A Step Back In Time

Double Dragon

A look back at when video games were what an arcade was all about.

I was quite surprised recently. I went to our local big shopping complex, and inside they have a Namco Funscape arcade. I had been wanting to check this place out for a while now. As someone who has been a gamer for many years I grew up in the arcades of the 80’s and 90’s. I would say for the most part gaming has changed for the better if I am honest, but there are something’s that have been lost, and one of these is the classic arcades. When I went into the Namco Funscape I was shocked at what I saw. Their range of arcade games were just things like dancing games, Guitar Hero, light gun shooters, in car racing games, and that really was it. It was just full of gimmick games. There were no standard cabs with two joysticks. Is this really what is classed as an arcade these days? I was really shocked at just how far arcades had fallen. I wanted to take a look at some of my memories of the arcades back when I was a kid.

When I think of an arcade I always think of a dark place that is full of noise. You could go into one of these places, and not be seen again for hours. One of my fondest memories is also one of my earliest, and that is of the Star Wars arcade machine. I was walking around an arcade and I heard something that sounded like R2-D2. Then I saw it.. the sit down Star Wars arcade machine. I must have drained my parents for money to put in this machine.

At the time I played this, at our house we had a ZX Spectrum and an old Commodore Plus 4 for gaming, and this arcade machine blew those out of the water. Back then the games in the arcades were far more advanced than what we were able to play at home.  

Arcades were also a pretty big social scene for kids as well, and I don’t think people who are non gamers appreciate just how much fun it was for kids to get together and play games. When the fun fair came to town one year they always had cool arcades with all the classic games. I really wanted to play Double Dragon, but there was already another kid on there. I saw that he was still on the first level so I asked him if I could join in. He said yes, and we really bonded over playing this game. Never in a million years would I have struck up a conversation with a random kid in the street, but here it just felt ok. Well it was either that or I just could not resist the urge to play some of that scrolling beat em up classic that was Double Dragon. You could do this in arcade back then.. you could just sit down and play with someone you had never met before. The requirement for playing Double dragon was to be armed with a pocket full of 10p’s (uk currency). We used to play that game religiously until we eventually completed it. For me it was the first real ‘beat em up’ game and completely it really made you feel like a pro!

This is going into the 90’s here, but a big part of my childhood in arcades was most definitely one on one fighters. Most notably Street Fighter II. Playing Street Fighter II in the arcade was far different than playing it on your Super Nintendo or Sega Mega Drive at home.

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Do not get me wrong I had the Super Nintendo version as a kid, and I loved it, but there was something different about playing it in the arcades against someone. There were all these unwritten rules for example if you won the first round you would always give the 2nd round. Some guys would even put there jacket over there hands as they played so you could not see how they did certain moves. Also you could tell right away if the person you were playing was a “real” Street Fighter player just by if they jumped or not. Street Fighter II was by far the most completive game I have ever played in arcades. I know in my local arcade that who ever was the king of Street Fighter II was also the king of the arcade. I really miss the good traditional arcades that I grew up in. I know there are some places around the world that there are good people who are trying to keep the arcade scene alive, and I salute these guys. For me though this is certainly a time that is long gone. I used to love going into a new arcade and never knowing what you would see inside there. I remember being blown away the very first time I saw Tekken in the arcades, but for me this also signalled the start of the end. You see with the arrival of console like the Playstation the gap between a home console and an arcade was really starting to get smaller. I feel this is the main reason that arcades kind of went the way that they did. Still I have some great memories, and I consider my self lucky to have grown up when I did. Playing Super Street Fighter IV over Xbox Live may be fun, but it is just not as awesome as playing side by side with another gamer in a good old fashion arcade!

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