Across the street from the largest Junior College in the nation, is one of the few surviving Arcades in the state. Inside the dimly lit four walls is a smorgasboard of racers, music, and fighters. There's even a Simpsons Arcade machine tucked in the corner as you walk in, with promises of nostalgia. Recent updates included a new Tekken 6: BR machine, as well as console boxes to play Mortal Kombat and Marvel 3. Along the windows facing outside, there are HD Television screens with 360's and PS3 hall hooked to a 'Net connection to get your Call of Duty on. Down the middle aisle are the small, sitdown Japanese cabinets, housing games from Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike (still getting playtime), down to Raiden Fighters (still played). All in all, despite it's heavy leaning on fighters, it is a gamers paradise.
And as to be expected, competition is fierce.
Unless class is in session across campus, there's always a crowd surrounding the SSFIV: AE cab, which consists of a single playboard and two HD TV's. There's plenty of beatdowns to go around; only way to get in is to quarter up and enjoy the show. At the risk of sounding like a press release, Ryu, Juri, and even El Fuerte are in constant rotation. As with any arcade, you've always got the single guy that dominates across the board, until he falls to a late newcomer. No matter who it is, the excitement, the trash talk (even the venerable "ooooohs") guarantee a fun time.
When I pulled in with my friend during our break, I found luck was in my favor. I had no clue that the owners has managed to secure AE (in English no less), and at that point in time the setup was empty. I sat down on the P2 side and popped in a token. As my friend pulled up a stool, I selected Evil Ryu and got into it. 2 rounds later, I was flattened by Dan. Yes, Dan
. Don't start. I took my glasses off to pinch my nose, squinting as I lamented my loss (if you're an SF fan, you know why). She (my friend) giggled behind me. I nearly slammed my glasses back on, and dropped another token down, this time selecting Yang.
I managed to last a round with Yang before getting beaten yet again. I was all set for another go at the AI, when a fellow fighter took the seat next to mine and offered to join in. I recognized him - he used to work at the GameStop I frequent before he quit. If I remember correctly, the term he used for his reason was, "Managerial BS," which sounded consistent. But even back then, we spoke consistently about fighters and were especially excited for when the first IV came out, back when they had the tournament after the game released. We said the basic dude-to-dude greeting 'What's up?", and from there the contest started.
He went with Yun, and I went with vanilla Ryu. The match was decent, as I zoned him out with Hadoukens and he retaliated with a few combos that ended with Yun's backturn. An Ultra combo came later, and the match went to him. Not one to stay down so easily, I asked for another fight - happily, he accepted.
This time around, I went with my primary main - Juri. Known across fighter circles as a "glass cannon," she had grabbed my interest even before the game was released. My opponent didn't flinch. Staying with Yun, who he admitted to be, "horribly broken," we hit up the Safari and dug into it.
I can honestly say this was one of the best matches I've ever fought in.
The best way I can describe the three rounds was a dance. My dive kick follow-ups landed with grace, as he hit back with palm strikes and constant backturns - all combos. Whiffed Pinwheels were punished by Zesshou Hohou's (lunge punch), his dives struck down by Juri's Ultra, Kaisen Dankairaku. No Focus, just evades and counters. I ended the match with a wakeup Pinwheel and the inevitable agreement was "one more go." We stuck with our characters, and as we fought talked about why we main who we main. For him, after Ryu was "nerfed," he went the Daigo route and picked up Yun, out of love for his 3rd Strike version. As I said before, Juri had been on my radar for quite some time since I first saw her.
After the third match, the best two-out-of-three went to him. I had to get to class; if not, one more go around would have been an inevitability. By this time a small crowd had gathered, watching the fight. As soon as I stood up, another player had a seat and selected his character. Life cycle of the Arcade.
As my friend and I walked back on campus, I couldn't stop talking about the fight. The fun, the camaraderie - meeting a gamer in person who's on an equal level as you...that is the greatest feeling an arcade can give out. Pure excitement. Don't get me wrong - I've met folks online, through FNF's (which I'll try to participate in more), and even through random matchups that've been, without question, truly fun people to be around. But there's something about fighting in an arcade that you can't get from online. Not to say that arcades are infinitely better (like when the guy sitting next to you hasn't showered in DAYS). But getting a group to chill at an arcade around a physical cabinet, cracking jokes and pointing out whiffs, seems much more fun than sending out Invite after Invite online.
So long as this, and other arcades can stick around in this age of online play, I'll continue to drop quarters and hit P1 or P2.
Thanks for reading.
Photo Credits (except for VS title) go to Sklathill read