I visited Japan for the first time in a while over the holidays, spending my new year with a posse of fellow nerds celebrating in the most irredeemably dorky way possible: Comiket and arcade-hopping. (And a few game bars, too, for good measure – A Button is a lot smaller than I thought it would be!) While some Tokyo arcades like Mikado and HEY have already developed a strong reputation among retro-obsessed fans from abroad, I’d like to showcase a smaller, cozier, but similarly cool retro game space called the Natsuge Museum.
The name “Natsuge Museum” is derived from a combination of the words “natsukashii” (nostalgic), “Game,” and “Museum.” It’s located a short walk away from Akihabara station, though it’s in the opposite direction of Chuo-dori where HEY and most of the major stores are located. It’s a bit easy to miss: it’s not on any major roads, and its signage is limited to a few posters and banners hanging around the vicinity. It’s a fair bit smaller than those arcades, as well, being a single-floor establishment with as many machines as possible crammed into the space while still allowing you to move – just like the good ol’ game centers of old! This place is here to make you feel like you’ve warped back to the 80s, or perhaps the early 90s, when little arcades like these dotted the landscape, offering fun, strange, and challenging titles for everyone who was willing to waltz in and plunk a couple hundred yen into the machines.
Let’s take a more detailed look inside, shall we?
You always know when an arcade has an Arkanoid machine – the sounds are just that distinct. Also, Galaga and some Gradius/Life Force. Also also, vintage Tehkan cabinets from before they were called Tecmo!
Skater Gaiter (or just “Skater” on the title screen) is an old DECO/Data East release so obscure I’d never heard of it before. Control a terrifying clown with stretchy legs and try to avoid ramming things. Or make it a clown self-destruction simulator, up to you.
Lots of assorted game merchandise and media on sale here: clothing, model kits, manga, guidebooks, CDs, and other collectibles, including some stuff imported from the US. (They had a bunch of 90s Zuntata concerts on VHS – no DVDs, sadly.) Not pictured is a small counter where you can also buy inexpensive, old-fashioned Japanese candies.
Here’s a pic of one of the Gradius ska-jan they’re selling. (If you can’t live without one, you can try ordering it direct from Games Glorious. Me, I’m more of a Darius person.)
Some of the scenery decorating the walls. See if you can identify some of the artists and celebrities from their shikishi! (Also, gotta love that FROM USA Gauntlet POP)
Towards the back was a big monitor playing assorted replay videos. Here’s some Tokio/Scramble Formation. (It was showing a Kikikaikai run earlier in the evening.)
Here are some of the bigger cabinets. Submarine might be the oldest machine they have. Right next to it is a sadly not-working Monaco GP.
And right next to that is a triple-screen Darius with a bunch of extra bass packed into the seat! Though, as you might be able to tell from the side view above (and the decorations around the buttons), this seems like it may have been a Warrior Blade cabinet originally.
There are a lot of cool arcades to visit in Japan, but if you’re in the Akihabara area and you care about retro games even one iota, you should absolutely go out of your way to visit the Natsuge Museum. The cabinets are in excellent condition, the game selection is eclectic and interesting, and the “big” cabinets they have in their small space are rare enough to justify the visit on their own.The only caveat is that the game selection seems to change fairly regularly, so you should probably not expect any specific title to be there when you go in. (It helps to keep tabs on their Twitter account.)
And if you drop in, be sure to tell them gaming.moe sent you, too!