On my last post, I went over the first half of my TOP 10 games in the arcade so now I'll lay out the real hot tickets. My TOP 5 machines and where you are most likely to find me if I've got some down time. These are the machines I don't get tired of playing and no matter the sequel, reboot, etc., I'm always having a great time.
5. Karate Champ
Each player has two joysticks, one to take in each hand. By maneuvering the joysticks in different directions (i.e. L+R, L+U, D+D, etc.), your character will output different moves. Instead of a health bar, there is a referee that will award a point or half a point depending on a successful hit which will end the round and the first player to score 2 points will win. To folks that play fighting games regularly, it might feel a bit alien, but as someone that is pretty awful at fighting games, I find it really strategic and comfortable.
This game makes it into my TOP5 because of the unique controls and the learning curve. The long list of moves available make the game very interesting and the need to learn them through practice is a great quality in an arcade game. It keeps you coming back and keeps you interested. There's nothing wild or flashy going on in this game because it doesn't need it. You're focused on you and your opponent so the elementary graphics fit well into the gameplay. Even the movements of the characters seem purposeful and powerful.
Playing through the game solo is a good time and I would recommend it, but playing with a friend is always better, in my honest opinion. You're both learning the game together and a human is much less predicable than a computer. Plus, celebrating a victory or suffering a loss is much more enjoyable with a friend.
4. Initial D
Unlike your typical racing driver, in which you are driving around a somewhat straight or circular track, Initial D tosses you onto the side of a mountain somewhere in Japan and you are suddenly in the story arch of a teenage boy/girl street racing. The skill lies more in drifting than speed. Going up or down the mountain, the road twists and turns sharply and you have to be careful not to slam straight into a guard rail or crowd. Each track/setting has it's own song but they are all incredibly upbeat and very "Initial D".
The version we have on the floor currently released in 2003/2004 but it's still loved and played as if it was just released last year. This is a game you can always come back to and get better at, either solo or with a friend. From an operator perspective, this game is an absolute nightmare to work on. It's a Naomi 2 boardset and it dies all the time for no good rhyme or reason. What's wrong with it? ~shrug~ Why did it stop working? ~shrug~ This is a game we've had to repair many, many times, but luckily, we love it enough to keep doing so.
Initial D will always stay in my TOP5 because of it's back story, great game play, and honestly, great music. We do have plans for our Initial D machine in the very near future, so be on the look-out. I think you will all be pleasantly surprised!
3. Dance Dance Revolution
Dance Dance Revolution is a rhythm game in which the goal is to step on directional arrows as indicated by the game in time to music. The cabinet is complete with a small stage where you play/dance and a large CRT monitor where the directions are given as an overlay to some background images of your avatar dancing. Each correct step lands you points, and depending on timing, you are awarded more or less points. If you continue to step correctly without losing a beat, you can build up your combo and multiply your points. There is a type of "health" meter that must be monitored. Too many missteps, the meter falls, and you fail the song.
DDR is high on my list of favorites for a variety of reasons. To start, it's just fun to play. You'll always find songs you like, no matter the version. We have SuperNova2 on the floor, but my holy grail is to own the Disney DDR board so I can stomp my way to glory while Mickey scratches records. It's also fun to watch. If the person playing is REALLY good, great! You can stand back and wonder how they get their feet to do that. If the person has no idea what they are doing, good! You both get to laugh together about how absurd of game this really is. The community is great too. And yes, there is a DDR community and they've been around a long time. They are very welcoming, they are happy to teach you things, and they are amazing to watch. I will say, from an operator's point of view, that machine isn't great to work on. The pads have spacers that get stomped into nothing regularly and need replaced, the neons are hard to find if they need replaced (and expensive), and the monitor is fairly large. But, like Initial D, it's a really good game and we're always willing to put in the work (and you easily find the operators that don't feel the same and don't put in as much love).
So next time you are thinking about stepping up on a DDR machine but you're worried about looking silly, don't worry, we all start there and we all still look a little silly. It's a silly game with wild music and flashy lights. Just find the confidence in yourself to love your silliness and you'll find yourself enjoying this game as much as the next person.
2. Jurassic park -motion theater-
This game is a type of rail gun game that uses joysticks instead of guns for shooting (tranquilizing, according to the game instructions) dinosaurs that are all out to attack you as you drive by in the Jeep. What really stood out about this game were the pneumatics in the seat that simulated the movement of the Jeep you were riding in. So when you were driving over a bumpy road, you felt it and when a dinosaur slammed into your car, you felt it.
Jurassic Park is one of my absolute favorite games for the game play and seat mechanics. The graphics are so nostalgic and the wide array of dinosaurs that are chucked at you keeps the game interesting. The joystick is much more comfortable for me than a plastic gun and you can just hold the trigger down for a constant stream of ...tranquilizer darts... rather than worrying about reloading off screen. The music and sound effects are all spot on from the movie (in 16 bit of course) to really bring you into the scene. I do have to say, my biggest complaint about this game comes from an operator perspective: it's awful to work on. The seat pneumatics are goofy and don't want to talk to the board, especially after almost 30 years. Our machine was working just fine until we moved it, now it only works when it feels like it. So sassy.
If you want to be propelled back into the 90's, play this game. If you ever loved Jurassic Park as much as I believe you did, play this game. If you believe the Jurassic Park remakes are garbage, play this game. If you've already played this game, bring a friend and play it again.
1. Lunar Lander
I can't emphasize how sad this is. Lunar Lander is a type of simulation game. You are the pilot of landing module and your mission is to land as softly on the moon as possible. There are a few details regarding your module that are reported that you must keep track of, including your fuel level, speed, etc. You must also consider how gravity effects you (something that can be changed based on the difficulty you choose). Of course, the surface of the moon is not smooth and you must watch for jagged mountains and deep valleys. The game will prompt you with landing spots and each spot is worth a certain amount of points. You can get more or less points depending on how hard or softly you land (or crash). Your controller is a thruster that will propel your module forward, but also burns through fuel. If you get in a pinch and are coming too close to crashing, there is an emergency "ABORT" button that will propel you straight up, but also burns up a significant amount of fuel. The monitor is a black and white vector screen and the landscape is outlined as a white line.
The very first time I came across this machine was at Galloping Ghost arcade in Chicago. A man was playing it and he was really frustrated with it. He said it was unnecessarily hard and walked away. I tried it, and landed! I tried it again, landed again. People came by and my husband took a video to send to our other arcade friend. Everyone says this is a very hard arcade game, but I honestly believe you just have to be in the right mindset and look at it for what it is - a simulation game. Consider your resources, plan your future wisely, and move accordingly. I love nothing more than burying my head into the cabinet and closing off the world. Lunar Lander is a quiet realm where, if you concentrate enough, all you can hear is your breathing and the sound of the thrusters. I really hate that these machines were cannibalized for a game I think is overrated.
You'll notice my Lunar Lander is currently missing from the floor and we can all thank UPS for that. We sent the monitor chassis through UPS for repair and they immediately lost it. So until we are able to come up with a replacement, it will be await repair. Lunar Lander - the game that can't catch a break!
As we settle into our new location at Castleton Mall, I get asked the question over and over again... "What are your favorite games here?" I will admit, what I want to play at that very moment depends on the situation (Am I playing with a friend? Am I playing solo? What's my mood?) but I do have my arsenal of games I always turn to at Boss Battle Games. These are the ones I always recommend and you'll most likely find me at if I've got some free time.
Beastorizer is a 3 button/joystick fighter with some really interesting game play features and fun characters. Each character has their own backstory and their own "beast" or "zoanthrope" they can morph into during game play. As you fight, you build up your BEAST bar that once fully charged, you are able to morph into a hybrid beast character (for a short amount of time) with increased abilities and different specials. Beastorizer is a fighting game that is nonthreatening to approach, fairly easy to pick up the controls, and honestly it's just incredibly satisfying to initiate your BEAST mode and send your opponent flying from the energy released.
This falls into my TOP10 because it's easy to approach, easy to understand, and just really satisfying to play. However, I have placed it at the far end of the list for a couple reasons. Firstly, the gameplay is a bit laggy and sometimes slow to respond. This is no Street Fighter. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your level of skill. Another reason I've placed it here is for it's arcade cabinet design, or lack there of. Beastorizer did not have a dedicated cabinet, so you're lucky to find one with the side art decals and bezel art. I understand Raizing may not have wanted to risk too much on it's development from the get-go, but I personally feel like this could have gotten some really great cabinet art considering how in-depth the character stories are. I understand this was at the end of the arcade age and all efforts were put toward the console version, so this is just a disappointment for me, as an operator.
Don't let these minor complaints scare you away! Find your spirit animal, get hyped up, and mash buttons while you learns combos. Trust me when I tell you it's a blast body slamming your buddy as a warthog hybrid beast.
9. Time Crisis 3
Time Crisis is a pretty simple game to grasp. This is a two player game in which each player has a pistol and a foot pedal that acts as a shielding mechanism. It has a fairly solid story line that it blasts at you during the attract screen. As you progress through the game, you pick up a wide array of different weapons that you are able to rotate through. Similarly to Beastorizer, this game was ported to PlayStation, however, I honestly believe this game is best played in arcade.
This is a favorite for me for a lot of reasons. Of course, it has sentimental value to me. It's like our first child that has grown up with us and followed us along for the ride. The game itself also has great play-ability. It's easy to pick up, but it takes a bit of skill to aim well for those hard shots like taking out paratroopers. This game is also a bit of an endurance run if you're in it for the long haul; From start to finish, you're putting aside about 40 minutes. One of the things that really stands out to me about this game is the cabinet itself. It's REALLY impressive. The color scheme is on-point, the neons are bright, eye catching and well placed. The guns are Namco pistols with recoil, so they feel good in your hand. The cabinet itself is large and the marquee is massive and well lit.
Honestly, the best thing about this game is the co-op. It's so much fun playing with your friend/spouse/parent/whoever. Not only are you standing side-by-side, but you're working together and your characters are moving separately. It's a really great experience and I highly recommend giving this a try next time you're at Boss Battle with a buddy.
8. The Grid
What makes this 3rd person shooter so unique is the joystick and trackball controls. Your joystick is used for shooting and jumping and the trackball for aiming; it's very reminiscent of computer gaming and as someone that grew up as a PC gamer, it's a very comfortable control scheme. If you've ever watched the movie The Running Man and enjoyed it, imagine that plus a splash of Smash TV. Your character is thrown into an absurd and ultra violent television show where the aim of the game is just to survive. Weapons are strewn all over the play field and you are desperately trying to get to them before your opponent so you can blast them away in a shower of body parts and blood. It sounds incredibly dark and demented but the art style and the announcer are very cartoony, the art is bright and colorful, and you almost forget that you're murdering your friends for money.
It's really disappointing to me how hard it is to find this machine. I currently only own 3 but I'd love to have at least 6. This is one of those games that is much more enjoyable when you are playing it with a group of people. As I mentioned before, the control scheme is really neat and very comfortable for me to play, but as an operator it sucks to work on and replace. The parts are impossible to find/replace but thankfully it's a Midway cabinet and they do hold up well, so I'm not replacing them often. The cabinet has a really neat design and I love the green on black color scheme.
The fact this was the last arcade game Midway put out in arcades is truly bittersweet. A well designed game, interesting cabinet, and really fun co-op feature tie everything together beautifully. Next time you're at BBG or even Galloping Ghost or Game Galaxy, play The Grid and try to chuck in some cheat codes to find the sneaky Mortal Kombat characters the developers hid in there.
7. Atari Football
The controllers are very simple (from a very simple arcade time): you have a track ball (similar to The Grid) and you have a select/pass button. That's it. Very simple. Even more simple are the characters on the screen. They are X's and O's. Your ball is a thick dot. Name of the game is getting the "ball" in the goal and keeping the other player from getting the ball in their goal. Easy. Not easy: running your X/O with the track ball as fast as you can, maneuvering them around other X/O's without getting tackled, making sure you pass the ball in time without it getting intercepted, not running out of breath or giving yourself a blister because OH MY GOSH HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN PLAYING THIS GAME?!
I love the simplicity of this game. It's such a simple control scheme, simple graphics, and yet it takes a lot of effort and skill to really play the game well. There are different "plays" you can choose each round for your team and only you can see them, so your opponent doesn't know what's coming until the round starts. This game really draws a crowd as they hear your hands slamming against the track ball, you and your friend yelling at each other (or just yelling to hype yourself up), and the style of the cabinet allows for people to stand to the sides and watch the game play out.
We've had this game in storage for a couple years now and I'm REALLY excited to bring it back out. We're still trying to figure out exactly where we are going to put this in the arcade as we are pretty much at capacity, but I'll make the room. And once I do.... You bet I'll be there!
The controls and game play are so straightforward, a child can learn this, and honestly, that's why it's so imprinted on me. I remember playing this as a child with my parents. You have a 4-way joystick that controls a frog. Through trial and error, you learn your goal is to cross the road and a river, landing in coves. The trick is to do all of this while avoiding obstacles. Dodging left, right, running forward, falling back, it's all taught to you slowly and each level increases the difficulty even more slightly by adding speed or other obstacles. It has a steady incline of difficulty and I appreciate that. There's no sudden "pay wall" where you would be pumping quarters to get past a completely unfair jump in hurdles.
Aside from the nostalgia, I really appreciate how recognizable this game is. I think the cabinet itself is really well designed. The wood grain SCREAMS 1981. The tire thread on the control panel and bezel leading up to the colorful marquee is such an iconic note. The game itself is also very colorful and contrast from the grey and browns of the cabinet. From an operator perspective, it's a good game to have as it has a small footprint. This cabinet is fairly small and fits very easily into a row of games or into a tight corner. You also won't risk death moving it (it's a thing with big machines, trust me).
I'm sure you've played Frogger, so I probably don't have to suggest trying it. But if you're ever feeling overwhelmed and want a game you can chill out with, may I suggest Frogger. This game tends to be one of my meditative spots for many reasons. The music is cute and catchy, the jumping noises are methodic, and the scene is very static. For me personally, it also takes me back to a good place in my memory. I'm sure everyone has that game that does that for them.
A lot of people ask for the story of Boss Battle Games but I'm sure they don't want to sit through a detailed story that spans 4 years of ups and downs, so for now, I'll give you the SparkNotes edition and later we can run down some gritty details of points in time should you ask for them. (But I'll warn you, this is still pretty long, so hold on tight!)
The concept began in a spiral bound notebook sometime in the early 2000's. It was a pretty popular thing in our friend circles in high school to pass around notebooks that we would jot down ideas, comics, notes, etc. You see, we are old and cell phones weren't a thing yet. In this sacred notebook, Dustin wrote out a detailed business plan he created after being inspired by the lock-in at an arcade. The idea of going to an arcade and paying a flat rate rather than messing around with coins seemed much more appealing than jumping through state taxes, messing with coin mechs, etc. He drew out an entire floor plan, what games he would offer, etc.
Fast forward a decade later, and although the notebook was just a conversation between us, the plan was still alive. I graduated college, got a job, Dustin was leveling up in his welding career... Things were going smooth and we felt like it was a good time to start collecting arcade machines and learning about the industry in depth. We traveled to other states, met other arcade owners and got their advice on what to do and what not to do. We took a lot of notes, met a lot of really great people, and collected a lot of arcade machines a long the way.
Just as we felt like we were making a good plan for our future, life made a new route. We both got laid off our respective jobs. I thought I would side step this hurdle and got another job but 6 months into it, I got laid off that job too. My mother always told me, things happen for a reason, and I'm not sure if that's completely true but looking back, I'm pretty happy that things turned out the way they did. After several "JUST DO IT" memes, I convinced Dustin that the universe had made the decision that Boss Battle Games needed to open.
We took all the money we had saved up, did some location hunting, bought some more arcade machines, and with super short notice, opened our very first business. During our soft open, Dustin's friend brought him a gift... It was the business plan he had wrote out in that notebook that had been long since lost to time. It's funny how life works, how it can come back around for a reprise sometimes and remind you that you're on the right path. That ancient notebook paper is framed and sacred to us; That's where it all began.
In beginning, we caught a lot of flack for picking Washington Square Mall as a starting point, but we felt confident that it would be a good stepping stone for us. We didn't take a loan to start our business, just the money in our pocket, the clothes on our back, and a little bit of hope, so we didn't want to take a huge risk in an expensive location to begin with. We've always approached major life decisions with cautious optimism. At the time, WSM was owned by a company named JLL and they were very kind to us and the mall. They kept up on maintenance, they had 24/hour security, and they kept the property clean. We never felt unsafe and although there wasn't much foot traffic, one thing we were told by our arcade senpai was "if you build it, they will come", so that's what we did. We started in a reasonably sized 3200 sq ft space that once housed a Spencers years ago.
Low and behold, Indy loved the concept! We ended up being the flashing light gem in the quiet mall. Word was spreading that we existed and things started moving faster than we ever expected. Due to a structural problem with our unit, we were approached by the leasing manager of JLL and offered a 12,000 sq ft space in a more prominent location. They offered us a very good deal but we were really worried about how we would utilize the space. We were just getting off the ground and the new location needed a lot of work. It was very dirty, it needed THOUSANDS of feet of electric ran, and the water company was completely incompetent and could not sort out turning the water on.
We decided we would try to put our foot into the tournament scene that seemed to be lacking in Indianapolis at the time. We wanted to make a space that people could enjoy playing competitive games in at a reasonable price. We took the plunge and moved down the hall. The anxiety was high but we came into it with high hopes and caution. The gamble paid off and in time, we became the base locale for the Indiana Smash Scene. We met a lot of really great people, watched them grow up as people and players, and saw them move on to bigger things such as college, jobs, etc. It's a wild ride watching people grow.
While at this location, Washington Square Mall was sold to Kohan Reality and a LOT changed at the mall. I'll save all the details for another post on another day, but we were bracing for impact and began collecting arcade machines. We starting filling our warehouse, our venue, etc. We wanted to be sure if anything changed and we moved locations or expanded, we had the assets to make it memorable.
We spent 3 years at this location and really sunk our roots in. We hosted massive tournaments, we had arcade personalities visit, and we hosted high score events. We even met other companies and worked with them under our roof, such as Player One and reBOOT LAN. We stayed in touch with our friends that ran other arcades, we supported other friends that were trying to grow their own businesses, and spent holidays with arcade regulars. I grew up in the country and something I often heard was "If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, he didn't get there on his own" and although I'll admit we put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Boss Battle Games, it's nothing without all the support that spread the word.
Just as we were getting into a groove and feeling like maybe we finally understood what we were doing, we noticed things were taking a turn at Washington Square Mall in the beginning of 2018. Due to a lot of negligence by the property owner and various other things out of our control, many stores were starting to leave and foot traffic was taking a dive. We were informed in the summer that the mall would be going up for auction due to unpaid property taxes and we felt like this was the dark cloud we had been seeing on the horizon for the past few years coming to fruition.
We began scouting for a new location casually, as we felt we had time to spare, but to our surprise, things moved faster than expected. Simon properties were very excited to have us aboard and wanted us to move in faster than we were ready to move! It was really humbling to feel so wanted by a reputable company. We weighed our choices between malls and decided on a location and a move-in date. The move-in date wasn't ideal (middle of winter) but it was the soonest we could do and the latest the mall could wait on us.
For the first time since we opened our store, we did have to take out a loan to make the new location happen. It required renovation, machines needed repair, and we knew we would be closed a few weeks so we wanted to ensure we would survive without an income. It was a pretty terrifying prospect. We shopped around for loans and chose to go with an SBA loan. However, we signed on our loan in the midst of the government shut down and this led to delays. Luckily, we were blessed with a very good friend that limped us by until everything was sorted out so we could continue forward.
We wanted this space to be the arcade we had been dreaming of - that arcade Dustin had drawn up in his notebook years and years ago. So we made sure to make this one look great! We just had to cross our fingers that Castleton would feel the same way and support us to make it all worth it. We were incredibly pleased with the final result when everything was done. Our contractor (123 Steps Contracting) did excellent work on the electric and walls, and Nick Moon blew our minds with the graffiti art on the walls. It made moving hundreds of machines through subzero temperatures worth it!
Now we're somewhat settled in and it's a whole new world! We love our new location and Castleton has been great to us. We have a lot of new arcade machines on the floor and one of the great friends we made along the way has been kind enough to place pinballs in our store. We have plenty more arcade machines in our storage so we'll be switching things out from time to time once we get our lives together. We also have a back storage room we are converting into an event room where we will be hosting Salty Sunday, Fight Club, and private events again. We have so many plans in the work, just not enough time in the day!
Thanks for supporting us and reading this blog entry. I'll be sure to post more soon! I promise the next ones won't be this long.
My name is Phylicia! I also go by Trash Panda if you find me online in games or other forums. I am the Empress of Boss Battle Games (I'm serious, it's my legal title!) and wife/best friend to Dustin/Zoex/Emperor of Boss Battle Games. Together, we've been cutting years off our life to keep this arcade running as smoothly as possible and while growing it and adding new and exciting things.