Monday, 13 November 2017

Arcade gaming in Cleethorpes

Hi all, Ted here back with another write-up! Last week I was staying in sunny Cleethorpes on the Lincolnshire coast- I was meaning to go there while I was in Skegness as it isn't too far from there, but I didn't manage to find the time. But, of course, I have now.

I had actually been earlier in the year, although before I was writing this blog, (and I didn't give a few of the arcades a proper looks) but I did have at least an idea of what games would definitely be there.


Fairworld Amusements

While most arcades nowadays have been renovated and made more modern, Fairworld was an example of the type of British arcade that has had little done to it over the years- at least in its decor. It looked incredibly dated and dimly lit- and that's usually a sign to me that there's going to be some classic games!
Sadly there has been numerous changes to the games line up over the years, with a indoor crazy golf course having been added a few years back which got rid of some games and more gambling machines unfortunately.

When I went back in February earlier this year, Fairworld had a good line up of classics- including Street Fighter II. Sadly things have changed once again, as Fairworld have added a new shooting range, and a large chunk of space has gone.

From memory, Fairworld also had a great lineup of Sega arcade racers, including Sega Rally 2 and the uncommon Le Mans 24, although they seem to have vanished. However, one still remained- Scud Race!
Scud Race is what I think to be a fine mix of OutRun 2 and Daytona USA- similar drifting mechanics and engine to Daytona, but a similar hyper-realism aesthetic to OutRun, as well as featuring real cars.

Fairworld are still thankfully treating this machine well- I've heard it was in a pretty sorry state a few years ago, but now it is fully working and playable. There is a little bit of screen burn, but it's barely noticeable really.
What's more is that it was 50p, and with Scud Race being pretty uncommon in arcades now, I naturally had several races on it!

Here's some rather bad gameplay- bear in mind I was having to do this one handed, on automatic transmission, and I have had nowhere near as much experience with this game as Daytona or OutRun 2... excuses excuses :(


Another standout game at Fairworld is this Dance Dance Revolution Extreme machine. Again, just like with Scud Race, they've shown real dedication with maintaining this machines- the pads have never been bad every time I've been here, and they've even replaced old decals as recently as a few months ago.
While some may dislike the homemade instruction cards and "DANCE EXTREME" marquee, I honestly think they add to a certain charm the machine has. 
Manx TT and Time Crisis 2- two games that have been arcade staples for years now. While I'm not a fan of Manx, I can't resist playing any of the Time Crisis games- and this machine was £1 for 3 credits, so I couldn't make any excuse not to!

The Mint

Not much to be found here I'm afraid, probably the worst of Cleethorpes arcades. Mario Kart is fun enough, but there wasn't much else.

Kingpin

The arcade with the newest games in Cleethorpes, Kingpin had a fair selection of modern games.
It was nice to see both GRID Deluxe and Star Wars Battle Pod- both are fairly expensive machines with deluxe features. The seat sub-woofer in GRID is really quite effective!
Battle Pod was a surprising 50p a play! I've seen Battle Pod priced at £2 and £3 before, so this was really nice to see, especially considering you have to pay to continue in this game.

Fantasy World

Finally, we have Fantasy World- the biggest arcade in Cleethorpes, and the one with the most interesting history. What's in the picture above isn't the arcade- it's a space that used to house a kid's play centre and other entertainment. Beneath it is the arcade, one of the oldest in town and one that housed some amazing games-
It's still open now, but of course the whole building above it isn't. It's sat there empty for well over a decade now, and it was only recently that the owners started to change anything about it. The outside was painted, and the arcade below it (once named Smiles For Miles) was re-christened to Fantasy World as a nostalgic reminder as well as a possible hint of things to come.

However, it's been a few years since those initial changes, and the old centre still isn't open- instead, features of it have been placed in the arcade area, including a new soft play for kids, and a mini go kart track. The Over 18's area has also increased in size, in spite of the supposed revitalisation of the place to be a family entertainment centre.

They've also bought very few new games, a few new coin pushers and redemption games being the only signs of recent years in the arcade. Other than that, there's dated video games, very old kiddie rides (some seemed to have been made in the 80's!), and gambling machines no older than the 2010's. The inside decor seemingly hasn't changed much either.
And not only that, rather confusingly, the middle section of the building is owned by a different company entirely- Taylor Made Fun, who also own The Mint and Kingpin arcades, leading there to be two separate arcades called Fantasy World. It's an absolute mess, let's be honest.

But we're here to talk about arcade games, and even if the ones they have are terribly dated and not very good, I'm going to use this as a warning for anyone else coming to Cleethorpes interested in the arcades.

First, we have one of the strangest arcade games in this place, and probably one that I'm never gonna see anywhere else- Cool Riders.
Cool Riders is basically a OutRun spin-off, and looks to have been built off of OutRunners. It's very similar indeed, the only major differences being that you're on bikes instead of cars, and the game uses digitised sprites- an odd choice for a racing game. Other than that it's literally the exact same game- same stages, same ridiculous stereotypes, same gameplay, in fact the game even calls itself OutRiders on a few screens!
It's obscurity is mainly down to it's minimal release. Cool Riders had a limited release in Japan and the US, and Europe didn't even officially get it- of course, the machine I was playing was a Japanese import. This is mainly due to the fact it ran on the H1 arcade board, which was used for literally nothing else. This makes it a nightmare to get working in MAME. 

It also got negative reception when it was released- Cool Riders is actually the very last Super Scaler game Sega made, in 1995. Compared to Manx TT and Namco's Cyber Cycles, the game looked incredibly outdated, and as such most arcades didn't buy it.

I did end up enjoying the game and I think you can appreciate it a bit more now that older games aren't judged by their technical performance. There are a lot of very arcade racer-like design choices made in this game, like UFO abductions in Roswell, jumping off a ramp to go flying through the White House in Washington, and a laughter track whenever you crash.

Unfortunately the machine had a few faults. The CRT's could do with some adjusting, the music is pretty loud, almost to the point it hurt my ears, and the steering pulls slightly to the right in neutral position on both sides. However I am fairly certain this is the very last one left in the UK so I enjoyed playing it while I did, even though the steering was a bit of a hindrance.

More OutRun fun with OutRun 2 SP! This is the yellow type DX cab- not as impressive as the hydraulic one, with it's dual steering wheels and improved HD visuals.
Sadly these machines weren't that great at all. The LCD conversions didn't look great, and the paddle shifters on both sides weren't working, rendering manual transmission unplayable. It's been like this on several visits to Cleethorpes now, so I'm not too hopeful about them fixing this.
Over by the mini bowling was this line of old DDR machines, all of them being the Europe Dancing Stage mixes. It was a nice sight to see, but the cabs all looked in terribly worn and battered, and the reports on the pad condition on Zenius I Vanisher didn't sound good. The machine in the middle is Euromix 1, despite it's Euromix 2 marquee, and the machine to the left of it is an actual EM2- sporting a fake marquee, bizarrely!
Dancing Stage Fusion seemed to have crashed early on in the day, as it's demo mode wasn't playing, just a black screen with the credit counter at the bottom of it. Also, notably, it had Pump It Up decals on it's pads- a sad reminder of the days when arcades had variety in their rhythm and dance game lineup's...
Placed awklardly near the air hockey tables was Silent Hill The Arcade, in all it's black-curtain glory. Except, it was switched off- and has apparently been so for several months! It was working fine last year, so I don't know what the problem could be. What even is the point of having it out on the floor if it isn't working.
Overall, Fantasy World is a massive disappointment considering its past and size. Something amazing could be done with the space here, the changes made so far are good, and and some more new machines would be great, but its still a long way off of being a good arcade again.

And that concludes my write up of the arcades in Cleethorpes! While there were a few disappointments, Cool Riders was a nice surprise, and it's always great to find decently priced games like the Time Crisis 2 and Star Wars Battle Pod. I don't know when I'll be back in Cleethorpes next, but I hope it will still have some of the older games, especially Cool Riders and Time Crisis 2. Hope you enjoyed reading.

Ted

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