Ask the Kliq #13: The Return
Every once in a while, you will think about video games and then ask yourself a question that has no rhyme or reason, but that just happened to pop in your head at that exact moment. In some rare instances, not even Google or Wikipedia can provide the answer you need. Sometimes you wouldn’t even need an answer to that question.
This is where we come in.
Our panel of experts is here to take on all of your video games-related questions, no matter how serious or silly they may be. With each new edition, we will submit a question to this elite committee, which will in turn try to provide you, our beloved readers, with the most accurate answer they can come up with.
Do you have a question for us? Shoot us an e-mail at kapoutman AT hotmail.com with the subject line “Ask the Kliq”, or leave a comment below. The best questions will be featured in an upcoming column.
This Week’s Question
This week’s question is pulled from the archives, and it comes from a reader who only identified himself with the nickname of “Picklemon”. His question comes from nearly a year ago, back when I last did this column. You know what they say: “Better late than never” and all that. Let’s get this going in Picklemon’s words:
I’m pissed right now because the last arcade around here is closing down soon. It’s not even a real arcade, it’s inside of a megaplex theater, but it still saddens me to see that something I liked so much as a kid is gone. It’s the end of an era! So now I just want to think about the old days and ask you what was your favorite arcade game? I’m looking forward to your answers, thanks!”
In other words, here’s this week’s question?
“Which game nearly ruined you by eating all your quarters, or if your prefer, what’s your favourite arcade game of all-time?”
Branden Chowen: I’m in an unique position with this question because I am at the age where I just missed the big arcade gaming craze by a few years or so. So, although I do have some fond “quarter eating” memories of The Simpsons: The Arcade Game thanks to my local Pizza Hut (along with Altered Beast, which I always hated but still begged my parents to give me quarters to play), my arcade gaming days lie in the time cards that we see today. The concept is simple- you pay $10 for an hour of gaming or so, and then slide the card in the card-reader instead of dropping in quarters. It isn’t exactly the purists dream, but it gets the job done.
To answer the question, the one game that I found myself playing over and over again in my 21st century arcade was Crazy Taxi. Before I ever played it on my GameCube (where I still own it), I was delivering preachers with Axel in the arcades, and loving every second of it. When I first played this one, I was on a class field trip to Toronto (from Detroit) in fifth grade and we were allotted time in a big arcade. I had never heard of the game before that day, but fell in love. Once I found out this game was ported to the Dreamcast, I immediately “needed” to purchase the system for it (and WWF Royal Rumble, which was absolutely atrocious in hindsight). Luckily, I held out for my PS2 the next year, and haven’t regretted that decision since.
Although my time in the arcades is very limited, when I read the question I knew the exact answer. I may not have lost quarters on Crazy Taxi, but I sure lost some $10 bills to it!
Ashe Collins: Our Mall arcade closed down about a year and a half ago. To be honest I stopped going in there a year before that. Every game in there I had access to on my home system, every one. It was kinda pointless. Except maybe to watch the other fools belt out dance moves on the DDR machine.
Arcade’s in my area are just about as gone. The one game I could always count on begin in an arcade though, was Galaga. That one is my all time favorite. If I went by and had a quarter, I’d play through at least once. That was actually one of the big reasons I stopped visiting our local arcade. They had to pull the Galaga machine because the owner wouldn’t’ fix it or couldn’t fix it. Then they brought in one of the crappy Gauntlet titles (a newer 3D one) to replace it.
Sure there was the Star Wars Arcade where you piloted a 3D see-through x-wing at the Death Star over and over again. I loved that one, especially if it was a sit down model, but the one that has always had me coming back was Galaga. Even now though, I’ve got a Ms. Pac-Man TV game collection with Galaga that simulates the arcade perfectly and a half-assed port on the Wii upstairs.
Galaga was my first real video game love though. It was one I was good at and had a blast playing, be it at an arcade, a bowling alley, the movies, or at an amusement park. Now though, I can only get nostalgic about it at home as all the arcades in town are gone and even the one in the theater is going away, not that they’ve ever had as high class or classic a game as Galaga in there in the first place.
Christopher Bowen: There’s so many answers for this question.
When I was a little boy, we had a pizza joint local to us that had a few arcade machines, back when that was the standard deal with pizza places. In that place, I put a lot of money into Millipede, simply because it was what was there. Occasionally, that guy would change out the machines based on availability, and I would occasionally play Space Invaders, or even – while I could still go there – a little known hockey game called Hat Trick.
When I moved, we had a local billiard hall that had games such as Time Pilot and Scramble, a Laundromat that had Donkey Kong, another Laundromat that not only had Pac Man, but still has it to this day, and the Ames department store within walking distance that had what I consider the tie for first place in this race: a four player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machine that I would go down and drop $5 into at a time.
As I got older, arcades started to fade out of style. There was a recreation place in Milford, but they cared more about laser tag and stuff like that then they did stand-up arcade machines. Still, this was one of the many places that I would drop a couple bucks into the other big game I’ve spent money on over the years: Galaga. Even now, if I see a Galaga machine – even if it’s one of the new ones that also come with Ms. Pac Man and charges you $.50 a pop – I have to play it, and do my best to put my score at the top. More often than not, I succeed.
I think my last fling with actual “arcades” wasn’t at an arcade at all. In 2000, I went on my first oversees deployment into the Persian Gulf, and on the O-2 level of the USS George Washington, there was a small recreation area that had vending machines that were never filled, and a few arcade machines. I have to admit that despite owning a Game Boy Colour that I brought with me, I spent a LOT of money in that hot, cramped, non-ventilated space playing games like Strikers 1945, Metal Slug, Shock Troopers and even an Aliens arcade game.
You know what? If there was still a modern arcade – one that has seen maintenance since I was fifteen, at least, because that recreation centre I mentioned still has arcade machines, but they’re in the *EXACT SAME CONDITION* they were in when I was a kid, as the only thing they care about maintaining is the Dance Dance Revolution shit – I would go. Weekly. Without a thought. I don’t mean “modern” arcades, like the one I profiled for the local news in ’09. That “arcade” has more carnival games than actual video games. If anything, the modern arcade came about because technology made the older ones obsolete. MAME has been around for thirteen years, and has been fitted into commercial cabinets (the “Retrocade” at that local Game Zone is literally just a MAME shell with about 70 ROMs that costs money). Plus, we can buy most of the really good arcade games on every system known to man at this point. Yet a lot of people mourn the loss of the arcades. Not enough to keep the market going, but enough to be noticed.
Mohamed Al-Saadoon: In Saudi Arabia, arcade games are alive and well actually, though they are never standalone but rather as part of large amusement parks that overcharge on arcade machines depending on how much it has cost them.
But the most amounts of tokens I ever expended on an arcade machine were on Street Fighter vs X-Men way back in the mid 90’s. As I recall it was the very first “crossover” fighter and it was an awesome idea that continues to make Capcom money to this day (with the latest being a game no one bought, Capcom vs Tastunoko).
Me and my brother would hog the machine all day long, he would win 11 games in a row and I’d run to counter to buy more tokens before kicking his ass 11 times in a row and it was his turn to run for some more tokens. Good times, good times.
Aaron Sirois: I too was someone who mostly missed the arcade era. I’ve been in a few over the years, but I can’t really say that I ever suffered from the craze per se.
However, I do have a favorite arcade game. Well, it’s more of a series. It has pretty much become ritual that whenever I go to a certain movie theatre, I HAVE to play Time Crisis. They’ve upgraded from 3 to 4 not that long ago, so I’ve had to switch games, but I never really get tired of it. Most of the time, one of my siblings or friends will jump in with me and we try to get as far as possible on one credit. It usually isn’t very far, but we have fun doing it.
I don’t know if the reason we pick that game above the others is simply because of the gun action or what, but if I for some reason or another don’t end up playing a game before I leave, no matter how good the movie was, I feel a bit sad. It’s probably for the best that I don’t carry a lot of cash with me when I go to the theatre, or else I would have spent far more than I should have on the thing
Chuck Platt: My formative years were wasted in the smoky environs of Army base bowling alleys, arcades, the pizza joints almost always located a few miles off of base. The most vivid memories of arcades and arcade games that I have took place on Fort Belvoir. There was a fantastic arcade located across the street from the bowling alley. Every Wednesday night, my mother would force me to ride to the bowling alley with my dad in the gigantic Ford Bronco he still drives. I hated the whole thing. There were drunken adults everywhere and there was precious little for me to do.
I would watch teenagers and young G.I.s play Quartet and Arch Rivals, eager to give the sort of enthusiastic twelve year old video game advice that people love to get while trying to play some overly difficult SEGA arcade game. On rare occasions, my dad would hand me a five spot or some ones, most likely a piece of his weekly lunch money, and I would charge off across the street to the full-on arcade.
Oh, the glories of an early nineties arcade! There was the usual eighties stuff that the GI’s played. I vividly remember the rotund grey haired man who was in there every time I was slamming away at a Galaga machine, swearing like mad. He would pay kids to run over to the bowling alley or PX to score him a soda or slice of pizza. I recall a Klax machine that was always empty and an early Neo Geo machine with Magician Lord that was always crammed with older teenagers. Above all, though, is the machine I worshipped.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
It was bigger and louder and sweeter than all of the other machines. There was a huge crowd that played it on league nights, which was great. There was something special about the multiplayer machines back then. I can count on one hand the number of arcade machines I have beaten, but I will always remember beating TMNT. It was majestic.
There have been games since, but I will always remember that night. And the fun of my drunken father driving home with me navigating, but that is another childhood story for another day.
Mark B.: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game.
Without a doubt.
Back when I was a wee lad, we actually had an arcade not too far from my house. Within walking distance, in fact. I wasn’t well off by any means when I was growing up, but I did receive a small allowance here and there for various things, and more often than not, when I had some money to spare I’d head off to the local arcade to play around. There were lots of games in that arcade that I’d spend hours dumping money into, like Sega’s Spider-Man, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, the various different SNK games that would come out here and there, and so on. The one game that constantly beckoned to me, however, was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, for reasons that I can not even begin to appropriately explain here.
When I was a young kid, I was a big fan of the cartoon and movies, and the black and white comics, while they were something I didn’t fully appreciate until I was older, were also favorites of mine. As such, I imagine this probably has a lot to do with why I loved the game so, as I’d played other beat-em-ups in the arcade that amused me (Final Fight, The Simpsons, X-Men, and so on), but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the one I dumped quarter after quarter into without a second thought. The later games never resonated with me the way the first game did, for whatever reason, but it’s safe to say that I’ve dumped more money into that game than any arcade before or since. I spent a good portion of my time in college playing The King of Fighters ’97 and at MOST I dumped maybe twenty or thirty dollars into it, while I’ve probably dumped enough money into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cabinets to just buy one of the damn things by this point in my life, and if I saw an operational cabinet somewhere you can bet I’d be on it in a second.
A.J. Hess: I was always sucked in by the arcades. Forget going to the toy section, when my parents took my to a department store or mall the promise I made to stay good involved quarters while they checked out. I remember one year for the county fair, my dad gave me a roll of quarters and told me to make them last the week. I went back four hours later and needed more. The culprit was almost always the side-scrolling beat-em-ups. I could mention Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles like a lot of other people, or Final Fight, the first game I can remember that actually cost health when you did a special move. There was also Splatterhouse, a game I wanted to go farther in but never seemed able to. I was exposed to the Aliens movie series at probably way too young an age, so when I saw the arcade version of that franchise I had to play it all the way through. Ultimately though, the one game I could always, always, always be depended on to drop quarters on was the Uncanny X-Men arcade game. Sure, four-player was fun, but the double sized, six-player stand-up? Yeah. That was ruinous. I don’t even want to think about the pounds and pounds of quarters I’ve dropped into that monster.
ML Kennedy: There are, sadly, quite a few games into which I poured a roll of quarters into in a single night. The six-player X-Men Cabinet and Marvel Super-Heroes are the two that first spring to mind.
For me, though, the biggest quarter eater wasn’t in an arcade or a skating rink or a movie theater.
It was in my high school.
Our senior lounge had vending machines, an antiquated computer that was pretty much a Zork Machine, Freddy Kreuger Pinball, Mortal Kombat and an SNK cabinet.
The pinball machine belonged to this kid named Ian. He was the only person I’ve ever seen actually BEAT a pinball game. Complete all those stupid, arbitrary pinball missions, and make all the lights flash. It was unbelievable.
The SNK machine was mine. It had four games in it. I plateaued at the world champion fighter thing and Metal Slug. I was getting better at Samurai Shodown but was routinely destroyed by the boss.
Thus, most of my money went into Three Count Bout, a wrestling game. It isn’t even a very good wrestling game. I never understood the controls; they involved a lot of button mashing a joystick wiggling.
I had senior lounge for lunch and study hall. I played this game every day. Sometimes for over an hour.
After three months, I had gotten as far as I could with the Great Muta analog. I reluctantly switched to the somewhat Rasta-fied Ultimate Warrior stand-in. I hated the character, but it was easy to win matches with him. Just spam some clotheslines and win cheap.
(It was a fairly accurate depiction of one Ultimate Warrior.)
I still didn’t know what I was doing mind you, but as long as I mashed buttons and wiggled the joystick as hard as possible, I kept on winning.
After another couple of months, I was routinely getting to the end boss. If memory serves, he looked a lot like Brock Lesnar; this is odd because it was 1998.
The day I finally beat him, I was exhausted from an hour straight of mashing and wriggling. Beads of sweat were sliding down my arms and dripping off my elbow.
When I was victorious, for my great moment of triumph I got an end screen and a game over.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I didn’t lose, but I got a game over from winning?
I haven’t touched the game since.
Sean Madson: Arcades were a bit of an unknown luxury in the small town that I grew up in. The closest thing I had was the bar that my grandparents owned while I was a kid. There were several arcade cabinets that had come and gone, but only a few were memorable.
The first game I can recall playing was a tabletop version of Pac-Man when I was four. I’ve been told the various adult patrons that came into the bar would attempt to topple the high scores set by me, but would ultimately fail. Instead, they had to resort to watching me dodge ghosts and munch pellets for hours on end in awe. Apparently, I was something of a child prodigy of gaming in our neck of the woods.
Eventually, that Pac-Man game would be replaced by another tabletop game known as Tapper. Ironically, you played as a bartender that had to serve beverages to your customers as they charged through the door before they reached you or broke a mug. I actually didn’t know the real title to this game until years later, as I had just referred to the game as simply “The Beer Game.”
After my grandparents sold the bar, my arcade experiences would be limited to the infrequent trips to a far off mall or Chuck E Cheese location. At these places, you would usually find me playing either The Simpsons Arcade Game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, or Dungeons & Dragons: The Tower of Doom. I was a really big fan of the side scrolling beat-em-ups in those days.
Lately, there isn’t much reason to play an arcade machine anymore other than to kill time while waiting for a movie, or to just play a quick round in passing at the mall. There aren’t too many good light gun games on home consoles these days (at least none that can match the arcade ones), so I will usually get my fix on the Time Crisis or House of the Dead titles.
Bebito Jackson: It’s a no-brainer for me. Zaxxon! Zaxxon, Zaxxon, Zaxxon, no contest. I love it and will always love it. But why is that?
“Well, you’re the resident SEGA fan so that must be it right? It’s been said that somebody could crap in a box, then piss in it, then let their dog crap in it, and piss in it, then stuff in the AIDS virus, and genital herpes, and then let it sit out in the sun for 10 days before finally dropping it off at your house. And as long as the box had a Sonic Team logo in the bottom right hand corner of the cover, you’d praise it as one of the greatest games of all time before gleefully stuffing the contents into your game console.”
No. And who said that??
Ahhhh… still no.
“Well, it’s a shooter. You’re like one of three people at Diehard GameFAN that like shooters, right?”
There’s a few people here, yes. But no.
“Well… you like giant fighting robots then?”
EVERYONE likes giant fighting robots of course. But Virtual On had that, and it’s still not in my heart like Zaxxon.
“Then what the hell, man?”
Because… I owned it. That’s right. I owned the entire arcade cabinet and the whole bloody works. Dad had a friend that sold it to him (along with a pinball machine!), and my pop plopped it down in our basement. The basement was always flooded, it smelled like stale sausages, and I’m pretty sure there was an old bum living down there somewhere but none of that mattered BECAUSE I OWNED A FREAKING ARCADE CABINET. No wonder my wife says I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
I must have clocked in at over 200 hours playing that during my childhood. I remember we had the coin slot face place open so that I could keep pressing down where the quarters go in to stock up continues. It was the never-ending game.
“Was it any good?”
It was above average. But who cares! If you had an arcade game in your house that was anything but Mortal Kombat 3, you’d love it too. Long live Zaxxon!
Guy Desmarais: I have a few games which I have played often, either at the arcade at the local mall, or at the theatre while waiting for my movie to begin: Time Crisis, Cruisin’ USA and House of the Dead have all taken a lot of my money over the years, and if I ever see one of these machines somewhere, I feel obligated to play at least one game. It could be the apocalypse, and I could be running away from the floor literally crumbling beneath my feet, and I would have to think really hard not to stop if I stumbled in front of one of these games. When I was in Australia a couple of years ago, there was a Time Crisis cabinet near my hotel, and I did play it a couple of times. I can’t help it.
If I go back even further, there was of course TMNT: The Arcade Game which was another winner. I only found that machine at Montreal’s most famous amusement park, La Ronde, so I could only play it once or twice every summer. I still have fond memories of it though, and ended up getting it for the NES when it was ported.
However, the real winner when it comes to nearly ruining me is WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game. This game only featured eight fighters, and it had nearly nothing to do with wrestling except for the names, but it still hooked me and my friends. For those who don’t remember, the game came out in the middle of the Mortal Kombat craze, which means that digitized images of the wrestlers were used as sprites. It also means that we were treated to all sorts of “extreme” special moves, such as The Undertaker breaking actual tombstones over people’s head and Doink the Clown electrocuting opponents with his hand buzzer.
My friend and I routinely beat the game on the tag team setting when coming back from school. I used Bret Hart while he used Shawn Michaels, which used to be ironic in retrospect but stopped being so in January of this year. Bret’s attacks were the most “believable” in the game, except for the fact that he could jump over the entire ring without a running start.
The game came out in 1995, and we played it all the way to 1999, when the video store hosting it closed down. It was far from being the best game out there, and probably not even the best WWF arcade game, but I’ve never played another arcade game as much as that one.
Alex Lucard: My favourite arcade game is a hard call. As a child it was definitely Wrestlefest. A friend and I brought a bag of quarters to the arcade one day to “beat” it, only to learn the game never actually had an ending. I think Sgt. Slaughter and Mr. Perfect defended their tag titles a zillion times that day.
Around 8th grade, I started my fighting game obsession, and if I didn’t have a date, wrestling practice or homework, you can bet I was driving someone insane with “Tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger knee tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger.”
However there is a holy triad of arcade games that stand out for me, enough so that I have purchased them at one point or another in my life.
1. Captain American and the Avengers. It’s just good clean beat ’em up fun with some horrible engrish. We even managed to make a “Civil War” drinking game around it when that came out.
2 & 3. Dungeons and Dragons the Arcade Game: Tower of Doom and D&D: Shadow Over Mystara
I’ve since sold both of these since I own the Japanese import Dungeons and Dragons Collection for the Sega Saturn, but I can’t think of any arcade games my friends and I either played or loved more. It was a beat ’em up with RPG elements and each character played drastically different from each other. I almost always played as the Cleric, and if we ever played with strangers I ended up being an EEEEEEVIL Man of God with things like, “Boy, I’d sure love to cast that cure moderate wounds spell on you, but I’ll need you to make sure I get the next five magic items or so.” Neutral Evil things like that. We’d figure out all the weird things like how the name of your character algorithm that could give you a magic item bonus at start or the path to the RED DRAGON (in each game, this was a hidden special boss that was far tougher than the actual end boss in each game – a lich and a different red dragon respectively).
I still love these games and play them regularly. The fact that Capcom didn’t ever port either one over is one of the biggest WTF’s in gaming in my opinion, but the home versions play as good as the arcade ones, even if they don’t look quite as good.
Right now Captain America is my only remaining Arcade cabinet, but it never fails to draw attention from anyone who comes over, even if they don’t usually play video games and I’m asked to power it up for a four player smash and crash. This is easily my favourite Data East game ever (and it’s a damn shame it wasn’t on the Wii compilation) and it’s definitely a conversation starter about “whatever happened to arcades” when anyone comes over.
Aileen Coe: The closest there was to an arcade around my neck of the woods was this indoor amusement park that had a floor full of arcade machines, as well as things like this. Sadly, it’s now a storage warehouse.
I sank a good amount of quarters into Time Crisis and House of the Dead. I spent more time with Time Crisis because the zombies in House of the Dead creeped me out. At the same time, though, that only made me want to shoot them all the more so they would go away, and I tend to gravitate towards creepy things even if they scare me, so I still played it anyway. Every time I went there, I’d try to progress farther than I did before to raise my accuracy percentage, as well as seeing more of the cutscenes in all their hammy acting glory. Though anything with a light gun got my quarters because, you know, pew pew light gun, and shooting things is fun.
What have we learned today? That TMNT: The Arcade Game has made its mark on an entire generation of gamers. That Galaga has hooked its fair share of Diehard GameFAN writers. That Time Crisis and House of the Dead are the preferred on-rails shooters of a majority of our staff.
Now it’s up to you, our beloved readers, to discuss your favourite arcade games in the comments section. If you would prefer to leave us a question to answer in a future edition, you’re more than welcome to do so. You can also send an e-mail to kapoutman AT hotmail.com with the subject line “Ask the Kliq”. We’ll put our team right on it.