Road Trip: Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, Illinois
- Teams to watch at this weekend’s WFTDA Roller Derby Championships
- Nick Sanborn explores collaboration, playing well with others with Lend Me Your Voice
- Drinking our way through Milwaukee’s airport (and airport-themed) bars
- Cinco de MONDO LUCHA! Milwaukee’s alternative variety show celebrates five years of masked mayhem
- The A.V. Club’s guide to the 2013 Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival
For modern video gamers, the experience of going to an arcade is a rarity right up there with the drive-in or roller rink. The modern gamer can experience the harsh language and dick jokes of bored tweens from the comfort of the couch with an online connection and a hankering for Halo 4. A mere 20 years ago, however, those same gamers would have had to walk, uphill, through 20 feet of snow, only to be humiliated by their juniors at Street Fighter II. And maybe, just maybe, a lightning bolt would strike and the arcade would turn into something out of Tron or The Last Starfighter.
While Milwaukee has a few examples of “barcades,” like Dave & Busters and our very own homegrown Landmark Lanes, the pure arcade experience has been gone ever since Aladdin’s Castle closed a few years ago. Luckily, for those curious souls who want to play Tekken the way God intended, an excellent pure arcade experience exists in the suburbs of Chicago.
Located in Brookfield, Illinois, the Galloping Ghost Arcade offers a heaping Tony Montana-sized pile of arcade-game nostalgia that can be gorged upon for the price of a tank of gas and a used copy of Midway Arcade Classics. The entry fee covers every game in the place, and the majority of them are in stellar, tip-top condition. A few are well loved but still functional, and one or two are dark on the floor. Some of the games that used the same chip-sets, like the Capcom Dungeons & Dragons brawler, are built into the same machine. A toggle switch built into the cabinet allows for switching between the two. A few sit-down machines, like Lucky & Wild and the let’s-cruise-around-on-a-motorcycle-but-never-worry-about-crashing Harley Davidson Riders are in residence, as well as a modest selection of pinball machines. Most of the space is devoted to elbow-to-elbow and back-to-back stand-up arcade machines, though chairs are available if lumbar support interferes with a burning desire to play Super Off Road.
With so many titles to choose from, the arcade has a great sampling of original arcade classics to the end of the period where every other game was a fighting game. The games are clumped together in vague subject matter, so all the beat-’em-ups are close by, as are all the top-down shooters, and so on. There are even a few unique games, like a cabinet version of the recent Mortal Kombat-in-D.C.-superhero-drag fighter Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Playing the classics without worrying about a dwindling supply of quarters changes the context of the experience. Dragon’s Lair becomes a fun animated film instead of an exercise in frustration. Watching the take on the Avengers from Captain America And The Avengers and how it differs from the recent Marvel movies offers some pop culture anthropology. Finally, finishing a game that gobbled allowances provides a touch of closure for those poor souls who always wondered what the end of Operation: Wolf was like.
There are a lot of eclectic choices in the library, like the Aliens arcade shooter that came out 10 years after the movie, and yet is still more satisfying than the recent home release. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker takes on an interesting subtext thanks to a theme of rescuing kids from weird thugs and robots, though the experience of clearing a screen with a player-triggered dance break is surprisingly satisfying.
The Galloping Ghost Arcade is a museum to the most modern of art forms, offering a chance to interact with the actual subjects of history, rather than an intern in period costume. For those who played them in their original form, it offers a chance to go back to a time when all that mattered was stretching out the arcade budget until it was time for Mom to take you home. For those who have never played, it offers a chance to see the shoulders that the XBox One and the Playstation 4 will stand upon, and that mobile gaming is offering once again. It’s a place that unites generations in a single, unmistakable cry: Battletoads is fucking impossible.