If you’re a regular pinball player, chances are Bally’s Attack From Mars is already one of your favorites. Since its release in 1995, AFM has been in many a pinhead’s list of best tables. Thematically, it is pinball’s answer to those campy, broccoli-headed Martians that started invading Earth in pulp comics and toys of the 1950’s. The player contends with vicious aliens in battles across the world, simulating a global call-to-arms with deadpan humor. Attack From Mars has all the variety, artwork and design that make a pinball table unique and fun to play. Ours is sitting right next to its high-tech 1999 sequel, Revenge From Mars. So come save the Earth from invasion using only your wits, a pair of flippers, and mankind’s greatest weapon – the Silver Sphere.
Ground Kontrol has decided to make some major changes to our Thursday and Friday night musical offerings:
- Beginning September 4 (First Thursday), we will no longer have weekly live bands on Thursdays. We’re sorry if you’re disappointed, but we felt that shows took too much time and energy to put on every week, and they were too distracting from the arcade.
- Beginning immediately, we will no longer have monthly live bands on Fridays, for the same reason. Also, we have decided it’s time to shake things up and have some new DJs on Fridays!
If you’ve come in on a Thursday or Friday and felt it was too loud, or didn’t want to pay a cover, we apologize. We’ve made these changes with you in mind, so we hope you’ll give us another chance!
For people who like it loud, we’ll still have metal shows on Sundays.
Good question! There are several possible reasons:
- Your favorite game is one of our favorites, too, but we haven’t been able to find one in good condition at a reasonable price. Games we’re looking for include
Smash TV,Dragon’s Lair, and Medieval Madness.
- We used to have your favorite, but we had to put it in storage because we replaced it with a more popular game. For instance, Gyruss and Phoenix.
- Your favorite isn’t what we consider to be a classic game. Example: Space Jam. Sorry, not every game can be a classic.
- We own it, but it’s broken. Spy Hunter is at the top of this list.
- We own it, but we’re trying to get it working and/or figure out where to put it. Final Fight,
Sunset Riders, and our fabulous new 6-player X-Men all fit this description.
- We like to consider ourselves experts on classic games, but there’s always a possibility we don’t know that our arcade is seriously lacking without your favorite game. Please, tell us what games you’d like to see at Ground Kontrol!
We wish we had a massive warehouse filled with at least one copy of every pinball machine and video game ever made – the ultimate coin-operated gaming museum. Well, maybe not, because then we’d have to keep them all running!
The reality is, we’re paying downtown rents, so we only have a limited amount of space. And that limits how many games we can have.
Our goal is to have as many of the Killer List of Video Game’s Top 100 games as possible, but unfortunately we just don’t have room. So we have to make tough choices, based on which games get played the most. It makes us sad, but we have to if we want to stay in business.
In a future post, I’ll talk more about our plans to offer more games.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike – Capcom never followed the rules when naming its fighting games. Rather than releasing proper, numbered sequels, games received “updates,” with new characters and gameplay improvements. Street Fighter III, the true sequel to the six editions of SF II, has now arrived at Ground Kontrol in its final, most evolved edition, Street Fighter III: Third Strike.
Released in 1999, this version has 19 selectable fighters, a streamlined turbo system, and updated graphics. Its fighting engine improves on former Street Fighter games with a new form of blocking: the parry system. Also present are the now-signature Super Art and EX moves.
This series has always been about evolution, and the Third Strike edition represents Street Fighter at its best.
Tekken Tag Tournament – Namco’s 1999 addition to its Tekken franchise was, at the time, a celebration of the entire series, building on the success of previous favorite Tekken 3.
Using the Tekken 3 hardware, Namco released Tag as an upgrade, bringing back every selectable fighter from previous Tekken games and bumping the roster up to 39 characters! This version also adds the “Tag” mode of fighting, where players select two fighters each for 2-on-2 brawling. Rather than switching out characters automatically, however, each player “tags out” to their other fighter. Unlike other tag-team games, if either of your fighters’ life bars depletes, the match is over.
Tekken Tag, the definitive version until the recent release of Tekken 5, is still a shining example of a great 3-D fighting game.
TRON: “Now for some real user power!” Yes, the original 1982 arcade version of the hit film is back at GK, offering four classic challenges: Shooting it out with battle tanks, infiltrating the Input/Output tower, blasting away at the MCP (Master Control Program) cone and, of course, racing the iconic lightcycles.
We’ve paired TRON with its 1983 sequel, Discs of TRON, which was originally intended to be part of the first game but eventually expanded into a separate title.
Come face off with Sark and the MCP, but remember: It’s all…in…zee wrist.
We occasionally get letters such as the following:
I enjoy visiting Ground Kontrol and it is on my top list of places to take people who are from out of town. The atmosphere and staff are consistently great, and I was excited to see that you have broadened the bar selection.
However, I have noticed that recently when I visit there are a lot of games in disrepair. Recently, I visited and found that Soul Caliber II, DDR, and the ATM were all broken. (All huge factors in my patronage.)
As it turned out, the ATM was fixed within an hour, DDR had a coin jam that was cleared when someone brought it to the attention of the staff, and Soul Calibur II worked fine when it was rebooted the next morning.
We know people travel great distances to visit Ground Kontrol, and it really sucks when your favorite game is broken, or isn’t working 100%. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to keep everything working all of the time. We’re engaged in an epic battle with entropy, fighting the damage caused by abusive customers, pinballs imparting their kinetic energy to brittle plastic parts, and the ravages of time on machines up to 35 years old. Sometimes games seem to be haunted by gremlins that disappear whenever we’re looking for the problem. And sometimes replacement parts are unavailable (we recently purchased a spin caster so we can cast our own metal replacement Battlezone handles!).
Still, I don’t want to make excuses. We can do better. We need your help, though. If you encounter a problem, tell the person behind the counter. They can note the problem in our repair wiki and put an Out Of Order sign on the machine if necessary. They can refund your quarter, too.
Please, do not turn off a game! Legally speaking, that is an act of vandalism. We know your heart’s in the right place, but it’s our machine, and it’s up to us to determine whether it’s out of order or not. Also, telling no one helps no one – we need to know what happened. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve found a game turned off, only to turn it on and see nothing wrong with it. Then we have to wait until someone else has their game ruined, and hope that they report the problem.
If you feel like the staff didn’t log your problem, or if on a return visit you find the problem is still there, let the management know what happened, and when, by sending us an email. We’ll do our best to address your issue. We can’t fix every problem quickly, but at least we’ll know there’s a problem to fix.
BTW, we just hired a great new repair tech, Ryan Vyborney. He worked several years at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. If you see a guy in cycling gear working on a game at GK, that’s probably him. He’s quickly working his way through our repair backlog, and should have things back to 100% soon. That is, until something else breaks.
As you may have noticed, Ground Kontrol‘s bar now starts serving every day at 5PM. Here are some frequently asked questions, and answers:
Why aren’t kids allowed after 5PM?
The OLCC won’t allow it, except under very special circumstances. Apparently, having a high wooden counter (i.e. a bar) and dim lighting is enough to create a “drinking environment”. And you can’t have kids near a wooden counter with dim lighting while there’s alcohol around, heaven forbid!
Recently, the OLCC did liberalize their rules slightly, so we can now have minors present while alcohol is served, during private parties. See our rentals page for details.
Aren’t arcades for kids?
We grew up in arcades during the 70s & 80s, and find modern arcades to be an abomination. Ground Kontrol is an arcade for adults, hence our focus on old school games and lack of stupid redemption games. Kids are welcome (before 5PM), and they usually have a lot of fun, but they’re not why we’re in business.
Why alcohol in an arcade?
We serve alcohol to make ends meet. GK is a labor of love, not money. Our out-of-town customers frequently tell us that there aren’t any classic arcades in their town. Why? It’s a tough business. We’re lucky that Portland is the sort of place that will support a classic arcade.
Do you have a happy hour?
Yes, but we can’t advertise it outside of GK. Please call us @ 503-796-9364 for details.
Why did it take so long for you to have a happy hour?
In March, we asked the OLCC to change our serving time from 7PM to 5PM. You’d think that would be a simple thing that would take a week at most, right? Sadly, it took four months. The good news is, the OLCC’s rules changed during that time, so we were able to change some of our other license restrictions, too.
Why can’t you have all-ages shows?
We’re not brave enough. Whle the OLCC’s new Minor VI posting allows all-ages shows, and GK was the first establishment in Oregon to receive a Minor VI posting, we’ve chosen not to have all-ages shows at this time. Unfortunately, no matter how much a venue does to keep minors from drinking alcohol, the OLCC can close a premises to minors if even one minor is caught with alcohol. This is like telling a store that they can’t sell candy if somebody shoplifts one candy bar! Though not allowing minors wouldn’t put us out of business, we really appreciate it when parents bring their kids to show them what arcades were like when they were a kid. So, we’re going to wait and see how the rules are enforced at other venues.
Have questions of your own? If so, please leave them in the comments section, and I’ll try to answer them!
Ground Kontrol is pleased to announce the return of Micropalooza, Portland’s first 2-Day Chiptune Music Festival! Chiptune music is made using video games such as the the Atari 2600, the Nintendo Gameboy and NES, as well as 8-bit computers such as the Commodore C64. Though more popular in Europe, Chiptune music is quickly catching on in the US.
Ground Kontrol has been hosting 8-bit musicians for years, including Micropalooza I and the International Chiptune Resistance tour. This year’s Micropalooza features musicians from all over, including Sweden! There were too many artists to fit on one bill, so we made this year’s Micropalooza a 2-day event. Details after the jump.
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It’s time for the 3rd annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo! Ground Kontrol has participated in the past 2 events, and we’re excited to be a part of the convention again this year.
The Retro Gaming Expo packs a bunch of vendors, collectors, enthusiasts and anyone searching for a piece of their gaming past into one massive room for 2 full days of buying, selling, trading and geeking out.
We’ll be selling classic console games and equipment, along with our ultra-cool t-shirts and whatever other gaming odds & ends we unearth from storage! Everything will be priced at special show rates, so you can get more for your money.
Saturday evening, catch a screening of “High Score”, the documentary film that follows one player trying to top the Missile Command world-record score. Then, those 21+ and older can come to Ground Kontrol for a special “High Score” / Retro Gaming Expo after-party where show badgeholders can get free games!
The show is open Saturday and Sunday, 10AM – 5PM. Admission to the show is $10 per day or $15 for a 2-day pass. Check out the Retro Gaming Expo website for the full schedule, directions and other essentials.
See you at the show!
Looking around the Interwebs, I can’t seem to find any blogs about arcades. Maybe it’s because nobody cares about the inner workings of arcades, or maybe it’s because most arcade owners are too busy or too old to write a blog. I suspect people are interested, because my employees regularly ask me questions that customers have asked them. So, I’ve decided to start a blog about Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade, in hope that somebody finds it interesting. Enjoy!
Update: Here is another arcade blog, for Arcade UFO in Austin, TX.
Starting today, the bar now opens at 5PM every day. If you’re 21 or older, stop in for a brew and some video game or pinball action on your way home from work!
Ground Kontrol is still family-friendly 11AM-5PM on Saturday and Noon-5PM every other day of the week, so you can show your kids what arcades were like when you were a kid!
We are also pleased to announce some major changes to our private rental policy: Private events may now include alcohol service at any time of day, and minors may attend private events where alcohol is being served if they are accompanied by an adult guardian or spouse. For more details, see our Rental Rates and Information.