Raiden III

Raiden III

Raiden III

Raiders of the lost art.

Two weeks ago, on a gas-mark 4 Friday night, Eurogamer squeezed past the hunched backs of fifty-odd Japanese twenty-somethings to explore a bustling arcade in Eastern Shinjuku. Two days previously, the latest update to Virtua Fighter V had been released in Japan and, as a result, the bravest and best of Tokyo's beat 'em up aficionados had sunk into the belly of this grimy building to wage fresh pixel war against each other.

Squat Atomiswave candy cabinets, the likes of which England will never see, divided the room into efficient Japanese rows. In the half-light, white CRT bonfires pulsed, trebly pips and bleeps swarming around bright pink and green Sanwa sticks: the opposite of where Eurogamer is used to being. High-heeled loligoth girls stood idly by each machine, bursting pink bubblegum balloons of attitude, studied nonchalance shrouding quick and narrow, boy-rating eyes.

Past these new machines deeper, back along a timeline of arcade history we walked - Third Strike, Alpha 3, Samurai Shodown then Street Fighter 2 - on into a quieter corner. Here, at an older, yellower machine sat an thinner, darker boy clunking a solitary 100 yen coin into Seibu Kaihatsu's latest shoot 'em up: Raiden III. Head leaned back, a cigarette, lit but undragged, hung from a bolshy bottom lip. Pretending not to notice us he waited until we were paused behind him before hitting the start button. For the next twenty minutes, Virtua Fighter V be damned. Using nothing but heightened reflexes, three lives, one coin and a lifetime's concentration this boy weaved Raiden's classic Mark II fighter plane over steel-carpeted future cities, seas and space, ducking, weaving and counter-attacking waves of enemies with a nerd boxer's poise.

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