A Long Awaited Reunion With Your Childhood

Remember back in the days when you would spend an entire Saturday at the arcade with a few good friends? For those of us who grew up playing at the arcade, the return of California Extreme was an emotional reunion with our childhood. Especially after months of speculation, while organizers monitored the state of the pandemic.

California Extreme 2021 brought together arcade and pinball fans for a nostalgic weekend at the DoubleTree in San Jose. Guests could enjoy their favorite games and also purchase any of the arcade cabinets on the floor (if they were for sale). For me and my friends, it was all about spending a Saturday playing arcade games like in the good ole days.

A Hall of Nostalgia

Our day at California Extreme was all about reconnecting with some of our favorite arcade games. It was also a chance to play some classics that launched successful franchises or paved the way for others to follow. Thus, it makes sense to talk about some of the arcade games we got to play during my time at the event.

Here are some of the most notable games I got to play during the event:

Star Wars (Atari Version): One of the most iconic arcade cabinets and Star Wars games while a staple of CAX. This rail shooter has players relive the iconic attack on the Death Star (via the Battle of Yavin). Players will fight waves of Tie Fighters before having to take on Darth Vader. The game ends with you navigating the trenches to deliver the final blow. I first played this game at California Extreme 2017 and have made it a habit to play it any chance I get. 

Donkey Kong: It’s truly not an arcade expo without the game that introduced numerous iconic video game characters, launched the career of Shigeru Miyamoto and made Nintendo into an industry titan. Players take on the role of Mario as he must save his girlfriend from the titular villain. Several Donkey Kong cabinets were set up around the convention to allow easy access to this gaming icon. I got the chance to play one of them in the main hall. After four attempts, I was unable to clear the first stand and had to move on to another game.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike: There were several different versions of Street Fighter that were scattered around the convention. One of the few available ones we found was Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. We couldn’t let this opportunity slide, so we got on for a chance to settle an old score. Each one of us took a moment to try and beat the one guy in the group who has mastered any Street Fighter game, that attempt was futile as we were all humiliated. 

Pong Doubles: You can’t have an arcade convention without having some version of Pong available. This arcade classic has been a staple of the event with someone bringing some version of it. We found a cabinet that allowed two players to go against each other. My friend and I went head to head in three rounds. He beat me twice while I only got lucky during the third match. 

The Grid: The game was first released back in 2001 and was an arena-style arcade shooter that has 6 players (all on separate cabinets) battling to the death. Back in the day, I use to never have an interest. That changed when a friend had me play it at California Extreme 2018. This time, I played three rounds with my friends and two other players. Compared to last time, I did better but still came in 4th, 6th, and 5th place.  

Silent Scope EX: This has been one of my favorite arcade series and if I see it at California Extreme, I’m gonna be playing it for some time. Silent Scope EX was the third game in the series and has players take on the role of a special forces sniper who is deployed to resolve a variety of terrorist situations. Since I’ve been playing this series for a long time, I was a natural pro. I was playing for a good 20min before I died and only moved on to the next game because other people were waiting to play (gotta share the fun with others).

NARC: This was one of the first violent video games and a lightning rod of controversy back in the day. Lucky for me, an arcade in my area had it and I got to enjoy this classic. Players take on the role of either Max Force or Hit Man as they battle waves of drug dealers. During the event, I got to jump in mid-game to help another player during the bridge level. After completing the stage, I let another fan step in to finish the game. 

Point Blank 2: While my friends were playing Gauntlet Dark Legacy, I stumbled upon this party shooter that was next to them. I’ve seen it at arcades but it never got my attention since it was always in the back with the busted-up cabinets. The premise is simple, shoot several targets before time or ammo runs out. I played a few rounds up until my friends were finished and we decided to move on to other games. 

Disclaimer: My friends and I bought our Saturday passes.

8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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