Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Retro Replay Launch Day - Norwich

It’s Saturday 28th September, the launch day for Retro Replay.  This is a new arcade and gaming lounge in Norwich’s rebranded Castle Quarter, formerly the Castle Mall.  I’ve got my head in the back of a generic BAS cab.  The arcade is about to open, and the lights have just been switched off so people can appreciate the games, illuminated marquees, and the newly installed neon lighting in all their glory.  My wife shines her phone torch inside the cab as I connect Puzzle Bobble to the harness.  “How are you getting on?” asks Glen, the owner of Retro Replay.  What he really means is hurry up as we’re about to open!  I refit the backdoor, push the cab against the wall and switch it on.  As the monitor glows into life, I see that I have left dipswitch one on and it goes into the service menu.  I curse for a bit, switch the cab off, pull the cab out from the wall, remove the back door, switch off dipswitch one, refit the door and push the cab back in position.  I switch on the cab and see the familiar Neo Geo logo and multi-coloured bubbles fill the screen.  I step back and feel happy and relieved to see my machines up and running together for the first time.

The lineup from left to right: Final Fight, Pang and Bubble Bobble.

There is a sudden influx of people, and it’s now time to chill out and enjoy some gaming.

A couple of weeks prior to this, news of this awesome new arcade came up on my Facebook feed.  I got in contact with Glen, offered to help out with the launch and agreed to loan him four of my machines.  These are Raid cabs, and my wife and I made a big effort to refurbish and get them ready for the launch.

The venue is spread over two floors, with the upper floor being the main arcade floor, and the lower floor predominantly console gaming.  The arcade line up is fantastic, with a nice variety of games across different eras.  This includes eighties classics, such as Galaxian and Space Invaders Part II, iconic nineties titles, including Ridge Racer and Virtua Fighter, and even a couple of cool games from the noughties.  There are also some pretty obscure titles.  Air Rescue, Battle Shark and Steel Gunner were among my highlights, I had never played these before.

It’s been years since I’ve played Primal Rage in the arcades, and it was awesome seeing it again after all these years.  The game looked incredible in the Deluxe Showcase 33” cabinet. 

Some of the cabs have been picked up locally.  Ridge Racer and The House of the Dead are from the Pleasure Beach and 500 GP and Midnight Maximum Tune 3 from a small chip shop / arcade in Potter Heigham.  It’s great to see these get a loving new home.

A high score competition is currently being held on the lower floor with cash prizes to be won.  Centipede (Atari 2600), Pac-Man (NES), Space Invaders (Super Famicom) and Tetris (NES) are the games featured.  The competition ends 20th October.

The lower floor also has some cool cocktail cabs, including Sega’s Space Trek, Guitar Hero Arcade and Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man pinball.

Inevitably there were a few arcade casualties.  Pac-Land developed a last minute board fault.  Also the monitor chassis on Point Blank started smoking the day before, and my Marvel Super Heroes filled its place on the main arcade floor.  This one proved really popular.  The cab was from a barn near Blackpool, and the board from a lock up in Reading.  Both needed work, and it was great seeing them out there once again for people to enjoy and hearing the comments.

I did chuckle when someone was playing Final Fight on the Challenger 26 and mentioned that the monitor had seen better days and was a bit faded.  If only he knew the backstory of this particular machine!  When we picked the cab up, it was in a bit of a sorry state and falling apart.  The Op had threatened to smash it up with a digger the following day, and said I could have it.  I thought it would be a shame to see it destroyed and accepted his kind offer.  It’s somewhat surprising that we managed to get it home in one piece.  The cab has been taken apart completely and glued back together with new dowels, the Electrohome G19 monitor has been serviced, and the power supply replaced. 

The cab cleaned up well, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Here are some more pics of the arcade.

Pac-Man and Clyde taking some time out from the arcade at the launch.

We had an awesome time at Retro Replay, and it’s fantastic that Norwich now has a proper arcade once again.  The launch was a massive success.  Glen and his team have worked extremely hard to bring us this arcade, and I feel privileged to have contributed to the launch lineup.  Now all I need to do is get back down there and work on my high scores!

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Neon Knights and The Retro Hunter – Leigh-on-Sea

Neon Knights Arcade & Cafe

With the abundance of new retro arcades opening up North, arcade gamers down South have felt a little deprived.  Neon Knights is a fantastic new arcade which goes someway to address this.

This venue is all about recreating the arcade experience in the most authentic way possible.  The owners, Ally and Dave have combined their arcade collections to realise their dream of opening a classic arcade.  “This is a labour of love for us,” explained Dave.  “The important thing for us is enabling those that loved these machines to play them again, and those that didn’t get the chance to play, the opportunity now.”

The arcade has an absolutely awesome line up of games and machines.  This includes eighties classics, such as OutRun, Pac-Man and Space Invaders, greats from the nineties, including Street Fighter II’, Sunset Riders and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and even a couple of cool games from the noughties.  It’s not just the big hits though, there are some more obscure games and very rare machines to please the hardcore arcade gamers.  There is a fantastic mix of UK manufactured machines, US dedicated cabs and Japanese Candy.  Pay on the door and all of the games are set to free play.

Here is a walk round video.

Here are some of my gaming highlights.

Golden Axe – Sega – 1989
This is currently one of my daughter’s favourite games and she was really pleased to see it. 

We enjoyed playing it through to the end, with my daughter being the battle-axe wielding dwarf, Gillius Thunderhead.  She loves defeating Death Adder, rescuing the king and princess and watching that incredible end sequence.  She has even made up her own names for some of the enemies, including the Pink La La Knights and Big Man in a Diaper!  It’s the first arcade game she’s completed, both at home and now in an arcade.

Donkey Kong – Nintendo – 1981

Neon Knights have really spoiled us with both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior.  The former is an extremely rare US Cabaret.  I really enjoyed playing this beautiful little cab.

I definitely have a love-hate relationship with this game.  I own the full upright version.  On one hand it’s a fantastic looking cab and such an iconic game.  On the other it surely has to be one of the hardest games ever, absolutely brutal with very little margin for error.  Maybe it’s me being rubbish at it. 

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles – Konami – 1989

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles was installed in an incredibly rare Japanese Sega Swing.  I must say I was mightily impressed to see one of these.

Just look at that four player control panel, it’s absolutely stunning!

TMHT is the perfect game for this awesome machine, and my two year old boy sat nicely on my lap whilst I gave the Foot Clan a thorough thrashing!

X-Men vs. Street Fighter – Capcom – 1996

Now this is pretty cool!  I picked up this board from a Raid and put it up for sale a couple of months later after having it repaired.  It was picked up by someone on Ukvac, and after they sent me their Leigh-on-Sea address, I enquired whether they were the same people opening a new retro arcade.  It turns out it was!  The game had sat in a box for years in an Op’s shed, and it was great seeing it back in an arcade once again, being played and enjoyed.  You can read all about that Raid here.

An absolutely epic crossover.  I remember seeing the first screen shots in Games Master magazine, along with Street Fighter EX and Street Fighter Zero, and how excited I was.

Blazing Star – SNK / Yumekobo - 1998
I love my MVS and was pleased to see two extremely nice Neo cabs, an Electrocoin Neo-Geo Sports Point and a Lordsvale.

Both machines had an excellent selection of games.  However Blazing Star was the highlight for me, an absolutely awesome horizontal shooter.  This is another game I sold to them along with X-Men vs. Street Fighter, but this one was from an Op in Wales.

I recognised a couple of machines from the Happidrome arcade in Southend, including this Pac-Man. 

During my last visit to the Happidrome, the owner mentioned that he was thinking of selling some of his classic cabs.  Whilst I was sad to hear this at the time, they couldn’t have ended up in a more perfect new home.

Sunset Riders and WWF WrestleFest were in the Electrocoin Xenons.  I remember playing these games a lot down the seafront back in the day. 

The line up changes regularly, and since my visit Captain Commando, ESPgaluda, Final Fight and The Punisher have been installed.  Check out their Facebook page for updates.

Some more pics of Neon Knights.

With its friendly atmosphere, fantastic line up and some very uncommon machines, we had an awesome time at Neon Knights and can’t wait to go back. 

The Retro Hunter

Next door to Neon Knights is The Retro Hunter, a shop selling retro consoles, games, toys and collectables. 

I’ve been wanting to visit for a while and it was great to finally check it out.  Buying games online is all well and good, but there’s just something about browsing shelves stocked with games and having the game in your hand, checking it over before purchase.  Ally was extremely helpful and I picked up some Megadrive titles as well as Space Harrier for the Master System. 

Here are my pick ups.