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.
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 shmups.com).
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.
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.
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.
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).