South Pier Family Entertainment Centre, Lowestoft Gamestation on Lowestoft High Street Magic City in Gorleston, September 2007 Game Station at Great Yarmouth, September 2007 Shop window of Game Station in Great Yarmouth Swallow Games, Great Yarmouth (September 2007) Fun Palace at Claremonth Pier, Lowestoft (September 2007) Space Invaders Silver Anniversary Editon at Claremonth Pier, Lowestoft YouTube video walkthrough of Fun Palace, Lowestoft Neptunes Palace Amusements, Gorleston Page Amusements in Gorleston. Video tour of Atlantis arcade in Great Yarmouth 2007

SUMMER BREAK 2007 - LOWESTOFT & YARMOUTH

August 2007 wasn't exactly a normal summer for us poor residents in the UK. With 10 days holiday to look forward to, I was really hoping for some nice weather (it was summer after-all). Sunday night was when the planning for the week took place. I had already planned what to do in London, but the other days were still pretty open. I had wanted to visit Lowestoft for some time as it had been years since I was last there. So I thought what better way to start to week then to head off into Suffolk. And if time allowed, Yarmouth could also be visited.

LOWESTOFT

A quick bus ride to the railway station and I boarded the train to Lowestoft. It had been raining in Norwich but thankfully I'd brought a coat. Something told me I was going to need it. So with camera and cash I stepped out of the station in Lowestoft and with grey skies overhead I started up the High Street to check out the local Game Station. It was very much like the one in Norwich with the usual retro gaming fare on offer, Saturn, Megadrive, Master System, and a few Nintendo items. I picked up Need for Speed and Firestorm on the Saturn for £4.99 in a BOGOF deal (buy one get one free). It was quite busy in the store and the staff where very friendly. I had that some pretty hot retro items had been in the store previously (we are probably talking a few years ago though). Unfortunately there was nothing to get excited about on the day.

After walking most of the way up the High Street it didn't look like there was any more game shops so I headed back down to get to the arcades on South Beach. It was at that point that the menacing grey clouds that had been hanging in the sky dumped their rain. And boy did it rain. I was so wet that the rain had soaked through my coat. Ah the British weather, will I ever learn. There was no other option but to dive into a nice dry building. As it was getting close to lunchtime I guess McDonalds seemed a fair choice. While enjoying my baguette I contemplated the rest of the day. Great Yarmouth seemed like the best bet for the next visit.

The arcade at South Pier was just down the road but as I entered the building I soon realised that this was the same as most of the arcades locally. Mainly fruit machines and penny pushers. There were arcade cabinets but they consisted of the usual racing and shooting games. I seem to remember seeing some old cabinets unplugged and sitting dejected in the corner last time I was here and I guess they have been either dumped or found a 'better' home. There was another arcade just across the road from the main one but the rain was still pouring and I thought it was time to move on. I intend to head back to Lowestoft in 2008 and give these places a second look and get more pictures.

GREAT YARMOUTH

I had planned to get a train to Yarmouth but I discovered that the only way to do it was to get a train back to Norwich and then to Great Yarmouth. The kind lady at the station suggested it would be easier to get a coach. The X1 runs from Peterborough to Lowestoft on the hour, and it was on this route that the next part of the journey started. This service does go around the houses a little but it was interesting to pass through Gorleston. On the main street there was a Magic City arcade, and it looked identical to the one in Norwich.

As the coach stopped at the Market Gates shopping centre, it was just a short walk to Game Station. This particular store had always had a better selection of items than the one in Norwich so I hoped for the best. As well as the usual suspects, I also found some NES carts, Atari ST disks, and even Donkey Kong for the Colecovision (buried at the bottom of a wire basket). In the store window there was a collection of NES, Megadrive, Master System, and N64 consoles. None of the retro items took my fancy but I did indulge in some Xbox titles with a 'buy 4 for £20' deal. I picked up the Tecmo Collection (as it contained my favourite arcade game 'Star Force'), The Bards Tale (a classic and humorous RPG, with it roots way back in the 80's), Metal Gear Solid 2 (well, it too has a long history), and Panzer Dragoon Orta (after playing the second game on my Saturn, I was interested to see what it looked like on the Xbox). I don't really play on the Xbox much, it is only a media player now with some emulation as well, so I was looking forward to some trying some of the 'newer' games.

I was surprised to find a Swallow Games in Yarmouth. I am not sure if this has only opened in the last year or maybe I missed it in 2006. I had a look inside and found it to be similar to the one in Norwich. Not a bad store but it didn't have anything out of the norm. There didn't seem to be any other retro game shops in Yarmouth (now that Vid-Kidz has gone), so I headed off to the sea-front.

I guess it should come as no surprise to learn that things hadn't really changed much since 2006. In fact things had got slightly worse as there was now two arcades (can we still call them that?) which had no video game cabinets at all. Atlantis was probably the best stocked place for the 'older' games (by that I mean mid 90's). Manx TT, Sega Rally, Tekken, Gauntlet Legends, and a few others. Not exactly classics but as good as can be expected. The real old ones tend to be found at the pleasure beach but I didn't get a chance to travel that far on the day. I did indulge in a little 'new-retro' by trying out Afterburner Climax. The version I played on had the hydraulic chair and with the super-crisp graphics it was quite a ride.

And so the day ended, wet, windy, but not a washout. And who knows what will happen next year? Maybe Mr. Gilbert will be back with his amazing collection of retro items and arcade cabinets (please...).

UPDATE - SEPTEMBER 15TH 2007

As the weather had been so rubbish in August, I really didn't take many pictures or explore Lowestoft as much as I had hoped. So I thought it was only fair to go back while we still had a summer left and have another attempt. As it was the weather was great and a few surprises lay ahead. As I had more time I also decided to stop off in Gorleston (another place that I have fond memories of as I used to stay with my Aunty there).

LOWESTOFT

I really can't stress enough how different Lowestoft was on my return. In August, with the rain and wind, the only people around were shoppers braving the weather. As the beach was deserted (and I wanted to get out of the rain) I never ventured beyond the South Pier. This time I caught the X1 out of Norwich bus station. It was only £3.50 and I got to sit on the top deck of the double-decker. Thankfully we didn't fall into any holes in the road (old joke for people in Norwich). As with many of the county routes the journey took in several little villages but as we pulled into Lowestoft bus station and I walked out into the warm sunny air, I was in a really good mood.

First stop was GameStation but it was pretty much the same as it had been back in August. So after snapping a quick photo I quickly moved on. As I hadn't had my morning caffeine does I was glad to find a Costa Coffee across the street. An with a nice latté in hand I headed for the beach.

I took a stroll around the Family Entertainment Centre on the South Pier just in case I had missed something on my previous visit but it turned out I hadn't. As I walked along the promenade I suddenly realised that the best arcade wasn't on the South Pier but on the larger one that I could see in the distance. I couldn't help a wry smile as I approached the Claremont Pier. The sun was shining brightly, a nice breeze was blowing from the sea, and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach was strangely relaxing (I found myself wanting to play Out Run).

On entering the Fun Palace at Claremont Pier I passed through the normal collection of newer cabinets. A House Of The Dead here and a Fast And Furious there, plus a large sit-in cabinet from Sega called 'Lets Go Jungle' (it was massive). But as I made my way through the newer machines I heard a noise that sounded familiar although I couldn't quite remember what it was. I continued towards the back of the arcade and noticed a Silent Scope on the back wall and then as I turned around I realised that the sound I had heard was the bubble bursting sound of Puzzle Bobble. More surprising was that there was a cabinet here that looked, on first glance, like the classic Space Invaders (except it had different side art). I found it was a Space Invaders Silver Anniversary Edition cabinet with both Space Invaders and Qix built-in. Of course I couldn't resist a quick go on 'vaders (which cost 50p) and also had a quick go on Puzzle Bobble (but the joystick was sticking badly when moving right so it was even more of a challenge than I was expecting).

After indulging in a little retro arcade action I took a quick video of the arcade (I did try to do it inconspicuously, hence the fact the video is sometimes pointing at the ceiling - whoops). Then it was down onto the beach to grab some photographs of the beach, the sea, the pier, boats, you know, the normal coastal things.

I did check the 'other' arcade in Lowestoft, Bridge Amusements. Although it was near the bridge there was little amusement to be had, just a load of fruit machines, so I quickly left. After a quick walk back up the high street and to the bus station I caught the X1 to Gorleston for the next leg of my coastal trip.

GORLESTON

I had thought about visiting Gorleston for a while but had always ran out of time. After spending several summers there as a kid, I hadn't been back for many years and was looking forward to taking a look around. I had noticed the 'Magic City' amusements on the High Street as I passed through in August and hoped there might be more arcades on the sea-front. Wisely I had printed a Google Map so I at least had a vague idea where I was heading.

Magic City was a fruit-machine only affair and I only spent seconds in there before deciding to try Marine Parade. All the walking in Lowestoft had made me hungry and as I hadn't had lunch I partook in the traditional British meal of 'fish and chips' (Weavers on Baker Street, not a bad chippy).

As I made my way down to the sea-front it wasn't too long before I found the first arcade. Neptunes Palace is in the shadow of Gorleston's lighthouse and isn't quite on the sea-front, but rather at the mouth of the harbour. I took a look around but unfortunately the only item of interest was an Area 51 which a visiting chap must have liked the look of as he proceeded to slip a few coins in for a quick blast.

Neither of the two other amusement arcades had anything of interest, so I headed back to the high street to catch the bus to Great Yarmouth. At least I could put a tick against Gorleston on the 'arcade hunt' list. The journey back to the bus stop was up hill but as the clouds passed over the sun came out and again it was a nice warm afternoon.

GREAT YARMOUTH

The journey to Market Gates at Yarmouth was short and when I arrived I headed directly to the GameStation to see if anything new had appeared. There were several Sega Saturn's in the window and the usual selection of NES, SNES, N64, Master System, and, Megadrive games. As I've said before, they have largest collection of retro gaming items in any of the GameStations I have visited, it's just a shame that their prices are a little high, otherwise I would have bagged a couple of items.

After checking GameStation, I headed to Swallow Games. Nothing much seemed to have changed, they had a few Saturn games but nothing special, so it was time to trek down Regent Road to the seafront arcades. The sun was still out and the sea front was bustling. I did my usual tour of the various arcades and took a video (please see link on the left).

I also managed to get down to the Pleasure Beach but as far as games go, it looks like the old classics had finally been removed (most had problems with their screens anyway). Another new destination was the Merryvale Penny Arcade (part of the model village site). They had a few old cabinets and some really old penny machines. I took some video which is linked on the left.

And so as I boarded the X1 back to Norwich it was an end to another coastal tour. It had been nice to check out a few places that I hadn't been to for a long while and there had been a couple of nice surprises along the way.

 

Original article by Gary - September 2007 (revised January 2015)