Japan Uncut: Inside Akihabara's SEGA GiGO Arcade
Welcome to the first entry of Japan Uncut! This series is a supplement to Japan: The Series. Videos with the "Japan Uncut" label are videos that were either too long or too shaky to include in the main series.
This video takes place on July 17th, 2010, as my brother and I explore our first Japanese arcade: Akihabara's SEGA GiGO complex. Knowing I wasn't supposed to be filming, I kept the camera at my side, resulting in the footage being very shaky. I've done everything I can to stabilize the image as much as possible, but I understand and apologize if it's not enough. I thought that some might want to see what the inside of one of these places looks like, however, so I decided to upload the video we shot in its entirety.
SEGA GiGO is a six-story complex full of arcade machines, claw games, and capsule dispensers. The first couple of floors are filled with these last two, where players can win trinkets, figurines, stuffed toys, and body pillows of various anime characters, with the music of Hatsune Miku nearly drowning out whatever sounds these machines would make. The third floor and up are where the actual arcade games began. (I have a detailed list of the machines at the bottom of this post.)
It was the third floor where I discovered Pokémon Battrio, the first Pokémon arcade game ever made. I didn't even know it existed (I had to create its wiki page on Giant Bomb) and decided to make it my first Japanese arcade game. And for my first time playing an arcade game in a language I didn't know, I didn't do too bad! I actually won a match, somehow, and it wasn't until reading about the game later that I realized just how clueless I was. It turns out there are pog-like items that you purchase separately and then position on the grids near the buttons (I was wondering what they were for...) and a bunch of other mechanics I had no hope of figuring out. It was at this machine where a nice Japanese lady walked over and made a giant 'X' symbol with her arms, politely telling us we weren't allowed to film there.
After failing Chimchar and the rest of my Pokémon squad, I decided to try one of GiGO's many claw games. A slime from Dragon Quest caught my eye, so I tried my luck, receiving five tries for 500 yen. My mom took the fun out of these games when she told me the operator of the machine simply sets how often the claw will actually grasp something, so I didn't bother wasting more money when I didn't win.
Exiting the escalator on the fourth floor, my brother and I were greeted by eight massive P.O.D.s (panoramic optical displays), which, after a little examining, were for Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna (Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield). Near the P.O.D.s were two "pilot terminals" in which you could watch the games being played on an LCD screen or buy game cards to save your own progress. A bit too intimidating for me, I opted to play the Tekken 5 machine in the back (I unknowingly passed Street Fighter IV). As I sat down at the cabinet, I remembered a 2008 Giant Bombcast I heard during the Tokyo Game Show in which the crew discussed the difference in setups between Japanese and American arcades. In America (in my experiences, at least), a fighting game like Tekken 5 would be played side-by-side with your opponent on the same cabinet, with a player needing two out of three wins to be declared victor. In Japan, each player gets their own cabinet, which is placed back-to-back with their opponent's, and the winner isn't decided until a player nets three out of five wins. I prefer the Japanese way since you get your own screen, don't have to acknowledge your opponent, and get to play longer. It's like playing online, except there's no lag and way more cigarette smoke! Speaking of which, each cabinet had its own ashtray (I thought they were to hold 100 yen coins, at first). No one seemed to actually be smoking there, thankfully.
After warming up with the familiar, my brother and I headed to the fifth floor to find something a bit more... foreign. While we passed by eight Border Breaks, an interesting-looking mech-based action game that supports up to 20 players via network connectivity, we decided to skip it since it looked too complicated. The fact that there were four "GiGO Border Break Rookie Guides" laying on a table didn't encourage us. So we went up to the sixth and final floor and found another mech game called Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force. Attracted by its 4-player setup, I played as a lolita robot against my brother and a random Japanese dude. I won the second round, but I never grasped the controls and was merely haphazardly mashing buttons and wiggling the joystick around. Eventually losing and seeing everything GiGO had to offer, my brother and I descended the complex and left.
It was nice to exit an arcade without thinking, "Man, that employee was an asshole," or "I wish that machine had actually worked." GiGO was a place full of people there to have fun and play games. It was a place with employees on each floor willing to politely assist if needed. It was clean, every machine worked as it was supposed to, and it had the latest releases. It even had a designated area to trade cards and read guide books for the more complicated games! GiGO represented what an arcade was supposed to be, something I hadn't experienced for a quite a while prior to my visit. I knew the best was yet to come, however, so my brother and I went to further explore Akihabara.
Here's a list of everything I took notes on in the arcade:
B1 - Caffe Pasta Restaurant
First Floor - Various claw games and capsule dispensers
Second Floor - More claw games: pillows with anime characters, anime figurines, slimes, stuffed Rilakkumas, etc.
Third Floor - More claw games and capsule dispensers. One Piece, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Arcade, World Club Champion Football, Pokémon Battrio, Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road II Legends
Fourth Floor - Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna (8 P.O.D.s), Tekken 5, Street Fighter IV
Fifth Floor - Border Break (8), Sangokushi Taisen 3 War Begins
Sixth Floor - Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force (12), DVS (6), MJ4 Evolution (11 - Mahjong), Shining Force Cross (8)