Living in South Korea, it’s not a tough task to buzz over and spend a three day weekend bouncing around the arcades of Tokyo. However, it’s far more difficult to actually partake in any of the “real” games you may find inside. As it turns out, guides aren’t readily available online to show you what to do with all the complex controllers. The games are terribly intimidating to pick up because the controls tend to be extraordinarily unique to an arcade experience. You don’t just pick up a game pad and go to work. You gotta pick up a pair of light guns, both with joysticks, and try shooting a bunch of online Japanese pros that intentionally target rookies, all while linking those light guns together to form other different guns. I have good news, though! I have taken the time to get my ass kicked over and over so that I could learn those controls and play competently. So, now I feel it’s my civic duty to pass that knowledge onto potential Japan tourists so that you, too, may enjoy the unique fun only found in Japanese arcades.
Two of the greatest features of Japanese arcades is the depth and persistence of each game. As you play, your linked account will continue to grow and gain new features. That means that you have to register this account in some way to begin playing. To do so, you must make a card. Now, obviously, all arcade cabinets aren’t made by the same game company. Therefore, there’s obviously going to be multiple cards that you have to purchase if you want to play everything. For me, I’ve gotten by with three different cards, so I’m not going to explain games that don’t use one of these cards. The biggest loss here is the Suica card, which is generally used for more old-school games that I just can’t be bothered to pick up.
The three cards I used are:
To be honest, Nesica and Bana are the only real cards you need. They’re about 6 bucks for both, and there are guides from people who actually understand Japanese that will help you set them up. Here’s Nesica’s guide. Perhaps the BanaPassport registration is in English? I can’t find my old guide for it, but those two links should help plenty. After you get those cards, the real fun begins. Each card will now track your progress and skill levels persistently so long as you keep those cards.
Before we go any further here, I should throw out all my disclaimers. I am not a Japanese person, nor do I actually read Japanese. I figured most of this stuff out through a combination of in-game tutorials and trial and error. To be fair, the in-game tutorials are really helpful, even if you can’t read, as they give you little videos to watch that explains each part through pictures. There are still plenty of tourists that won’t touch most games, though, which is why I feel this guide is still necessary. Japanese arcades are definitely a spectacle, but they aren’t zoos. Get in there and get your gaming hands dirty.
The games I’ll try to go over in-depth here are:
- Wonderland Wars
- Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON
- Gunslinger Stratos 3
- Code of Joker
- Border Break
- Final Fantasy Dissidia
- Lord of Vermilion Re: 3
If all goes to plan, each link should give you a separate article explaining that particular game. The main goal here is to have fun. The complexity is what makes these games fun, so get in there and make some mistakes. You didn’t come to Japan to watch others have all the entertainment, so don’t worry about others and play what looks great to you.