The Japanese love their gaming
Video game arcades are hard to miss while in Japan and especially Tokyo since theyre everywhere. In the UK and Sweden there are some video arcade centres, but nothing that compares to the size of centre, the amount of games and that most of the machines are very new and up to date games.
In Japan gaming is different in general. Its big business. The Japanese love to play games. If theres not a video game arcade they will be playing some sort of hand held device, like PSP or 3DS.
So the need for the video game arcade is big. Its quite common that you will find a video game arcade that is a multi storied complex. I think the ones that I played in, a lot where at least five floors of games.
Smoking and gaming
Each floor was dedicated (some time even two floors) to a certain sort of game genre. For example, on one of the floors you would find the cabinet games, where there were a lot of fighting games. What was normally different with this floor was that you are allowed to smoke while playing, which is something we did not notice on the other floors of the video game arcades that we visited. If you was to go to an arcade in the day time around lunch time, you would find this floor normally filled up with Japanese men playing a game and having smoke while sitting there in a suit and tie. I guess this might help to relieve some of the stress before going back to work.
The next floor would be dedicated to music games. Some games were very popular to play and sometimes we had to wait our turn. The sort of games you could find would be games like Jubeat, an up beat game where you have to push buttons in time to music. A very addictive game! We will do a full review of this game in a later post. Another game called Taiko no Tatsujin where you either play against someone, or your own. The aim of the game is to hit the big drums in time to the music. We will also do a post about that game later on. You could also find games like DJ Hero, where you use the DJ decks to control the game. And of course there would be some sort of dancing game. This floor was the floor we could easily stay there for hours and probably did some days.
For dedicated gamers there are club cards that can be purchased. Depending on what company that game is made by you have to choose the right card for it. We played Jubeat a lot so we had the card from Konami, who are the makers of the game and their card would work on all of their games that have the card reader function on it. Each time before you start to play you could register your card so you can save over your points and earn extra stuff, like new songs. You can also register the card on the game site which would allow you to log in and see how good you are playing in ranks and stuff, which is another way to get people back into the arcade to play again.
There would always also be a floor for the photo booths “purikura” photo club. Those floors are always busy with loads of girls running around deciding which machine to use to take the photos. This is another reason game arcades are still big in Japan. The photo machines are very Japanese, something thats not seen in many other countries on this scale and its also bringing in girls to the video game arcades, which sometimes feels like a very man dominated place. I’m sure Vega will have a more in depth review about the photo booths in a later post.
Gambling for money
Some arcades also have a floor for the gambeling machines, but since its illegal to gamble for money in Japan you end up playing for prizes. When you win you can choose a prize at the arcade, or you can choose for that prize to be a money token that shows how much you have won. You bring your money token to a little store somewhere outside of the arcade to change it for cash. The most common gambling game is called Pachinko where you shot metal ball bearings around inside a machine to win points. This game is very popular. Ssome places only have this sort of game there, normally called Pachinko Parlors and can found a lot in Tokyo.
The other floors, normally the first floor, would have the UFO catchers, claw machines. In the machines you could find a plush toy of your favourite character, candy, anime figure or even electrical goods like MP3 players. The claw machines are a bit more advanced in Japan compared to what Ive seen elsewhere. Normally you just have a normal 3 fingered claw, but in Japan it can be just one big scooper arm and the prizes might look easy to move but they have stacked the prizes in a way thats hard, so theyre hard to move but not impossible, and the good thing is whenever you win a prize the staff will give you a bag to carry it away in so you don’t have to walk down the street with a big cuddly toy under your arm unless you wanted too.
Play early to avoid the crowds
The video game arcades in Tokyo are open till late, at least till 24:00 or so, most of them later than so. One of the arcades that we played at a lot was Tatio Game Station, which has a lot of arcades and not just in Tokyo. They can also be found in other cities in Japan. Another one that we played at was in Akihabara. Its a video arcade run by Sega where a lot of the prizes in the UFO catchers are be different Sega character, like Sonic.
We found it easier to go to the video arcades early in the day time, rather than late at night. There were a lot less people earlier in the day, which means you don’t have to queue to play some of the more popular machines and you also don’t feel like a fool when you are trying to understand the Japanese part of the game which most of the time we ended up guessing.
If you like video arcades I really do recommend you to visit one while in Japan. You will be blow away by the choices of games to play.
Have you been to an arcade in Japan? What was your favourite game?