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  • Kaleb A. Brown

Arcade Arena — The Arcade

Picture of The Arcade in Brighton Michigan

To celebrate our collective birthdays, my friends and I decided to go to an arcade — The Arcade, in fact. What makes this particular arcade The, arcade, you ask? Well, nothing except for the fact that it’s literally named “The Arcade.”

The Brighton establishment’s name is certainly bold, evoking definitiveness (or laziness, depending on your outlook). If you look at pictures of The Arcade online, it certainly feels earned, being packed to the gills with machines. I wondered if I jumped the gun in calling Ann Arbor’s “Pinball Pete’s” the Cave of Wonder. This seemed like the treasure trove that Abu foolishly tried to steal from.

Upon walking through the doors of The Arcade, you’ll immediately discover its most noticeable trait — its payment method. You see, dear reader, instead of the more familiar practice of paying money to play the individual cabinets, you pay $20 upfront (or $15 on Sundays) to play all the games, which are set to freeplay. Think all-you-can-eat buffet as opposed to a la carte.

While the price may be steep for some, its payment method is one of The Arcade’s greatest strengths. Once I was let loose, I felt like the entire world was my oyster. With the standard arcade payment method, I stick to only a few games. I think even with twenty dollars worth of coins, I wouldn’t really explore as much as I could. Here, with all of the games free, I found myself being a lot more adventurous, sampling a bit of everything. As much as I love Pinball Pete’s, I feel like I “got” more out of The Arcade. My friends and I wouldn’t have been able to beat The Simpsons (at least not without breaking bank) if not for the freeplay mode.

The next thing you’ll notice is how eclectic the selection is. When you walk through the doors, to your left, you’ll see four cabinets of Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games — entirely in Japanese, by the way.

The Arcade is a shining example of space management; the physical space isn’t huge by any measure, but it manages to fit a lot of games in it. The back section of The Arcade is dedicated to pre-90s cabinets — you’ve got your Joust, your Donkey Kong, your Ms. Pac-Man, your Asteroids, the works. If you’ve come for classic arcade games, The Arcade is the place to be.

Classic game cabinets in The Arcade

When you move to more contemporary games, things get a bit weird.

First, if you’re into fighting games, it might be best to sit this one out. The Arcade only has Tekken 7 and Killer Instinct to its name. Over Killer Instinct, I’d expect a heavier hitter like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or Marvel Vs. Capcom.

The fighting game selection was lacking, but they had Dance Dance Revolution, so The Arcade’s pretty good in my book.

Not because it’s one of the quintessential arcade games this side of the nineties. It’s just because I just really love DDR.

A Dance Dance Revolution cabinet at an arcade

What The Arcade has in high supply are rhythm games. While their Guitar Hero game was out of order when we visited, they had Dance Dance Revolution, Taiko no Tatsujin, maimai FINALE, and Synchronica. Given the selection, I was half surprised I didn’t bump into a Project Diva cabinet. I had a lot of fun with these games (even maimai with its screen that feels horrid to slide your finger across). I recommend The Arcade if you’re a rhythm game fan.

For more of my thoughts about the rhythm games check out the Bonus Round!

One con of The Arcade is that you can’t go there casually. I get the sense that one doesn’t simply decide to pop into The Arcade for a few minutes. The payment method discourages this — if you’re paying $20, you want your money’s worth and feel inclined to stay for at least a few hours (we stayed for four hours or so). We ate before and after going to The Arcade, but with the second floor dedicated to sitting and eating outside food, in hindsight, I’d have preferred eating there.

A row of racing games at an arcade

The payment method also makes the wait times horrendous. Unburdened by the cries of their wallets, patrons must exclusively utilize the buddy system to determine when others get turns on games. I waited to play taiko for quite some time before eventually settling for playing with the person who had been using it. On the flipside, my friends and I took our sweet time playing The Simpsons and if there was someone waiting for the game, they were SOL for a while. Fortunately, there weren’t too many people at The Arcade when we went.

Overall, The Arcade delivered, offering a wide variety of games that I got to enjoy. If you go, definitely bring some buddies or at least some food and time to make a day out of it.

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