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Monday, July 3, 2017

The Wonderland

A friend of mine, a Hong Kong citizen these days, is into everything vintage. He got himself an old TV and games from all those years ago. Then we reminisced a bit about the good old days and the games we were playing then, including Final Fight and Cody's infinite combo. While it's true that we can have the same arcade games via MAME, we tend to agree that experience can't be replicated.

During our formative years in Pontianak, there was this place called Orbit Wonderland. It was basically a gaming arcade that made it big after the release of Street Fighter II. It was a rowdy place that none of the parents would be too happy to hear that their children were associated to it, but it was the amusement centre that most of the boys would like to go to. Visited by boys from all walks of life, the place was as dangerous as it got. Bikes might get stolen and, if you were a little Chinese boy, the risk could be doubled: you could be threatened, extorted or beaten up.

I experienced both the threat and extortion. The first one was a verbal abuse followed by lousy options, which was to lose the game or got beaten up by the opponent's older brother, which was actually nowhere to be seen. That was how Ryu could ever lose to Honda, played by this boy who couldn't play at all. The second trouble left me visibly shaken and costed me IDR 500, which was a lot of money for a Primary School student (I could have played five times as each game only required one coin of IDR 100). I was outside Orbit early in the morning, waiting for the place to open, when this juvenile delinquent approached me and emptied my pocket.

Orbit Wonderland could be an intimidating place to visit, alright, but we kept coming back for more, even when we had game consoles at home. One good reason to visit the arcade was because it offered exciting games with graphics better than any game consoles at that time. Even the arcade version of Tetris looked much better than, let's say, Nintendo's version. And Orbit Wonderland had many more of these, from aircraft games such as 1942 to those from beat 'em up games like Golden Axe and Double Dragon, the game that started the craze for this genre. However, frequenting Orbit was addictive simply because of the thrill we had there. You either got excited to see those masters playing or you were the master yourself, with a lot of audience watching behind you.

The word master was used a form of respect among the gamers. The masters were those who were really good in gaming, especially the fighting games, from standards such as Street Fighter II or King of Fighters to the exotic ones like Art of Fighting or Samurai Showdown. It was always quite a show when things began to heat up after the banter and suddenly one master was challenging another. That was when we all gathered to watch. You could sense the excitement in the air! While we're still on this subject, one other thing worth mentioning is the benefit of befriending the masters. When we got unwanted challenges in fighting games (normally it came from a bully) and we were losing, the masters would always be happy to sit in and help out. In a wild world out there, one gotta be street-smart. Calling a master was valid for a kid who wanted to defend his IDR 100 and prolong his playing time!

Now, my days in Orbit Wonderland began when my elder cousin brought me there. I saw the original Street Fighter at that time, so it must be in the late 80s that I first got hooked. I was never a master in fighting games, so I played only the less popular fighting games such as World Heroes or Fatal Fury 2 and those beat 'em up games, such as Captain Commando or Warriors of Fate.

Cody and Guy, Final Fight
Image owned by

A particular favorite of mine, the one I got really good at, was Final Fight. IDR 100 would normally bring me to the last stage, right before Belger appeared. I'd use Cody if I played alone, but was flexible enough to use Guy or Haggar if the second player knew what to do with Cody (Agus Yanto was my preferred partner in Final Fight and we often played together, spending a coin or two before we went across the street to eat what was locally known as Shanghai ice). It's important to emphasize that whoever that used should Cody know what to do with the most versatile character in the game or else, both players would get slaughtered by the enemies. If I happened to play alongside some dumbass, I'd be definitely screwed, especially when I used Haggar.

Final Fight was a game with a rhythm to follow. You went step by step, fully expecting who'd come up and you beat the hell out of them. When you went too fast or a step too far than you should, all hell broke loose. With Andore waiting for his chance to grab you, El Gado stabbing you and Wong Who running amok, you'd have to be very good to survive the riot and took control of the situation. This was where the infinite combo would come handy.

The infinite combo, usually performed by either Guy or Cody, was actually a system glitch. It was done by turning away from the enemies after punching them rapidly. Such a sudden move would reset the combo sequence, fast enough for the player to resume and carry on punching while the enemies were still recovering. This was how one could get very far, because neither the bosses or the henchmen could escape this routine (strictly speaking, only a few such as Poison or Axl could walk away from the infinite combo).

Back to the conversation I had with my friend, I was referring to this infinite combo when we talked about Final Fight. Thanks to how the joystick was designed, the infinite combo could be done effortlessly at the arcade, but it was a feat to repeat at home. The gaming experience was never the same once you played at Orbit Wonderland. That was true, at least for me, even after I played Neo Geo, which was supposed to be identical as those latest games at the arcade then. The atmosphere and satisfaction just couldn’t be replicated.

As we finally grew up, Orbit Wonderland lost its charm and eventually closed down. Kids these days will never know the fun we had back then. When I moved to Singapore, I saw a gaming arcade at Bugis and gave it a try for old time's sake. I was playing Street Fighter (can't remember what version that was now) but my Ryu was quickly wiped out by somebody else's Zangief. It was so embarrassing it became a wake up call that I should have retired long ago. That part of my life ended the day Orbit ceased operation. All good things must come to an end, I guess. That was the last time I ever went to the arcade.

At the gaming arcade with Endrico, Singapore 2005

Orbit Wonderland

Teman saya, seorang warga Hong Kong sekarang, menyukai segala sesuatu yang bernuansa zaman dulu. Baru-baru ini dia membeli sebuah TV tua dan video game yang populer bertahun-tahun silam. Kita lantas bernostalgia tentang beberapa game yang kita mainkan dulu, salah satunya adalah Final Fight yang terkenal dengan tinju balik Cody (nanti saya jelaskan lagi tentang istilah ini, haha). Kesimpulannya, walau kita bisa memainkan game klasik lewat MAME, kita tidak mengulang pengalaman yang serupa.

Di masa kecil kita di Pontianak, ada satu tempat yang bernama Orbit Wonderland. Tempat ini adalah pusat permainan video game, istilahnya ding-dong atau bobo (jangan tanya kenapa disebut bobo). Orbit menjadi sangat populer setelah dirilisnya Street Fighter II. Suasananya ramai dan riuh. Tidak ada orang tua yang senang anaknya bermain ke Orbit, tapi hampir setiap anak ingin bermain ke wahana tersebut. Dikunjungi oleh bocah laki-laki dari berbagai kalangan, Orbit tidaklah tergolong aman. Sepeda mungkin saja dicuri dan kalau anda adalah bocah Tionghoa, resiko anda bisa berlipat ganda. Anda mungkin diancam, dirampas uangnya atau bahkan dihajar.

Saya mengalami ancaman dan perampasan. Yang pertama adalah ancaman verbal yang disertai dengan pilihan konyol, yakni mengalah dalam game Street Fighter II atau dihajar oleh abang pelaku yang sebenarnya tidak terlihat di mana pun.  Kemlangan kedua terus-terang membuat saya gemetar dan kehilangan Rp. 500, jumlah yang cukup besar untuk anak SD (saya bisa bermain lima kali karena satu permainan hanya senilai Rp. 100). Saat itu saya berada di halaman Orbit, menunggu tempat ini dibuka. Tiba-tiba saja saya dihampiri oleh seorang berandalan yang langsung mendesak saya untuk mengosongkan isi kantong. 

Meskipun tidak aman, kita tetap kembali ke Orbit Wonderland. Menarik untuk dicatat bahwa tidak sedikit dari kita yang memiliki video game di rumah, tapi tetap saja kita ke sana. Satu alasan utamanya adalah karena Orbit menawarkan game yang berbeda dan lebih bagus gambarnya. Bahkan Tetris di Orbit terlihat lebih menarik dari versi Nintendo. Orbit memiliki beraneka game, mulai dari game pesawat seperti 1942 sampai game pertarungan seperti Golden Axe dan Double Dragon. Akan tetapi yang paling membuat kita ketagihan mengunjungi Orbit adalah asyiknya suasana di sana. Anda bisa terkagum-kagum melihat seorang master bermain atau anda sendiri adalah sang master dengan banyak penonton di belakang anda. 

Julukan master adalah bentuk penghormatan antara sesama pemain game. Yang namanya master itu adalah mereka yang jago bermain game, biasanya game pertarungan, mulai dari yang standar seperti Street Fighter II atau King of Fighters sampai game eksotik seperti Art of Fighting atau Samurai Showdown. Pertunjukan dadakan ini biasa dimulai dari candaan ringan yang akhirnya diselesaikan dengan berlaga lewat game. Anda bisa merasakan tegangnya suasana saat pertandingan berlangsung! Hal lain yang patut dikenang tentang berteman dengan para master ini adalah, ketika kita ditantang (biasanya oleh mereka yang suka menindas) dan kita dalam posisi kalah, master biasanya dengan sukarela membantu kita mengalahkan lawan. Di dunia anak-anak yang penuh tantangan dan marabahaya, kita harus cerdas dalam menyikapi situasi. Meminta bantuan master adalah hal yang wajar bagi bocah yang ingin mempertahankan seratus rupiah miliknya!

Hari-hari saya di Orbit Wonderland bermula ketika sepupu saya membawa saya berkunjung. Saya ingat bahwa saat itu Street Fighter yang pertama baru dirilis, jadi mungkin kisaran akhir tahun 80an. Saya tidak pernah menjadi master dalam game pertarungan, jadi biasanya saya hanya main game yang kurang populer seperti World Heroes atau Fatal Fury 2 untuk menghindari resiko ditantang. Game lainnya yang kadang saya mainkan adalah Captain Commando dan Warriors of Fate.

Cody dan Guy, Final Fight
Foto dari

Favorit saya, satu-satunya game yang boleh dikatakan saya kuasai, adalah Final Fight. Rp. 100 biasanya akan membawa saya ke level terakhir, tepat sebelum kemunculan Belger. Saya menggunakan Cody ketika bermain sendiri, namun saya juga bisa menggunakan Guy atau Haggar dengan leluasa bila pemain lainnya tahu apa yang harus dilakukan dengan Cody. Agus Yanto adalah rekan saya dalam Final Fight dan kita sering bermain bersama, menghabiskan satu atau dua koin sebelum pergi menikmati es Shanghai di seberang jalan. Penting untuk ditekankan bahwa yang menggunakan Cody hendaknya bisa benar-benar bermain. Kalau tidak, dua-duanya bisa celaka dan terbantai oleh musuh. Jika saya bermain bersama mereka yang tidak mengerti apa-apa, kecil kemungkinan saya akan selamat, apalagi jika saya menggunakan Haggar.

Final Fight adalah game yang teratur ritmenya. Anda maju selangkah demi selangkah dan menghabisi musuh yang muncul. Jika anda dengan maju dengan gegabah, semua musuh akan bermunculan dan sulit bagi kita untuk keluar dari keroyokan Andore yang datang menerjang dan El Gado yang beraksi dengan pisaunya sementara Wong Who menabrak ke sana kemari. Anda harus benar-benar sakti untuk bisa selamat dari kerusuhan tersebut dan mengambil alih situasi. Di sinilah tinju balik berperan besar. 

Tinju balik yang bisa dilakukan baik oleh Cody maupun Guy ini sebenarnya adalah kesalahan pemrograman. Pemain bisa melakukannya dengan cara berpaling dari musuh setelah melakukan pukulan bertubi-tubi. Gerakan mendadak ini akan membuat rangkaian pukulan kembali ke titik awal, dan pas waktunya bagi pemain untuk mengulang gerakan yang sama sebelum musuh pulih dari efek pukulan. Dengan cara inilah kita bisa bermain sampai jauh, sebab hampir semua musuh tidak bisa lolos dari serangan maut ini (hanya Axl dan Poison yang bisa menjauh dari tinju balik). 

Kembali lagi ke percakapan saya dengan teman, inilah tinju balik yang saya maksudkan ketika kita berbincang tentang Final Fight. Karena keunikan rancangan kontrol pemain di Orbit, tinju balik bisa dikerahkan dengan lancar, namun sulit untuk dilakukan dengan kontrol video game biasa di rumah. Inilah alasannya kenapa pengalaman bermain game yang sama tidak bisa terulang di mana pun. Bahkan Neo Geo yang seharusnya sama dengan game Orbit Wonderland pun terasa beda karena tidak memiliki suasana Orbit Wonderland.

Ketika saya beranjak dewasa, kepopuleran Orbit Wonderland pun perlahan-lahan memudar. Anak-anak zaman sekarang tidak akan mengerti betapa hebohnya pengalaman kita dulu. Ketika saya pindah ke Singapura, saya sempat mencoba bermain lagi di ding-dong yang ada di Bugis. Saya bermain Street Fighter saat itu dan Ryu saya dengan cepat ditaklukkan oleh Zangief yang dimainkan oleh orang lain. Sejak saat itu, saya sadar bahwa sudah seharusnya saya pensiun sejak lama. Kunjungan tersebut akhirnya mengakhiri kenangan masa kecil yang penuh dengan gegap-gempita itu...

Di ding-dong bersama Endrico, Singapura, tahun 2005.

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