Saturday, June 29, 2013


In order to keep things fresh on The Holidaze, I wanted to find things to do locally that I may not have been aware of.  While searching for arcades in New Jersey and New York, I was hoping to find one that housed classic arcade machines.  You know, the vintage games from the 80s and 90s.  The kinds that had me run back and forth to my parents, in less than 10 seconds, for my quarters to continue my quest for victory.  Unfortunately, Google wasn't helping me out.

I was, specifically, hoping to find the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game.  I didn't care if we had to travel a few hours, it's just been years since I've played it and figured it had to be somewhere!  So, back to Google I go and, little did I know, TMNT was right under my nose, only a few blocks away, in my hometown of Jersey City.  Who woulda thunk it?

Behold, Barcade!! Now, I've heard of Barcade before.  I knew there was one local, along with the other locations in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, but I hadn't checked in with their list of games since Barcade first opened.  Last I saw, the best game they had was Pac-Man and, really, I had no interest.  For whatever reason, Pac-Man seems to be the most common arcade game found in arcades.

But after discovering that they were home to my beloved Ninja Turtles, I also realized that they had The Simpsons Arcade game and WWF Superstars.  That was it.  That's more than what I needed to hear to give Barcade my very first visit.  I could. not. wait.!!

From both the outside and inside, it may not look like anything special.  But ya know what?  It doesn't have to be!  I wasn't expecting much in terms of decor.  I didn't think they'd have any marble tables or fancy chairs.  That's not the point of Barcade.  It's purpose is to combine craft beers with vintage gaming and it does so perfectly!  The fact that it looks like a warehouse, with wooden tables and elementary school lunch chairs, only enhanced the retro feel for me.  Nostalgia should always be a little dirty.  It's old.

As soon as we walked in, we took a 15 second look around and headed right for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game.  Ahh man, what memories!  In my life, I've probably spent over 300 hours playing this game.  Between the arcade cabinet, the Nintendo version, emulators, and the XBox Arcade version, that number might even be a bit low.  It's probably my favorite game of all time and is definitely my favorite arcade game ever.  Seeing it again was a blast from the past and, that alone, was worth the couple of blocks we traveled.

Ever notice how Michelangelo wears more of a yellow colored bandana than orange?  I never knew why, and I still don't get it, but I love it!!  I remember wondering why that was the case when I was a kid, but when I see it now it's just so perfect because of its nostalgic representation.  In a matter of seconds, I'm a kid again.

I haven't talked much about the Ninja Turtles on The Holidaze, but let it be known that I've always been obsessed with the franchise.  As a child, I had every single toy and piece of merchandise that was released.  My favorites were the Party Wagon and Sewer Playset.  I watched the cartoon for hours on end.  I dressed up like the turtles and, to this day, I own the series on DVD, have seen every movie and can't wait for the new release in 2014.  My love for the Ninja Turtles is deep and it's not so much about the characters as it is the memories they created.

My favorite villains were always Bebop and Rocksteady and, in levels one and two of the arcade game, they're the main bosses.  Besides beating the game once or twice as a kid, this was about as far as I usually got with a dollar or two.  But if you want to see any characters, these are them!  Artistically, they're amazing.  I'm a suck for 8-bit sprites and how they're designed.  But there's something special about beating the hell out of Shredder's henchmen and watching them increasingly flash a cool red orange color as you defeat them.  It's always been my favorite part of the game.

After a few games of TMNT with my lady, we sat at the bar to order food and a few drinks.  Now, Barcade is different than your traditional bar in that they don't offer familiar beers like Budweiser or Coors.  They feature about 20-25 different craft beers and transition varieties as time goes on.  I've never really branched out in terms of beer, I usually stick with what I know, but when the Brooklyn Barcade is voted "Best Bar in New York" by Fousquare, you don't question the Jersey City location.  You just pick something off the menu and go for it.

But what if you really have no idea what you're drinking.  Sure, every beer has a unique description on the drink menu, but who knows what they really want or like?  Well, I have good news for you.  My girlfriend didn't want to just wing it, so the very gracious bartender offered a free sample.  She tried it, she liked it, and he got an extra dollar tip.  That's apparently something Barcade does for its patrons and I think that's awesome.  Instead of treating people with disdain for not knowing the difference between a "Allagash Dubbe"l and a "Green Flash 1st Anniversary American Strong Ale," they offer a quick education through a shot of beer.  But me?  I winged it and got a glass of "Brooklyn Scorcher."  Not bad!

Jersey City gets a bar wrap at times because, let's face it, there are parts of the city you wouldn't want to enter alone.  Some parts are unwalkable after dark, while others aren't much better at Noon.  But, at the end of the day, this isn't Wild West City.  There are plenty of spots, particularly downtown Jersey City, that are built up, modern, chic, and nicer than New York City.  Jersey City is certainly on the rise and Barcade sits right on the border, perfectly safe, between urban and yuppie.  That equals a whole lot of hipsters and, judging by my picture, pink hair!  I get the impression you'll find all types of people at Barcade that can lead to very interesting conversation.

Before we dived back into the vintage gaming pool, we had to see how the food was at Barcade.  We ordered "Diablo's Nachos," Chicken Quesadilla's, and, for me, Taylor Ham and Cheese on a Waffle with Grade A Syrup on the side!  The consensus?  1 outta 3 aint bad.  I didn't mind the quesadillas, but they were far from great.  There was nothing special about the Nacho's besides the name "Diablo."  But I personally loved the waffle sandwich.  I would have never thought I'd like cheese and syrup together, but I do love McGriddles so I guess it makes sense.  As I'm typing this, a story on the news just came on about Taco Bell potentially releasing a waffle taco stuffed with egg, cheese, sausage, and syrup.  Sounds very familiar!  So maybe Barcade is on to something, but I'm going to steer clear of any food the next time I visit Barcade.  Other reviews I've read agree that the food can be better.  But again, it's about beer and video games.  The food is just an extra, anyway.

It's no surprise that the bathroom would follow the food and beer, but can you say "whoa?"  For as clean as the bathroom was in terms of where you need cleanliness, the walls were torn up by graffiti.  Besides the fact that it felt like walking into a horror movie, specifically "Saw," it was actually really cool.  Some of the art was done well.  Other phrases, like "Great Job," made me laugh to myself.  A few others were scary, such as "Where's Your Jesus?"  Oh boy, what the hell was that guy's problem?  Go play a video game and relax like the guy who drew Bart Simpson.  He was obviously so pumped over the fact that The Simpson's Arcade Game was at Barcade that he drew his own version of Bart as he peed.  Very interesting bathroom, to say the least.  But the best aspect is the "No Smoking" sign.  Yeah, defile our walls but, please, don't smoke.

I figured "Bathroom Bart" was the perfect segue to The Simpson's Arcade Game.  This is another one of my favorites and, from start to finish, it might be the most fun you'll have playing an arcade game.  See, I'm a fan of the walk-through games.  I'm still a 2-D fan!  I know people love the new generation of video games and, believe me, so do I.  I can get lost in NBA 2K for hours, but I can't buy into the new Sonic The Hedgehog games that have him running and rolling from all different directions.  I appreciate the classics and find more fun in scrolling from left to right than having to figure out 12 different button combinations.  That's why The Simpson's remains one of the best games I've ever played.

 When it comes to choosing your character, I highly doubt most males chose Lisa or Marge.  Those were always the two you were forced to pick when you were 3rd or 4th to the machine and Bart and Homer were already selected.  That was always a tough break.  Who doesn't want to be Bart Simpson?  He was the coolest character in the game.  He rode around on his skateboard and said "Aye Carumba!"  Homer was an acceptable second option, but he's never been my first at, even at Barcade, things didn't change.  Bartman was my go to man and I had a great time.  Even my girlfriend didn't choose Marge or Lisa.  They're fillers, but it IS fun when you have all four on-screen in search of a kidnapped Maggie.

The Simpson's Arcade Game was recently released on XBox Live so I think I'm going to have to buy it.  After going back in time and seeing how fun it is, I think I need to have it in my life, again.  It's never been available before, besides a remastered mobile version, so It's a no-brainer.  Bart, you're coming home!

As we were eating, I asked Eileen if she had ever played arcade games when she was a child.  After 9-years together, it's something that's never come up because we haven't seen these games since well before then!  Her answer was no and I was pretty surprised.  What did little girls do when they went to an arcade in the 90s?  She said she played Skee Ball and won prizes in the cranes.  I guess defeating Shredder and saving the world wasn't good enough for her.  I guess she had no interest in saving Maggie from an Amber Alert.  That was all I ever did in those places!

But, looking at those pictures, I'd say she had a pretty fun time trying out so many different games.  The best part about Barcade isn't the fact that they have these games, but that they have them and only charge 25 cents to play.  That's what they cost when I was a kid, and that's how they should forever stay.  So we spent a lot of time moving from one machine to the next.  She played games that were completely new to her, and I relived so many memories.  Being together, it was priceless.

Two games that I had never played before, or at least don't remember, were "Double Dragon," and "Mario Bros."  Double Dragon reminded me a lot of "Streets of Rage."  I thought, once I Googled it, I'd find out that this was released on consoles and renamed Streets of Rage, but nope.  It stayed the same and, surprisingly, I've never played this beat-em-up.  It's a lot of fun!

I thought Mario Bros. was going to be the same as the Super Mario Bros. games that I played on Nintendo and Super Nintendo, growing up.  I thought it would be fun playing those games on a cabinet, but it wasn't even close.  I have no idea what the purpose of the game is and I died within 30 seconds.  Is it some type of Super Mario / Pac-Man mash-up?  He walked back and forth, came out of both sides, and wouldn't fit into the green pipes.  You can't jump on the turtles because you'll die and you can only hit the "POW" box once or twice.  I don't get it, at all.  I'd say this one was too before my time to be appreciated because I know it's a classic.

 Growing up, there was no bigger wrestling fan than me.  It's my longest-lasting passion and, to this day, I won't miss Monday Night Raw.

"WWF Superstars" is an arcade game that I had never played.  I grew up playing "WWF WrestleFest."  They're essentially the same, but feature different characters and, in my opinion, the latter was a bit easier and more fun.  Superstars is a good game, and I love the classic wrestling graphics, but it's not my favorite WWF game of all time.  In fact, that's a difficult decision to make.

My Dad once owned a Sports & Collectibles store in Bayonne, NJ called "C&C Cards."  At one point, he delved into arcade games and brought in various machines, along with air hockey and racing games, to increase business.  It worked well and, for me, it was my own little Heaven.  Imagine having your birthday party at your very own arcade!  Imagine having King Kong Bundy at that party taking pictures with all of your friends.  Imagine playing "WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game" against Bret the Hitman Hart!  I did all of that and it was because of my Dad's arcade.  Going on memories alone, I think WrestleMania might be my favorite WWF game of all time.  You couldn't ask for a cooler opponent than the Excellence of Execution.

There's a good 25-30 arcade games at Barcade and, I guarantee, there's something for everybody.  Whether you like shooting, racing, fighting, thinking, futuristic, or action games, you're going to find a winner.  I can't guarantee you'll be one, yourself, but for 25 cents, you can certainly give it multiple attempts to claim victory and get yourself on the record board of high scores.  They're all kept up high at Barcade so it's something to be proud of.  Only few men and women can call themselves the best and, perhaps, you will be one of them!

I know there are only a few Barcade's in the country and they're all on the east coast in NJ, NY, and PA, but there are different versions owned by other people throughout the United States.  Particularly, I hear that "The Emporium" in Chicago is awesome.  They have "Turtles in Time" and "NBA Jam."  That may just be enough to get me there, one day.  So check Google out and search for what you're looking for, specifically.  If you're as lucky as I was, It may very well be within walking distance.

Game Over.

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