Japanese Video Game Arcades – still a thing in the land of the rising sun and they are plenty and big

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Japan is probably the only country in the developed world to still have any resemblance of those 80s video game arcades in all its major cities, in fact in all the major prefectures in Tokyo you can expect to see two to three huge video game arcades along the main streets. In Australia, you could find a video game arcade, but not to the size and scale of a typical Japanese video game arcade where anyone from casual to serious gamers are catered.

COVID-19 has certainly put a dent in the video game arcade business with tourists at an all time low and people being encouraged to stay at home. But with vaccines playing an essential role in limiting the potential harm the virus can cause, the ability to visit these once bustling, popular video game arcades is becoming more and more possible. These arcades bring together people and it would be a shame if it didn’t continue.

Whenever I visited Tokyo, particularly Shinjuku or Akihabara, I always visit a SEGA arcade or another arcade. The first few levels would have UFO catcher games with heaps of interesting prizes including boxed figurines of popular anime like One Piece, Dragon Ball and My Hero Academia. (These games would appear deceptively easy to win, but they never are and it would take me many many tries to win a prize. To be honest. It is usually cheaper to just go out and buy the boxed figurine itself.) It’s 100 yen for one attempt. The higher floors would offer casual games like music, rhythm games, including Dance Dance Revolution and other derivatives that I could play with my traveling companion. Finally, usually at the higher floors are the competitive games where people play against each other in the latest fad.

Back in 2017, I remember Dissidia Final Fantasy arcade version being very popular and at the time it was much better received in Japan than in the West (mainly due to it being introduced to the PlayStation 4 with little changes from the arcade for which the West and the arcade were not compatible and the online player base was really small). This arcade game descended from Dissidia Final Fantasy, a popular game on the PlayStation Portable, which allowed players to play as their favorite Final Fantasy hero or villain from the Final Fantasy entire series. In this version, players would team up in teams of 3 to take out the opposing team and their “lives”, and the whole gameplay was completely different in that there was more balancing, less customization in terms of skills/abilities and limit breaks/summons were completely redone.

Also, Pokken Tournament, the Pokemon x Tekken game, was popular in the arcades as well before it was reduced to cartridge form for the Nintendo Switch. The roster was much smaller than the final version of the game, but it was great fun to play thanks to the ability to use a quasi-Nintendo 64 control. I really enjoyed playing as Gengar. The game was easy to pick up and play.

The atmosphere in these arcades is electric. There is so many neon lights and interesting sounds. It is bound to bring out your inner child. While you can watch players do their thing and be in awe of their talents, the best way to really enjoy the arcade is to get into it yourself. There is bound to be something you can pick up and play.

Many of the games range from 100 yen to 500 yen. You will get a decent amount of playtime for what you pay and if you perform well, you get extra playtime as a reward.

Sadly due to the pandemic, many of the big names have left the video game arcade business, but I am hoping to one day return to Japan and experience it again. Hopefully these arcades do continue on for a long time.

People playing Dissidia Final Fantasy in a Japanese arcade

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