Cool movie alert: '100 Yen'

05:00 AM, Jun 25, 2013

The new documentary '100 Yen' explores the world of Japanese arcades. FilmBuff/


Written By by Whitney Matheson, USA TODAY

First, a confession: I’m not a video game person.

Sure, I went through a TETRIS period, and I could stumble my way thorough a few levels of Super Mario Bros. But when it comes to today’s scene, I’m clueless. I mean, I own a PS3, but I only use it to play my Blu-ray DVDs.

Despite this (or maybe because of it), I found a new documentary about Japanese arcades pretty fascinating. 100 Yen illustrates how arcades have flourished in Japan while, in the U.S., they’ve all but disappeared.

The movie talks to arcade owners and employees along with gaming superstars like Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong. It divides games into three categories: shooting games, fighting games (like Street Fighter II, which I do remember) and rhythm games (like Dance Dance Revolution, which I’ve never attempted).

As several players explain in the film, gaming in Japan isn’t necessarily done purely for enjoyment, like it is in the States; it’s done more as a sport, where players strive to be the absolute best. (Footage from the annual Evo gaming competition in Las Vegas shows a high number of Japanese competitors.)

The movie just landed on demand, and if you’re curious about the scene at all — even if you haven’t stepped into an arcade since you were 12 — it’s worth a look. I watched it with my brother, an avid gamer and former arcade employee. Let’s just say that we both enjoyed it so much that we went to an arcade the very next day!

My only word of caution about 100 Yen is that, like a video game, it moves very quickly and all the flashing screens could make you feel a little lightheaded. On the plus side, it’s only 68 minutes, sure to please viewers with super-short attention spans.

Rent 100 Yen now via iTunes, Amazon Instant or other on-demand platforms. For more info, head to Facebook and Twitter.