This Game Won’t Die

The classics of last century look set to live forever in Japan’s arcades.

Sega’s evergreen Blast City cabinet, released in 1996, sits confidently in the MM Land arcade in Shimokitazawa more than 20 years later.

It’s running an emulation system with an onscreen Chinese title that I think reads “Variety Star”. There are multiple lists, each with multiple screens of games for the player to select from. This screen offers eight games from the Metal Slug series: the 1996 original through to 2018‘s Metal Slug 7.

When retro classics run for 21 years and counting, one wonders whether today’s greats will last as long. There are contenders: World Club Champion Football and Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield, to name two, have crossed a decade and hold multiple cabinets in any major arcade.

But these contemporary games depend on their dedicated hardware – a card-reading tabletop and a sit-in cockpit with wrap-around screen respectively. Will those still be supplied, maintained and updated in another decade? Perhaps.

Will a generic joystick-and-button cabinet be running Metal Slug into its fourth decade come 2027? I’d bet on it.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people