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A Day of Arcade Games at California Extreme 2015

Captain America 2

Captain America and the Avengers

In the middle of the summer, in the middle of California, in the middle of a draught, a small gathering of gamers come together for the greatest classic arcade convention on the west coast.

California Extreme.

In this, my third year of attendance, I played conquered more games than past years, played more pinball than ever before in my collected lifetime, and discovered some unique and fun games I’d never heard of before. If you fancy yourself a classic/retro arcade game fan, and you live close to Santa Clara, California or can make the trip, I highly recommend checking out this little convention. Here’s a link to the show’s page, so you can plan for next year’s visit.

This year’s show was extra special to me because my brother Phil and I were able to secure a special surprise birthday present for our eldest brother: a plane ticket and pass to this year’s show! Seeing as he’s the one among us who appreciates arcade games and (especially) pinball machines most, we owed it to him to make sure he was here to check out the show. And certainly, he was impressed.

Hercules 1

Hercules Pinball

Pinball and classic arcade games all set to free play as far as the eye can see. Enthusiastic old game fans lining up to play their childhood favorites like Ms. Pac-Man and RobotronExcited gamers trying out Gauntlet and Street Fighter II for the very first time. Arcade kings reminiscing about the good ol’ days of classic style pinball machines compared to their new-fangled and flashy counterparts. Young kids discovering how their parents entertained themselves in an age without the internet or portable gaming systems. A magical haven of nerd culture and discovery. And a kind of funky smell.

What would an arcade convention be without some great games? This year was absolutely no exception, with some new additions and returning favorites to make me and many others nostalgic and happy. X-Men Arcade and Captain America and the Avengers were two new games this year that I was pleased to sink an hour into and see through to the end. Midway game Cosmo Gang was constantly entertaining guests from young kids to eager adults. New and improved Killer Queen had a fully dedicated space to play the 5-on-5 multiplayer romp, with new levels and playable class. Dozens of pinball machines ranging from licensed machines like Metallica and Superman to the old classics with wooden cabinets and a Hercules machine that was easily the size of two machines combined.

Varkon 3

Varkon Screen

Some new highlights for me were Tron Video Pinballwhich was an amalgamation of physical pinball flipper buttons to press and a video screen displaying all the action. Another spin on pinball was Varkon, which was a vertical pinball machine; the ball moved fast and you had to react even faster. Both were really fun and unique!

Night Stocker was this weird driving and shooting game: you had to steer a vehicle with one hand while shooting down enemies with a light gun in the other. Really challenging but really fun. Blaster was a vector graphics gem that had multiple stages and goals, ranging from shooting space vampires to rescuing floating spacemen, to navigating through a veritable maze of pillars and enemy ships. And while I’ve played and enjoyed both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. in the past, it wasn’t until this year that I really got to play Donkey Kong 3 and enjoy it. Uniquely different than the previous games but still a fun title!
In pinball land I got my hands on so many machines I was actually able to narrow down which pinball variant was my favorite: The fast and action packed games. Retro pinball games like Middle Earth (which has nothing to do with Hobbits) and The Hulk were fun and classic, but weren’t fast and flashy. Newer pinball machines like Super Mario Bros. and Terminator 2 were more fun but weren’t fast enough. Machines like Cyclonewhich were incredibly fast in pinball speed and really dynamic on the board, ended up being my favorites. I also enjoyed some of the more “experimental” machines, like the gigantic aforementioned Hercules machines, as well as the dual-flipper game Roller Disco.

Tron Video Pinball 4

Tron Video Pinball Cabinet

And that’s just scratching the surface of what California Extreme had to offer. An entire room dedicated to smaller console games was available. If you thought you were skilled enough to win a tournament and take home a sweet trophy you could sing up. Heck, I didn’t even mention how there was an entire section (with a truly dedicated fanbase) of rhythm games like Pop’n Music and Dance Dance Revolution, or how I started playing the original House of the Dead and after making it to the third level before finally dying only to turn around and see a small crowd gathered around me like it was a decade ago at the bowling alley. Single player games, two player games, six player games, even ten player games were there, ensuring everyone met someone new and enjoyed a common interest all through the night.
Chalk up California Extreme 2015 as another huge success. With next year being the 20th anniversary of the show, I’m hoping it’ll be bigger and better than ever. Honestly though, they can (and probably will) do the same thing year after year and I’ll happily attend and get my nostalgic gaming fix. For the hundreds of gamers who enjoyed the show this year and can’t wait until next year, game on.


Laters,
Jsick

If you want to see all of my pictures from this year’s California Extreme, as well as a whole bunch of other arcade pictures and videos, check out my arcade-dedicated Tumblr blog by clicking here!

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Posted by on 07/27/2015 in Randomness

 

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California Extreme 2014

California Extreme Logo

Last year I was content to leave all of the California Extreme related posts to my Tumblr, which focuses entirely on video arcades and memorabilia. Coincidentally you should check that out if you want to know more about arcade games! This year however, I’m going to grace you all with the retro-filled weekend that was California Extreme 2014. Plenty of great games were played, a lot of machines I otherwise wouldn’t have played in my life were dabbled with, and some games were completely beaten thanks to the wonderful Free Play setting. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 07/16/2014 in Randomness, Retro

 

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Worth Playing vol. 7: The Spinoff Spectacular

Wario Land Logo

Just like every other medium, video games often spawn sequels focused solely on once side characters, shining a light on their stories or adventures, and thus making the spinoff sequel. With video games specifically, the spinoff doesn’t have to focus on just a character: it can be a game that dramatically changes the gameplay but keeps the characters or storyline; it can be about a side story happening at the same time; it can focus on an entirely different character’s storyline altogether. It can be a lot of things. And an, there are a lot of spinoffs out there for your favorite franchises. Here are a handful of spinoff video games that are well worth your time. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 03/19/2014 in Randomness

 

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Video Game Toys From Years (and Decades) Past

Protip:
Never throw away a box of supposed junk in the attic of a video gamer without first rummaging through its contents. The rewards could be substantial.

 

 

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Posted by on 11/18/2011 in Randomness

 

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