Monday 13 February 2017

Surprise SegaWorld!*

I’ve been very depressed for over 40 days now, so it’s probably not the best time to write a small piece about how much fun I had when I was 10 but y’know, I have to write something or else I’ll think about what a pile of shit my life is and then I’ll eat a small mountain of chocolate (again) and then I’ll be even fatter and then I’ll be depressed and extra fat and feel so much worse so this’ll have to do because holyshitIfoundthebestphotosyouguys.

These are of SegaWorld London from, I believe, summer 1997, a place that’s very poorly documented with very few pictures of its interior to be found around the web but was one of the best places ever.  The short story behind finding these little gems is that my mum has boxes on top of her wardrobes that she have cleverly masked with wallpaper, they’re like the secret passsageways of bedroom storage, and she decided to sort them out because she had no earthly idea what she’d hidden in there. I was roped in to help with this task, as about half the shit in these boxes is mine it was fair. In it a found a Ninja Turtles photo album and within that album I found these pictures of SegaWorld and made noises that were sort of a mix of a successful Miss World contestant, a dying pig and an exploding septic tank, I immediately rushed down to scan them lest they somehow disappear from existence when I put them back in the box.

SegaWorld London was one of a number of SegaWorld arcades built around the UK in the mid-1990s, when Sega was at its peak popularity thanks to the Mega Drive and Sonic the Hedgehog, but it was the biggest and again, one of the best places ever. Built in the top six floors of the Trocadero in Picadilly Circus, you rode a 53 foot escalator to the very top of the ‘shopping and entertainment complex’ built in the carcass of an old hotel. This wasn’t just a huge escalator this was a ‘rocket escalator’ surrounded lights that made you feel like you were ascending into a spaceship, You started at the top of SegaWorld and worked down, eventually emptying out into the general mall area of the Trocaderio, this took an already awesome place and made it feel very different and very exotic, so different and exotic I used italics. It also made the approach that much more exciting by drawing it out, the ‘Monorail to The Magic Kingdom’ feeling if you will. At the top, at Level 1, The Reception you were greeted with this statue of Sonic:

I cannot stress how much I love this statue of Sonic, this statue was taller than I was at the time (I was roughly 10) and it was a perfect Sonic, even better than the bubble bath container. This statue somehow embodies my childhood fandom of Sonic, this big blue cartoon with my world spinning on the finger of his classic pose, it’s easily my favourite 3D representation of the character and I’ve long proclaimed that if I were to ever have the money to spend on stupid extravagant things I would have a replica of this made, complete with rotating globe and SegaWorld sign, and stand it in my hall. I thought all pictures of it had been lost but here it is! From two angles! And even though it’s not exactly that great a picture for it (it was taken by a child with a crap camera and then scanned) you can also get a little feel for what the general interior of Segaworld looked like, the best way to describe it is ‘neon lit Robot Wars’ but in case you’ve never seen that show (shame on you) there was a lot of neon strip lighting, industrial stylings, screens, chrome and that wipe clean wall surfaces with sort of mottled colours that every leisure centre in the world had in around 1994, some of the levels were heavily themed – the Carnival and Sports Arena, and the McDonalds – that pretty much sums up the place and it was great, I wanted to live in it and for the three years it was open I’d’ve rather have been there than just about everywhere, it had the atmosphere of a bowling alley, an arcade, the apocalypse, a theme park and every one of Dr Eggman’s bases all wrapped into one.  

Oh and it was stocked with games (and for the first year or two it used tokens rather than money). According to Sega Retro, who has a nice little article on the place, it had over 310 arcade cabinets plus UFO catchers, working Sega Saturns, motion simulators and rides, the one of which I remember the best was Mad Bazooka – where Sega armed bumper cars – this was on Level 3, The Flight Deck, a level I never liked, it felt like the whole floor was invading my personal space. As an intense Segaphile and huge video game fan then and now it was a amazing opportunity and thinking back to the games that I got to play there I was so lucky to get on so many of these titles that were rarely if ever seen in the UK – like Power Sled - but at the time trips to SegaWorld were all about two games and only two games: SegaSonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Championship, and that’s me up there playing the latter and I can’t believe I have a snapshot of one of my happiest memories. These two titles were never released in the UK, and Sonic Championship only got a VERY limited western release period: no-one else seemed to know they existed, no one else had played them and SegaWorld was, I believe, the only place you could. In the days before the internet knew everything and if you couldn’t watch it on YouTube it was on DailyMotion, in the days before I even had a PC, things like Sonic the Fighters and Sonic SatAM became almost mythic to me, to the point I’d often doubt I’d really experienced them and not dreamt it. What you see in that photo is exactly what my experience with Sonic Championship was each time I went to SegaWorld – pick Fang the Sniper, shoot the shit out of everything. I was good too, I ended up beating challenger after challenger with a small line forming, until some teenager using Espio kicked my arse, I still resent that chameleon. That was genuinely one of the best moments of childhood; I had a very dull life.     

The last pictures I have are of a large Sonic statue up in the air on the final level, Sports Arena, I didn’t spend much time here, it was mostly sports games and I’m about as sporty as grouting, also this was the level with the gift shop on it and that generally occupied me more than Hoop It Up so I completely forgot this statue existed, I’m glad I thought to document it in the few seconds my mind was between NBA Jam and buying shit with Sonic printed on it. You’ll notice in that Sonic the Fighters shot I had much shit with Sonic printed on it.

I’m not sure of the entertainment value of this post, but I’ll be honest the text here is just something I whipped out in obligation to accompany the pictures, I don’t have the skill or the words to express how happy going to SegaWorld made me and how happy my memories of being there are, or the aftertaste of longing and sadness that come with those memories, especially now the Trocaderio has been sealed up and returned to its original function as a swanky London hotel, there are whole stretches of days when I’m really bad (and I’ve had a lot of those days lately) where I wish I was back at SegaWorld, happy, before mental illness, surrounded by neon lights, giant Sonics and walls of Sega Rally. I do however have the words to express my joy at finding these photos: they are FUCK and YEAH!  Thanks for wasting your time with this.  

1 comment:

  1. I loved it, Namco Wonderpark was also cool. There was also a Sega World in Yaohan Plaza in Collindale.