Arcade on Life Support
Disclaimer: If this article offends anyone, I apologize. It is not my intention to offend anybody. I just calls it likes I sees it.
It was 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon and my brow was dripping with sweat from the heat of the Sun’s rays as it violently beat on my shoulders and face. Dryness gave way to stickiness as the humid air blanketed my entire body in a way that only a steam room, or Florida, could. The weekends represent a high moment for myself and the other half of Nerd Bacon’s ownership, The Cubist, as the local and distant flea markets open their doors, lift their tarps, unload their trucks, and lay out their rickety tables and torn blankets to sell off their piles of knock-off attire, unassorted boxes of wires, and other useless shit.
Sweat and all, we stroll past the taco truck as the smell of pan-fried Chorizo fills the beat up parking lot covered with a dozen produce tents and Dole banana boxes full of tennis shoes, used kitchenware, and VHS cassette tapes. Our ultimate goal was two-fold: Find a decent game in one of the shanty-boxes known as a “shop,” and to play some arcade games in their arcade operation set up in the back past the Churro stands and the multiple Quinceanera shops. After practically being shoved down by a 400 lb police officer in pursuit of a shoplifter and avoiding the 12 year old Hispanic girl wearing the pink tank-top that reads “Drunkest bitch in the club” (true story) we reached our destination; a rundown locale with approximately 13 arcade machines (4 of which won’t even power on), 3 table games, and 4 quarter rides for kids.
And people said Arcades were dead. This extravagant Flea Market Arcade set up is proof that arcades are not entirely dead… But this one in particular sure as hell is an arcade on life support. If this is the life of the once popular and profitable coin-op arcade organizations, then it might as well be dead. After waiting what seemed like 5 minutes for a 2 foot infant girl to change her dollars into quarters, the Cubist reluctantly fed his dollars into the dinged up rusted black change machine and we were ready for action.
Release Date (NA): 1997
Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10
Our first destination was the only cabinet that appeared to not be punched or physically abused, and it was titled Zero Gunner. A 1997 arcade-only SHMUP running on the Sega Model 2 arcade board. Zero Gunner is one of those arcade shoot’em up games that is wholly and entirely dedicated to swallowing handfuls of quarters at a time. The graphics were exceptional for the time with a great amount of detail and an incredible use of the color palette. The Model 2 is a strong machine and developer Psikyo utilized it fully. With wonderful graphics and sound effects, how is the gameplay?
Well, the gameplay is more than exceptional, but there are some things about the game that are flat out frustrating, such as the screen being blanketed entirely with bullets to the point where there is obviously no chance for escape. Furthermore, one would think that the 2-player mode would actually make the game easier, but instead it causes a clusterfuck of a mess where neither player can tell who is who or what is what. You operate a helicopter and you fight off hordes of alien enemy ships in an effort to save the planet. But there is virtually no way to tell which chopper is which, and don’t even get me started on the power-ups. You HAVE to power-up your weapons to stay competitive, but if you power-up too much, your missiles and lasers actually triple in width, further complicating the visuals.
Overall, Zero Gunner is a decent game for what it is: A quarter-gobbling arcade machine with stellar graphics and chaos and mayhem known as “gameplay.” I have a knack for SHMUP games and actually beat a comparable arcade game titled Strikes 1945 (also developed by Psikyo) before it was ported to the PlayStation, but playing Zero Gunner was more frustrating than enjoyable. With an infinite number of quarters, The Cubist and I could have probably beat the game, but it hardly seemed worth it as the difficulty began to ramp up. I can only recommend Zero Gunner to those who are gluttons for unrelenting punishment.
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
RAMPAGE WORLD TOUR
Developer: Game Refuge Inc.
Publisher: Midway Games
Release Date (NA): 1997
Nerd Rating: 5 out of 10
After getting pummeled and raped in the ass by Psikyo’s Zero Gunner, The Cubist and I moseyed over to the cabinet nestled up against the busted Jurassic Park megalith in the corner. The screen was heavily faded and was in need of serious repair. And if your quarters don’t register in the machine, good luck getting them back! Just look at this picture… WTF. Regardless, we trekked forward! Rampage World Tour is an oddball kind of game where you and 1 or 2 other people (yes, this is a 3-player game, not 4……..) play as giant monsters traveling through a populated city destroying buildings, cars, choppers, and more all while eating people to get stronger and live longer. Sounds fun right? Well, yes and no.
The simplicity of the game may have been a little dated for the mid to late ’90s, but would have fit perfectly in the mid ’80s, like its predecessor. The concept is sound yet neither of us could really quite grasp the whole point. We get it, you destroy and eat people. But what’s the ultimate goal? Most gamers want to feel like they’re working towards something and the ultimate purpose or goal of Rampage is entirely non-existent or vague enough to be missed.
Our arcade screen was extremely faded, so it’s difficult to judge this game based on its graphics, but we can definitely judge the other aspects. The controls are pretty dreadful with a total of 3 buttons that kick, punch, and jump. If you jump on a building, you can press kick and punch until it falls apart, but watch out for helicopters, cars, and humans as they can all hurt you. Pressing kick while clinging to a building makes your monster hump the hell out of the building until it explodes… the building, not the monster. *winkface. Seriously though, these monsters don’t look like they’re kicking AT ALL. Anyway, I guess your monster takes on damage until he eventually dies, but it’s not very clear when you’re taking on damage as your character doesn’t flinch or do anything.
Overall, Rampage World Tour is decent at best, but not worth your quarters. I know you can get this game on the 5th generation systems, and if you get it for cheap enough, it might be worth a good playthrough with some friends. Just whatever you do, don’t drop your quarters in this fleabag flea market mall in Raleigh, NC.
Nerd Rating: 5 out of 10
We attempted to play Area 51, a classic shooting game that has been around for a long time. If you grew up in the ’90s, and you’ve ever been to an arcade, then you likely remember picking up the wired guns for Area 51! At 2 quarters a credit, I wanted to save myself some time so I dropped 4 quarters and The Cubist dropped 2, only to find out that the screen wouldn’t recognize the gunshots resulting in the game thinking we were shooting off screen. Infinite reload!
After 1 successful game and 2 flops, sticking around and ridding our pockets of all our quarters seemed pointless and borderline stupid. I grabbed my Jarrito Pineapple and my empanada and hastily moved towards the exits, passing the western wear store and the shop loaded with 100+ laptops, all labeled “Sold As Is.” Yea… Not gonna get my dineros, compadre. I picked up some cilantro, avocado, and jalapenos on my way out. Taco night at Nerdberry’s. We got in our separate cars and headed to our separate domiciles relishing in the experiences of the foreign land of which we just departed. Will we return? Absolutely because nothing can keep us apart from the games we love.
Share This Post