Eddie Adlum performs his immortal Atlantic Records single 'You Can Get Him, Frankenstein' by machochistic demand of (from left in kimonos) Mr. Akagi ('Amusement Press' Publisher). Capcom's Bill Cravens. Tippy Adlum (sneaking up from rear), Mary Ann Henderson (crooning harmony) and a geisha girl plunking rock on her three string banjo. Scene was Capcom/Romstar dinner at an Osaka spa held after the '86 JAMMA.
Bronx Boy Makes Japan Ice Breaker
I'm careful with a dollar. I mean. I'm one of those guys who pick paper clips off the floor and keep them in their back pocket. The whole idea of going to the Japanese show is downright frightening to someone like me. Visions of $6 00 cups of coffee, plus huge crowds of people and a language that brings new meaning to the word "foreign" kept me away from the "fountainhead" country of video game design for years. But I broke the ice (as we say in New York) and I'm glad I did.
Dave Rosen and Tom Petit (Sega) talked me into it. Maybe they thought my stories didn't adequately reflect proper knowledge of the Japanese influence on today's business. I don't know. Maybe they were just being nice. However, after a lunch with them. I decided to take the plunge. Thanks to Rene Lopez and the guys at Romstar. I lucked into a package that began at Los Angeles Airport Sunday morning. Oct. 5.
Tippy and I put our 16-year-old son Ken in charge of the house (after issuing stern instructions, most of which were ultimately ignored) and bit the airport. We joined up with Joe Cinllo and Peter Betti from Betson's organization, Rene Lopez. Mary Ann Henderson (Steve's wife), Chris Mathews (Shorty's wife) and our good friends Jon and Gwen Brady. After a drink at the airport, we boarded a JAL flight along with several platoons of Japanese troops (who were probably returning home after training at some SoCal base) and had the time of our lives on the way over.
We arrived the "next day"... literally. The international date line crossing is perplexing... you have to take it on faith that it's the "next day" even though the sun never went down. After a horrendously frightening cab ride to the Tokyo Hilton (we are convinced that we couldn't have slipped a sheet of loose leaf paper between the cab and the cars it "passed"' along the way), we checked in and immediately headed off to the Sega dinner party at the Courvoisier we'd been invited to in advance.
Another "cab ride" (they drive on the wrong side of the street, by the way). Sega was half finished with their dinner party, but we were welcome anyway. They knew the flight was late (people over there seem to know all things.) Everybody who is anybody on the international coinbiz circuit was at that dinner party. Key dealers like Bob Deith (U.K.), Hans Rosenzweig (W. Germany), Mai Steinberg (Australia) and Hank Grant (Belgium) were joined by others from New Zealand, Finland, and, well, you name it. AAMA's Dave Weaver and Bob Fay (the latter being the golden boy for anti-infringement) were there as well.
Figure that one torpedo sent into that restaurant could have wrecked the international market and you've got the picture. Sega's Japanese Chairman Isao Okawa, Rosen, Mr. Nakayama (Japanese people prefer "Mr.'' to their first names), Vic Leslie and Petit were hosting. Foreign languages were rampant in the air (Tippy does okay in a couple). Gifts were passed out and whispers about the new Sega driving game called Out Run were shared.
Arcades and pachinko palaces combine to evoke a 'Las Vegas' atmosphere on an Osaka street. Cocktail videos dominate the setting inside the many game rooms, Vending machines out on the street vend both Western and native soft drinks (including our favorite "Plussy").
We departed in a Sega-hired taxi with Pete Betti back to the Hilton, landing at the Capcom suite where Bill Cravens was in robust attendance. Capcom chief Kenzo Tsujimoto was there along with some of his key people, and we had fierce fun this first night in Tokyo. My favorite drink is Budweiser and Tsujimoto-San had it in the hotel for me (my first clue about Japanese hospitality was that they actually "anticipated" what a guest might want). Suffice it to say, we were comfortable, even after some 18 hours of traveling.
The odd part of it was that I didn't even feel like I was in a foreign country. Even though Tokyo is an uncomfortable maze of gray buildings, poorly-named streets and houses whose street numbers state the year they were built rather than the normal number as we know it. I just enjoyed it all, leaving it up to the taxi guys to get me to where I was going. And get this: they don't expect a tip!
Nobody tips in Japan, except if you're super-generous. Even at the restaurants. Even with the baggage handlers. Now ain't that neat? However, prices are generally steeper for just about anything you buy. So even without tipping, you're going to have to pay! And, when you visit Japan, you're also going to have to find an alternative way to converse (most Japanese, in fact, do not speak English). Sign language works most anywhere.
Next morning, we cab out to the Ryutsu Center for the opening of the JAMMA show. Only a cabbie who's been living in Tokyo for 50 years can find this place. Once there, we sign in and enter a maze of rooms swarming with Japanese trade people jockeying to get into proper view of the new equipment on stage (much of which are rides and other non-video attractions). The place looked something like the hills and turns on Marble Madness. "Confusion" is a mild word to describe the scene.
It was hard to get a clear shot of the Sega Out Run at JAMMA, as the unit was almost always crowded. But, you'll see it at the AMOA.
For example, Tippy and I foolishly tried to make our way back to the Taito exhibit after an hour of touring and ended up behind glass doors looking in but locked out. The place was a beehive of Japanese people with the American contingent inside clustered on another floor commiserating about who would take Shane Breaks' job at Atari when he leaves for Europe and whose new game might score on the American market.
This newcomer found the trade show floor troublesome. I mean, you couldn't exactly "ask" just anyone where Konami is, for example; you had to find it. Maybe foreigners find the three-room AMOA Expo I just as confusing?
Konami's WEC LeMans 24 swivels left and right on raised platform In concert with the action on the monitor. An outstanding piece!
At any rate, we did get a look into most of the appropriate exhibits and like most of the Americans present, came out with the conclusion that a lot of I "testing and tweaking" was still going on with respect to the new videos destined for the AMOA market and the market afterward, As more (far more) than one American put it: "The only two games that really stood out at JAMMA this year were the drivers from Sega and Konami."
[Next up, a look at some of the top titles at the 1986 JAMMA expo, and a trip down to Osaka to visit the Capcom game factory and look at arcade and pachinko culture. This extract was reprinted with the kind permission of the magazine's creators -- check out their website for info about subscriptions, news, and the contents of the latest issue.]