Sunday, April 14, 2013

Arkadia Retrocade in Fayetteville, Arkansas

I just got home from an unexpected trip to the northern Arkansas area (the reason for which is an upcoming post of its own), and while I was up there I intended to make the extra 2.5 hour drive into Springfield, Missouri to revisit a great classic arcade called 1984, but some quick online research revealed another new classic (is that an oxymoron?) arcade in Fayetteville that had just opened its doors in October 2012 called Arkadia Retrocade.  It was a lot closer than Springfield AND I had never been there so I crossed 1984 off the itinerary and switched it to Arkadia Retrocade instead - and I wasn't disappointed. Here, have a seat on this comfy bean bag chair and let me tell you about it.

The entrance fee is only $5 and once in all the games are set on free-play.  The games that don't have a free play setting have been retrofitted with a small red button in the front by the coin slots that you push to insert a virtual quarter. The owner Shea Mathis actually took my $5 himself so we chatted a bit before I started hitting the games. Shea is a very friendly Fayetteville local and was happy to talk about his still-young arcade. I didn't take any video inside but here is a short piece that the local news station ran a while back.

The arcade is very clean and there are interesting 80's decorative touches throughout - all sorts of magazine covers and posters on the wall at the entrance, Space Invaders and Berzerk robots painted on the walls, the exposed duct work is painted green so it looks like a Mario warp pipe, and actual arcade sides placed into the walls - not just side art decals, but the actual wood sides of cabs that Shea came across that were irreparable and would probably have otherwise been headed to the dump.

Right off the bat one of the first games I see is the cockpit Sega Turbo. I really enjoy this old racing game that pre-dates Atari's more well-known Pole Position. Turbo was the first 3rd person racing game and has a great bassy surround sound in the mostly-enclosed cabinet. I actually like this game so much when I got a chance to buy one about a year ago I did. And not all that long after I bought it, it went down - and for various reasons I still have yet to get it up and running again. So any time I come across a cockpit Sega Turbo in a classic arcade I get an earfull from my wife about how I need to hurry up and fix it. Fortunately for me it is very rare to find them in the wild these days, but even so this is the second time this has happened to me in the last year - I've GOT to get my Turbo running again to avoid this indignity!

Arkadia has around 60 arcade games (I lost count on the exact number) including a lot of the staples that everyone remembers like Space Invaders, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Stargate, Galaga and Centipede, but they also have a number of lesser-known gems that you are less likely to find even in a classic retro arcade setting like Silk Worm, Toobin, Jungle King, Pengo, Gondomania, Donkey Kong 3, Karate Champ and Sunset Riders. Unfortunately several of the games were down or experiencing technical difficulties including Gorf which was one of my favorites back in the day, but they have a technician who maintains/repairs them so it likely won't be long before those are back up and running. I've learned firsthand that keeping 30-year old machines in running condition at all times can be a challenge. In the meantime there were plenty that played just fine to keep me busy.

A little later Mrs. MP made the scene and by that time Shea's friend Larry had taken over the admission fee duties so I got a chance to meet him as well. Like Shea, Larry was obviously passionate about what they were doing at the arcade and was eager to talk about it with like-minded individuals so the three of us chatted a while. Super-nice guy.

I was pleased to see that they had Silk Worm which is a lesser known game that I quite enjoy but very rarely come across.  Silk Worm is a 1988 horizontal shoot 'em up by Tecmo that plays best when you have a partner to play with - one of you drives a jeep and one of you flies an attack helicopter and you, you know, shoot everything in sight. The jeep can also jump so there is a little Moon Patrol vibe too. If you like shooters and you've never played it you should check it out. I was playing a little Silk Worm solo as the jeep when Larry walks up and joins in as the helicopter. A prime example of the kind of gaming camaraderie that can spontaneously occur in an old-school arcade environment. You just don't get that same sort of positive experience with strangers on Xbox Live.

In the central area there was a raised deck with several sit-down cocktail games on it along with a couple of tables where you could relax and play old board games if you like.

They also have a really nice setup where you can relax on a couch and play some Atari 2600 on an old TV. I played a little Vanguard and Mrs. MP played a little Freeway. The best games to play on the old Atari though are the 2-player head to head games if you have a worthy opponent handy - Combat, Slot Racers, Video Olympics - those kinds of games are still great fun even today. There is a similar setup in the back for the Nintendo 64.

And if all the arcade games and the two console stations weren't enough, they also have air hockey, foosball, board games, old electronic games, old magazines and books scattered about, 80's cartoons playing on the TV, just lots of retro goodness to relax and enjoy if you like that sort of thing, which, as I have repeatedly stated on here, I do. There is also a small snack bar in the back that sells things sodas, water, chips, cookies and candy. Oh - I read that they had recently added coffee to the list as well so if you start dozing off you can pump in some caffeine.

Before I knew it 10:30 PM had come and gone and the lights started turning off which was our signal to leave. Shea and Larry actually encouraged us to play a few more games but they were trying to get to some sort of gaming tournament they had going on in the back with the locals so we went ahead and started heading for the door. But before we left Larry put something down on the cabinet and said "Now don't chew the gum, it might kill you" - I look down to see what he had given me and it was an unopened pack of Donkey Kong cards from 1982!   I'd seen these cards on the internet but never actually had any myself. Thanks Larry! If you're curious what the contents of a 31-year old pack of Donkey Kong cards looks like - see below. There were 3 cards with DK-related stickers, 3 cards with a scratch-off game where you try to make your way to the top of the girders like in the game, and a shattered piece of presumably inedible gum. I remember that card pack gum from my other cards (Star Wars, Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica etc.) and it was pretty bad even when it was new, so chewing it over 30 years later may have indeed, as Larry warned, led to my death.  I elected not to chew it.

So if you find yourself in the Northwest Arkansas area, or if you're like me and just enjoy driving all over the country, definitely stop in at Arkadia Retrocade and check it out. A good selection of games, extremely friendly proprietors, cheap admission fee - what's not to like?

Arkadia Retrocade
1478 N. College Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72703
Phone: (479) 445-7844

Tuesday-Friday: 2:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Saturday: 12:00 PM - 12:00 AM
Sunday: 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Oh, and on a non-gaming note, if you are looking for a nice meal in the area I heartily recommend Joe's Italian Grill just down the road in Springdale. I had the Chicken Parm Cremera and Mrs. MP had the Seafood Combo and they were both delicious. The meal took a little long to get to the table (although honestly I didn't mind as I was sipping my wine and relaxing) and the owner came out and told us he was giving us free desserts for the long wait so we took a cannoli and a tiramisu to go and ate them back at the hotel - they were both great!

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter


Vic Sage said...

It was certainly a pleasure to meet you and Mrs. MP during your visit to the Arkadia Retrocade, I can assure you that Shea and myself had a blast talking to you both.

Thank you as well for following my posts on the Retroist, "Old Chum". :)

MadPlanet said...

My pleasure Vic and thanks for joining here as well! I've checked out the Retroist before every once in a while but now that I know the Question is a regular contributor I'll be checking it out a lot more often.

I saw you guys picked up your Joust and Berzerk recently. Wish Berzerk had been about a week earlier - that was one of my favorite games back in the day.

Vic Sage said...

MP, just another reason for you two to come back and see us.

We also picked up a Rally-X, Robocop, Golden Axe, and Gorf is back up and running...that whacky space guy is challenging all 'Space Cadets'. :)

MadPlanet said...

Thanks for the update Vic. Shea mentioned the Rally X was in the works. I like Robocop too and like I mentioned in the post Gorf used to be one of my faves back in the day. Unfortunately, like the Star Wars galaxy, you guys are far far away... But next time we visit Devil's Den SP we'll definitely make the drive up!

Fallguy40 said...

Are you required to wear one of those Razorback hats when you go there?

MadPlanet said...

No FG, it isn't required, it is however strongly encouraged. Good news is they aren't hard to find! ;)

Being an old Ag I thought I felt the faint familiar twinge of SWC rivalry for a moment but it quickly passed. I was actually pretty impressed with the city - it was nice.

Unknown said...

Moving Simplified We found out this morning that we may be headed to
Fort Bragg this summer(surprising as we weren't due to PCS for another year)
fort bragg pcs