After my awesome visit to Tsujiki, it was time to head south of Tokyo to Suzuki. Perhaps you’ve heard of Kawloon Walled City? It was an amazing urban jungle of around 33,000 people on a 6.5 acre plot of ground in Hong Kong. This plot of land became an enclave after the land around it was released to Britain in the late 1800’s. It’s been the subject of a book (now out of print and copies sell for over $400) and inspiration for many works of art (like scenes from the Ghost in the Shell movie)
So, I jumped at the chance to visit this arcade that was supposedly inspired by the city. I took the 30 minute train ride down to Kawasaki and took a 5 minute walk south-east of the train station.
And there it was nestled between some innocuous looking business towers.
This thing was impressive – the closer you got – the more amazing it looked. The front door itself was an amazing little piece of art. The doors opened automatically with a whoosh as you entered.
And revealed another passage/airlock within.
Once you entered the second door, you found yourself in a long hallway that mimics walking down one of Kowloon’s narrow city streets. You hear street sounds, and as you walk past the doors/windows you overhear things behind the walls. It sounded like you were hearing bits and pieces of conversations behind the walls in dingy apartments. Often you could look through the windows and even see little scenes and apartments. It was all really well done with lots of great details. But the real treat awaited upstairs.
Wow! You come up the elevator or escalator and are greeted by this amazing sight. A very intricate re-creation awaited – even down to the street food and dingy vending machines. But this place isn’t a museum – it’s an arcade! 5 floors of it in fact.
The first three floors were Kowloon themed – even down to the bathrooms. Well, the men’s bathrooms anyway – the women’s were very nice (at least from what I could see from the hallway – thankfully the arcade was almost empty mid-day on a weekday so I could snap this shot of the open door).
However, it turns out each floor has a theme too! There was a floor done up like Greek/Roman architecture. Yet another that looked kind of like a smokey leather/hardwood bar. There were also lots of different levels of games. The first arcade level, like many Japanese arcades, were claw prize machines. The second level was pachinko machines of all sorts, and some strange, gigantic video horse-racing games. The third level was the traditional video arcade machines you’d expect. The fourth level was a field pool and ping-pong tables and dart boards being used by some very serious looking characters. The fifth floor was some kind of private club area – so I couldn’t go in to check it out – but it looked a little swanky.
The second floor’s games, however, were very impressive.
Here was a guy killing this game called Jubeat. You had to hit the squares that lit up with special icons in sequences as the music played. The icons changed color quickly after they appared, and I think you had to hit in time with the beat to give you perfect/good/missed scored points.
This game is called BeatMania. It’s a fast-paced rhythm game you play on a very realistic DJ mixing panel. Some of the better players I saw were going at amazing rates – this was probably the *slowest* I saw someone playing it.
This game is called Gunslinger Stratos. Looked a lot like a standard rail shooter game but with dual-wielded pistols. The graphics were really well done, but the real kick were the physical guns. On various parts of the handguns (sides/top/front/etc), they had little alignment rails with attracting magnets in them. While you played, you could you could physically ‘hook’ the two guns together in different configurations: side by side, one on top the other, etc and get different power shots/effects.
These things have apparently been getting really hot in Japan – P.O.D. (Panoramic Optical Display) systems. Right now, this one is set for Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna – Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield. You actually sit inside this cockpit and are surrounded by displays. They’re apparently networked and you can play people across the country – or in the same arcade. If in the same arcade, you apparently even get in-cockpit voice chat. But at like 500Yen per play ($5), it comes with a steep price tag.
I went back over to the Kawloon themed area and took some more shots. It was impressive. But one of the most impressive things was the back entrance to the arcade.
So, if you come in through the garage, you see this cool looking door, but when it opens…WHAT????
You get a cool little room with water pouring in from dragon heads and you walk across the rocks with rusty pipe handrail while funky ambient music plays.
Here’s a video of the effect.
This was a fantastic arcade, but after the fun of a few rounds of games, it was time to head back up to Tokyo for one last adventure for the day…