Updated: Jan 18
For my birthday on November 17th, my wife and I went to Robot City Games. I've been there many times before, but it had been a while since my last visit. The place never disappoints. The largest public game room in New York State, Robot City is located in Binghamton, and encompasses a store dealing in console games, both classic and current.
Robot City is packed to the gills in gaming goodness, and the hardest part of the visit was stopping the photography. Some might say we failed on that end, but Retro Injection never followed the "less is more" mantra! (Coincidentally, it was my thirty-eighth birthday, and upon OCD review, this article contains the same number of photos. Maybe it was subconscious, but that's pretty freaky.)
Here's Robot City Games from the street. This is how an arcade should be. The owner, Casey Wales, didn't make it a barcade or a "family entertainment center." There are no ticket games, no claw machines, no drunken hipsters. There are, however, creepy mannequins in the front windows. Robot City is a little subversive. It's perfect.
The orange Bug is my wife's car. We also took it on our video store road trip.
You enter Robot City Games via the console store, so let's start from there. Here's the view from a few yards into the scene. The arcade beckons, and newcomers have no idea how expansive it is from this vantage point. Sit tight.
You'd be hard pressed to find a better selection of retro console gaming inventory than at Robot City. Originally located up the street a couple of blocks, it greatly expanded both the console section and the arcade with this location, which opened in 2013. Around 2008, I ventured into the old store for the first time, solely to check out the game room. At that point, they had around twelve machines, with no pinball. Today, Robot City boasts 125 video games, and thirty-one pinball machines. It's a pilgrimage for gamers from hours away.
Adrienne was really impressed with the store's organization. That came as no surprise to me, knowing her Type A personality. (Love ya, hon!) I can't point any fingers, because I noticed the same thing in the arcade section... the boxes were just a lot bigger!
I appreciated the Master System selection, being a lover of Sega since the late '80s.
Check out that Vectrex on the bottom shelf of the cabinet. This system brought home the arcade action of vector games such as Cinamatronics' Rip-Off. I've got a Vectrex in my basement as we speak!
Looking for a boxed vintage system? Chances are, you'll find it here.
Pretty much any peripheral you could want is available at Robot City...
... including Nintendo's Power Glove. It's the greatest accessory ever, hands down! (I couldn't resist.) The black controller to the left of the glove is designed specifically for Capcom's Street Fighter games. I remember when these pads were displayed in the entryway of Kay-Bee Toys.
We'll use this framed arcade art as a natural segue for venturing into Robot City's incredible game room. These prints hung in the original location's arcade. I wouldn't have minded one of them, but the wall space in my home arcade is maxed out.
Their game room is an '80s fever dream, pulsating with period music and color-changing lighting. Just walking into this electronic proving ground is intoxicating.
Let's get a closer look at that electromechanical game, 1971's Sniper. I love the blacklight effects on this Williams cabinet. You can't recreate the EM experience on a console.
An Atari widebody table is always a welcome novelty to pinheads. If you've seen one of these machines in person, you can appreciate how enormous they are!
Who ya gonna call? You've probably guessed I'm a huge fan of the Ghostbusters franchise. One day, I'd love to own this Stern table. And it's only fitting that Robot City has a Twilight Zone pinball, as the store is located in series creator Rod Serling's hometown!
We'll let the hybrid BABY PAC-MAN bridge the gap between featuring pinball machines and video games.
New Joust-themed toys have spawned a renewed interest in the Williams arcade game. It's long been a personal favorite of mine, despite the fact I stink at it. (I have the same rapport with Data East's BurgerTime.)
Only after I was back home looking at the photos did I realize this Joust machine was played by the game's world champion, Lonnie McDonald! Had I seen it at the time, I certainly would have gotten his entire name in the shot, rather than focusing on my pathetic fifth-place score. Number four's "CWK" is my friend Chris Kwasney, who can be seen in my documentary about our local Time-Out arcade. And please excuse the profane initials; I assume we're all adults on this nostalgia site.
I have a love/hate relationship with Root Bear Tapper: While I enjoy the game's concept and unique controls, its non-stop pace reminds me of working any and all of my foodservice jobs! This 1984 game was a family-friendly modification of the previous year's Tapper, a release made for bars which featured the Budweiser logo and beer instead of root beer. (I doubt most people would last too long at either of these games after throwing back some Buds.)
Who's that wall crawler in the background?
You can keep your LCD monitors! The tried and true cathode ray tube for these classic titles can't be beat. All of Robot City's games have period-accurate displays, a big deal for arcade purists.
Atari's Crystal Castles was the first arcade game with a definitive ending. And dig that glowing red trackball! (Or, "Trakball," as Atari trademarked.) You can see it on the right in the below photo. I love Robot City's green ventilation pipe, a subtle nod to Nintendo's Mario Bros. games.
Before Mike Tyson joined the fray on the Nintendo Entertainment System, the dual-monitor arcade classic Punch-Out!! introduced players to series favorites like Glass Joe. With wire-frame graphics representing the player's character, Punch-Out!! would serve as the inspiration for other semi-first person fighters, such as SNK's Crossed Swords. There's nothing like slamming that knock-out button!
I grew up playing Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at a Ground Round restaurant near my hometown area of Pittsburgh, PA. An offshoot of the late Howard Johnson's, there are only thirty Ground Round locations left nationwide, and strangely enough, one of them is in Binghamton. The Ground Round's slogan, "We're Better than You Remember," has got to be some of the worst marketing ever.
How many of the machines in the background can you identify? I didn't want to give too much away; the objective of this article is to get you to make the trip to Robot City! (There's an aisle of mostly '90s machines which didn't get featured here.)
Robot City uses custom-made tokens. Don't forget to keep one for your collection!
You can visit Robot City Games at 126 Clinton Street in Binghamton, NY. Wondering if they have a certain item for your console? Give them a jingle at (607) 217-7400. And as long as you're in the area, you might as well swing over to Moonwalker Arcade, only a few minutes away! It'll be a double dose of arcade ecstasy.
I want to cap this feature with these 2015 photos of Adrienne and myself in '80s attire, taken at Robot City with a Polaroid 600 camera I bought at a yard sale. At that point we were dating, but when I found a woman who would join me in this insane project, I knew a proposal was in order.