I still remember that summer. I was probably a precocious 8 years old kid at the time. We had a Nintendo Entertainment System at home, but according to my parents, they gave it to one of my older sisters as a reward for being at the top of her class for 3 consecutive years. They told me that I had to study hard to become like her, so I was not allowed to touch the console. One of my cousins had a SNES, but we didn't frequented my uncle's house very often, but whenever we did I remember I always had a blast and that I didn't wanted to go back home. I enjoyed videogames a lot, but I was not allowed to play them very often.
But I really, really wanted to play videogames more often.
So the only option left for me was the Arcade center. Oh the glorious Arcade center. Just a block away from home it was the ideal place to silently escape from my sister's watch (both my parents worked) and spend my lunch money (only enough for 2 credits though) on those machines.
Tumblepop, Spinmaster, Pang and Snow Bros. were my personal favorites. All the iterations of The King of Fighters and Something-Marvel-vs-Something-Capcom were smash hits with my fellow arcade gamers. Metal Slug games were all the rage.
I spent a lot of time there. I met all my lifetime friends in that Arcade and almost all of my childhood memories are related to that special place. It was the best place ever.
And then one day, it came.
As always, when I arrived from school, I changed out of my uniform, silently escaped from my sister and went straight to the arcade. 4 other of my friends were already in there. They were all wearing the same astonished expression. They didn't even notice I had arrived. But when I gazed upon the same thing that they were watching, I couldn't help but to make the same expression. There it was: A shiny brand new 4-player cabinet with a logo on top reading "Captain Commando".
What was that?!?! Does that mean that we could play a game with 4 people at the same time? No way! That was like the best thing since white bread!
According to my friends, it has just arrived, so that meant it wasn't even plugged. That also meant we were probably going to be the first ones to play it and experience what 4-player multiplayer was like. The shop attendant finally plugged and turned on the machine. We were received with the ever-so-familiar "Winners don't use Drugs" screen and a Capcom logo, I remember those few seconds felt like a couple of minutes. There was a character portrait at the front of every stick: A Ninja, a mummy with a backwards hat, a baby chewing a gum driving a green robot and a guy in blue with a visor and a weird fashion sense. We deduced that those were the character we were supposed to control if we chose to put money in the corresponding coin-slot (there were four of them). After playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who was choosing character first and who was going to be left out and wait (remember, there were 5 of us) and coming in second place we prepared our coins and prepared to play. I could barely hold the excitement.
My friend who got to choose first picked the coolest looking character, the ninja. I picked the mummy because I too, wanted the ninja, so I really didn't care anymore and chose on a whim. When we were all set the game started. From there my memories are all blurry. All I remember is mayhem, all of us screaming like little girls, the guy controlling the robot losing first and swapping places with our 5th member, and above all, that I had the time of my life. That was the kind of game we had always looked for, and it seemed we were not the only ones.
There were lines to play the game. The machine proved so popular, that one time, the coin deposit was so full that coins won't go in anymore. I remember everyone wanted to play as Mack the Knife (the mummy), and that no one wanted to play as Baby head. Actually the amount of people playing Mack was ridiculous, to the point where the stick for controlling him took only 2 weeks to malfunction, but the game was so popular that they couldn't afford to take their time to repair it, so 1 day later it was as good as new.
That was the most fun I ever had to that point in my young naive life, but the best was yet to come.
Around one month later in a very smart move by the Arcade center owner a new 4-player arcade cabinet came in. This time it featured characters we kids were very familiar at the time: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game in question: Turtles in Time. HOLY.SH*T!! was the only thing that came to mind
We all were Ninja Turtles fans, so it was like a dream come true. And the best of all it was at least as good as or even better than Captain Commando. We spent an unhealthy amount of time playing the game, screaming at each other, celebrating whenever we beat a boss and suffering every time we lost and had to let the next players in line to play and then wait 30 minutes for your turn to come again. We always lost track of time whenever we were playing that game. I was in love with that cabinet.
Unfortunately the joy didn't last for long. The N64 and the PS1 came out (My parents even bought me a PS1 when they finally realized that was the only way to kept me at home and made me to do all my homework, and lo and behold, my grades raised dramatically), and arcades popularity was decreasing. And that place of childhood memories was not safe. One fateful day I went to hang out with my friends to the usual place. When we got there, there was a horrifying scene waiting for us. All the cabinets were nowhere to be seen, and they guy inside was painting some fruits on the wall. Apparently the owner was losing a lot of money, decided to sell all the cabinets and now the place was going to be a grocery shop. I was heart-broken. I can't say for sure but I'm pretty confident that I did cry. We didn't even frequented the place that often anymore (one of my friends got himself the SNES port and we played the shit out of it), but it was still very sad to see them gone. The end of an era was over for me. But the memories are still there.
You probably won't believe that one of my fondest memories from my childhood is me being sent to the store to buy something, taking my sweet time at the arcade playing Turtles in Time with my friends and 30 minutes later my mom chasing after me with a broom in hand with all my friends to witness that hilarious scene. She never laid a finger on me, even when there are times I really think I deserved it, and she always meant the best for me. For some reason, that particular scene is vividly engraved on my mind.
When my mom passed away two and a half years ago, and my best friend was talking with me at the funeral, he told me "Hey do you remember that time when you're mom came looking for you with a broom in hand and started chasing you around?" A huge smile appeared on my face and my tears won't stop flowing from my eyes. That little statement brought back all of my childhood memories and remind me how she's the reason that I'm the person I am today (my mom, not the cabinet). It's weird how an Arcade cabinet can make me relive that kind of memories.
To this day one of my dreams is owning my very own a 4-player cabinet but I don't want my Girlfriend to get jealous….. But who knows, maybe one of these days.