PenPen here! Aside from checking out electronics stores which is totally designed to ripoff tourists and weekly protests along with the recent occasional acid-bottles-tossed-from-buildings, Hong Kong is generally regarded as a pretty nice tourist location. But, if you are considering checking out the last few remaining places with many arcades, aside from Japan, Hong Kong is also a good place to visit. Especially if you’re big on KOF.
Since I’m actually from there, I’m going to hand out some quickie notes, hopefully this will span two articles where I’ll ramble a lot. This first one is going to be mostly on KOF (and fighters in general) and the general stuff. I’ll cover other fancier games later.
The General Stuff That is Somehow Rather Detailed
Hong Kong arcades usually consists of the few machine types below (in terms of coin usage):
– Normal arcade cabinets or racing/bemani games
– Large arcade cabinets that is generally much more expensive
– Slot/medal token machines
Normal arcade cabinets will usually cost you $1 HKD, or multiple $1 coins. Games like KOF usually would cost around $2-$3 HKD, SF4 is usually more expensive at $5 HKD, and so on. Racing games, gun games and bemani games also use $1 HKD coins.
Large arcade cabinets would be the ones that involve something like a save card and other cards or whatnot. Or is like a huge machine by itself that takes much a lot of space with super-fancy graphics. These would usually need $5 coins, and is very likely multiples of $5 coins.
The last one with slot/medal token machines are basically casino games, where there IS a gambling element where you get more tokens if you win. However, since arcades aren’t casinos, you can only exchange your coins for tokens, but not the other way around. These machines started popping up recently in arcades (circa 2008-2009?) and now most arcades feature them in some form. The tokens usually can be exchanged at a separate exchange counter, or from a machine. I’m not going to talk about these, since for one you don’t really earn/win anything from this, and these slot machines take up space on games that you should be playing (so yes, I dislike these – if I want to gamble, I’d go to Macau).
For the $1 and $5 coins, they can be exchanged with your various HKD bills at the exchange counter. You can just walk up and toss the bill to the counter, and the clerk would usually give you back that amount in $1 coins (unless you specify for it to be $5 coins). Their English is usually not very up to par, and arcades are always super loud, so you may need to be louder or use it with hand gestures so they can understand (eg. show them how many $1 coins in multiple of tens with your finger). Note that they won’t accept cents, and some may not accept $10 HKD coins.
Arcades in Hong Kong are restricted by law to be non-smoking. But in reality, about half of the arcades strictly enforce that rule, some don’t care if you smoke or not. It’s pretty simple to tell: If the air is relatively fresh, it’s a clean arcade. If you can smell the smoke right away, chances are they’ll have smokers.
Arcades also have an age restriction of 16 years old. Most of them enforce this strictly, a few of them even have security guards at the door who can ask for your ID. The other arcades CAN enforce it if needed, but as long as you give them business and isn’t severely underaged, I don’t think most of them care.
Here’s also one that you may want to take note of – arcades are also required by law to close at 2AM. But some arcades may close earlier, especially ones located inside shopping centers. There’s also a chance that police will do a random ID search in arcades – rare to happen, but you can’t totally throw away that possibility. Bring your passport with you (as always recommended by all the travel guides out there). If a police search does happen, all the machines will shut down until the ID search is complete. And you can’t get a refund unfortunately.
In terms of following the last player in arcades, the “put your coin on the machine to follow” rule is the normal etiquette, but if you see the guy playing with a stack of coins in front of him and placed at the machine, chances are that he won’t be leaving until he uses up the stack of coins. This is especially true in racing games and card-based games, where they won’t leave until they use up their stack of coins. Some people also have that idea brought to normal arcade games, but it’s not common, and may be frowned upon.
There’s also a minor issue of the $1 coin you’re using (yes, we’re being really obscure and specific). Machines usually will only accept the $1 with the bauhinia flowers on them. If you see $1 coins with the Queen’s face, it’s from the pre-97 era and the machines will probably not accept them. Even though these are older coins, they are still common currency, so don’t throw them away.
Anyway, there’s the real general stuff. Let’s talk about KOF.
Right. The first thing you notice in all arcades with KOF is that this is THE button layout:
A B C
You’ll probably say – wait, PenPen, that’s a stupid layout! It is, it is. But if you want to play KOF here, you’ll have to get used to that button layout. I don’t know why it’s DABC, but all arcades here with whichever KOF will have that layout. You may need some getting used to with this layout, so figure it out in your mind before you hop in.
And if you want to ask about KOF XI’s layout, it’s essentially dead here, and if you happen to come across one, it’s very likely the E button is placed under the B button. That’s all I have to say about XI here, before I hide in a corner and weep in said dark corner.
With that aside, in about 90% of the arcades here it will feature at least 1 KOF 2002 cabinet. Until 2002UM came along, most of the people here in Hong Kong play 2002. Now it’s pretty much a more even affair between the two versions (2k2 OG and UM), but regardless, you’re going to find 2002 no matter where you go. There’s some arcades here that also has 98 and/or 98UM, but they’re less seen/played in comparison to 2k2.
As for the other ones, you may see a few 2000 arcade cabinets, but anything aside from the above games I mentioned get little to no screentime. In short, if you are going to play KOF here, you better hone up your 2002 skills.
Like in most arcades worldwide, the skill level varies quite a bit, though you can expect that most people that play there are above average. And in 2002(UM), you can expect them to do BC cancel combos like it’s really simple stuff (eg. that Nameless maniac combo in 2002UM combo video? People here do it without trouble. Scary stuff.)
You may want to ask, is throwing in KOF a no-no in Hong Kong? Mostly not, though some people do take exception to that, and would want to throw you for (their) fairness’ sake. So yes, throws are part of the game over here. As are pretty much everything else in-game. One minor taboo is to guard break CD to KO your opponent’s last character however, so you may want to keep that in mind.
What about the most played characters? People here in general would favor the easy-to-learn and use ones, in 2002 essentially it’s some form of the “Kimgamimaru” combination, which is Kim, Iori and Benimaru. You can expect to have at least one to three of these 3 guys in their teams. Chris is also one pretty popular choice, along with some Choi users.
2002UM gives people more characters to use but the above rules still apply. K’, Nameless and Kasumi are almost always in play (as above, easy to learn and use + effective), while there’s definitely a good amount of King, Benimaru, Yuri and Chris players. So yes, you will mostly face these guys in your fights. But it doesn’t mean you’ll only face these guys, I’ve met some pretty crazy Hinako players who are able to make you feel totally helpless in a match.
In terms of costs, most KOF machines would cost you within the range of $1 – $3 HKD. In fact, you can consider a $4+ HKD KOF machine to be a ripoff and nobody will play on that machine. Anyway, this should be it for KOF.
Since this is a KOF dominant city, you won’t see much of other arcade fighters, really. I’d say that only the larger arcades will be able to afford housing these games – they won’t give much revenue, since not a lot of people play them.
Big 2D arcade hits in US and Japan like Blazblue CT/CS, Guilty Gear X/XX (whatever version), Melty Blood and Arcana Heart don’t see so much screentime. For 3D, you can find the occasional Virtua Fighter and Tekken, while Soul Calibur is pretty rare.
You may wonder where Street Fighter 3/4 fares in all this mess. I’ll say that they do get playtime, and major arcades usually carry 2-4 machines, but you can expect then to charge you $4-5 HKD (with $1 coins) for SF4, and SF3:3S has a pretty dedicated following at the arcades that got them, and costs around $2-3 HKD/round.
Actually, for the other fighting games over here, they all have a dedicated player base but they’re pretty small (SF4 isn’t small by any means but doesn’t get as many players as KOF in general). If you’re playing these games, you may not expect to get challenged much. But do expect the arcade owners to crank the difficulty to the highest possible level.
I’m also going to talk about the Gundam vs series since they are also fighting games of some sort. If you don’t know what this is, it’s basically a 3rd person, 2 vs 2 mecha fighter with guns and swords. There’s already a few iterations of the Gundam vs series, and in actuality, this is actually bigger than KOF, all arcades will have at least 1 iteration with 4 machines linked with each other.
I haven’t really dabbled in this game since I’m not a huge Gundam fan. But it does have a pretty huge following, and from the fewtimes I’ve played it, the game is pretty fun, especially if you’re playing 2 on 2 as friends. The cost for playing this varies, the earliest ones will probably be like $2 HKD a round while the latest one will likely cost you $4+ HKD per. But regardless, if you’re a Gundam fan and didn’t get to try out this game at all, I would recommend giving it a try. The latest version in arcades is Gundam vs Gundam Next, which features way too many Gundams (and other popular mechas in the series) and every Gundam anime series thus far gets featured in that game. In addition, AFAIK all of these Gundam vs games are also out in the PSP, so you can check them out on the PSP too.
The Fighters’ Lowdown
So if you are a regular fighting game player who loves KOF, or more specifically KOF 2002(UM) and happen to be in Hong Kong, you need to check it out. It’s a must. If you play SF4 you’ll also want to check out the bigger arcades too. And if you like Gundam games/is a fan, the Gundam vs games are definitely something to try out. But if you’re like a Blazblue/GGXX player, you will be disappointed in the availability and the competition Hong Kong provides, since there’s little to none. Hopefully this situation improves but thus far, all of these are pretty much set in stone.
Next time I’ll talk about playing the other remaining types of arcade games, like fancier stuff: Racing games, music/bemani games, and what makes Sega’s arcade division so awesome lately: Card games. And major arcade locations (eg. where you can pwn my team of 3 random Kyos in 2k2UM). Stay tuned for my next rambling!