Draw, Pilgrim!

This is a rather belated post now, but as it’s something I keep referring to I thought it would be good to write this up still. πŸ™‚

Over summer, as I was in London for a few days, I decided to go on a bit of a pilgrimage to see if I could find some good video games arcades… to prove they still exist, to hopefully get some good games in, and just to see what was out there really.

I did a bit of research over at Neo Empire forums to get some idea of what I should be looking for… and then set off on the Tube to see what I could find.

I’d been there a few times before, so although I didn’t actually know where it was, I figured my auto-pilot wouldn’t set me far wrong, and sure enough, I quickly found Goodge Street arcade:

Hurrah! Upstairs was all the usual rubbish, but here was the great lower floor – and it was packed with fighting games. πŸ™‚ Only one I really wanted to play though – I was straight onto Super Turbo which to my pleasant surprise actually had a few people playing it. Not to mention it was ridiculously cheap – I think a pound got me at least 5 credits at 3-rounds to win or something similar. Amazing! If arcades had been this cheap years ago I would’ve actually been able to afford to play on them properly as a student 😦

At first I was at least winning a reasonable share at first, but then I found my nemesis in there – we battled over and over and with different characters, and although I could take him to 2-2 and last-hit kind of exciting action, but I never managed to beat him, despite a ‘coach’ I picked up there – who was giving me boxing mentor style encouragement through a load of my matches. I have to say I feel my attitude is pretty good so I didn’t really need it, but it amused me nontheless. πŸ™‚ Quite a few people I chatted to and gamed with had been at BOD too, so it was nice to have this little bit of connection with the London scene. Great Games!

I could’ve played there for ages, but it was time to move on as there was another place I’d heard about that I needed to check out before it got too late:

Going to the Troc really took me back. I remember going here when Sega World had just opened…

Of course little is left but reminders of those halcyon days. But I had heard there was a great fighting game scene here, so, braving myself against my acute vertigo, I went up the escalator to the top floor arcade (the same escalator that once really terrorised me; it seems I’ve gotten better at dealing with vertigo over the years, although I was certainly a bit uncomfortable still) to see what I could find. Incredibly dissappointing… All the usual arcade fare, gun games and dancing stuff, a mini-bowling alley. But the best I could find was a Marvel Vs Capcom cabinet and a few other lesser fighters, but nothing very good and no-one playing them, and definitely no ‘scene’. So I wandered further, looking all over the place. It’s still a bit of a maze with all the floors, sub-floors and 1-way escalators. I took a look in a few of the new shops. I must have been there for almost an hour and I was wondering if I had been completely misled. But no… there MUST be some kind of fighters here – I’d come this far, and I know to never give up. And I have to admit a small part of me was hoping that just maybe there could be a Street Fighter 4 cabinet in the Trocadero somewhere…

Then, stuck behind an 18+ only gambling area on one of the middle floors, I found what I’d been looking for:

In this cramped hot little area of Funland was packed almost all the current fighting games you could want, and quite a few people playing them – I am pretty sure it was the busiest place for actual video games in the whole of the Trocadero, despite how ridiculously hard it was to find for an ‘outsider’ like me :O. Most of the cabinets were even the great back-to-back Japanese style ones I’d never seen in the UK before. I instantly recognised a few faces from BOD, including the Official XBox 360 magazine editor Ryan King. I spent a time just watching, and realised I was clearly no match whatsoever for any of these guys on 3rd Strike, and the Super Turbo machine I was eyeing up didn’t seem to have any chairs to actually sit down and play.. but eventually I got cheeky enough to grab a chair anyway and put my money in. Again, it was ridiculously cheap! Why did it take arcade owners this long to realise that people will play these games all day if they are reasonably priced? 😦 So I started playing ST on my own, but, like any really good arcade, that lasted all of about 30 seconds before I was challenged. And wow.. the level of play here was even higher than the best guys in Goodge Street I saw. I was getting slaughtered, but of course, I kept on trying. Once my Guile had lost about 7 times in a row to this ridiculously good Blanka a chap stepped up to show me how it was done. I was later told he was probably the best Guile player in London and it showed – wow. He was doing match-up related stuff I’d never seen before. I chatted to someone I’d been playing (& losing to!) earlier while watching matches for a while – he was also someone from the Neo Empire forums, but I have annoyingly forgotten his name. But he gave me some really insightful commentary and tips on what I was watching.

Watching how a great Guile player played so differently on ST and especially the match-up based tactics he used just made me realise, again, how little I know ST at this level. I always stand a chance on older SF games like HF, but given I’ve only ever generally got to play Ryus and Kens all the time at anything approaching a high level on ST, I’m really lacking. It made me think just how HD Remix is really going to be an utterly incredible experience for me. πŸ™‚ (Not to mention it will enable me to actually be able to do certain moves thanks to the easier controls)

No Street Fighter 4 though, which I knew wasn’t really likely. But at least if anywhere in the country had it, it would’ve surely been there. However I’m dissappointed to note that EventHubs SF4 machine tracker still shows NOTHING for the UK. 😦

Anyway, my time was up to get back to my friend’s house in London, get some food, and go and look after her cat. πŸ™‚

Leaving these arcades and knowing I wouldn’t experience anything like it again for many months, if not over a year, I left with a sense of melancholy that this was a such great scene – but one that I’d never been able to take part in, and one that, even now, I can never truely be part of, due to my geographical location alone. I’ll never even have a chance to get good enough to even go there and compete properly with these kind of people until a good home version comes out with great netplay so that I can practice against good opponents regularly. At the risk of sounding like a broken record.. roll on HD Remix…

In the meantime, if you ever find beat in an arcade, don’t forget to.. bury me with my, money.

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