By Talicia Marie Stewart
Akihabara News (Tokyo) — There are many sights to see in Japan, but none so renowned for its anime souvenirs as Akihabara. With dozens of five story shopping complexes, with items from manga, anime, toys, electronics and more, it is quite impossible to look in them all. But some are not simply pleased with just buying souvenirs; some get their excitement from winning them.
Arcade shops are everywhere in Akihabara, and they offer several different things. There are prize machines that allow you to pay for you luck and (maybe) win some cute plush toys. Then, usually on the upper levels, there are arcade games, from old style pinball to futuristic shooters that make you feel like you are inside the game. This is a list of the best ones within easy walking distance from Akihabara Station.
Tokyo Leisure Land
First place was a hard one to pick, but Tokyo Leisure Land, simply put, has the largest variety of prizes, machines, and games. It is also very appealing to look at.
As soon as you come upon it, you know what it is. But unlike all of the others, there is no loud anime theme songs blaring on repeat that you can hear from three streets down. Its colorful front is what draws you in. It is probably the most appealing one to look at because of its faded retro look, the entrance is big and spacious, and it doesn’t give you a claustrophobic feeling when you look at it.
There are five big stories in Leisure Land, the first floor is prize machines that offer varying prizes. This floor is bright and colorful much like the entrance. The prizes here are cute and the atmosphere is very light-hearted. They’re roughly the same type of prizes you’d find in the other stores: plushes, figurines, key chains etc. But the thing that struck me the most, the thing that was unique; you could win energy drinks, big boxes of potato chips, and even instant ramen (which I think is the best prize of all).
The second floor is mainly full of more prize machines, but near the back are arcade machines. This floor has a general theme of anime. There are figurines for different characters and the arcades games are all similar anime battles or Final Fantasy royals. The music here can get a little overwhelming when heaps of people are playing the games – overlapping theme songs and battle noises quickly led me away from that section and up to the next floor.
On the third floor the lighting is dulled down. There are Street Fighter-esque games, old-style arcade joysticks reminiscent of childhood. This floor seems themed to the classic style of arcades. Even just wandering around it is easy to get lost in all the games. Most of them are quiet too; only some have loud sounds emitting from them as you play.
The next floor has a real casino vibe. There is low lighting, a yellow hue, and the smell of smoke. This entire zone is a smoking area. It has games of luck and skill and generally a bit of everything. If you’re not one for the smell of smoke, though, I would steer clear of this floor. With that being said, this is the only arcade that I could find in Akihabara that had a smoking section, there were even ashtrays built into the machines for your convenience. So, if you want to play some battle royale, but don’t want to have to be without a smoke, this is definitely the place for you.
The last floor was probably my favorite. Just in front of the escalator there is another small smoking area that you could tell no one really uses. This floor has a very relaxing atmosphere, low lighting once again, and is generally quiet. Here there are many one, two, and even three-player games. A lot of them are sports related, or rhythm games. There was Footista machines, Soccer machines and there was even darts; not as in ‘dart machines,’ but actual darts. It had a very relaxing ‘chill with your friends’ feeling to it.
With an entrance that is considerably smaller than Tokyo Leisure Land, Hey is a place you could easily walk past if you weren’t paying attention. Luckily, I kept my eye out for it. Though the entry starts small and quite narrow, the subsequent levels are considerably large; the second floor most notably so. Hey is a very close second, but it is not as themed as Tokyo Leisure Land and has less variety of prizes and machines (but more than the rest on this list).
The first two levels are full of both prize machines and anime battle machines. Especially on the second floor, the noise these things make can drive you a tad insane. But if you can get over that, there is a variety of anime style games to pick from. My real enjoyment came form the third and fourth levels.
The third level has old-style arcade games; Street Fighter, Tekken, and those janky racing games that are always at movie theaters but are never quite synced right, so you constantly end up crashing into walls and losing… Yeah, this level has a truly nostalgic feel to it, and I love it. The lighting is dimmed way down and, honestly, it wouldn’t be that hard to believe that you could fall asleep playing one of these games. It’s a great way to relax and relieve stress.
As soon as you exit the escalator to the fourth and last floor, you instantly see three anime-covered cubicles with books and pencils chained to them. You can sit down here and write or draw in these books about your favorite characters or series. And people have; these books are full of drawings of characters and letters to strangers, conversations back and forth about their favorites things about an anime. Even when the drawings aren’t particularly good you can see notes from random people encouraging others, giving positive feedback and replying with their own drawings. It truly is such a nice sight to see.
On this last floor also, there are a lot of futuristic games: Huge machines where you can shoot it down and the chair moves you up, down, and side to side. There are a lot of dancing and rhythm games here, the ones that really get you moving and grooving. This level is less for relaxing and more for games you know will get your heart racing.
I am still a little undecided about the Sega arcades. In Akihabara there are four separate stores each with five floors for each. Tokyo Leisure Land only has two separate stores (one of which I couldn’t find) and the rest on this list have only one. Because of the number of separate stores, Sega arcades almost certainly will have something for you. But their downfall comes with the brand. They pretty much exclusively do Sega-related prizes and games. In the two Sega arcades I went into, the prizes and games were very similar. There were a few unique ones for each store, so going to more than one Sega arcade wouldn’t be a complete waste of time, but if you don’t like Sega products… yeah this isn’t the place for you.
The first and second story are filled with your classic claw machines; grab and drop. There aren’t many other ways to win prizes here, no unique games or machines, just your regular movie theater grab and drop.
The following levels, however, offer a wide and extensive range of Sega games. From SegaSonic the Hedgehog to Enduro Racer, to Tekken. There are anime-style games once again, music and rhythm games and dance battles. The downfall here is the music. My word, the music is loud! Songs form different machines overlap with each other to create a creature that is not of this world. The sounds and words all blur together to create this cacophony that is not dissimilar to an obnoxious beehive or swamp of flies. It’s pretty bad, but not the worst on this list however, which is probably the saddest thing.
As opposed to the behemoth that is Sega, Adores only has two stories of claw machines. The rest of the floors are full karaoke. The machines here are relatively unique; that is, more so that Sega games. Here, the prizes feel more achievable and you can see the progress you make. Personally, I liked the different prizes here. It was small, sure, but it had range. It was one of the only places I cared to give a go at winning a prize. It’s presentation really tricks you into thinking you can actually win something.
The downfall to Adores was definitely its lack of variety. It didn’t have any machines that weren’t prize games. There may have been a few hidden ones at the back, out of view but none that I could see. If your aim is to win a cute prize then this is the place for you, but if you want to play some Street Fighter, look somewhere else.
Deceptively, Taito Station is not a station at all, but rather a five story arcade. It has a few unique prize machines, and prizes that are a lot bigger than the others on this list (I’m talking, the biggest shark plush you ever did see) and a wide variety of games. The levels are a bit confusing though, with levels one and two set as prize floors, levels three and five as arcade and level four as video games.
The games on level four and really retro looking, even if the games are not. It’s got a good atmosphere and (again with the music), it isn’t too loud. And then I went to the fifth floor.
As soon as the elevator doors shut and I started moving slowly to that last level, I could tell my ear drums would be popped. Honestly, beware, for as soon as those doors open you will experience sounds like you never have before. As if a tidal wave of music had crashed into me, extremely loud and obnoxious music blared. Which is too bad because the games in there looked really awesome. There were interactive dance games, shooting games, racing games, you name it. Big machines that really wrap around you and make you feel part of that world. But, by gods, that music. I walked out of that elevator, took a collective two pictures, and walked straight back in.
This little hole-in-the-wall really doesn’t offer much. The claw machines and arcade games here are either anime-related or rhythm games. The ground floor is very narrow and wouldn’t allow for more than a dozen people. But that being said, this is a great place to go if you don’t want to experience the big crowds you’d find in Sega or Adores. There were only a few people in here and they all seemed completely and utterly enthralled with what they were doing.
The music isn’t so loud that you would be turned away, it can get a little annoying but it’s not as bad as some of the others. It consists of only two small stories; the ground floor and the basement, the latter being only little bit bigger than the former. In terms of prizes and games, it has a theme and it’s sticking with it, but if you’re not all that into anime or music, maybe skip this one.
Ahh yes, the final entry on this list. Now, it may be because I am a bit directionally challenged, but it took me quite a while to find this arcade. And when I did, I felt like it wasn’t really worth it.
Honestly, when I first saw Yugijo I felt a little sad for them. The store is just a few claw machines in this small little room. It definitely wasn’t something to marvel at, but I really felt like this tiny little store was trying so hard to make it big in Akihabara. It is a bit further away than all the other stores and for so little in the way of variety, it is hard to see why someone would go all the way for this shop.