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Arcades? In my mall?

It's more likely than you think.

While accompanying my sister to a job interview yesterday, we decided to stop by the mall, as we'd arrived in the area early. As we walked into the entrance nearest the empty shell formerly known as Robinson's May, a glorious sight leapt out at me from my peripheral vision, a particular type of business establishment unseen in this shopping plaza for a decade or more, certainly before it became a Westfield.

"Um.... wow," I understatedly exclaimed to myself. Seeing the machines as I approached had left me in a momentary state of shock. Now, arcades aren't all that rare in the area, all things considered--there's a Boomer's even closer to my house than the mall, the bowling alley still has a few machines, and Nickel City and Dave & Buster's are a half hour down the freeway or so--but seeing one here, in this place, among the other shops (although at a currently dead end of the building) filled me with excitement. As we were drawn inside the establishment, my bristling expectations turned to "no fucking way!" ecstasy, as right inside the entrance, beckoning to be played, was a pinball machine. And not just any pinball machine, at that:


To understand why I was so excited, you need to know something about my previous experience with this machine. In 2000, when my family got our first real computer (I don't count the DOS machine handed down by our uncle in 1993) one of the first games we got for it, and one of the few worth a damn that would run on that old eMachines box, was Microsoft's Pinball Arcade. It was kind of novel for a PC pinball game, being a collection of recreations of actual pinball machines rather than some made-up garbage for a generic budget title. One of the games in this collection, and the most modern represented, was Cue Ball Wizard.

I never played this particular Gottlieb cabinet in real life--I'd venture to say the number of actual pinball machines I'd played in my entire life at that point was around 5--but I played quite a bit of it on the PC. To have the physical box greeting me on this random sojourn was incredible. I pulled the single one dollar bill I had in my pocket, and found the change machine.

Someone playing Cue Ball Wizard

Aside from some dirt and a few of the lights not working, the machine played damn fine, especially considering its age. 50 cents for 3 balls, more than a fair price given inflation since the last pinball renaissance of the early 90s, the era to which this machine belonged. I somewhat surprised myself by hitting the 49 million points required to earn a free game on my first play, reached after my last ball had tumbled between the flippers and the bonus points collected for that round were added to the total.

In a typical display of the fickle favor of the pinball gods, my free game lasted all of a minute or so, 1-2-3 right through the gap. So it goes.*

Two more pinball machines graced the premises, Sega's Frankenstein from the same era and the more recent Sopranos game. Three pinball machines in one place, two of them relative oldies. I have a good feeling about this place. With the last-chance score matching failing to earn me another free game, I said goodbye to cowboys playing pool and cased the rest of the joint.

That good feeling? It wasn't misplaced. A brief rundown of what I can remember:

-TWO Samba De Amigo 2000 machines!
-TWO Keyboard Manias!
-Guitar Freaks
-Gunbalina (Point Blank)
-Gun Survivor 2: Biohazard Code: Veronica
-Final Furlong
-Rave Racer
-Operation Wolf 3
-Dance Maniax
-Star Wars Episode I: Racer Arcade
-What appeared to be a Japanese Silent Scope game
-A bunch of stuff I can't remember right now

As I moved around, tears of joy welling up in the corners of my eyes, a thought occurred: The only thing this place is missing is a fighting game. Five seconds later, Ryu's silhouette appears next to the Capcom logo just off to my right. A generic sit-down cabinet tucked away in the corner. The attract mode begins as I stand still, now looking straight at the screen.... I catch a glimpse of Cyber Akuma, and I smile. The title screen appears: Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter. The Japanese version- I didn't even think about this last point until we were leaving the mall, but this means (probably) Norimaro is in the game!

By now I'm convinced this place has everything but the kitchen sink. Oh wait, no, it's occupying a space that recently belonged to a failed eatery, so there's still one of those tucked behind a corner, too.

Having looked around, and out of changeable dollars, we departed, vowing to return to this magical place some day. I feel there is only one way I can end this tale:

It's the best week ever.

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About A New Challengerone of us since 3:56 PM on 04.15.2007

You may have seen me commenting on things. I'm a nerdy dude in my mid 20s. Shocking!

My Articles:
The 3rd Party Memory Card- In which I rip off Chad the C and expound upon my favorite moments in games.

It's A Secret To Everybody- In which I highlight and babble on about various Easter Eggs, cheats, and so on.


I own:
Game Boy
Game Boy Color
Game Boy Player
Nintendo DS

I like:
Fighting games, scrolling shooters, puzzle, platformer, racing games, adventure.... actually, a little bit of everything, including an occasional sports game. Also, pinball. Pinball rules.