arcade game that has been stomped, pumped and hit into a pathetic state should perhaps be
repaired and it's certainly not unreasonable to expect that most games should at least have visible
displays and and have means of accepting money to allow us to play them.

Both Sunset Boulevard and The Boardwalk at Aberdeen's beachfront leisure complex have some
pretty impressive games on offer, but are sadly marred by the fact that so many of them are in such
a sorry condition. I can sort of understand why Sunset Boulevard's Manx TT Superbike cabinet was
showing some cosmetic damage, as it's almost old enough to enlist in the armed forces, but why is the excellent Sega Rally 3 from 2008 in the same arcade suffering from a washed out
screen and absolutely destroyed seat mechanism? Even more galling is the state of 1997's The Lost
World: Jurassic Park
on offer. Even though an employee had to help a pair of players activate their
credits during our visit, when we tried to play it later, the same problem struck again.

I can't help but wonder what happens here. Do employees consistently have to deal with irate
customers and fix the machine or return their cash? Surely that's irritating and embarrassing. Are
employees given instruction to leave broken machines on and hope that no one complains as long
as the machine is making profit? I certainly hope not, as that's unethical and cynical. The fact that
Sunset Boulevard's Shoot to Win cabinet has a gun that targets the upper-left hand corner of the
screen after every shot, certainly makes it feel like players are being cheated on purpose, although
this might just be an unfortunate fault that people have been too apathetic about or simply unaware
of to report. I certainly don't expect arcades to be employing full time engineers, but an out-of-
order sign would at least be courteous, if disappointing. The barely four year old Ghost Squad:
was making a noise like an idling motorbike. Why has this not alarmed anybody? What if it explodes?

The disappointment of the broken games at Sunset Boulevard is thankfully offset by some pretty
impressive cabinets, however. Rambo from 2008 is big, loud, colourful and is in great condition.
It's a fun, fast-paced shooter. Its existence is a bit puzzling since I'm not sure what kind of draw
the Rambo license was in 2008, but it's presence in Sunset Boulevard is made all the sweeter by its
proximity to the indoor 'Ramboland' children's adventure playground (seriously). Perhaps even
bigger, louder and colourfuller is GRID from 2010. It looks simply fantastic, with working flashing
neon and player cameras. GRID technically isn't a Sega game as it's a port of the Codemaster's
console racer published by Sega Amusements, but it's hard to deny how appealing and impressive
it is. More impressive is the working Sega's Airline Pilots from 1999, a fairly conservative
flight simulator covered in Japanese text. We were pretty thrilled to find this as it's not really
standard arcade fare, even if the experience was sadly marred by some broken controls. I'd be
curious to see what the takings of cabinets that look great and sound great is compared to those that
are left to rot. Would GRID be as appealing with broken cameras and dead neon? I can't imagine
that the profitability of an already ageing kinda-ordinary console port would be that high otherwise.

A short walk away from Sunset Boulevard (so close, many locals refer to the entire complex
as 'Codona's') is 'The Boardwalk'. A lot of fairly common Sega arcade games can be found here in
the building's upstairs area like House of the Dead 3 with a broken shotgun that turns the game
into an exercise in sadomasochism due to protruding screws and bolts. Or it would if House of the
Dead 3
was actually fun. It's aged badly and is kind of boring, so it's just painful. Impressively
good condition copies of Crazy Taxi and Sega Rally 2 were also available, although Gunblade
was looking pretty beat up. Sadly, one of their more exciting titles, Initial D: Version
from 2004 was on but displaying an error message. Why tease us like this? The dilapidated
machines are housed in an area between the combined bar and pool hall and a mini-bowling alley, so they create a weird ghost-town right at the entry to the building's upstairs area. I can't fathom any
other excuse than apathy.

It's hard to be completely upset when The Boardwalk houses a fantastically good condition deluxe Afterburner: Climax from 2005 (dumped unceremoniously in the downstairs area).
It's bright, loud, mechanically sound and it lets you paint a jet in bright colours and listen to music
from Afterburner 2. What more could you want? How thrilling would it be to walk into an arcade
containing this, GRID, Rambo and some other blockbuster games? It's sadly hard to shake the
feeling that arcade cabinets are no longer considered a draw by these establishments, but are simply
there to fill space. Places like Sunset Boulevard and The Boardwalk aren't dedicated video game
arcades, but to show the lack of respect they do to their property, and by extension their customers,
is pretty upsetting.

Also available in The Boardwalk was Ford Racing: Full Blown, another Sega Amusements
published racer but this time with of unremarkable appearance. It's pretty dull, but it did at
least teach us that the Bitmap Brothers were operational in some capacity up until at least 2006.
Like GRID this is another home console port, although considerably more dated.

Lots of arcade games, lots of dashed hopes. But also Afterburner: Climax. Go and play it before a
kid jams a penny chew in the coin slot and nobody ever fixes it or it's replaced by Shoot to Win.


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