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Posted on Aug 10th 2016 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under arcade games, Universal, Data East, Capcom, Namco, Sega, Shinobi, Gondomania, Mad Gear, Galaga, Mr Dos Castle

Image shamelessly linked from Wikia.
Ah, the "not quite Mexican" food of American-owned "Mexican" food chains.
A staple of the 'Merican midwest, and something I crave relentlessly.

I love Mexican food.  Actually, let me qualify that: I love "Mexican" food.  By putting that word in quotes, I can qualify anything from "Dave's Taco Corner" and Taco Bell to the most authentic, regional, traditional Mexican food out there, and lump it all into the same general category.  Not that those two distinct camps taste much like one another, but certainly, in the space between those 2, a logical path can be drawn from the "Enchurito" to something that would be commonplace at the dinner table in some parts of Mexico.  If not there, at least at the dinner table of a traditional Mexican restaurant, run by actual Mexican citizens, or immigrants from Mexico, as happens to be the case with the wonderful lady in my town that runs a local restaurant.  Her food is my version of "comfort food", and I try to give her as much business as my pocketbook will allow. Her food is tasty, and she's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.  Her brand of spicy agrees with me heartily, because I eat my "Mexican" food by the standard that you know it's good if (GROSS OUT ALERT!) it burns twice as much going out as it did going in.

So why am I talking about "Mexican" food on a video games website?  Because tacos and vidya games go together, dontcha know? 

When I was a kid, there was a small, locally owned "Mexican" restaurant by the name of Taco Stop in my hometown.  My family frequented the establishment a lot, because grandpa's pocketbook dictated that's where we often ate after church on Sunday.  Along with great tacos, burritos, and other such Mexican-inspired cuisine, they had what nearly every restaurant had in the 80's - arcade games!  I anticipated trips to Taco Stop, because I knew I would have opportunities to play whatever arcade games they had, and they always had something fun or interesting in there.  Sadly, Taco Stop was torn down in the early 90's due to poor sales and mismanagement, and all that remains today is a parking lot on the other side of the adjacent Pizza Hut.  I miss my old friend, Taco Stop, and I've been feeling a bit nostalgic for him lately.  As such, I thought I would recount a few gaming experiences I had at this particular establishment.

Image shamelessly linked from Amy Tubbs Studio.
The arcade/movie rental room in the taco joint was similar to this,
though it had a yellow background, and had Donkey Kong, Mario,
Q*bert, and a number of other classic video game characters.

The first game I'll speak of is Gondomania.  It's a relatively little-known Data East arcade game, but one that uses a now-familiar control scheme: it's one of the games they made with the 8-way rotating joystick, in the same vein as Heavy Barrel and Ikari Warriors.  The difference being that this was an auto-scrolling vertical shoot-em-up, but one where you could aim specifically where you were shooting.  The secondary weapon would normally fire straight ahead of your craft, but that usually had limited ammo or was on a timer.  You had to get good at moving around the playfield while simultaneously aiming your throwing axes, knives, spears, etc. in order to take out foes.  The game is set in a mostly medieval-esque setting, though it has a hovering craft as your means of transportation.  Suspension of disbelief, indeed.  Still, it's a fun game that has that quarter munching, arcade level of difficulty one would expect from mid-late 80's Data East, and I sure had a lot of fun with it as a kid, at least for the short time Taco Stop had it sitting in the corner.

Image shamelessly linked from 1080.plus
Watch a killer 1CC play through of the game here.
Gondomania in all its glory.  Sadly, because of the 8-way fire,
this little gem never got a console port, even in later
compilations on consoles with twin analog stick pads. Sad panda.

Another lesser-known arcade game, this time from Capcom, that graced the wall adjacent to the cash register counter, was Mad Gear, a top-down battle racing game.  There are no weapons, but your vehicle has the inexplicable ability to jump, so you can land on other racers to take them out, or jump over hazards like falling rocks, piles of used tires, and gaps in the road where the roadway literally drops out to a chasm below.  You had to collect fuel takes along the way to get "Energy!", which you'll hear in that now-familiar "Capcom voice", that most of us know from Street Fighter 2's "Yoga Fire!", "Yoga Flame!", and "Continue!" voice samples.  It's a quirky game that has decent music, fast racing action, and an interesting quasi post-apocalyptic setting that gives the game a slight cyberpunk bend to it.  There's a fun little Easter Egg as well: during the game's attract mode, the game shows off the different competing racers and their vehicles.  One racer in particular has a pair of futuristic sunglasses on.  If you tap the "Jump" button rapidly while his portrait is on screen briefly, you'll cause those sunglasses to fall off his face.  All in all, Mad Gear is a fun little game, and it's a shame Capcom didn't see fit to include it in any of its Classics collections.

Image shamelessly linked from Arcade Museum.
How do you get through traffic packed this tightly?
Jump over the cars and motorcycles, of course!

The next game I want to highlight is one that will be far more familiar to most people, and that is the venerable Sega classic, Shinobi.  For a period of maybe three or four months, Taco Stop had this awesome game up against the wall near the cash register.  After placing my order at the counter, I would slide over to the machine and watch the attract mode, enthralled by Joe Musashi throwing his "ninja stars" at baddies, rescuing hot-pink-clad hostages, and facing off against "Ken Oh," a villain whose name belied the "oh crap" moment one experienced the first time you faced off with him, and he hurls 2 giant blobs of flame at you.  When I had quarters, I played the game, and always felt a huge rush when I could save my ninja magic long enough to face the first boss, to whittle his hits down enough that I could beat him without having to contend with the flames.  Sadly, I was never very good at the game, and only ever made it to the 3rd mission once or twice.  Still, it was one of the first times I heard reasonably clear speech in a video game, and that first stage music is iconic, and tattooed on my brain.

Image shamelessly linked from YouTube.
I never saw this far into the game as a kid, and it wasn't
until I played the Master System conversion that I ever
saw past the first stage of the 3rd mission. Even now, I
have difficulty getting this far in the arcade original.

The final game I want to talk about is one that appeared in the games room that they opened up, which eventually became a games room and VHS rental room, then eventually the arcade games were pushed out in favor of all VHS some months before the place closed down.  That game is Mr. Do's Castle.  This little gem of a game was already a few years old by this time, having been released a good five or six years prior to when Taco Stop made a dedicated arcade room. This game instantly grabbed my attention with its highly colorful graphics, whimsical main character, and simplistic concept: run around and collect stuff, bash stumpy unicorn type monsters in the head with a hammer, and pound blocks.  It's a deceptively simple game with more depth than you might think, given its single-screen approach and casual "whack-a-mole" appearance.  While the original Mr. Do is a fun game, it smacks a bit of Dig Dug, whereas this feels more wholly original by contrast.  I always felt this was the superior experience, and now that I have a ColecoVision, I will definitely be on the lookout for that version of the game.

Image shamelessly linked from Arcade Museum.
I'm not sure how Mr. Do got all the enemies
to go to the gaps in the field at the same time,
but he missed out on the bonus points he
would have earned from taking them out
after having collected the shield power-up.

Sadly, as I mentioned toward the beginning of the article, my beloved Taco Stop closed down, some time in either 1991 or 1992.  They had great food, Americanized though it was, and awesome taco sauce.  I still miss it to this day, in part because it was during a time when my grandmother was still reasonably healthy, my grandpa was alive and was his usual joke-cracking self, I was a carefree kid with no more worries than how many quarters I could collect before my next visit to the restaurant, and I got to eat free "Mexican" food every other Sunday.  I miss going to a restaurant and seeing an arcade cabinet there with a fun game to play, and a new adventure waiting for me every time they changed the cabinet out in favor of a new game.  Though those childhood days of yore are long gone at this point, I can still reminisce, remember the games I played and enjoyed, and know that those experiences had a hand in shaping the gamer I am today.  For that, I'm forever grateful to the young couple who struck out and took a chance to open their restaurant in my hometown.  They had a hand in helping me to make lasting special memories that still impact me, 30 plus years later.

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That nostalgia and those memories are so awesome whether it be the people, the experience, the taste, all awesome.  I think often about when I was a kid and walking into the arcade or going across the street and playing NES and Genesis with my friend.  So many memories and a good write up.  Thanks for taking me back.
Tacos and video games? Now you're talkin'! I too love real Mexican food and fake-American-Mexican food, but I didn't have the luxury of having them in the same place as video games. Sounds like a dream come true. D'oes games doe. Gondomania looks amaze, never played it. Mad Gear....did that come out before Final Fight? FTWDK, Mad Gear is the name of the gang in FF. Shinobi...legendary 80's arcade game. Mr. Do's Castle - I'm a huge Mr. Do fan, never played the castle.

Gotta find a way to play Gondomania, then buy black beans, jack cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, and chorizo!
@shaggy: You're welcome!  I enjoy the occasional trip down memory lane, so I like to share so others can do so as well.

@JerryGreenwood: Mad Gear and Final Fight both released in 1989, so because of the similarity in art style, the voice samples, and the fact that some of the enemy mugshots look like they could have been Final Fight thugs, I can only assume there's a tie-in between the two.  I thought about the whole "Mad Gear Gang" thing when I was writing the article, but didn't include it because I only have assumptions based on their close release dates and the shared connection with the name.  I know that some folks have figured out how to get the 8-way configuration to work in MAME, presumably with a twin-stick game pad, so have at it if you can.  It's a fun game, though super challenging.  Definitely a quarter muncher.  If I ever own a house big enough to have a dedicated games room, Gondomania is in serious consideration as one of the small handful of dedicated cabinets I would want to own, even if it's just the PCB in a conversion cabinet.  And give Mr. Do's Castle a try, I think you'll dig it!
@MetalFRO: Cool stuff. I forgot to mention....you should probably stay away from that $2.49 BBQ Velveeta Burger. It doesn't sound like you can eat that and then say "I feel great!"
@JerryGreenwood: Not a problem for me - I HATE Velveeta, so I would never go for that anyway!
Great stories, brings back memories of this place called Mr Gatti's that had great pizza and an awesome arcade. Thanks for sharing. Oh and Mexican food plus arcade games sounds incredible.
@Fokakis79: Thanks for reading!  And yes, Mexican food + arcade games = a dream scenario Smiley
Oh man, I would've loved it if my local Taco Bell growing up had had arcade games. Alas, it didn't happen. And I'm with you; "Mexican" food is just as good as Mexican food. That said, my main fast food type store that dabbled in games was Pizza Hut. I didn't even like their pizza, but liked going there because they had great bread sticks and I loved to play the games they had while waiting for the food. That may have been my first exposure to those Play Choice cabinets with multiple game cards in them.

I don't recognize the first two games you mentioned, but loved me some Shinobi, even though I sucked at it. I used to play it at the United Skates of America by me, and like you only got the first stage a handful of times. I don't think I've ever seen Mr. Do's Castle, but like Jerry I know the regular version. It's funny you mentioned the comparison to Dig Dug, as right before I read that I was thinking to myself that the reason I never gave Mr. Do a fair chance is because it always just seemed to me to be a Dig Dug knockoff, and I just wanted to play that instead.

Great memories indeed, and nice piece!
Aw, Fro!  Dude, I completely forgot about Gondomania!  It was only at Little Caesar's Pizzeria for a couple of minutes, but I seem to remember thinking it was like Ikari but with the characters on speederbikes (a quick look at Youtube confirms this for me).  Nice, man!

Dude, Mexican and "Mexican" food rock!  We have a massive variety of both out here in the Metro D, and you can go to one place a get a traditional Mexican breakfast, go across the street and get some deep-fried tacos, then later hit a taqueria and get awesome Puebla-style street tacos for $1!  Sad fact:  None of them have video games (unless they are in the kitchens, which would be awesome).
@zophar53: Thank you for the kind words!  Yeah, it seems like unless you go to Chuck E. Cheese, Dave & Busters, or a barcade, it's hard to find arcade cabinets in restaurants anymore.  I had the benefit of being in a small town, where a couple local arcade games were just about the only entertainment, aside from renting a movie.  I imagine it depends on the setting, as well.  Pizza Hut was a popular place for games, as my local PH had one too (a lovely Galaga cocktail cabinet), as did the local burger joint (I smell another article!).  I remember playing arcade games at other places too.  I might have to write an article about all the obscure arcade games I played at odd places, or some of the other arcade experiences I've had.  That sounds like fun!

@bombatomba: Yeah, the only reason I've even heard of Gondomania is because the taco place had it - I've never seen it in the wild anywhere else, and it's just not talked about on the web with the same reverence as its predecessors, Ikari Warriors and Heavy Barrel.  It's a shame, really, because it's a good game, and as I said, with twin-stick technology now, it's a wonder no one has made a Data East rotary stick compilation (which should include Time Soldiers and Midnight Resistance, as well as the Ikari sequels!).  Even if the games were released as individual arcade titles on XBL and PSN, I think it would be great to see them made available again.
Mad Gear seems very similar to Bump 'n Jump.

Fortunately, I grew up with tons of arcade games. My local Pizza Hut had a 4-slot Neo Geo cabinet and would cycle out games. We'd go there for the buffet, and I'd hit up the machine for Samurai Shodown or King of Monsters. The local skating rink had about 10 cabinets, and would cycle them out every 6 months. I played the original Mortal Kombat there, and Saturday Night Slam Masters. They also had the original Fighting Street there for a small period of time, though people hated it. I also grew up with a smaller arcade, and then 2 proper arcades, where I grew up hustling people on fighting games (Mortal Kombat II in particular) because I never had any money, and then competing in SoulCalibur II, DDR (various mixes), and MvC.

Good times. My wife and I really miss the old arcades, and the Dave & Busters and those style are mainly redemption games or mobile ports on larger touch screens. I can't stand it. I can have the same experience at home at that point by projecting my game to a touchscreen monitor. I want an authentic, arcade-only, experience.
Great article, Fro.  Love these old nostalgia trips.  Just like Shadow, my local Pizza Hut also had a 4 Slot Neo Geo.  I would usually play a little Metal Slug before moving one machine over to Ms Pac Man.  Another pizza place within walking distance of my house had kind of an ironic game considering they were a pizza place: Burgertime.  We didnt actually buy much pizza from this place, I just walked in and played Burgertime once in a while.

The only other arcade near me was in my local mall.  It was called Time Out and I still miss it every time I go to the mall and see a Chinese food place there instead.
I love all the arcade reviews that have come since my trip to Oregon. It feels good to be a trendsetter.

If I can ever get up to bickman's town I wanna check out this place called 1984.

I just looked at my arcade review and the page is completely broken.
@Shadow Kisuragi: I miss arcades in general.  I miss being able to go pop a quarter (or these days, a dollar!) into a machine and just get lost in the experience, even if it was just for a few minutes until I run out of lives.  There are still arcade games around, and there are places you can still go to play classic arcades, but I miss that wide-eyed wonder of seeing cool new games and being blown away by the graphics that are beyond anything you can do at home.  I do appreciate that current arcade games are starting to offer experiences that are harder to replicate in the home market, so they differentiate themselves, but still, it's not quite the same.

@SirPsycho: 1984 is awesome!  I was in Springfield in 2010 for a training, and I spent an evening there geeking out with all the arcade games.  I would have loved to spend more time there, but there was more in Springfield I wanted to see, and I didn't want to blow all my limited cash on just the arcade!  Still, a worthy destination, and loads of fun.

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