The golden age of arcades might have passed in Australia, but that hasn’t stopped one gamer from trying to revive one beloved arcade community back: Initial D.
The Initial D arcade machines aren’t new to Australia: if you lived around one of the bigger urban areas, there’s a chance you might have seen one or two of the anime-inspired racing cabinets in your local arcade. But as Melbourne Initial D 8 Player Base Facebook group founder James Imani explained, Australia stopped getting fresh Initial D cabinets after Initial D 3.
“I used to play Initial D3 here in Melbourne back when it was popular and really enjoyed the atmosphere and the competitive nature of having people go head to head down Japans famous mountain tracks,” Imani said over email.
“I then moved onto Maximum Tune since Sega didnt bring another iteration of Initial D after version 3 and so Maximum Tune was the next best thing, but it just wasn’t the same. The magic Initial D had was just missing,” he wrote.
Imani travelled to Japan earlier this year, witnessing the much more vibrant arcade scene firsthand. Inspired to bring that scene back home, Imani reached out to gamers through forums and sub-reddits to try and crowdfund the shipment of two Initial D 8 Infinity cabinets to Melbourne.
But after struggling to garner the necessary support, Imani opted to cover everything himself: $10,000 for the cabinets, another $3000 for shipping and import/customs fees, with an extra $2000 for the cards (which SEGA don’t manufacture anymore) that save player data.
Here’s a shot of the machines being unloaded:
And a shot of the internal card reader, with Imani says “took a lot of work” to fix:
Getting the cabinets to Australia was all well and good, but they needed a home as well. Imani contacted some of the remaining arcades around Melbourne, and eventually got the OK from laser tag/arcade venue Darkzone (in Melbourne’s Box Hill) to have the Initial D cabinets hosted there.
A shot of the cabinets in Box Hill’s Darkzone, which are playable now.
Initial D8 was never given a Western release, so the cabinets are still in Japanese. Imani helped put together an English reference guide, walking users through all the initial select screens and lobby menus through to the racing.
“[I] thought to myself that the once vibrant Initial D community that we had in Melbourne didn’t have a chance to continue to survive,” Imani said.
The public Facebook group has around 120 members right now. It might not be the same as back in the day, but thanks to Imani’s efforts, the local Initial D arcade scene has gotten a second lease of life.