Before the Mitsuwa marketplace chain absorbed the Yaohan supermarket chain, Little Tokyo Shopping Center at 333 S. Alameda was called Yaohan Plaza. Back then, Yaohan Plaza had a rocking arcade that was full of cool Japanese games, like the train conductor game in which you started and stopped the train by moving a handle. Unfortunately, like Yaohan, the arcade suffered its own economic difficulties and eventually shut its doors.
But, based on reports from friends, I towed my 11-year-old nephew downtown last week both to raid Mitsuwa for Japanese candy and (more importantly to me) to check out the reopened arcade. Now located on the second floor (didn’t it used to be on the third?), the arcade at Little Tokyo Square is indeed open again and full of a whole slew of cool games. There are, of course, a bunch of variations on Dance Dance Revolution (guitar, drum, DJ and taiko versions, in fact). There’s also a Golgo 13 sniper game which, unlike modern run-and-gun shooters, is all about taking your time and lining up the perfet single shot, and a samurai game in which you hold the handle of a virtual samurai sword and swing it wildly at the screen. And fans of the light-gun game House of the Dead might be interested in a version of the game called Typing of the Dead, where you wield a keyboard instead of a gun. But it’s not all novelty games, there are plenty of straight-forward fighters and shooters, as well as a soccer game that lets you save your own teams if you buy a memory card from the counter for $1. If you don’t read Japanese (and I don’t), it can be difficult to figure out what’s going on with some of the titles. But the place is pretty empty so if you have enough tokens you should be able to get most of them through trial and error. And if you have an 11-year-old nephew in from out of town he’ll think you’re the coolest uncle ever.