The 1980s and 1990s were a golden age of video games in Japanese geesen (game centers/arcades), and CRT-based video games attracted a generation of enthusiastic gamers. The huge machines that players got inside were a major draw, and in that era the places where people went to play those games were the game centers.
However, nowadays those video games have mostly vanished, and many game centers cater to women and families with an emphasis on rhythm games and redemption games (that offer prizes).
Despite that, there’s still a hardcore game center that offers “retro games” of the 80s and 90s in one location. We’re talking about Mikado, in Tokyo’s Takadanobaba neighborhood. For gamers Mikado is the “holy ground.”
■A Lineup to Draw in Fans
Passing through the entrance on the first floor of a 2-story building, the first thing that catches the eye is the large, specialized arcade machines. There are essential titles like Power Drift, Hang-On, Darius, and Daytona USA, all lined up. Nearby there are the nostalgic pinball machines, of the sort that once captivated arcade gamers.
The heart of the first floor is the video game corner, affectionately called the “Hobby Room.” It’s full of retro gaming treasures, including rows of popular action, shooting, and puzzle games. Customers can play games like Raiden, Gradius, and Columns to their heart’s content.
Then up the stairs there’s a landing with table-style Street Fighter II’ Turbo: Hyper Fighting machine. These days the table style cabinets are a rare sight, and it’s hard to conceal one’s surprise at seeing one available to play with.
The second floor is mainly centered on a Battle Corner for one-on-one fighting games. The lineup is overflowing with games like Virtua Fighter, Samurai Shodown, King of Fighters, and Darkstalkers, from the golden age of fighting games, enough to be worthy of being called “holy ground.”
In all, Mikado has around 200 games in its lineup. No other arcade has so many games under one roof. The offerings are wide-ranging, and include not only retro games but newer titles like Hatsune Miku, Star Wars, and Guilty Gear.
■Livestreaming Various Events
The majority of their customers are salarymen in their 30s who experienced the golden age of video games firsthand. They’re nostalgic for that era, but they’re also researching new techniques even to this day. Though 10 or 20 years have passed, the new techniques being discovered are all the more fascinating.
Mikado also offers tournament events almost every day. By themselves tournaments aren’t anything unusual, but they took the revolutionary step of streaming the tournaments live over the internet. That made them hugely influential, and spread the word about Mikado.
Competitors nationwide watch the live streams and come to show their skills, so the arcade is home to an intensely competitive tournament scene. Japanese games are popular overseas, so even foreigners come to show what they can do. Some even make the trip to Japan with the aim of coming to Mikado.
Also, for certain lucky games they have a special filming service. That way you can get a recording of your gameplay on DVD to take home. It’s wonderful for those who want to research game techniques, and (apart from the cost of the recording media) it’s free.
■Back to the Arcades of the Past
Owner Minoru Ikeda was obsessed with games from an early age, and he’s a natural-born gamer who matured with the medium. Naturally, he has an extraordinary affection for CRT-based video games. Out of a desire to bring everyone back to the arcades, he put the game system boards he’d collected for fun to use, opening the doors of Mikado 10 years ago.
This isn’t an era where arcades can passively set up machines, hence Mikado offers constant events and concerts. Thus they arrived at a policy to be proactive. Mikado is in fact a vivid reminder of arcades of the past.
Also, rather than being satisfied with the status quo, they periodically change out their lineup to keep up with new trends. In addition to an incredible 200 machines in the arcade, they have over 100 more in stock.
One of Ikeda’s goals is to make an original video game that you can only play at Mikado. It’s an unprecedented move, but Mikado is making it a much-anticipated reality.
Retro game players have come together to form and expand a community (game club). Mikado is one place for that community. Right now CRT video games are becoming more expensive, and machines in good condition are hard to come by. It seems unlikely that there will be more arcades like Mikado. If you like video games and hunger for competition, why not stop by Mikado? You’re bound to get hooked on the unique atmosphere that Mikado offers.
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment. This article was written by the member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests that discovered from daily life.