Monday, 5 January 2009

No, really, Japan still likes Sega Pt. 2

One thing I didn’t mention in the previous article is there is actually more than one Sega Joypolis. I believe nowadays there are only three left open, but there used to be more. We actually encountered one of other the open ones elsewhere in our travels in the city Okayama. However, we didn’t give it a visit unfortunately due to our time in Okayama being cut short (thanks to a certain “closed” hostel, but I won’t get in to that).
So other than the Joypolis centres, what kind of Sega stuff did Japan hold? Well, actually, not all that much. However, there is a ridiculously prevalent chain of ‘Club Sega’ arcades throughout the entire country. Occasionally, they are titled ‘Sega Park’ or ‘Sega World’, but ‘Club Sega’ was definitely the more common of these titles. Usually, these were just your average Japanese arcade – dark, incredibly noisy, filled with smoke, weird but spectacular arcade machines and a bunch of angry looking people playing fighting games with ridiculous precision. Oh and lots of gambling. And I mean lots.

^ If you’re a nerd and find yourself in Tokyo, it is almost unquestionable that at some point you’ll end up in Akihabara, Tokyo’s ‘Electric Town’. This isn’t far from the station at all. I'm also a bad photographer.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of Club Sega’s dotted around Japan, which we stumbled upon frequently. However, most of them were pretty uncharacteristic. However, there was a slightly more unique one I stumbled upon in Fukuoka.

More after the jump..
^ It looked slightly more unique than the other Club Sega buildings at least
Inside, it contained all the normal stuff – video games, gambling (which I actually won a spot of money from!) and prize machines (which I squandered said earnings on). But it had a bit of a special mural on this wall;

^ Serious point, this blog should just be renamed “Sonic Fans Anonymous” because we’re clearly obsessed.
Sure, it’s all stock art, but if you look to the left wall, there was a rather hilarious ‘comic’ emblazoned on the wall. It basically amounts to the upstairs gambling arena being labelled as ‘Eggman’s World’, and in his evilness, Eggman is attempting to turn Sonic into a gambling-addicted, unsuccessful wash-up (…he might’ve succeeded to some extent). The gambling area itself used special Sega coins (which I took a few of back with me as they were worth nothing, but seem to have misplaced) which confused me at first, when I attempted to put real money in to the machines. Oh dear.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of what I found was Sonic related. In Tokyo’s Asakusa, once I checked out the rather awe-inspiring temple, I had a wander and recognised a rather smug mug amongst all the mascot-branded gambling machine posters outside of one arcade. I went in to investigate and look what I found;

^ See, I told you Sonic has a gambling addiction
Now you can play the slots whilst watching Sonic and co. rock out on stage. Everything around the slot bit itself was a video screen, unfortunately I couldn’t get a photo at a slightly more exciting point to come out right. It used graphics ripped from either Sonic Adventure 1 or 2, I can’t remember which now – I think the former – and was rather surreal.
As one of our last stops when travelling, we visisted Amanohashidate, which is famous for having a rather interesting tourist attraction where you take a hilarious chair lift up a rather large hill and then overlook this bridge of land surrounded by pine trees. Except, you’re meant to look at the land-bridge through your legs i.e. upside down, so that it looks like a floating island of sorts (no-one say it! Also, I've explained that rather badly, but just Google it if you're curious). Anyway, up on this hill / mountain thing was an arcade (unsurprising for Japan by this point) from which I heard some rather familiar music.

^ Look at all that classic Sonic goodness – that’s some art you don’t see very often
This prize giving machine was blasting out the Starlight Zone music from Sonic the Hedgehog, and was adorned with classic images of Sonic, Eggman and the various little animals trapped in badniks. Unfortunately, it was filled with non-Sonic goods, but it was a surprising thing to find, especially given the location. The machine must’ve been there for nigh on 15 years, judging by how retro the designs on it are. Crazy.
Other than arcade related shenanigans, and Sonic branded prize machines (which I found slightly different versions of later on back in Tokyo), the main thing on offer to the average Sega fan was retro-gaming. Go to any normal sized games shop and it’ll probably sell a ridiculous amount of Dreamcast games (such as the Guilty Gear X I picked up for £2 – score). Go to a slightly bigger one and it’ll be selling all kinds of retro rubbish, including and not limited to Mega Drive and Game Gear games. For about £1 I found Sonic 2 for the Game Gear, which I felt had to be bought on the strength of its crazy cover.

Really, it’s not that Sega is particularly prevalent in Japan (although they do seem to share an arcade monopoly along with the likes of Taito), it’s just that gaming related things are overtly prevelant (which is a stark contrast to what we have over here). Further to that, retro-gaming hasn’t been phased out in Japan like it has so ruthlessly over here, which is nice. I didn’t have to look particularly hard to find any of this stuff, as after all, my trip to Japan was about far more than Sega. Still, it’s nice to see that there’s a certain fondness for Sonic around the country.


Barry said...

Good to hear that even on a non-SEGA/Video game focused trip you can still encounter SEGA & Sonic on a trip to Japan. I know when I get to visiting the country I'll want to see some Sonic sights. Thanks for the articles!

The GagaMan(n) said...

Those Star light zone claw machines still exist! I'm sure there was a video of one of those on YouTube once, saw it at UK: Resistance a while back.

Caleb said...

best part about game gear is the lack of region lock outs!