One of the most fascinating things I have experienced whilst in Japan has been the recent trend of gaming bars which have been cropping up all over Tokyo. A chance to fritter your time away with your old pals Mario and Luigi once again, these new Japan bars are modest watering holes with garish memorabilia scattered around the room. The idea makes a lot of sense for a country where during the economic boom Nintendo’s 8-bit Famicon was playing in nearly every household. So instead of entertaining yourself with karaoke or even a sports bar, how about enjoying some old 8-bit classics?
Not only does Space Station in Osaka allow you to play oldies like Dreamcast and the Sega Megadrive, it also offers a vast collection of Western games, including heavyweights like Halo and the Gears of Wars series, which unfortunately failed to capture the imaginations of Japanese audiences. There are a variety of TVs set up along the bar, and the TVs are hooked up to a selection of different consoles consisting of NES and Famicom, a Super NES and a Super Famicom, Genesis and a Nintendo 64 thrown in for good measure.
The current gen consoles, like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have their own widescreen TV, where you can kick back on a sofa like you would back home. There’s a hefty selection of cartridges, including vintage games like Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country. Some wacky games are also available for those up for trying something new. Prior to my visit, I knew places like these existed, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to actually feast my eyes on such a venue. Space Station not only has no cover charge, but the owner Matt Bloch is from the U.S. making it easier for foreigners to visit and get a more personal experience.
The décor is modest, but that's not to say it isn't enticing. Even the Resident Evil drink coaster would awaken any nostalgic memories for anyone who still thinks back fondly on the pop culture benchmarks of their own childhood. Plus, for outsiders this might just be an interesting peephole into an alternative pop culture trend.
If you just want to have a drink and enjoy a little Resident Evil or if you’re more like me and want grab some drinks with friends and see who can get further in Halo, then Space Station is your best portal to a strange gaming dimension.