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Old 09-04-2012, 12:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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PAX '12: Arcades the Way They Should Be: Dark and Creepy

I didn't have very much downtime at PAX Prime 2012 -- these are the terrible sacrifices we American heroes make for you 1UP readers -- but I did manage to devote at least 15 precious unoccupied minutes to exploring the convention's free play arcade room, which seemed to be bustling to full capacity every time I wandered by. And it carried a surprising degree of authenticity; in typical arcade fashion, the standing arcade cabinets served as the only source of light, and their various bleeps and bloops contributed to a symphony of days gone by.

Having been born in the early 80s, I never had the chance to experience arcades at their peak -- though I did spend plenty of time and an entire tenth birthday at some fairly popular joints in my no-name hometown -- so it was a joy to see a mix of older and (relatively) newer games standing side-by-side as generations of gamers visited the recreation of a phenomenon that barely lasted a few decades. (The dads lifting up their toddlers to play the likes of Dig-Dug and other classics stood as a heartwarming addition.) The only thing missing was the ever-present fat, surly owner equipped with a filthy change belt -- though that omission didn't make any of my fellow con-goers shed a single tear.

One major surprise of my visit came in the form of Donkey Kong 2, a cabinet that made me do a double-take and sincerely doubt my knowledge of all things retro. As someone who considers himself pretty well-versed in all things Nintendo, here stood an arcade machine that, by all rights, shouldn't exist. Yet here it was, a take on Donkey Kong that's comparable to the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2's take on the original SMB. Of course, my intuition proved correct, and the game turned out to be a relatively recent (and very true to the original) ROM hack, but I have to credit its creators for getting me to doubt my sanity, if only for a few minutes.

Though they've been dead for nearly 20 years (seriously!), it's still strange to think of arcades as outdated relics; but if you want the full experience, special events like PAX are the only place you can find them. But I guess one of the symptoms of aging is watching once-relevant concepts become antiquated curiosities. Despite my old people problems, I'm still happy to see PAX make room for a significant chunk of gaming history a few floors below AAA developers promoting their latest multi-million dollar mega-franchise. We'll never return to the golden days of the arcade, but a reasonable facsimile gets the job done in our horrible future-world of 2012.
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