Interviews

Retro Replay arcade — A MegaBites interview

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While the modern-day arcade scene may pale in comparison to the innovation, sights, sounds (and cigarette smoke) of the coin-op scene’s glory days, a rising number of new locations are proudly waving the flag for arcade heritage. One of these venues is Norwich’s Retro Replay — the UK’s newest retro arcade. MegaBites spoke to Retro Replay’s owner, Glen McDonald, to get the lowdown on this newest of old-school gaming havens.

During the 1970s, 80s and 90s, there were arguably few experiences in gaming that could match the thrill and atmosphere of the arcade. The sights, the sounds and the heated competition for high scores under darkened light were near-impossible to replicate elsewhere — and still are. Arcades were the epicentre of gaming culture, a forum to battle for scoreboard supremacy, an arena to experience the very latest in video game technologies and experiences. 

Fast forward to 2019 and the launch of the Retro Replay arcade. Opened in September of this year, Retro Replay  is situated over two floors, in Norwich’s Castle Quarter shopping centre. Lit only by a combination of blue and purple neon, visitors are tempted inside by the inviting glow of cabinets including Virtua Fighter, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Galaxian, Lethal Enforcers and Ridge Racer — to name but a few. Meanwhile, the arcade’s ground floor is home to rows of retro consoles consoles, cocktail-style cabinets and bean bags sat beneath vast screen projections of Mario Kart.

For the price of a £10 day pass, visitors are free to play any game of their choice against a backdrop of chiptunes, frantic button-bashing, the cheers of gaming triumph and the groans of lives lost.

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The person responsible for this fun-filled oasis is its owner, 24-year-old Glen McDonald, who switched his day job as an account to launch Retro Replay, and share his collection of cabinets and passion for arcade gaming with the public. MegaBites spoke to Glen to find out more about the venue.

Taking it right back to the start, where did your love for the arcade spring from?

I grew up in Great Yarmouth on Norfolk coast, and as a result, I have many fond memories, spending hours in the arcades along the town’s ‘Golden Mile’, playing titles such as House of The Dead, Ridge Racer and 18 Wheeler. All three of these titles are present in the collection at Retro Replay.

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What was your first arcade cabinet and what drove you to keep collecting?

The first arcade cabinet I purchased was Tekken 3, which I recovered from a pub in Cambridge just over a year ago. I already had a large collection of retro consoles and games, but once I bought my first cabinet I soon caught the collecting bug!

Do you have a favourite cabinet in your collection?

My favourite has got to be Space Invaders as it’s such an iconic game with amazing artwork on its cabinet. However, my favourite game to play overall is Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 — I’m a huge fan of driving games and this one in particular reminds me of Need for Speed.

What challenges did you encounter when setting up the arcade?

The main challenge was finding an appropriate venue. We needed something that was big enough to house the collection, have adequate car parking, toilet facilities and easy access for customers. I was very happy to take on the space at Norwich’s Castle Quarter as it’s in a recognisable and central location, and provided all the facilities we needed.

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What consoles are available to play at Retro Replay?

We currently have 25 console setups on level one, these host a variety of games, from home ports of arcade classics to console mainstays like Goldeneye and Smash Bros. During Halloween, in the spirit of the season, we hosted a horror game lineup on a selection of systems.

We’re always looking to add new games to Retro Replay — it’s important that we continue to invest in new machines and cabinets to keep things fresh, and ensure that our customers continue to have an enjoyable and varied experience as Retro Replay moves forward.

[Recent acquisitions and additions to the arcade’s first floor include Gauntlet, and Shinobi (provided by Stuart Ashens). On the ground floor, consoles include Philips CDi, Panasonic 3DO and Amiga CD32 units.]

What else can visitors expect from a visit to Retro Replay?

When visitors see and play our arcade and console lineup, they can certainly expect to experience a rush of nostalgia. We’re proud to have many well known titles such as the aforementioned Space Invaders, Pacmania, Time Crisis, Ridge Racer, and we also have Dance Dance Revolution and pinball in the downstairs area. The arcade is home to many lesser-known titles such as Battle Shark, which has to be one of the most unique cabinet setups I’ve ever come across.

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How’s the reception of Retro Replay been since opening and what plans do you have for the future of the arcade?

The response from the public has been amazing! They really appreciate what we’re offering.

Moving forward, we plan to keep adding more arcade titles, particularly with an eye towards some of the more obscure titles — if we can acquire them. Reinvestment is key, and the more people visit, the sooner we can add new experiences!

Visit Retro Replay at: Castle Quarter, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

Open: Mon–Fri: 6pm–10pm, Sat–Sun: 11am–10pm

Website: www.retro-replay.games, Twitter: @RR_Arcade, Facebook: @RetroReplayArcade

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