Blackpool, UK. The epitome of our seaside towns. A poor and run-down town on the inside, yet a bustling, bright holiday hot-spot for families on the outside.
Article by Ted - https://twitter.com/Tedward618
It's seafront houses many tourist attractions, takeaways, hotels, and- most importantly to us gamers - arcades.
Blackpool may well have been the UK capital of arcades back in the 80's and 90's, with the amount of games and rare simulators matching that of London's Funland arcade - but that was the past.
Today, the name 'arcade' can only just about be applied to these places. Where tons of Jamma cabs once stood tall and proud, now stands coin pushers and gambling machines.
There's the odd racing or shooting game still around, but often in bad condition and uncared for. This can especially be said about the Pleasure Beach theme park's arcades.
Just a few of their games are a Sega Rally that wouldn't accept coins, and had clear graphical issues, and House Of The Dead 2, with no sound and only 1 gun working, plus both had some truly shocking LCD conversions. The state of the arcades show that the games are just a mere afterthought now.
Yet, there is one thing that sets the Pleasure Beach arcade apart from the rest. While the other games have broken and rotted away, there is one thing that they've kept, unlike the rest of Blackpool's arcades- suspended in time almost. One of the craziest, most expensive arcade machines of all time.
RIDGE RACER FULL SCALE!
Yes, really. Your eyes are not deceiving you.
After almost 25 years, this thing is still going strong.
For those who don't know what it is, Ridge Racer Full Scale is one of the biggest arcade games of all time, the ultimate version of Ridge Racer.
A cousin to the equally impressive 6 player Galaxian 3 Theatre, it has the distinction of being the only arcade game ever with a real, sit-in car.
Yes, you read that right, real car!
As the game is projected onto the massive screen in front of you, you're at the wheel of a Japanese Eunos Roadster, better known to us as a Mazda MX-5.
Everything would be there, the air conditioning, the wheel, the seats, the stereo, the windscreen, the gear shifter...
Like the Galaxian 3 Theatre, this also used a Bose sound system and Sony projectors, and 3 Namco System 22 boards to power the game. When you consider everything that it had, it was really quite expensive for an arcade game- possibly even the most expensive ever!
Of course, everything I've just mentioned doesn't last forever, and as such Pleasure Beach have had to take out some and replace them with other parts. The seats and steering wheel are no longer original, now the usual Namco made ones found in the other Ridge Racer iterations.
The windscreen has been taken out, presumably due to safety reasons as it was bound to be smashed one day, and so has the car stereo, sadly- so only one of Ridge Racer's music tracks can be chosen. No Rare Hero or Rotterdam Nation, just the Ridge Racer Theme :(
The biggest disappointment though is the gear shifter, which isn't working. This is the main feature of the whole thing, as with it you could control the game by clutch driven manual, as if you were driving a real car for real! But if you choose manual, you have just wasted £1 my friend.
Despite my criticisms of the non-working features... think about it. When was the last time you saw a Ridge Racer Full Scale? Have you ever seen one altogether? The fact that Blackpool Pleasure Beach have kept putting effort into this thing and kept it going is just plain incredible.
One more thing they have had to replace is the original Sony projectors. They now use Epson projectors, which work fairly well, but after a chat with the arcade's technician, he told me that they work through a new bulb in just a few months- and they have had to keep on replacing them for quite a few years now.
To me at least, that's real dedication. They could've easily given up on Full Scale years back, scrapping it and filling the space with more claw machines, but it's still here. And it still wows people, as I saw several play it during the time I was there. It's an arcade game with a real car, after all, you don't see this everyday!
In fact, there might not be another out there entirely. After some research I believe this may be the last left in the world. Others, like the one at the London Trocadero, were scrapped, and another even had the car converted back for road use!
There are rumours of one in Barcelona, and one more currently in storage in the UK, but these surfaced a few years back and there has been no other reports of them since. If you love arcade games, and want to experience Ridge Racer inside a real car, if I were you I'd go to Blackpool pretty soon. Spare parts are bound to run out, and once they do that may be it.
If you want to experience Ridge Racer in a real car- and one of the final remnants of Blackpool's arcade past- now's your time, as you may never get to again. Hope you enjoyed reading.
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