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

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Final Report

A room full of dedicated enthusiasts probably isn't the the best indicator of the health of arcades. A healthy gathering of people who have travelled specifically to play pinball and classic video games wouldn't necessarily translate into healthy footfall for an arcade, but it does suggest an evolution of arcade gaming that won't necessarily require traditional arcades to exist. The Scottish Pinball and Arcade Expo, held in Kilsyth, may have been a celebration of gaming's history in many ways, but it was also an encouraging glimpse into a more independent, grass-roots way of enjoying and preserving arcade games.

We've seen countless examples of arcades who don't know or care enough about their roster of games to keep them in good order in recent months, so it was heartening to be around well maintained cabinets and pinball machines including the original Outrun and games as old as Missile Command and Galaga. As great as these are, they are essentially a reminder of a bygone era and not particularly indicative of where arcade gaming currently is or where it's likely to go. The candy cabinets on offer, however, suggest  an alternative recent history and future for arcade gaming.

For the unfamiliar, Candy Cabinets (or Candy Cabs) are squat, plastic arcade cabinets designed to be played sitting down with a joystick and button set up most people would likely associate with shmups or beat 'em ups. While the mid 90s onwards seemed to indicate a shift in UK arcades where the fetishisation of fairly novel 3D graphics and the proliferation of more powerful home consoles appeared to sideline a lot of traditional arcade genres in favour of new 3D games, Candy Cabs suggest an alternative Universe where people still flocked to arcades to play challenging shoot 'em ups and fighting games.

There's a lot of romanticising happening here on my part, of course. Games like Capcom's Versus series and SNK's Metal Slug series were still produced during this time and were highly regarded and popular with certain kinds of gamers, but they certainly didn't have the muscle and instant mainstream appeal of Daytona USA or The House of the Dead's spectacle and blaring attract sequences. The Candy Cab community seem to have captured what they love about this era in amber, preserving the experience of playing some classic games on a cabinet with or against a friend, but also in a medium that encourages spectating and competition. It's unlikely many of these cabinets will make their way in to mainstream Scottish arcades. They've been around long enough for it happen by now and they're mainly the preserve of dedicated hobbyists, but its cool that the option is out there for those with the interest and resources.

So, what about Sega's arcade future? It has probably been apparent that I'm pretty ambivalent about their current arcade presence in a lot of ways. I accept that it's not the late 90s anymore and that games like Fighting Vipers or Virtual-On would perhaps not be likely arcade hits now at all. I accept the more recent titles that they do put out are more likely to find their homes and their audience in motorway service stations and cinema foyers rather than dedicated arcades. However, I'm really glad I had the opportunity to experience many of the games I did during my adolescence and teens and got the opportunity to visit them again on home consoles, often for little more than a couple of credits in the arcade would have cost. I'm happy that Sega have left behind a legacy and aesthetic that developers have picked up on apparent in the sun-kissed tracks and wide, drift able corners of recent releases like Sumo Digital's Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed.

Perusing Sega's arcade website, you can still see glimpses of Sega's legacy in there. Sure, there's a large amount of slightly tacky Sonic the Hedgehog themed air-hockey tables and cabinets based on well known film franchises and non-Sega home console franchises, but there's also the delirious looking Dream Raiders (http://www.segaarcade.com/dreamraiders) or Operation G.H.O.S.T. (http://www.segaarcade.com/operationghost-42dlx), which I really, really hope includes the gloriously corny music in some kind of attract sequence. Upcoming titles include the tantalisingly titled racing game KO Drive (http://www.segaarcade.com/kodrive), which is shaping up to be a goofy looking combat racing game. I can't really speak for the likelihood  of these games making their way to Scottish arcades based upon the age of many titles that we've seen, but it's certainly not an impossibility.

I can't go back in time and be ensnared by Daytona's attract sequence again or to wait in anticipation for a games magazine to finally publish a Virtua Fighter guide. Arcades might never reclaim their glamour. It's quite possible that they never had much anyway. But the games certainly did and it's encouraging to see that that can still be the case. I sincerely hope some of Sega's new titles can give someone that that rush that Scud Race or Afterburner gave me. Well done, Sega! Thank you, Sega!


"I can't really speak for the likelihood of these games making their way to Scottish arcades based upon the age of many titles that we've seen, but it's certainly not an impossibility."

Just wanted to mention that Codona's in Aberdeen has Operation G.H.O.S.T. and it's a blast to play!

Cool, thanks for the info! Will definitely check that out next time we're there.

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And in a welcome development, Glasgow has since gained Megabytes, which has a few nice machines to play, and soon Super Bario on King Street! I've seen a partial list of the cabinets they're getting in and it'll make 80s and 90s arcade gamers VERY happy! https://www.facebook.com/superbarioglasgow/

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