Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Day at a Japanese Game Center: One More Reason Arcade Fans Should Visit This Country

In addition to amazing retro game shops, I suppose one of the other things Japan is famous for among video game enthusiasts is its game centers.

Its pretty well known that arcades have been in decline around the world for a long time, and while that trend is also observable in Japan (declining population = fewer young customers), there are happily still a ton of cool arcades in every city.

I didn't used to go to arcades very often though. Not because I didn't enjoy them but more because it was hard to stomach slapping down 300 yen (about 4$ with the current exchange rate) to play a game for five minutes. I mean, I've paid less than that for entire consoles.

That all changed for me recently though when I found out about Round 1 downtown. It is a massive 8 floor complex full of games. The best part though is that they have an all-you-can-play fee structure. 1400 yen (about 18 bucks or so) will get you three hours of unlimited play on all the games they have on the 3rd, 4th and 8th floors.

So the missus and I went over on our day off yesterday for a few hours of fun.

It is a really great place. I was a bit worried that there would be huge lines at the popular games or that they wouldn't have a good selection on those floors, but was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't the case. They had a huge selection and even the popular ones didn't have lines (and if someone was using one you wanted to play, you could always just play one next to it until it became free).

They had baseball games:
Motorcycle games:
Ball throwing games (this was my favorite):
And a ton of other favorites a la drumming, dancing, guitar playing, racing, shoot em up and other genres that I didn't take pics of. All free once you paid the entrance fee. The eighth floor was actually the roof, which had batting cages, a basketball court and other outdoor sports games. The third floor also had non-video game entertainment in the form of billiards, darts and ping pong. We tried just about everything. It was awesome.

The entrance fee also got you 2 free tries at the UFO catcher (we didn't get anything) and 20 coins for the entertainment area, which is full of casino like games. We spent ours on this thing:
You basically just shoot your coins into there and try to knock other coins off and into your cup. Basically it is a no-win game, but as it was free we enjoyed it for about 10 minutes.

Unfortunately what Round 1 is lacking in is retro video games. They had a Gradius 4 machine, but that was about as far back as they went. Still though, this type of place is another must-visit for video game fans who land on these shores.


  1. Damn that place looks cool! Gotta make a visit there, as I'm coming to Seinan Gakuin Daigaku as exchange student for this autumn. Of course I'm also waste a ton of money to all those oh-so-lovely retro game stores, that you've been showing to us.

  2. Hi Samsa. I highly recommend this place, great great fun. Seinan is not too far from it by bike (maybe 15 mins), so you should definitely head over there sometime after you arrive!

  3. This makes me very jealous!

    Locally there's next to nothing for arcade gaming - in fact, the council for the local government area that encompasses our CBD put into legislation that all arcades were to be banned back in the early 2000s!

    Insanity prevails sometimes...

  4. I really like this idea -- of charging a flat fee for a certain amount of time in the arcade. Too bad the floors that flat fee gave you access to didn't have any retro titles. Are there retro titles on any of the other floors, Sean?

    BTW, I also love that this arcade has eight floors. Wow! Sounds like something I would have dreamed about as a kid :)

  5. Round 1 is a chain. They're all over Japan, although, you'll mostly find them in suburban or rural areas. When I visited Kanazawa (where I might actually be living/working next summer) my friends took me to the one there. Although we used it for their bowling alley, which, also got us a try on a UFO catcher machine and a few tokens to spend in the arcade (and a phone strap charm, I have an awesome one of Ultraman sitting a a kotatsu).

    Since it's supposed to be "up-to-date" for the kids who go there, there's obviously no retro games. For that you'll need to go to the top of Super Potato in Akihabara.

  6. Sean (Retro Otaku Sean, not me) - my god, they actually passed a law banning arcades? That is terrible! Who is in charge of your city council, the University Dean from "Animal House"? Seriously, I hope that gets repealed.

    Bryan- yeah, isn't that flat fee idea great? It is quite liberating, you can try any game you want secure in the knowledge that you can just walk away after a few seconds if you don't like it. I don't think there are any retro titles on the other floors either, unfortunately.

    Nate - yeah, I've been to a few other Round 1s too and, like you, only used it for the bowling alley. I always knew they had arcades too, but I only found out about this "all you can play" deal from a friend a few days ago. I'm not too sure if they do that at all of them or just this big 8 floor one I went to.

    And I really need to get to that top floor of Super Potato someday:)

  7. @Sean: Yup, the law was introduced with deliberately little fanfare - the only reason I found out about it was talking to someone who ran a shop nearby I used to frequent. The arcade scene was pretty dead over here anyhows, but the local legislation amendment put the nail in the coffin.

    Back in the 80s and even into the 90s there were a couple of great arcades in the CBD, two of which used to do the same thing your game center does - pay a flat fee and game as much as you want for 2 hours first thing on a Sunday morning. Spent plenty of time gaming there when I was younger.

  8. Man, Sean, that is really awful to hear.

    It is a real shame the way arcades like the ones you used to go to have sort of faded away (even when not getting a shove from humorless city councils). Back in Canada it is the same story - before moving back to Japan in 2008 I lived in a city with a population of about 300,000 but not a single arcade. They even closed the last bowling alley in town shortly before I left.

    I sure hope it never gets that bad in Japan!

  9. Nice post! :) A good arcade is hard to come by these days so I am indeed immensely jealous to hear of this one! I live in a fairly large city (by English standards) and it's also a fairly touristy, coastal city, so naturally there's a few funfairs and arcades and stuff but they're pretty small and not very good.

    The best I can manage is my local pier which has After Burner Climax, Sega Rally 3, House of the Dead 4, as well as some dancing, whack-a-mole, basketball, grabber etc games. No hint of an all-you-can-play fee though. Maybe I'll chuck up a few pics of my own up one day...

  10. Thanks Simon.

    Definitely put some pics of that arcade up sometime, I love pictures of arcades almost as much as I love pictures of retro game shops:)

  11. Sorry that I'm bothering you again, but is the Round 1 you went to at Hakata? My friend's went to one in Tenjin, and apparently they didn't have the 1400 yen "play all you want"-offer.

  12. Hi Samsa,

    This one was in Tenjin, kind of near Shintencho (that covered arcade street).

    Do your friends have membership cards? At the one we went to you had to be a member to get the deal, but the membership card is pretty cheap (400 or 500 yen or something like that). It was also a bit tricky to find the place where you could get the deal, you have to go to this counter in the back on the first floor, near the entrance to the bowling alley.


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