Back to the future 

The Observer doesn't make a whole lot of endorsements in this space. We figure you get enough of that in the rest of the world, chock-full as it is with advertisements for diet shakes, warshing powders, syrupy sodas, Liquid Plumber, wang enhancers, loud toys, sticky rollers to pick up dog hair, collector plates and the very last, premium, complete, all-encompassing documentary set about Dubya-Dubya Two that you will ever need to buy, ever.

That said, when The Observer comes to stand behind a product or service, we say so. And the geek that Yours Truly is and once was can stand fully behind Sherwood's Z82 Retrocade, which is located on East Kiehl Avenue in Sherwood.

Long story short, Z82 Retrocade is a video arcade, the kind that once stunk of feet, teenage hormones and fried wiring in malls and bowling alleys all across this great land before console gaming laid low the idea of sharing a joystick with strangers. The long answer, though, is that Z82 is more like a playable museum, featuring almost 50 meticulously restored cabinet arcade games from the age before anybody had ever heard of Nintendo and Xbox, all in a setting that's easily 12,000 points and a 1-up beyond the decor and cleanliness of the arcades of old. Some of the relics available for pew-pewing there are ancient enough that they were around before almost anybody had ever heard of the personal computer, including old granddads from Atari featuring rudimentary stick-figure graphics and credits that date them all the way back to the Carter administration. That's a long time, kids. The owners must have a crucifix personally blessed by the Robot Pope to keep all those electrical gremlins at bay.

The Observer was a great haunter of arcades back in our youth, and spent many a quarter fighting off the 2-D horde. We have been brokenhearted in the past few decades to see that great geekstitution go the way of the Automat Diner. There was power in that space, The Observer believes: that sweltering, sticky-carpeted place where even kids who weren't coordinated enough to do sports or talented enough to do music could show their skill for others for the price of a quarter. It was magic, we tell ya. Magic.

Junior, who has grown up in this modern future where his time-travelin' Old Man woke up shipwrecked, knows nothing of all that, even though he's a gamer through and through. To our knowledge, up until Sunday, he'd never played Pac Man, or Donkey Kong, or Dig Dug, or Centipede, or Defender, or any of the other games that swallowed so much of his Dear Ol' Dad's youth and pocket change. Once we heard about Z82 on Doctor Zuckerberg's Fantabulous Electric Book of Countenances, however, we knew we had to visit.

It's summertime and the livin's easy, so it took some cajoling to get Junior into actual, non-fleece pants and out the door. Once we got to Z82 and paid our seven-fitty to get in (all the games work at the push of a button once you've paid the cover charge), however, it was clear he'd come home to some distant but still recognizable land. Soon, Junior and Pops were shoulder to shoulder playing Mortal Kombat, his favorite of the day. The Old Lion of Enterprise Lanes was schooling him at first, drawing on our word-of-mouth wisdom of back flips and spear throws, gleaned in another age. Soon, though, our futuristic boy called on his secret weapon: his Old Man's smart phone, that piece of tech that would have seemed like a dream to The Observer and all the rest who played that game the first go-round. After that, he soon threw Raiden's lighting attack on his Opponent, teleported behind, and then soundly kicked ass until we cried cheat. It was magic, we tell ya. Magic.



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