Remembering the Classics: YESTERcades

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As I first mentioned in my post about Advance Wars coming to the Wii U’s Virtual Console, the video game industry has long dealt with an issue of past/future. In summation, each game released at a certain time is predominantly connected to a corresponding system. A new generation of consoles means that the older generation of games, titles you have spent so much money on already, must be pushed aside if you want to get the “next big thing.” It’s an inevitable change that happens every few years or so. While some choose to keep their older consoles and games for their own personal enjoyment, others prefer to abandon their old favorites to create some new ones. While it’s easy to replace one material belonging with another, more superior counterpart, it’s impossible to usurp the fond memories you’ve created overtime. Eventually a desire for nostalgia will take hold, but unfortunately those without the means to do so can never satiate their whims.

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That is until YESTERcades came around in 2011. Established and founded by Ken Kalada in Red Bank, NJ, the primary goal of YESTERcades is to bring a begotten era of gaming back into the public eye. For an admission price of only $8.75 per hour or $25 for a full day (if you plan to play more than three hours, the full day is a bargain), you are allowed to play a ridiculous amount of games that society as a whole has since moved on from. This basically makes YESTERcades a completely interactive museum filled with the famous and obscure. The place is literally wall-to-wall with arcade cabinets, pinball machines, and even three flat-screen televisions that feature nearly every major system ever released, including the most current consoles.

It’s obvious upon entry that the venue was a labor of love for Kalada. Inside the glass cabinets right by the front door, you see several items from his personal collection. This includes the original Game Boy cartridge for Tetris and Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Mega Drive. Obviously his collection on display is much more extensive than this, but those were the two that I remember because my mind became a blank slate once I noticed what was offered. I’m talking over 30-year-old arcade cabinets in pristine condition that are completely available for your enjoyment. There’s Donkey Kong, released in 1981, Frogger from 1980, and even the ultimate classic itself, Space Invaders from 1978. Clearly the products of extensive care and protection, these games play as if they were released today. And yes, they’re just as difficult as you remember.

Red Bank, New Jersey location.
Red Bank, New Jersey location.

The collection of home consoles is far from skimpy as well. YESTERcades boasts systems from all generations, including the Atari 2600, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and the PlayStation 4. Young or old, the home consoles are maintained with the exact same love each arcade cabinet received. That means you can just as easily play 1982’s Pitfall! on a classic television with a dial as you can play Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U. If you have a favorite game for any system, there’s an excellent chance the extensive library can cater to your exact need. Really, your only problem is deciding which game to spend your limited time on. With so many options, it’s easy to get frozen with indecision/lost trying to cram everything in at once.

Outside of the library, the greatest strength of this veritable video game bonanza is the business model. As I already mentioned above, you need to pay an admission fee upon entry. You can either pay it hourly or just flat out pay the full day. What this means is that, once you pay your desired amount, literally every game is open to you for the time requested. No longer do you need to sit there and keep jamming quarters into a machine every time the dreaded “GAME OVER” appears. All you need to do is press start and you can continue, as if nothing happened. This naturally includes the home console systems as well. With only $25, you can spend the day accomplishing what you’d originally need several stacks of cash to do.

Yestercades' Somerville location
Yestercades’ Somerville location

My girlfriend first brought me to YESTERcades as a surprise anniversary gift. We went the first weekend of May and the place was surprisingly vacant. Over the several hours there, I fully gave myself to pure nostalgia and played games I haven’t touched in many years. This included the original Donkey Kong, The Simpsons, NBA Jam, Star Fox 64, Super Mario World, and Super Mario Kart. While I could have easily subsisted solely on the classic games, I seized my golden opportunity to finally play some new titles I haven’t yet touched. This included both Titanfall and Dead Rising 3 on the Xbox One. Though I intend to purchase a PlayStation 4 over the Xbox, I cannot deny how absolutely stellar those games were. I couldn’t help but wonder about the public around me though. YESTERcades is available for all ages, so here I was sawing zombies in half with blood spurting everywhere and children running around. Something tells me parents might not be too pleased with that…

YESTERcades may only be three years old, but its entire purpose of existence make it a modern definition of classic gaming. It really is the Golden Age come again, now more available to the public than ever. If you’re ever in the Red Bank area and have a hunger for some old favorites, I honestly cannot recommend this place any higher. A gamer can literally lose themselves in these games for hours on end. You can even bring your old, dusty cartridges in for some nifty perks. When you do go though and have a full day available, I highly advise just paying the straight $25. It’s incredibly easy to lose track of time and, before you know it, an entire day can go by. Get comfortable.