For no reason other than amusing myself, here’s a list of some of my favourite memories from the glory days of arcades.
Seeing Street Fighter II in the flesh for the first time. Ever since seeing the first pictures in an old copy of C+VG I was absolutely obsessed with the game. I spent hours poring over the few pictures I had deciding who I was going to choose when I played it and so on, so when it turned up in the local arcade I was in rapture. I swear that machine must’ve generated more money than any other since Space Invaders and Pac-Man hit the world (Space Invaders was so popular in Japan there was a shortage of 100Y coins and the mint had to make more), and it was especially true at our arcade.
The unwritten rule. If you wanted to be next to take on the person currently playing, you had to put your ‘credit’ (10p pieces) on the cabinet, next to the joysticks. On popular games this led to teetering towers of coins, people crowded around a machine waiting for the chance to play next.
Excessively loud cabinets. Every once in a while the guy who came to change the games installed in the cabs (otherwise known as God) would leave a machine turned up to dangerously loud volume levels. Off the top of my head I can’t remember many, but I remember Double Dragon at the leisure centre being one of them. The first time I heard someone kick a knife out of the air in that game could probably have been heard on the moon (yes, defying even the vacuum of space).
‘Stuck’ credits. It was an event as rare as a lottery win, but every once in a while the credit mech on a cab would get stuck, granting unlimited credits to those lucky enough to be playing at the time. I remember a Shinobi machine in this state (the first and only time I ever completed it), and most memorably of all the four-player Turtles machine too. That game was one of those excessively loud ones detailed above – which is probably why phrases like ‘Say your prayers toitles!’ and ‘Tonight I dine on turtle soup’ and indelibly etched into my brain – and every time you hit the credit button the machine would shout ‘Cowabunga!!’. Imagine if you can, the cacophany of four overly excited teenagers hammering four of these buttons as fast as they can… ‘COW-COW-COW-C-C-C-COW-C-C-C-COW-COW-COW-COW-COW…… COWABUNGA!’. What a great day that was .
Hydraulic cabinets. These beasts were rare, especially in small local arcades, and the games weren’t always that good, but they were so much fun! Afterburner II was my favourite of the bunch, swinging around in that F-14 Tomcat was awesome fun, especially once the music for level 4 kicked in (Megadriver do an awesome cover of this). I seem to remember sitting on the Thunderblade one once as well.
Girl Games. The few girls seen in flea-pit arcades would normally be adorned in shell suits, hanging around local hoodlum-wannabes with bum fluff moustaches, but occasionally some would actually play a game, and for whatever reason it was always one of a couple of games. Wonderboy and Pac-Land are prime examples of this, both of them were excellent games, full of secrets and tricks, but it was the girls who found them. They played the games obsessively, moreso than most boys and got really good at them, but it meant that you could never really play them, either because there was a girl camped out on one of them, or because on the rare occasion it was free you’d be seen playing a ‘girl game’.
I realise now this list could get very big, very quickly, so for now here are some of my favourite games from that era:
Rolling Thunder 2
The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy
Wonderboy III (The arcade style side-scrolling shooter)
Bubble Bobble (I still remember the cheats, not many coin-ops had cheats!)
Battle Chopper/Mr Heli
Mr Bonze Adventure
Hat Trick Hero (I only ever remember seeing the elusive SUUUUPER SHOT!!!! twice)
Again, I’ve forced myself to stop before it gets even more boring and irrelevant. If you can be bothered to find out any more about any of those, hit them up on KLOV.
I realise I’ve probably made very similar posts to this before, apologies if it feels like Groundhog day reading it, at my age now my memory isn’t what it used to be .