For gamers, Tokyo’s Akihabara district is a kind of promised land. Located in the heart of the Japanese capital, “Electric City” is a neon enclave of all things geeky, home to seven-story arcades, maid cafes and stores selling everything from retro consoles to computer parts.
“There’s big game stores, there’s small game stores…anything you want, technology-wise, is there,” says Brandon Osha, who visited Akihabara during a recent trip to Japan with his wife, Tiffany. “It’s a little overwhelming at first, but once you settle in, it’s a ton of fun, man.”
Now the Oshas are bringing a little bit of Japan’s geek mecca to Colorado with Akihabara Arcade and Bar, a new venture at 8901 Harlan Street in downtown Westminster that combines craft beer and cocktails with a collection of arcade cabinets from both sides of the Pacific. The business, which opened with a soft launch at the beginning of December, will welcome visitors for a grand opening this weekend.
Tiffany describes Brandon as “the mad creative mind” behind Akihabara, and in some ways, he started laying the groundwork for the arcade long before the couple visited Tokyo. A lifelong gamer, Brandon bought his first arcade cabinet when he was sixteen, and he worked as a manager at Nickel-A-Play in Aurora for four years. He went on to make a career for himself in Colorado’s craft-brewing industry, working first for Flying Dog and later for Breckenridge, where he supervised the company’s specialty beer program.
The couple plans to continue that commitment to craft beer at Akihabara by serving up a selection of local brews from outfits like Crooked Stave and Odd 13. “I’m going to try to always have at least two really good sours on tap, and I’m going to keep everything rotating as much as I possibly can,” says Brandon. Flagging gamers will also be able to power up with energy drinks and Japanese soft drinks like Ramune, and cocktails will be available at the bar, as well. (Akihabara doesn’t have is a full kitchen, though it will offer snacks like ramen and hopes to attract food trucks.)
Right now, Akihabara boasts 23 different arcade machines as well as a claw-game-like-UFO catcher. Highlights of the collection include two Sega Versus City cabinets — dual-screen machines optimized for fighting games — running Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Marvel vs. Capcom, and a collection of three shoot-’em-up games made by Japanese company Cave.
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One of the arcade’s more unusual features is a fully functional, coffee-table-sized Nintendo controller, which Brandon built by hand and hooked up to an NES Classic Edition console. “I have the projector hooked up, and [the giant Nintendo gamepad] is really fun,” he laughs. “It’s really hard, but it’s fun.”
The couple says they hope to establish Akihabara as a staple of the local gaming community — and a welcoming place where casual players can find their footing, too.
“I’ve got puzzle games, I’ve got shooters, I’ve got fighters,” says Brandon. "I made sure I had a good lineup of games for everybody.”
Akihabara Arcade and Bar will celebrate its grand opening at 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 10. Find out more on the Akihabara Facebook page.