Yesterday was so full of wonderful gaming moments that I think I’ll be writing about it for the many days to come. But the first thing that I had to write about was a place that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now. That place is Arcade Legacy.

Arcade Legacy is what I like to call “an oasis in the middle of a desert.” This is because, from all sides, Arcade Legacy is surrounded by the dead-silence and near-darkness of an all but abandoned mall. There are no other shops or places to eat from what I’ve seen of it, and it looks like it hasn’t been renovated since the ‘90s. I try to stay in the actual mall part as little as possible, as I fear getting mugged or getting kidnapped and being experimented on by a mad scientist.

This is about the point where my mom stops understanding video games.

But if you cut through the mall with purpose, you will find one business that still seems to be thriving despite all the death surrounding it: Arcade Legacy. If you only want to stay for an hour or two, they have rates for that, but they also have a rate where you’re charged one fee and can then play any game in the arcade for as long as you’d like until the arcade closes.

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The majority of the actual arcade games that they have available are retro. This isn’t like Dave & Buster’s, where they have all the ticket-grabbing machines and shooting games. I mean, there are still quite a few shooting games, but they’re all old. There are certainly a few classics there, such as Popeye, Tetris, Donkey Kong Jr. (Not the original, sadly), and plenty of fighting games. Personally, I don’t have the insane skill that most of these old arcade games ask of me, so I like to play the rhythm games. Of course there’s Dance Dance Revolution, which is always a blast, but one newly discovered gem is Jubeat. The actual cabinet is tall but doesn’t take up a lot of space, and is by far the loudest game in the arcade. But that doesn’t matter, because the J-pop played on it is, for the most part, really freaking catchy! The cabinet has one large screen that keeps track of your score, and 16 other tiny screens that also serve as buttons. (I’m sure it’s actually one large screen and clear buttons over it, but that’s how it’s meant to look.) These pink flower patterns will appear over the button about a second before you have to hit it, and you then hit it precisely on the beat. Like most rhythm games, it’s a simple premise, but it can get incredibly difficult. What I love so much about this setup, and what makes it so addicting, is that the buttons are the display. There’s no lag between you associating a prompt on the screen with pressing a button, because the prompt is literally “press here!” This makes the game easy to understand even for people who don’t normally play video games, which is perfect for an arcade.

There’s also another J-pop rhythm game that I sadly didn’t get a picture of or remember its name. where there are five buttons and a pedal. It’s very similar to Guitar Hero, but there are now prompts to spin the button, which makes things a lot more difficult. I didn’t end up enjoying quite as much as jubeat because it could get just a little bit too hectic, but it was a fun time all the same.

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There are also a few pinball machines here, but the pinball hall of fame this is not. There are maybe five or six, but one or two are out of order and the ones that do work often don’t work perfectly and weren’t very interesting to begin with. If you’re here for the pinball, you’ve come to the wrong place.

I’m conflicted about the employees working there. On one hand, they’re very knowledgeable about the games there, and they know how to start up all of the consoles and TVs. On the other hand, these dudes just do not smile. Like, ever. You get the double-edged sword of having genuine, stereotypical nerds at the counter. They know what they’re talking about, but maybe a bit too much at the expense of some social skills. At any rate, they’re certainly not rude in any capacity, just a bit standoffish.

If what I already described was all that was here, that would already be a pretty good arcade. But the secret about Arcade Legacy is that not only is it one of the best video game arcades in the Cincinnati area, but that it is also one of the best retro video games stores in the Cincinnati area. From NES to games from the previous year, and occasionally games before and after then, this place is loaded with games, not to mention gaming merchandise and DVDs.

But by far, the absolute coolest thing about Arcade Legacy that sets it above any other arcade that I can remember (Yes, even the pinball hall of fame) is that you can play almost every game that they’re selling. They have every console from the Atari to the PS4 set up and ready to go, with CRTs to play them on. Playing them comes with the price of admission with no additional cost. Sometimes I’ll play a game to figure out if I want to buy it or not. I tried Animal Crossing for the original GameCube and figured that it wasn’t the game for me in that way. Other times, like yesterday, I just want to play a game for a system that I don’t own. Such was the case with Goof Troop for the SNES. My girlfriend and I had an absolute blast just playing up until the boss that unfortunately bested us. It’s not a game that I would necessarily play all the way through, even if I did own the console for it, but it was a perfect one-off experience.

Yes. Harambe.

But if you don’t want to play on a CRT, they also have two reasonably sized TVs with comfortable chairs to play on modern consoles, as well as two giant projectors that play Guitar Hero and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U on the wall. Playing 6-player Smash Bros. with my girlfriend, my mom, my sister, and two other Smash players that knew a little more about what they were doing was the perfect way to end my 17th birthday. I’m finding that I’m actually not terrible at the game if I play as Mario, and I actually even won a few matches. One unforgettable moment was when my eight-year-old sister (yes, that sister) just hid in the corner of the stage while one really good (at least by my group’s standards) Smash player took us all out. He then noticed her since she was the only one left, and jumped over to her. He missed and fell down, so my sister won the match without doing anything! She likes playing as Bayonetta, which is a little awkward considering the nature of the character, but I suppose it’s alright as long as she doesn’t play the actual Bayonetta for a good while.

At the very end, my girlfriend got me a physical copy of the Mother 3 fan translation for the GameBoy Advanced. I didn’t even know that a physical version of the translation existed before then, and that was enough for me to finally get it, albeit through another’s money. I want to play Earthbound first, so it will be in the backlog for some time, but I want to give this game the attention that I hear it deserves, not start it and then forget it to play some other game halfway through. It was a wonderful gift that will remind me of the time we spent together that day, as well as hopefully be a good game.

All in all, Arcade Legacy is not only a oasis in the deserted mall, but an oasis for, at the very least, the Cincinnati area. I’ve gone to other arcades and video game stores, and the former ones are full of crappy ticket-grabbers (except air hockey, a constant force of good in the world) and the latter have completely unreasonable prices, and not that great of a selection. If you live near there, definitely check it out, and bring your friends too. Sure, it’s more fun to go to an arcade with friends, but you can also use them as a human shield should anything happen in the deserted mall.