PINBALL AT THE SILVER BALL PLANET
Get your fix of classic American pinball at this Osaka arcade.
It's a universally accepted fact that Japan reigns supreme when it comes to the popularity of arcade games.
For pinball lovers, however, most arcades tend to lack in supply of these classic machines; something that may come as a bit of a surprise to most seeing as Japanese arcades are typically well-known for their vast and, at times, eccentric variety of gaming options.
Culturally, the origins of pinball are mostly American, with some European varieties sprinkled throughout (see billiard japonais, a traditionally French version of the game). Which is to say, pinball's presence in Japan is quite miniscule. Where pinball machines are found, they generally serve a purpose of celebrating a nostalgic corner of American culture—something that Silver Ball Planet is more than happy to embrace.
Silver Ball Planet doesn’t boast any frills or fancy decorations—all the appeal is in the pinball and the fact that this arcade houses possibly the largest collection of pinball machines in Asia that were imported in their original condition from the United States.
It's for this reason that Yusuke Namba, manager of BIGSTEP, (the shopping mall in which Silver Ball Planet is located) describes the space as an “icon for American culture”. Which makes it all the more fitting that this arcade is located in none other than 'Amerikamura', an ‘American Village’ near Osaka's bustling neighbourhood of 'Shinsaibashi'—just a couple of blocks from the immensely fashionable ‘Orange Street’.
Machines inside Silver Ball Planet are grouped by themes that range from Nintendo superstars to Star Wars chronologies and even Playboy models. Fan favourites are in anything but short supply, with the arcade stocked to the brim with machines like Twilight Zone, Space Jam, Batman Forever, The Wizard of Oz, Indiana Jones, and many more.
To add to the excitement of it all, Silver Ball Planet hosts a tournament every last Saturday of the month (beginning at 4:00pm and ending at 7:45pm) that is well contested, in case you wanted to showcase your talent or get a grip on how the Japanese do American pinball.
If you’re a pinball newbie, however, not to worry—there are both audio and visual cues on the machines, as well as instructions printed on the sides. For those looking to up the ante by delving into the complex strategies behind each game, Silver Ball Planet also provides booklets that explain how to maximize your points, credits, replays, and 'multi-balls' (a condition or mode in a pinball game in which multiple pinball are in play at the same time). While these are all written in Japanese, a quick scan with Google Translate will provide you with everything you need to know to give you that inside edge when you play.
Silver Ball Planet is located on the third floor of BIGSTEP, a shopping centre that also features a Starbucks, a concert theatre, and various restaurants.
Words by Victoria Kamila