Arcade Odyssey: The Last Arcade

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Surprisingly, options for Classic Arcade Gaming in Miami, Florida are pretty limited. I found myself in town for a couple of days back in November 2018 after visiting the Free Play Florida event, and was taken aback by Google’s distinct lack of suggestions for places to check out, given the size and cultural significance of the city itself.

Aside from a couple of ‘barcade’ type arcades that didn’t look terribly inspiring, one place did jump out – Arcade Odyssey. Located in the south of the city, this arcade has been around for a few years now. I realised that I had actually popped in for a few minutes on my way to the airport during a trip a couple of years back; but I have to admit it didn’t leave a huge impression on me. A friend told me that things had changed significantly since my visit, following an expansion into the property next door, so I was keen to make a return to check out how things were shaping up.

I’m glad I did.

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Miami’s Arcade Odyssey

Arcade Odyssey is located in a small strip mall and welcomes customers with floor to ceiling branding blacking out its glass storefront:

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The distinct branding of Arcade Odyssey

First impressions are everything, and walking through the doors, you are hit with a cacophony of noise and lights. There’s no doubting where you are. The arcade itself is broken down into three distinct areas – modern machines, pinball and of course, the classics. Elsewhere out back is a full Lan Center PC setup where regular gaming tournaments take place. There’s also a smattering of modern consoles, running the latest games.

One of the things that makes Arcade Odyssey stand out from the crowd is its pricing. Amazingly, it still operates a token system. There are no cover charges or entrance fees. Walk up to one of the three change machines and you’ll find that a single dollar buys you 3 tokens, while spending $10 or $20 earns you bonus tokens on top. Most machines are priced at 1 or 2 tokens per play, with just a few larger or new games costing 3 or 4 tokens. This model adds to the authenticity of the place compared to the usual ‘fee at the door’ model found at most classic arcades these days.

The PCs and consoles found in the arcade can be rented by the hour or for a full day.

Let’s take a look at the modern section of the arcade:

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There’s a good mix of newer arcade cabinets, including several iterations of House of the Dead. Also, I need that carpet in my games room!
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Time Crisis 3 and perhaps the most impressive of the new stuff, a six player X-Men upright!
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A rare Guitar Hero and massively fun 2-player Mario Kart
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The first one of these I’ve ever come across – Sega’s very rare two player Virtual-On
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I didn’t grab the best picture of it, but in the foreground here is Aarr Technologies’ Jet-Ball. This is a unique game that takes cues from old school Foosball and air hockey tables. You’re unlikely to come across one of these anywhere. Great fun and super interesting to get an opportunity to play

Walking around the arcade, you’ll come across several Candy cabinets. Significantly, this gives Arcade Odyssey the opportunity to change games out on a regular basis from its extensive catalogue of games in storage. Of particular note during my visit was this very rare title, The Act:

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Developed in 2006 and initially intended for an arcade-only release, the game was tested out in the field in North America for a short period
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Despite receiving favourable industry reviews, the game failed to see a full arcade release
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Note the distinct custom control panel. The game runs from an original PCB

The Act is essentially an interactive movie, utilising hand drawn cartoon scenes created by former Disney artists. It really is a thing of beauty. It has had a troubled history in terms of release but is a true piece of arcade history and I’d urge you to play it – it is no longer available for play on any other platform, not even MAME. It was removed from the Apple store over a year ago and does not exist on any other platform anywhere else – this is it! Read more about The Act here.

Talking of Candy cabinets, this glorious row of Sega Blast City cabinets is a sight to behold:

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A plethora of rare titles are on show including puzzlers, fighting games, platformers and shoot-em-ups
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Another rare one here. Sega’s SegaSonic The Hedgehog. This title uses trackballs to control the characters. I suspect you’ll not find another in any Western arcade. Read more here.
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You’ll also find a suite of flat screen Viewlix cabinets out on the floor. Again, the games are regularly rotated

Pinball is well represented at Odyssey. A great selection of modern pins is available to play:

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This lot should keep you entertained. Note the new Stern Star Wars pin there
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Stern’s excellent table, Guardians of the Galaxy, alongside Spiderman and GhostBusters. No complaints here from me!

And so onto the classics. These are broadly laid out in a second area that has opened up since my last visit. What can I say? This is a great curated selection of games, that doesn’t just focus on the usual suspects like Asteroids, Robotron and Pac-Man. Sure, the mainstream titles are there, but there are other rarer titles too:

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The neon lighting in this section really makes the artwork pop on the machines. This Vanguard was pretty much mint. It’s no coincidence that Centuri built this game in its factory a few miles north of Odyssey’s location
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A nice mix of cabinets here from Pac-Man to Satan’s Hollow
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The vibrant scene in the classics area of Arcade Odyssey
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A Neo-Geo multi, Nintendo R-Type and Bally Midway’s Tapper. All in awesome condition
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Gottlieb’s Q*Bert and Atari Centipede
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Gyruss, Gorf, Galaxian, Xevious, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, and Wacko. Awesome stuff. Everything working and well-maintained
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One of the rarer titles on display during my visit was this Midway Wacko. Released in 1983, it features a bizarre control panel set at an angle, with joystick and trackball controls. Great to see one in the flesh!

If you need a break from the action, there’s a bar counter at the back of the arcade, serving an excellent selection of draft/bottled craft and imported beers, alongside authentic Japanese snacks and soft drinks. More machines are located here:

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Centuri’s Track & Field in cocktail format
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Another rare one here. Atari’s Millipede cocktail!
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Taito’s electro-mechanical Ice Cold Beer

Walking around, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the machines reflect the thought and passion that’s gone into creating a space that players want to visit. But that’s only part of the story. As a modern arcade, Arcade Odyssey has the ability to get customers back time and again. Using its extensive inventory of boards, you’re unlikely to see the same suite of titles from month to month. With space for almost 200 cabinets, the arcade can regularly serve up games that you wouldn’t usually come across. And everything runs on original hardware – in itself, this is quite something.

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Attention to detail is what makes Arcade Odyssey. The neon wall art really makes the place come alive

Simply put, it’s an awesome proposition for both the casual visitor and enthusiast. But who’s behind Arcade Odyssey? I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with the owner, Rick Medina. It’s hard not to be inspired by his passion. Within seconds, Rick’s infectious enthusiasm draws you into his vision for the arcade. His vast collection of video game paraphernalia is as huge as it is impressive. He took me out to the storage area and shared just some of the inventory he owns:

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These boxes house arcade PCBs. These are used to rotate the games out on the arcade floor
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You could eat your dinner off this one! This is one of just a few original Edward Randy PCBs found in the world
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All these cabinets are 100% working and form part of the rotation policy that the arcade has in place. Note the Tunnel Hunt and Star Rider in the background there. Can you spot the Computer Space?
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More cabinets from Arcade Odyssey’s inventory, waiting to be placed out on the floor

But its all in the details. Rick has no intention of changing the token based model he works to. The weekly coin-count reconciliation from each machine, (using an original old school token counter wheeled through the arcade on a trolley!) tells him what is being played and what isn’t – and this will steer the direction of what you see on the floor. With this weekly feedback from customers, Arcade Odyssey constantly understands what its customers want to play and what they don’t – and so, changes can be quickly made:

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The weekly token count provides regular feedback to the arcade

Finding an old school arcade that still delivers such an authentic ‘pay per play’ experience is hard in itself, and this one is the furthest south in mainland USA.

This truly is America’s ‘last arcade’.

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Be sure to check out ‘The Urn’. This is mounted up on the wall in the corner of the rear of Arcade odyssey, and houses all of the tokens that turn up in the cash boxes from other arcades!  This is done out of respect and as a memento for all the arcades that have come and gone before Arcade Odyssey.

Rick’s long-term plan for the arcade is to expand to house a dedicated video game museum, allowing the public to see and get hands-on with the collection he’s amassed over the years. Until then, there’s plenty to see and do at Arcade Odyssey. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. The thought and passion that’s goes into this place is unlike any other arcade I’ve visited. Everything is very well laid out, the atmosphere and vibe is great, and more importantly, you’ll discover a ton of rarities as you walk around. I can’t wait for my next visit.

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Your roving reporter and Arcade Odyssey’s Rick Medina – thanks for your hospitality Rick!

This place is an easy 10/10 – make sure you check out Arcade Odyssey if you find yourself in Miami. More information, including opening times, and a list of current playable titles can be found here.

See you next time

Tony

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Joseph Safago says:

    Those are some great photos of a great arcade. The place looks really clean.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Richard May says:

    Fantastic place. Highly recommended. Rick, great to meet you this winter. See you again in August. Please keep The Act on the floor!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve says:

    Great pics. Love the classics. We will be heading that way in the near future

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Phil says:

    Great article, curious though have you been to or heard of galloping ghost just outside of Chicago? Current game count is about 690 games and growing, with an additional location opening solely for pinballs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gio says:

    You should check out Glitch Bar 905 NE 5th Ave. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304. It’s a “barcade” with original classic arcade machines from the 80’s & 90’s, (Billy Mitchell scored 1,000,000 points on their Donkey Kong machine twice) plus skee ball, a couple of pinball machines, and a room with 3 different consoles. All the games are free, (except for pinball) no cover, free parking, & an amazing drink menu. They also have DJs 3 nights a week.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Richard May says:

    Good call. I’m going to check that out when I’m back in Miami in August.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Paul Saarinen says:

    Is that a Zwackery? I’d love one of those

    Like

  8. Robert David Swan says:

    Awesome, and a blue Computer Space? Don’t get many of those to the pound!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. neil1637 says:

    What a great arcade. Nice write up Tony and some great photos. I always like the behind the scenes stuff, the most revealing.
    I also like the token system, and the way it is used to monitor the amount of play each game has, and in turn tailor the floor space to the paying customer.
    Everything immaculately presented too.
    Very impressive all round.

    Liked by 1 person

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