PEOWW @ Insert Coin ’09

PEOWW goes to Insert Coin ’09



When the inevitable happens and Microsoft update Xbox Live one too many times leading to all our 360s becoming self-aware and deciding our fate in a microsecond, they’d better not send me back to 1984 to protect any fledgling John Connor types. First chance I get I’ll grab myself a stack of ten pence pieces and will wander into the nearest arcade I can find. Project: Bomb Jack shall commence.

I’ve been dabbling with coin-ops (coin-operated arcade machines) ever since I was small enough to need a bar stool to reach the control panel. I’m not an expert, a collector or an obsessive (although I’ve got nothing against those types). I have been running various emulators for over ten years though, and I like to keep MAME installed for rainy days or for whenever I have a retro itch to scratch.

The venue

The venue.


Getting in.

Emulation can only invoke memories of the good old days though. It can’t recreate them perfectly. Sure, a classic is still a classic and gameplay is always king but my PS2-to-USB convertor is no substitute for even the loosest, wobbliest of sticks when I’m feeling nostalgic. Last weekend saw a chance to properly relive those halcyon days of gaming.

Insert Coin ’09, was the first exhibition of its type that I’ve seen in the UK. Most gaming exhibitions focus on the history of home computing, which is no bad thing, but IC09 was all about the arcade machines. Over a hundred dedicated cabs, set to freeplay, were lined up along the length of the hall at Northampton Saints RFC stadium, ranging from stone-cold classics, celebrated beat-’em-ups to some of the highest-rated Japanese shooters (as was evident from the strong turnout from

PEOWW were there to report on the event and you’ll see various write-ups in the box-outs on this article from everyone, but primarily we were there for the games. After a lengthy queueing session to get in the venue, I made a b-line straight for R-Type Leo. Much like riding a bike, those old stick skills never get forgotten and I happily advanced through the early levels vowing to buy an arcade stick the first chance I got.

The venue

Hello, Girls.

Danny meets DeathSmiles.

Tiq loses his soul.

Unlike other games exhibitions, IC09 didn’t bother with special guests or speakers and, Ready Up’s Cosplay Clash aside, the focus remained strictly on gaming for the duration with a few well-timed tournaments clearing the less popular machines so that people could out-cheap each other on Street Fighter IV or *shudder* Tekken 5 (has one game ever attracted so many charmless cunts before or since?).

Retro fans were well-catered for by a host of MAME cabinets (being demonstrated by their wanker owners who boasted that they made 900+ quid profit on them each and sold precisely zero) and dedicated machines for Sunset Riders (one player only – boo!), Rolling Thunder (sob!), Kung Fu Master (fuck you, boomerang boss!), R-Type (got to level four, lost power-ups, lost hope), R-Type Leo (gaming silk lightly brushing your testicles), Vendetta (sorry, couldn’t get to the prison bumming level for a screenshot) and a rather irritating Super Puzzle Fighter II cabinet that lost its colour on one corner of the screen, utterly scuppering player two.

That lot adds up to retro gold, especially with Bomb Jack, Contra and Mr Do’s Castle occupying my time on those MAME cabs.

The venue

THIS = good.

Colin endures another shoot 'em up.

Beware: palette-swapped aliens!

Fans of physical violence had their pick of KOF12, BlazBlue (gorgeous but always occupied), lots of SFIV cabs and various other Capcom titles from the Marvel, Darkstalkers and Street Fighter series. Pick of the event has to be Mortal Kombat II running on a MAME cab. Specifically, my Mileena eating Tiq’s Scorpion which now means I actually own his soul. Will trade for gamerscore.

However, it was the shooting genre that stole the show with a host of classic titles and newer efforts that are too numerous to list. Highlights included the Cave titles DoDonPachi (arguably the most accessible bullet-hell shooter), Guwange (another nails-hard vert scroller but with some excellent character design) and the visual oilfest that is DeathSmiles, a game that does its best to burn your retinas whilst giving you enough firepower to invade North Korea by yourself.

The venue

Outrun 2 gets tested.

Ready Up's Kirsten.

IC09's excellent first aid staff.

Older classics like Metal Slug, Psyvariar, UN Squadron and a whole heap of bullet-ridden others made up the numbers with each game offering a different spin on the hitting enemies with pixels genre. Gamers who like their shooting to feel a little more real also had the light-gun games Vampire Night, House of the Dead 2, Ghost Squad and Lethal Enforcers III to keep them occupied.

As a first attempt, Insert Coin ’09 was a definite success and the place was mostly full of lovely people. If they can add more machines for ’10, and service a few of the cabs before the event starts, then things are looking great for next year but in the meantime a Hori arcade stick, a rotateable monitor and copy of MAME will have to make do.

If you’ve got even a passing interest in retro gaming or just fancy trying new things, IC’10 is looking essential already. We’ll be there and this time we’re one crediting EVERYTHING (read: nothing).



Fave games: Puzzle Fighter, Final Fight and Punisher.

Highlights: apart from the Chinese buffet on the Friday night, would have to be the sheer amount of games that were playable.

Apart from the dedicated cabinets there were half a dozen MAME cabinets. Each of these having thousands of ROMs to play, meant you could play pretty much every arcade game ever.

This meant I scared Colin by showing him Miss Nude World 96 along with the stupidly huge amount of mahjong games that came out in Japan



Fave games: Aliens, R-Type Leo

Highlights: Showing off my Outrun skills for my Peoww brethren. Don’t step, Son.

Insert Coin was a fantastic event for me, as it gave me a chance to get back to some gaming roots .

There’s nothing quite like sitting down at a machine and playing games for an hour, with someone you’ve never met before.

This is the sort of bonding experience you’ll never find across the cold, faceless world of Xbox Live and it’s something every serious gamer should participate in, at least once in their lives, just to get some serious perspective on the humble origins of this beautiful hobby we call gaming.



Fave games: The MAME stuff. Midnight Resistance, Metal Slug, Bomb Jack, Captain Commando, Sunset Riders and so much more.

Highlights: Making faces at the cosplayers with people just as immature as me.

Probably the most fun a group of sweaty men could have in just one hall.

Being that a high percentage of the cabinets were shoot-em-ups, that didn’t leave me with many games I would have liked to have played. There were a couple of light gun games, racing games and a few scrolling beat-em-ups but my options were pretty limited.

Now yes I am bitching about this but thankfully my needs were catered for with the wonderful MAME cabinets – ten minutes playtime convinced me that I must own one.

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