Weill in Japan Jason Weill Web Productions
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Japan is an arcade gamer's paradise. While U.S. arcades are giving way to adults-only chains like Jillian's and Dave & Buster's, the gaming scene in Tokyo is as strong as ever. Giant "game centers," many owned by companies that produce the games inside, are everywhere. They're all open well into the wee hours for the addicted. Many arcades include games that can be played on-line such as Derby Owners Club and Mahjongg Fight Club. If you don't mind the pervasive smoke, arcades are a wonderful way to drop hundreds if not thousands of yen at a time.

Simulation games like this airline flying game are moderately popular in Japan, although they're almost never seen elsewhere. The similarly dull "Densha de GO!" ("Go by train!") requires the player to play engineer on a commuter train. Simple concepts survive across the decades: the idea of this game is to stay balanced for as long as possible. Batting cages are among the many attractions in the 24-hour arcade "Leisure Land" in Odaiba. Skill-based games include this machine, where precise timing could win you a pellet gun, a Game Boy Advance, or other fabulous prizes. This is a dog-walking game.  Using the treadmill and a leash controller, you have to keep your dog comfortable, exercised, and out of harm's way. This skill crane entices players with giant pillows in the likeness of Slimes from "Dragon Warrior" games. My host family had a Famicom, known as the Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S.  It took a little while to set up the system with our new TV, but it was worth the effort. The older brothers in my host family had dozens of games, some of which were blank "copies" of questionable legality. A close-up of the Famicom with Super Mario Brothers 3 inside.  Famicom cartridges are technically similar to NES carts, but have a smaller size and are more colorful. A close-up (blurry) shot of the second controller, which includes a microphone, miniature speaker, and volume controller.  Unlike the NES, both of the Famicom's controllers are hard-wired to the unit. A shot of the Famicom, an old-style Game Boy, and both Famicom controllers. A close-up of my host family's extensive Famicom game collection. The PlayStation sat unused while we set up the Famicom. Taiko no Tatsujin 3 (roughly "Drum Master 3") was probably my favorite game that I played.  It's very simple: hit a large drum on the face or edge in time to jumpy children's songs.  It was also one of the most expensive games in arcades, at ¥200 ($1.70) per play. Four Taiko no Tatsujin 3 machines highlight the attractions at Leisure Land in Odaiba. The only thing more impressive than a multiplayer network game is when all eight terminals crash at the same time.  The staff didn't like me taking this picture. DDRMAX 2, the 7th incarnation of the venerable Konami franchise, was sighted in Shinjuku.  Of course, I had to play. Playing an unfamiliar DDR game in 90-degree heat is not a good idea. A lasso game is even more bizarre than the aforementioned dog-walking game. Martial Beat is a game in the style of Dance Dance Revolution, but involving both feet and hands.  Punch and kick to the time of upbeat music.  I didn't try it. Interactive tennis games have been relegated to the back of arcades, since there are now simulations that plug directly into TV sets. Another classic concept is the punching bag game.  You punch the bag, it tells you how hard you punch. Do you have what it takes to win a giant bag of ramen noodles?  "Get a chance!" More sophisticated table tennis simulations are now becoming the standard.  This guy was really good at it. In "Tokyo Bus Guide," you drive a city bus around, taking great care to respect traffic laws and remembering to let passengers on and off.  It's all of the thrill of a road test, without the payoff. My host-family brother Kei and his friend Shell try their hands at Tokyo Bus Guide. Shell forgot to close the door, losing twenty points. This soccer game is a video-assisted version of Magic: The Gathering.  Players buy cards to represent soccer players, then manage their teams in live on-line matches. "Daedalus" is one of those giant VR games that costs a fortune to play.  I didn't even try to look inside.