The Free Play Richardson arcade in North Texas sits in the middle of a non-
descript strip mall. There is a Sherwin Williams and Bar flanking it, a noodle joint a few doors down, and a Taekwondo academy just beyond that. A neon sign
with the words “retro arcade” is about the only thing hinting at the wonders inside.
Step through the doors and you’re in a dimly lit retro wonderland. There’s a steady stream of new wave music blaring through the speakers, pinball machines, a bar stocked with items like Surge soda, and row after row of classic arcade cabinets.
In a corner of the arcade sits one of my all-time favorite games: 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Konami. I remember playing the game obsessively at the Tilt arcade that used to be in our local mall. I’d bring a pocketful of quarters and feed them in one after the other as I tried to rescue the lovely April O’Neil and the sage Splinter, then fight my way through to the ever menacing Shredder. I never had enough quarters, even when I was lucky enough to have a few friends with me (the game, you may recall, could accommodate up to four players at once). Fortunately, the games at Free Play are…well, free, and I’m not playing alone. My wife and both my kids are playing. Not to brag, but we’re killing it. Well, we’re doing okay. With ancunlimited amount of continues there’s not a lot of pressure and there’s no one else waiting to play. Despite all of these advantages, there’s a feeling of sheer elation when we finally defeat Shredder and the end credits begin to roll.
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