The program looked very promising, so I headed to Hilversum on Sunday. I took my two daughters along, and hoped they would also appreciate the original arcade experience that was recreated there (they did).
The event was divided in three main areas. One the ground floor you could find a set of Japanese arcade games from the 90s and 00s and a large selection of home consoles and home computers. One floor up was the best part of the exhibition: a full-fledged arcade room with many games from the 1980s, including - obviously - a healthy selection of Nintendo arcade games.
It was a really hands-on affair; all that was on display was playable as well. The event attracted a good crowd but it was not too busy, so you did not have to wait too long to play.
Besides all the games, the program also included a couple of lectures, a quiz and the screening of some arcade related movies like The King of Kong, The Video Craze and Wreck-It Ralph.
For those inspired by the epic battle between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell in The King of Kong, a Donkey Kong competition was held.
|No DK kill-screen today
The very wide selection of games provided a great overview of the evolution video game went through.
From the early days like this Space Zap from 1980 (simple but fun)...
... to a row of Japanese sit-down cabinets, with evergreen games like R-Type (1987) and Street Fighter II (1991) ...
... and a more recent game like Beatmania 7th Mix (2002).
The games on the ground floor were fun to play, but no match for the excitement to be found in the dedicated arcade room on the second floor. Entering here felt like stepping into a time machine, with its dial set to somewhere around the mid 1980s.
|The arcade room looked just like an arcade in the 1980s
(except for the average age of the crowd)
The room housed around forty games, all lovingly restored and in pristine condition.
|Nintendo Mario Bros. arcade back-to-back with a Donkey Kong Junior
The sound of the games was cranked up to maximum levels and loud 80s music was blasting from the ceiling, complementing the visual and aural bombardment of the senses. Just like any regular arcade, back in the days.
The list of arcade games on offer was simply mouth-watering. Early Atari games like Computer Space, Video Pinball, Lunar Lander, Break-out, Astroids and a sit-down Star Wars. More shooting and jumping action with Moon Patrol, Centipede, Gravitar, Joust, Berzerk, Frogger, Galaxian, Galaga and many more. All in a single room, and all set to free play!
We played many of the games present, including some personal favorites like Amidar, Juno First and Gyruss (all three created by Konami). The only game I really missed was Time Pilot, which is one of my all-time favorites. Like Gyruss, it's created by Yoshiki Okamoto while he was still at Konami.
|Amidar: an original and very fun maze game
There was also a fully working Sega Afterburner Deluxe, with rotating cockpit. I must admit my daughter did a much better job in downing these enemy jet fighters than I did.
|Striking the enemies with laser sharp precision
Also high on our play list, as you can image, were the Nintendo arcades. There were four: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Mario Bros. and a UniSystem with Dr. Mario. Additionally there was a Crazy Kong; a Donkey Kong clone, which at some point in the 1980s was more common than the original, at least in Europe.
Even though I had not played many of these game in quite a while, my hands just knew what to do, almost instinctively. I shudder to I think how much of my grey matter and neural pathways are dedicated to remembering and executing video game patterns...
These game proved again why they are considered classics, and not just for nostalgia sake. Thirty-odd years on, they are still hugely playable and fun.
My kids also loved it. Judging by their glowing cheeks, I believe that the future of retro gaming is in good hands with the next generation.
The Retro Game Experience was made possible by a large group of volunteers, including many collectors who brought their private arcade cabinets to the event and together created the arcade room. We really had a blast, so a big thank you to all involved!