My second full day in Japan, my second trip to Akihabara, my first meeting with Henry Adams Moriarty. The placement of these days and events is certainly not coincidental, and the harmony of their confluence is indicative a good deal more of something than it is of nothing.
Henry was not quite the man I was expecting. Of course, it’s difficult to prepare a reasonable expectation for yourself when you’re primed to meet with a legend. Indeed, the Madman’s Café is the seminal source of import gaming news on the web. Along with Blues News, the site stands as one of the first for internet gaming journalism period, import-based or otherwise. The ‘legend’ status comes about when you stick with it. Next year the MMCafe will celebrate its 10th anniversary. I don’t think I have to say much about when the internet was ‘born’ for you to get an idea of how impressive that is.
We met in front of the biggest rip-off in Akihabara; Asobitcity. Some new DVD was being promoted there, with an odd bandaged alien-looking cosplayer hawking the wares. These people have got to be boiling to death inside their costumes, I can’t fathom how they do it. Jaimie was with me as well - we got a balloon and sat down. No matter what, I couldn’t get a picture of the front of our cosplaying friend, the bastard kept turning round as I clicked the not-exactly-a-shutter of my new digital camera. I had bought the thing the day before, in a store with no sign. There was only the building name over the door. We wandered in looking for a bathroom, and came out with the best digital camera deal in Tokyo.
We sat and waited for the madman’s arrival, hoping we’d be able to recognize him from the dodgy photo I’d been emailed the day before. Hell, this was his café, he should be able to find us. On the Asobitcity play consoles, a salaryman kept losing at Virtual On Marz. Moriarty called me by name, making my fears of recognizing him vanish into thin air. Salutations exchanged, we set the blueprint for the day.
The plan for our meeting was to take a quick look around for the items I’d missed out on the day before, then engage in an arcade challenge between Moriarty and myself. We bought some 200 yen ice cream and went on our way. Check out the shot of my cone. Like many things in this town, it was flash over substance. Moriarty said I got gypped - he hadn’t gotten any. Jaimie’s was attacked by her balloon, so the whole thing was basically a bust. You owe us some ice cream, Japan.
The previous day Jaimie and I had spent ten hours in Akihabara. So while it was a convenient place to meet due to my knowing something about the area, it was all tapped out for games as far as I was concerned. So we ditched Tokyo’s Electric Town in favor of less frequented locals. I was looking for Towns Marty hardware, and I was pretty near convinced that I wasn’t going to find it there. Actually, I had multiple goals, but the Towns Marty was the ultimate. I still needed to pick up a Supergrafx, a Duo-R and games for each. So after stopping to purchase an overpriced and insanely delicious tiny sandwich (chicken removed) at Doutor, we hit the Yamanote line to Shinjuku, a pit-stop before the game search. Along the way, we discussed our respective websites – the difficulty of arcade magazine scans, jobs, projects and goals.
Of course I gushed about the influence his site has had on all of the younger import gaming webs, treatment of news, responsible citing of sources, etc. Though it’s glaringly evident that many folks have yet to learn that last one.
Consider me damn hell ass surprised to hear that Moriarty has actually been reading insert credit since very near its inception. He said: “I remember thinking that it had a lot of potential. And I think I’m safe in saying that it’s more than surpassed what potential I saw then.” Wow. I didn’t know what to say to that. We were walking around the eclectic wacky-goods-shop Tokyu Hands at the time, home of breast suits solar bobble head dolls and cheap french maid outfits. I just busied myself with some feathered wings and nodded or something, dragging my dropped-jaw as I walked. It was like a…rite of passage or something. Once you’ve established yourself enough in the scene, you must make a pilgrimage to the various districts of Tokyo with Henry Moriarty.
Since we were in Shinjuku, we did a bit of clothes shopping. Well more window-shopping than anything, as this place was incredibly expensive. We were to find better deals in Amerika Town and Harjuku, but we didn’t know that just yet. We had an inkling though, and so spent not a dime outside of the aforementioned Tokyu Hands. But it was here that I discovered just what a nice guy Moriarty is. His demeanor is one of selflessness, responding affirmatively to our whims and inclinations, becoming far less a guide than a travel companion. All too soon however, his other less immediately accessible qualities came forth. I’ll get to that.
We eventually found ourselves in the Mandarake in Shibuya, pictured here in Scott Mollett’s guide. You have to walk down several flights of stairs to get in. It’s a bit off-putting initially, considering that the entrance is on the ground level. Lots of cool stuff to look at, but nothing I really wanted to purchase. It’s definitely worth a trip if you’re in the area though, and if you like manga, there’s no place better. It’s really an experience, walking down those dark stairs. I felt as though I was descending into the manga cult, with odd signs on the wall, mostly telling you not to take photos under penalty of death. Once arriving you find that persons from every walk of life are in here, making acquisitions for their train ride or what have you. We hung around until Jaimie knocked a cosplay outfit off the wall while perusing the yaoi manga. It was time for a swift exit.
Our final shop-stop was Nakano, home to a large semi-indoor mall. Mandarake has spread like a plague through this area, with a full 4 stores on the second floor. Here, Mandarake has a specific shop just for games. Apparently the last time Moriarty was there, they had only two. Soon the entire floor will be home to mandarake, each with one staffer who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And it’ll be brilliant. This is where I bought myself one Supergrafx, two horribly overpriced games, and a few more reasonably priced items. It’s Moriarty’s fault, really. In spite of his benevolence, it soon became apparent that he was out to ruin me financially. Every time I would agonize over whether or not to purchase a game, our friendly madman would goad me on – “oooh, but man. Do you ever think you’ll see this game again? You don’t need to eat today, right?” Jaimie is usually my buffer. Her look of reproach at my purchase of X game I’ll never have time to play for Y million amount of dollars usually helps to re-assess the situation. She was down the hall, having been distracted by some dragon statues. I was alone with Moriarty and his troublesomely logical words. Were he a bit of conscience, he’d be that red guy on my left shoulder.
So here I am, trying to decide whether or not to purchase a Supergrafx, a system for which only five games were made – and Jaimie is down the hall. Hell, I wanted one anyway. I asked the lady at the counter if they had any software for it. She actually went and looked, then came back and said ‘no, I’m sorry’. Then I went and looked and found four, two of which were doubles. So much for that. I bought them at Moriarty’s Faux urging. In all seriousness, he just made my purchases easier. I knew I was paying out the ass for the goods, but wanted them regardless.
But back to the profiling, that fellow loves his sarcasm like you wouldn’t believe. Actually…looking at all of the April Fools jokes he’s done over the years, maybe you would. Well if you met him in person, you’d believe it all the more. As mischievous and tricksy a fellow as Moriarty is, he’s also incredibly generous. He treated me to food and drink on more than one occasion, though this was also to have its consequences further along in our story.
16,000 yen later, Jaimie returned, and we were off to dinner. Surprisingly, there was actually a fair bit of vegetarian food in the mall’s ground level. I got myself a box of veggie sushi for the first time in…well since I’d left California. But horror of horrors, along the way was a monstrosity the likes of which I’d never seen before. You’re familiar with UFO catchers, I’m sure. These are the amusement cabinets in which you try to grab an item with a claw, then lower it into an opening in order to retrieve it. This one had live creatures within. At first we thought they were lobsters, as that was the beast depicted on the marquee. Closer inspection revealed that they were in fact gigantic shrimp. A paper sign was placed over the marquee to indicate just that. One of the poor beasts was trapped in a plastic wall with the water filter, wriggling pathetically with waning life.
Disgusted, I made my way for the veggie sushi shop while Moriarty and Jaimie split off to get some Squid balls and a bento box. At the sushi place I got myself some adzuki beans with rice mochi dumplings floating in them. This shop pleased me, and I let the proprietress know. Heading back down to meet the others, I stopped at a cheap looking stand. They had vegetable Gyouza (Japanese potstickers, for those not in the know), now there’s some luck. I was feeling fine after my purchase of six for 150 yen. And what was this? They had flavored tea eggs as well! Only 100 yen for a tri-force of them. I was laden with food by the time I met Moriarty and Jaimie. They were in line for Moriarty’s squid, having already gotten the bento.
I waited patiently for them by a…precariously hung glass-covered sign. Leaning forward to make a comment about how remarkable it was that a stand selling a single item could have such a line, I knocked this sign to the ground with a loud clatter. And no matter what I did, I could not re-affix the string they’d been using to hold it up. Perhaps I’d broken it?? I couldn’t be sure. The glass wasn’t cracked, that’s a good thing. I turned sheepishly to the young lass womanning the register. And she apologized to me. “Oh, I’m sorry for putting you in such a dangerous position, I’ll gladly re-affix the sign,” says she. What’s with this backward nation? You can get away with a lot of jackassery here if you’re so inclined. Luckily for you, Japan, I am not.
We sat down to eat outside, facing the mall from a miniature ‘park’ which had no benches. It was a small bit of grass, around which grew three perfectly sculpted trees, the largest of which was no higher than four feet. We sat on the surrounding brick retaining wall, our faces to the mall, our backs to the train station.
Under the benevolent glow of a neon Nova rabbit sign, we began our meal. I tried the vegetable gyouza first. Well, yes. There were vegetables in it. But also a CRAPLOAD OF PORK. This country. Handing these off to Jaimie, I went for the tea eggs…just to get that taste out of my mouth.
Now let’s discuss tea eggs for a moment. I became attached to these things when at Tea Zone in the Los Angeles area. Every time I go, I’m the only white guy in there. Hell, I’m the only non-Chinese person in there. If you like your tea-shops dimly-lit and filled with Chinese-language manga, if you like your pop music loud, displayed in VCD-quality live concert across multiple TV screens, if you like rocket-ships for support pillars, if you like static electricity lightshow panels on the wall by each table, if you like your Chinese folks blonde, this is the place to come. Most importantly though, is the boba. They have the finest tasting boba around, and the tea to match it. If you can find Rose Milk Tea anywhere else in the US, I don’t know about it. I’ve certainly looked. At Tea Zone they have tea eggs at 75 cents a pair. What I receive is the taste-sensation of a hard-boiled egg which as been marinated in a salty, spiced tea mixture, giving it a slightly sweet-salty taste and a bouquet the likes of which you can hardly imagine unless you’ve smelled it before. They’re incredibly good.
Back here in Nakano Japan, I’m all set to try my Japanese tea eggs, to chase and hopefully eliminate that pork taste that’s making the rounds on my tastebuds. I take a bite, and the shit is half-boiled. Just a gelatinous, slimy goo surrounded by what looks like a hard-boiled egg. And I don’t know what kind of tea they soaked it in. Do they make ass tea? Because if so, I think that’s what they used for this. It tasted like an unflavored egg with pureed vomit inside. Thank the gods for the overwhelmingly overpowering taste of adzuki beans, or I would have shot myself in the face right there. The damned meat-eating bastards who accompanied me both laughed in that special “haha, you can’t eat food” way.
Once I settled in eating my adzuki paste, rice dumplings and true vegetarian sushi, I noticed that we were seated catty-corner to a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Interestingly, in Japan you can still call it by that full name. Here in the US, a legal ordinance has dictated that they refer to themselves only as KFC due in portion to their method of recombining the chicken parts they use in their meat-product-chicken-flavored junk food. The fact that this is not actually true makes the food no less gross.
I looked at the storefront, and there was no statue of the Colonel. Since Moriarty was the one who alerted me to the phenomenon of the Colonel statues to begin with, I asked why he thought it wasn’t there. “Maybe it was stolen.” “Who would steal the Colonel?”
So then I learned the story of the curse that’s been placed on the Hanshin Tigers. The Hanshin Tigers are the no-winningest team in Japan…they come from somewhere in the Kyoto area. They’re the Japanese equivalent of the Cubs, in that they rarely win, but their fans are utterly devoted regardless. Cubs right? Hell, I don’t know baseball. I hear they hit balls with sticks now. Anyway, head around the Kyoto area and you’ll see Hanshin Tigers instant ramen cups, clothing, toys and drinks in just about any convenience mart. Not to mention the OMG R@RE Hanshin Tigers Neo Geo Pocket console.
So this dismal team somehow managed to win the entire series once a few years back. The people of the area were so happy that they paraded the streets dressed up like the players (jersey numbers, hairstyles and all of that). However one member of the Hanshin Tigers is a white guy, so nobody could play him. Who’s white in that area? Why…the statue of the Colonel. So they liberated him from his perch, dressed him with the appropriate number, and in a fit of jubilation…tossed him into the river. Now the Hanshin Tigers haven’t hardly won a game since, let alone the series.
It’s said that the Colonel has cursed the team because the revelers tossed him in the river. They’ve scoured that river with nets, divers, and sonar technology. They can’t find the Colonel.
Every place I’ve been in Japan, I’ve seen KFC with no Colonel. Everyone says it’s very odd. Man…if those statues are all stolen…no wonder the Japanese economy is in the pits. Tossing a normal Kentuckian into a river is dangerous enough. Throw in the effigy of a Colonel who slaughters chickens in his spare time, and you’ve got a Vengeful Ghost situation on your hands.
My father likes to say that you should always have one good story to tell about the region you’re visiting, that way you’ll appear to have fit in a bit, and can get in with the locals. My father watches a lot of bad movies.
But I did try this story out in full Japanese on a group of 50+ individuals in a sushi shop in Tokyo, and it worked moderately well. I got some free miso soup out of it for both Jaimie and myself. But…that’s another story for another day.
Dinner was done, it was time to move was on to the main course: the arcade gaming. We passed that shrimp UFO catcher on the way through the mall. One kid caught two of the things in a row as we approached. Got the picture to prove it. But you know those poor beings are just teeming with the worst kind of SARS.
In search of a suitable arcade, we returned to…let’s say Shibuya, because I can’t rightly remember exactly where we went. The arcades were laid out in the traditional style for Japan. Versus machines are seated opposite each other, because as Moriarty said “Japanese people don’t like to see each other’s faces when they lose.”
I had just tried New Power Instinct for the first time the day before…for about ten minutes in a dismal arcade below a pachinko/capsule machine place. So I wanted to try my luck once more. The game seemed pretty solid.
But on our way there I was met with an Azumanga Puzzle Daioh console. I was not able to resist its pull. The game is fun as all get out, as you can mess up your enemy’s field by tossing bubbles into his area. And there’s lots of spirited, wholesome yelling.
Unfortunately I spent way too much time concerning myself with Moriarty’s field, and not enough time winning. So I lost. I should have been able to mop the floor with good old H.M. at this game by all rights. I…don’t know what happened really. I guess I do. Watch the movie in it’s last seconds. I’m clicking the rudder around, searching for the appropriate place to shoot a green bubble. Should I toss it into that big empty area where there’s another green, so that I might come back from this? OR! Should I just place it carefully on the end of the long strand of bubbles that’s descending, effectively killing myself?? HMMMM.
It was a disappointment for all involved. So I sheepishly redirected us to the NPI machines.
There was someone playing on our console of choice, so Moriarty kicked him off with his fists of fury. The guy wasn’t tough to beat.
First attempts at versus play proved that Moriarty had played New Power Instinct a good deal longer than ten minutes. I had a good time, even if I did lose to the madman 75% of the time. Check the movies to see the slaughter. I’m playing as Reiji here…he’s a simple shoto, so I did all right. But that round you see me win…that’s just one round. I was consistently able to beat Moriarty and his AoF3 Karmen-esque Olaf in the 2nd round, but nowhere else. I tried again with two other characters, and lost with both. Most dismal was my fight as with the dog-character Pochi. Guh.
Last, but not least, some KOF 2002. Rock the house (though the house might have rocked a bit more with a dash of KOF 2001). We had to kick the same poor guy off the console. My apologies to you, nondescript salaryman with backpack. It wasn’t personal, I assure you. At least he put up a little more of a fight at KOF.
This is a game most worthy of play, as Moriarty and myself have a fair bit of experience with the title. We were blow-for-blow here, completely fifty-fifty in terms of wins. Check the videos to see Moriarty’s tauntingly effective use of Yamazaki’s reaction/counter move, for which I consistently fell. It’s a little more embarrassing than it is funny. Unfortunately I don’t have the video of my Joe vs his Yamazaki. Now that was some more-embarrassing-than-funny shit right there. The video I do have of his Yamazaki serves a dual purpose, and in fact was taken the following week. There will be more to say about it then.
We didn’t get much footage of this evening’s KOF business. Jaimie was off taking general photos of the arcade. There's a big difference between arcades in Japan and arcades in the US. Yes, that's right: Japan's arcades have people in them. To document this phenomenon, Jaimie grabbed shots of a VF player, Drummania 8 player (complete with mugging pal), our now empty New Power Instinct cabinet, World Combat, and some guy who looks like James Bond.
Most interesting though; the candid video of a fellow who was engrossed by a pornographic mahjong game. Take a look at that business. It’s a bit risqué, so bear this in mind. It gets a fair bit more explicit, but…no porn on our server, so you don’t get to see that part. It’s too bizarre anyway – after he gets this office gal to strip down, there’s a still image of her giant breast right there in the middle of the playing field for the entire next round. The nipple was nicely centered in the middle of the screen for easy viewing, I guess. Leave it to Japan to make me feel strange about porn. A return trip to the US fixed that right up. Once it’s taboo again, I’m all for it.
The only video we got of that evening’s KOF activities involved his Shermie throwing my Terry, narrated by some colorful language on my part. Bear in mind, this was roughly throw # 3,486, which is why the expletive. He’s mean with that Shermie, I tell you. This is my stop killing me face.
It was getting rather late, so we decided to head our separate ways. Moriarty guided us back to the train station, assuring that we knew which line to get on. Included for your titillation is a candid image of the man himself.
Our second meeting was conducted at the same place about ten days later. We tried our luck at Akihabara for some FM Towns games, though by now my money was all dried up. This was my second-to-last day in Japan, and I’d found 6 or so Towns Marty games before his arrival, so my gaming money was down to one last 1,000 yen note. I had also just purchased a wheeled suitcase to transport my newfound spoils to the US with a chunk of my game-dedicated cash, so I was in dire straights. Thus, after finding one game on which to spend a portion of this final 1,000, it was decided that we should hit the arcades before I was completely tapped out.
It was our way to some arcades in Ikebukuro that Moriarty’s generosity showed it’s dark side. We were discussing my difficulty eating things like food in Japan, because they stuck meat in damned near everything. You’ve heard one example already…here are a few more insidious ones. I bought some cheese puff snacks which had shrimp in them. Got some pretzels which were flavored with Chicken (for you meat eaters out there, try some Pretz brand products. I ate a few before reading the label, and they’re damned tasty). So Moriarty asked if I’d tried natto, one of Japan’s specialty foods. I had not. I’d heard some horror stories, but nothing was really able to prepare me for the reality of the thing. When I hear ‘fermented soybeans’, I think of things like vinegar, cider, wine…these are fermented things that taste just fine.
Natto is really rotting soybeans. Soybeans surrounded by the sticky, stringy, yellow goo which is a byproduct of its decomposition. And good old Moriarty offered to let me try some on his tab. More like – he insisted that I try some, and rushed off to purchase a pack. Now I don’t know how much these things cost (he hid the receipt from me), but any price was too much. Just looking at them initially was painful. Especially since Henry, in his unique way was building them up as the most disgusting food product ever conceived. You’re supposed to stir them up, he says. I think this was just a ploy on his part, as stirring them just makes the sticky yellow rot that connects them all the stringier and harder to visually digest. Further he insisted that I try them without the three sauces that came included with the pack. You know it’s rough when three separate, extremely strong and salty sauces (which I later tried) come included with the product.
The first bite was tougher to look at than to eat. Initially it doesn’t taste like much. But the aftertaste, supplemented by Moriarty’s “Oh god, look at the decay…all of that string!! That stuff is completely rotten, how can you be eating it??” – well it was quite something. I was able to force myself to eat maybe an 8th of what was included in the package. I tried to be a man. But I’ll be damned if those weren’t the grossest bean-related items I’ve ever gotten my mouth around. Check the pictures and movies to see for yourself. This stuff is hardcore.
I asked the madman how anyone would decide that these were even ok to eat, let alone ‘healthy’, as the Japanese claim them to be. The story goes that some soybeans were to be delivered to a remote daimyo during the feudal period, but due to the difficulties and hazards of travel, the beans were out in the sun too long, packed inside of some wild straw. Once the goods arrived at the daimyo, the beans were rotting and gooey. But these were tough times, they had to eat something until they could afford to get more food.
So someone was ordered by the officials to try the stuff, and basically he didn’t die. They were able to eat it for quite a while until more provisions could be acquired. So even today they make natto in the same way, just letting the beans rot in some straw out in the sun.
If you have the opportunity to try it, don’t be a man. Just leave the stuff alone. This is the crap parents force their kids to eat in Japan, why should you do it willingly?
Let’s leave this grisly scene behind us…today was very arcade-emphasized, as Moriarty only had a few hours to spend with us today, as opposed to a full day. He’s a busy man. So here we were in Ikebukuro, ready to battle. We went to the biggest and baddest arcade in town, where they were holding a mysterious location test. When we got there, we discovered that it was Dragon Treasure, an utterly boring looking medal game from Sega. Wooh.
I do apologize for the lack of actual coverage, but first of all, those medal games just don’t move me. Second of all, it takes a fair chunk of change to get started on it, and I just didn’t have the cash to spare at this point. It was a bit depressing really. A location test with no security guards, and – forget a line – there were open seats at the console. Egad.
So we searched the ground floor for the good stuff. As usual, I got distracted before even catching a glimpse of an MVS. They had Shikigami II and Ketsui sitting right next to each other! With that much new shooty action contained within a square yard, what could I do but play the both of them? I was doing damned well in Ketsui and asked Moriarty to video the proceedings. He took a picture instead. He’s definitely out for my ruin.
So I grabbed the camera and captured footage of the demo. A red-clad managerial type from the arcade came over to chastise me. “Shasshin dame” is all he said. “No pictures.” The ol’ “I don’t speak English” ruse didn’t work, as he made a bit X with his hands immediately thereafter. I guess I could have pretended to be an idiot as well, and kept going. But who know what he’d have done then. He might have busted out the Engrish he learned in grade school, and none of us wanted that. So, in my feigned gaijin ignorance I interpreted his X to mean “don’t take video where I can see you”.
KOF was in plain view of the manager, so this place was a bust for the MMCAFE VS INSERT CREDIT SUPER HYPER DASH BATTLE MATCH DREAM EXCELLENCE TOURNAMENT 20XX. Damn.
But Road to the Sword was over there in the darkest of dark corners. I’d been wanting to play this thing since it came out, and so has nearly every insert credit reader. So…I did my duty. We got video of this with no problem. This time Jaimie, who, unlike Henry, is not a NARC, took the footage. Moriarty and I spent 100 yen apiece being completely awful at the game. Yes, bad ass arcade friendly websites though we may run, we’re not above getting our ass handed to us by every game we attempt. Encouraging, eh?
Next arcade attempt was at Gamers. They used to have some nice machines, Moriarty says. Well – they’re all gone now damnit. But hey, they’ve got a “Gothic Lorita” record/clothing shop on the 6th floor. There you can buy the Gackt Bible for many, many thousands of yen. That’s news you can use, friends.
While waiting for Jaimie to realize that she couldn’t afford any of this stuff, we watched a young lass purchase over $1,000 US equivalent in maid costuming goods. We knew where she got the money. Same place she was going to use that costume. There’s more to say about this, but Tim does it better than I ever will.
Jaimie surprised us all by finding a nice shirt for 500 yen. We hustled out of there before they realized that the garment’s price was below their three zeros minimum.
We wound up playing in the dregs of the area, the 50 yen arcade. Other than a gumball I picked up in Osaka’s Americatown, this is the least money I paid for anything in Japan. That is to say – you get what you pay for.
Again, there was someone on the console. KOF 2002 once more, to my dismay. Moriarty kicked they guy off, but had a pretty rough time of it. I was…slightly concerned to see that he was in top form today. I assumed my place at the opposite console and went to work. Moriarty chose Mature, Yamazaki and Shermie. Though some may scoff, these days I’m pretty Joe dependent, so I put him at the end, preceded by Blue Mary and Kensou. Mary’s weaker for me, but Kensou’s not so bad…unless you’re not entirely aware of his BUN SUPER.
The bun super is an agonizingly slow process during which Kensou attempts to eat a bun to regain life. It’s more common use is to give your opponent enough time to unleash some sort of deadly nastiness on you.
This is where the dual-purpose video I mentioned earlier figures in. So here I am, getting smacked up by Yamazaki, so I try to pull out a super to even the score. To my surprise, out comes the bun move and he hits me in the head. Hmmm…I remember that joystick movement doing something else. So a couple seconds later, I try again, this time it’s a brilliant counter-super…which once again turns out to be the bun super. Then after this I fall for Yamazaki’s reaction move three more times, and that’s that! I don’t know man. Sometimes I’m just not that bright.
And there’s another problem. I’m playing along here, trying to do my thing when the hard kick button leaps out of the console and onto the ground. What the hell? Uh…that’s not too good. So I’m trying to play sans hard kick, but by now I’m using Joe, who’s all about the kicks and such. So I keep forgetting and jamming my finger into the pointy hole where the HK used to be. I…lost, not shockingly.
I picked up the button and re-inserted it into the console. Next round I knew the score, so I didn’t depress the HK too much…it still came out about three times, but I deftly re-inserted it into the console while playing. My mastery of awful arcade consoles went increased by three points. If I’d played that Dragon Treasure thing I might have leveled up!
Next round I won, choosing Joe as the anchor once more. Check out my matches vs his Mature and Shermie. They cut off a bit early, which is kind of sort of my fault. That Moriarty is not above the cheap shots – I bet he’s a camper in Counterstrike.
So we were even once more, and after I defeated Henry some sort of MONSTER grabbed the controls and wiped the floor with me using Kula. People in Japan love to use projectiles, I don’t know what it is. Plus no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get that HK back in the console for the whole round. At one point I had the button in upside down, and that didn’t work one bit. Guh.
So the bottom line is this: he kicks my ass at New Power Instinct, we’re even at KOF, we both seem to suck at beat ‘em ups, and as for puzzle games…that’s yet to be determined. I refuse to admit defeat there, we should have had a rematch. You hear that madman? Next time I hit Tokyo, I’m taking you down!
We exited via the glass-encased chrome spiral staircase in the corner of the arcade and sat on the pavement outside. Moriarty, to make up for the natto decided to go off to buy us some manju buns; chocolate, custard and adzuki in flavor. Leaning against my recently purchased case full of Towns Marty games, I found myself staring at a stain on the ground that looked like Hokkaido.
This was the end of my free run in Japan. Disney Sea was to take up the entirety of the following day. I wanted to be able to eat food again, but…I didn’t really want to leave. This was Japan…and it was over.
Moriarty returned with the buns and I broke from my trance. The three of us ate as we ambled through the streets to the train station. Generous to the end, he offered to pay for us to visit the kitty room on the 6th floor of Sunshine Station’s neighboring mall. Jaimie was fingering a flyer she’d been handed on the ground floor. 20 breeds of cats to play with, only 600 yen apiece. We politely declined – he’d done too much already.
Standing right outside the station was a politician on a raised platform calling for social service reform through an amp in this and that regard.
The image of the man pontificating behind red flags flapping in the breeze stayed with me, merging with thoughts of a kitty room as Moriarty and I went our separate ways. Will I ever return to this place where everything’s just east of comfortable? God I hope so. I could get addicted to being the foreigner. But everything has it’s place, and my time had come to an end. I’ll see you again Henry – prepare yourself for the challenge to come!!
Brandon Sheffield knows what it is to be mad.