Majestic arcade at Great Yarmouth Arcade cabinets at the Majestic, Great Yarmouth The Leisureland arcade at Great Yarmouth Ridge Racer cabinet at the Leisureland arcade in Great Yarmouth Ferrari F335 Challenge at the Leisureland arcade in Great Yarmouth Point Blank at the Leisureland arcade in Great Yarmouth Magic City in Great Yarmouth


Welcome to the very first article for the new 'Norwich Retro Gamers' website. When we first thought about setting up this website we discussed the events that made videogames so exciting back in day. It seemed logical to start with the place that played such a large part in so many peoples lives and where the latest and greatest arcade games could be played. So our first destination was Great Yarmouth.

At a time when most arcades consist of little more than rows of fruit machines and large 'penny pushers' containing plastic tat, it is so exciting to find these old videogames tucked away in the back of some arcades. These poor machines exist 'out of time' and probably neglected by most people but we hoped we could track some down and experience some old-school arcade action.

Great Yarmouth holds fond memories for me, growing up in Norfolk countless summers were spent trawling through the many arcades, being mesmerised by the bright lights and loud noises. Of course back in those days the machines were lined up in rows and each would try to entice you (and your 10 pence's) with their attract modes. I remember the massive attack on your senses as you first entered an arcade. Ah, bliss.

The holiday season hadn't yet began so it was eerily quiet as we ventured down Regent Street after a short walk from the train station. March on the Norfolk coast is not recommended for casual visitors and the icy cold wind and the grey skies were testament to this fact. But as we battled onwards we turned onto Marine Parade could see the distant lights of the arcades and I was reminded of Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins, with the lyrics 'buildings in the distance, a surrealistic sight'. Although not all the arcades were open yet, the bright signs of the ones that had opened made a contrast to the grey and dreary surroundings. After negotiating the building work that was taking place on the sea-front, we reached our first arcade.

Our first stop was the Majestic. As we walked around it become apparent how much fruit machines had taken over. We found a small group of machines huddled together on the left side of the arcade. Although none of these were 'classics' we found a Sega Virtual Tennis (1999), Namco Time Crisis (1996), Sega Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (1998), Namco Crisis Zone (1999), a couple of Midway Hydro Thunders (1999), and the amusing Williams Revenge From Mars (1999) pinball table. Not actually an Aladdin's Cave of retro goodness but it was early days yet. So as we left the warmth of the Majestic to brave the cold winds once more, we hoped the next arcade would be more exciting...

The next stop was Leisureland. This is a strange arcade as it is split into two separate buildings. Much like the Majestic this had several older machines together along one wall and was surrounded by fruit machines. This arcade was more geared towards the sit-down racers with both a two-seater Namco Ridge Racer (1993) - although it was actually running Ridge Racer 2 (1994) and Sega's massive three-screen behemoth that is Ferrari F335 Challenge (1999). Along the same wall was a Namco Time Crisis 3 (2003) and a Namco Maximum Tune (2004). As we continued to explore Leisureland we found something hidden away at the back of the arcade, it was Namco's Point Blank (1993) which was a pleasant surprise. There was also another large two-seater racing game that was unplugged and was being cleaned but I didn't record what it was.

As we continued along the parade we found that the next few arcade operators were not willing to allow us to taking pictures of their machines and one actually suggested we should pay him for the privilege!! To be honest there was not really anything of not. We found an Atari Gauntlet Legends (1998), a Sega Rally Championship (1995), and several other machines that we had already seen earlier.

There was one mystery machine which was titled Dragon's Lair 20th Anniversary Edition. I have done some research into this and apparently there is a company called Ultracade Technologies, based in America, that supply either pre-installed 27" cabinets or conversion kits to convert old Jamma cabinets into multi-game arcade systems. The pack contains the replacement artwork for the cabinet side panels, marquee, and control panel, new buttons and joysticks, the so-called 'computer system, that has Jamma connectivity, and lastly all the cables and instructions. The game pack comes with the system contains 86 classic games including 1942, Bombjack, Asteroids, Ghost n' Goblins, Mr Do!, Street Fighter II, Moon Cresta, and many more. Additional game packs cab be bought, including Midway Arcade Treasures and the Dragons Lair Anniversary Pack.

The Ultracade system is quite an exciting prospect and would allow us 'retro gamers' to play the classics in the local arcade, with a proper cabinet and joystick(s), in an age where it is hard to justify the space taken up by the older machines. It was strange as we had been recently been talking about how cool it would be to have a MAME type cabinet in arcades. We'll be doing a dedicated article on the system later in the year. [UPDATE : It seems that Ultracade is now more as the David R Foley (the original founder of Ultracade) was accused, in 2009, of selling counterfeited games packs for the Ultracade. They had tried to sell to technology to Global VR but the transaction never happened].

Back to our arcade visit now.

There was little of note found elsewhere. A few of the arcades had not opened yet and one had, unfortunately, closed down. We decided to call it a day and headed back to the station to catch our train back to Norwich. On the journey back we mulled over what we had found and it does seem that the really old machines are no longer able to justify their existence against the money-making fruit machines and newer 'novelty' gun games and sit-down racers.

It was interesting to think that the oldest games we found were released around the same time as the Playstation was launched in the home console market. It seems that the old classics are only to be found in the smaller coastal resorts or in the hands of collectors and enthusiasts who can restore them to their former glory.

As it was a little early in the year we will be back in the summer. There will be a 'Retro Summer Special' article coming up, including Yarmouth, Cromer, Wells, and, Hunstanton. If anybody out there intends to visit any of the arcades in Norfolk this year, and would like to submit their findings to us, please feel free to email us using the 'contact us' option, and we will include it in our summer special article. Digital camera pictures are also welcome.

Happy gaming, retro fans!




Original article by Gary - March 2006 (revised June 2014)