The Silver Ball Planet
Go Back to the Future at this retro pinball arcade in the heart of Osaka’s American village.
Entering Silver Ball Planet immediately transports you to an idealized Americana leftover from bygone years— as you’d expect for a place located in the middle of America-Mura (literally American village) in central Osaka. As one of Japan’s few surviving pinball arcades, it’s exactly the kind of place where you’d imagine the stars of famous 80s movies would hang out after their misadventures. Yes, nostalgia is the name of the game here with more than 100 pinball machines from the 1970s to today.
Upon entering, you are greeted by pinball machines that will bring a smile to the face of anyone with a fondness for old school movies. Titles such as Back to the Future, the Adam West Batman, Terminator, Twilight Zone, Dirty Harry, Ghostbusters, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and even lesser-known movies like Maverick are all here, their bright lights and movie poster images enticing you to play them.
While the visuals are a big part of the arcade’s appeal, nothing compares to the sound.
While the visuals are a big part of the arcade’s appeal, nothing compares to the sound. The thudder from the machines as the ball hits the buffer, the flapping sounds of the flippers and movie theme songs all fill the air bringing back memories of the eras when these machines were all the rage.
There is something fantastically nostalgic about hearing Homer taunt you as you play the Simpsons; hearing the TMNT machine sing the Heroes In A Half-Shell song at you or talk in ‘80s rad slang every time a buffer is hit; or hearing Bruce Dickinson’s scream whenever you discover a secret area in the Iron Maiden machine.
A big part of the fun is working out each machine’s unique quirks. Like an old friend, you have to get familiar with the game itself before it reveals its secrets. Back in the day, kids would meet outside the arcade, trading secrets like conspirators in a government coverup. At Silver Ball Planet this role is performed by leaflets at the entrance which offer newcomers a guide to each of the machines’ finer points, so you can be the person in the know, dazzling people as you perform the Joker Jump on Batman or the Bunny Hop on Playboy.
While the machines are a lovingly preserved part of idealized ‘70s and ‘80s America, the love of the era extends beyond the machines themselves. Here the coke doesn’t come in cans, instead, it’s dispensed in bottles from a vending machine pockmarked with scars across its top where previous generations of kids popped their cokes open. Opposite the vending machine are era-appropriate video games where the same kids would have taken a break from pinball along with the 3D pong game and Tron arcade machine they would have played.
Ultimately, The Silver Ball Planet is a reminder of the days when America was the cool kid in town and the pinball machine was the ultimate sign of its youth culture. Regardless of whether you are taking a trip down memory lane or experiencing an era which has, perhaps regrettably, disappeared, The Silver Ball Planet is a time machine taking you back to a more innocent time—presumably with Bill and Ted or Doctor Emmett Brown as your companion.