Akiba Insights

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Rounding up the first full day here in Japan after a year is always difficult since it’s usally very spread about between exploration and game centers. Awake oddly early due to Jet Lag and having nothing to do for 4 hours, I became acquainted with my Ipad and time killer mobile games before heading out. Day one started off at Sega Gigo with some serious Wonderland Wars action, having been sidelined for roughly a year, it was a harsh start as everything was going poorly at first, but that was expected, and eventually the games started going much much better.

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Always willing to try a new drink or two when in Tokyo, I came across a coke energy drink, it was very small, probably only 5oz, and tasted like Pepsi, but it did pack a serious punch, I don’t know whats in this thing but not too many caffinated drinks give me the jitters. Gigo has moved higher on my list so far as usually its more or less the forgotten arcade. But with the re-concentration of games at the other centers, Gigo gives the more quiet and darker approach. Club Sega is still good however, depending on how rowdy the Fate crowd is at the time.

Moving onto Fate GO, a game that debuted last year and was covered in the blog post, this game is still going super strong, though I am not sure as exactly to why. I suppose the waifu factor definitely plays a part of it, but unless I’m missing something, the gameplay is fairly shallow. Some of the rare and desired character cards can fetch $400-$500, so maybe that is a part of it.

I plan to branch out to some other games that have released like Sword Art Online and Chrono Regalia… though both are pretty much non existent in player base.

Onto Akiba in General, It is really crazy to see the vast increase in tourism that has happened just over the past few years. Back in 2013 the hotel options in Akiba proper were pretty much limited to the REMM and Washington Hotel. Now in addition to those two there is the APA, Hotel Resol, Hotel Mets (Opening Soon literally across the street from a Sega buiding), There’s even a Best Western and more look to be in construction. It also shows from a crowded point of view, as many of the shoppes and restaurants can get very full and difficult to navigate.

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They say Akiba never changes…

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And they would be right, a short little update on the shortened day after arriving in Japan. I made it to the REMM Around 4:30 in the afternoon, so there was a good amount of time to explore or otherwise re-familiarize with the surroundings. Jet Lag was a major issue this time around as it seemed to hit me a bit harder than usual, probably due to lack of sleep the night before.

One thing I was very curious about was the new SEGA building that sprang up recently… I knew beforehand that the majority was crane games, which is true. What I didn’t know however was what the mysterious 4th floor, that my research only listed as “games”, could be… and I was actually surprised for the first time in awhile…. Sega for some reason decided to put in an American themed arcade floor….

It was pretty corny and did remind me of something like Gameworks from the U.S. the only real interesting thing were the pong machines.

After a bit more exploring and Pepper Lunch, I wanted to find Starwing Paradox, a newer mech combat game. It wasn’t in any of the standard arcades I visit, so I thought I would check out Leisureland, since they normally have some odd games here and there. My hunch proved to be correct, and upon discovering the machine, I could more than see why it is not in many locations… The game is frackin massive.

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I sat down… put on the seatbelt (yeah there’s a seatbelt) and popped in my Yen. The game is very sharp looking and modern with very crisp art. I also got to take part in the 30 minute long tutorial. Usually I skip these things, but when faced with a control scheme of two joysticks, 2 foot pedals, a plethora of buttons and a touch screen. I felt it best to take part.

Without going too much into detail, that will probably come in a later post, this game is bananas. It has a very high level of complexity, plus the motion from the chair and force feedback really sold it. My Mech had a Beam Magnum type gun, and every time I fired it, I could really feel the force behind the shot as the entire chair would recoil.

Anyway, that’s all for the Day 0 post. Stay Tuned for more!

Akihabara Thoughts

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The fact that places like Akihabara exist, but are over 6000 miles away is both and exciting and painful one. Existing and constantly evolving through the years Akiba’s place as the worlds greatest anime mecca is certainly well known, but I feel it’s vastly underappreciated by tourists and even those who are on a pilgrimage of sorts to the Otaku Holy Land.

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Countless shops, eateries and other mostly otaku culture themed places sprawled throughout its blocks, yet for most the effort is just not made to discover what it really has in store. From the oblivious tourist who wander the floors of a club sega looking lost and only giving a random game a literal poke. To those whose giant backpacks who block the paths through a store. Their presence is only becoming more pronounced as Japan continues its major up-climb in tourism.

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There’s a massive amount of oddities and charming shops to be found with a little exploration, I discovered down a street I have not really traveled much in this most recent trip, what I could only presume to be the worlds first maid optometrist shop. I would have never guessed that such a thing would exist but there it was. It’s really easy to get lost down the main strip of Akiba, and while there is definite excitement in wandering up the floors of a Sofmap or trying to find something in Yodobashi Camera, coming across a mostly empty retro game store manned by a 90 year old lady is what makes exploring the Akiba area fun.

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And to those who look through the arcades and stop and play a House of the Dead 2 game from the 90’s, give one of the modern titles a try. The rhythm section pretty much requires no Japanese knowledge and any of the modern games will have such a long and complex tutorial when you play for the first time, you will have no problem figuring out out to play after a short while. It sure beats looking rather gloomy and lost when its blazing hot and humid outside.

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To bring this all to a wrap, Akihabara still has all the charm and wonder than it did when I first visited a mere 5 years ago. There are parts that are different, and you can still get flooded by tourist traps and busloads of people at the wrong times. But there’s still so much to be had. As I was wandering about killing time before my flight back home, I came to the realization that there was a small section that I never even though about existing near Suehirocho station and gave it a look and found a few fairly neat stores that I may have bought from had I not been already packed.

 

tldr: Akiba is still awesome.