reporting from Virtualand arcade, Bugis Junction, 200 Victoria Street , Singapore

Hitting the Arcade

Sadly, amusement arcades are not that common anymore and in the US and Europe they have become few and far between! However, it seems that the arcades are still quite popular in Asia as they are fairly easy to find in major cities. So when I recently had the opportunity to go Singapore, I thought that I would find one and do a little report from a modern day arcade. The one that was closest by was ‘Virtualand‘, located in Bugis Junction which is a prime shopping location on Victoria Street. The arcade is owned by a company called TKA Amusement Pte Ltd (link) which currently runs 11 arcades in Singapore and the one I visited is the largest one they have.

Virtualand is accessed by an escalator and entering the arcade was just like I remember it from the 80s – dimmed lights, flashing screens and an inferno of gaming noise! Besides from that, pretty much everything had changed from what I remember from back in the days… The first thing is the way to insert credits. Instead of fiddling with coins or tokens, credits are addded to a plastic card and subtracted whenever they are used at the machines. reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Entering the arcade! reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Star Crad with credits for the arcade machines.

Secondly, no wodden old-school up-right arcade machines could be found. Instead they had approximately 60-70 Candy Cabs containing primarily older fighting games (e.g. Tekken, Street Fighter & Mortal Kombat etc.) and 10-20 modern Taito Vewlix machines with more modern fighters. They even had a few machines running Street Fighter II! Probably 90% of all the arcade games were fighters while the rest were sports games (soccer & tennis), Mahjong and puzzles like Puzzle Bobble. I had hoped to find a nice shmup game like DoDonPachi or Deathsmiles as I like playing those games on my own arcade machine (link). But I guess the local audience is more into fighting games than shooters… reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Arcade candy cabs reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Arcade candy cabs with shooters

Virtualand also has 25-30 racing game machine (e.g. Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX Plus, MarioKart & Initial D Arcade Stage 5 etc.) and 8-10 dedicated shooting machines (e.g. Rambo, Time Crisis 4, House of Dead 4, Racing Storm & Transformers). However, they also had some machines that I had never seen or even heard of before. The weirdest looking arcade machines I saw were these humongous, über Asian looking, arcade machines with the game Toami-Gyo (it took me quite some time to find the name of the game as all instructions and on-screen text were written with asian letters!). The machines are about the same size as a pool table and up to eight people can play at the same time on the 50-60 inch screen. So how do you play the game? Well, I stood there looking at other people playing (quite alot of elderly women played it…). I even put some credits in to see if I could figure it out and I still have absolutely no clue how to play the game! But hey, I took some nice pictures… reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Toami-Gyo fishing redemption simulator game for all ages. reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Toami-Gyo fishing redemption simulator game for all ages.

The other half of the arcade has more modern machines including Sega Maimai, Guitar Freak, Drum Mania, Pop n’ Music, Dance Dance Revolution X, Jubeat Ripples and Tatsh Music Circle Full Moon (and the sound levels from the machines were nauseatingly loud!!). I took a little video of the latter two games being played (after politely asking the players first!). Based on their playing skills it seems like they’ve tried it before…

The most popular machines, based on the number of people playing on them simulataneously when I was there, were the Sega Maimai’s. The machines look like washing machines and were played by people of all ages. It’s a rhythm game in which the player interacts with objects on a touchscreen and executes dance-like movements. Quite fun to watch people play it and most of the better players used special gloves while playing – I guess arcade gaming is taken quite serious in Singapore! reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Sega MaiMai machines.

Local school kids playing the Maimai’s. reporting from Virtualand, Bugis Junction, Singapore. Sega MaiMai machines.

It was actually quite surprising to see that the stereotypical arcader in Singapore was far from being a middle aged man. Well, most of the old school arcade games were played by that group, but almost half the people there were girls and women. Especially the music games were popular among the young girls while the Toami-Gyo and Mahjong games had quite a few elderly women (age 60+). I guess arcade gaming in Singapore is basically something that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of age and gender. I really like that!

I apologize for the generally poor image quality of this post. However, taking photos or recording videos are prohibited at Virtualand, so I had to do it ‘undercover’…

© 2016

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