This article will chronicle my 14-month search to find a long lost arcade game from my childhood.
As many of you already know the Sega R360 is my favorite arcade game ever made. I am also the creator of The Sega R360 and R360Z fan club on Facebook which you can find right here. Feel free to join as we are always looking for new members.
The Sega R360 & R360Z Fan Club On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/65666653948/
The one and only time I have ever seen and played the R360 in my life was at the Skyquest arcade located in the basement of the Skylon Tower in Ontario, Canada. This arcade has gone by a few different names in the past so it may not have been Skyquest in the 1990’s. This R360 is remembered by many locals both on the NY side of the Canadian border. Almost all of my high school classmates remember this game, along with many other people on both sides of the border. Those that have gone on vacation to the Niagara Falls region in the 1990’s and luckily stumbled across this extremely rare arcade game may also remember this specific installation of a R360.
A Sega R360 operating on the island of Gran Canaria, photos taken by Karen Forshaw. It is not believed to be there anymore.
For those that don’t know the R360, its a flight simulator arcade game made by Sega in 1990 and probably started arriving in North America sometime between 1990 and 1992. The game’s cabinet is an eye catching sphere shape, and an attendant is required to operate it as well as a large space to place the machine. It is more like an amusement ride combined with an arcade game. The game most commonly seen inside this cabinet is a modified version of Sega’s G-LOC, though there were a few installations of this machine that used Sega’s Wing War game. The single seat game is controlled by the player, and as the player controls the jet plane on the screen, the cabinet replicates every movement of the jet, including going upside down and every different direction. The cabinet also flips the player upside down immediately upon startup, and has a panic button on the inside that can be used to stop the machine if the player feels sick or disorientated during the game. But beware, using this panic button stops the machine instantly, so if it is pressed while the game is in an upside down position, the player will remain hanging upside down until the attendant pushes a button on the control panel to move the machine back into the upright position.
Youtube video of a working R360 so everyone can see how it works.
The R360 begins its journey at an arcade called Arcadia at the base of the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN at the very beginning of the 1990’s. The Space Needle at Gatlinburg is believed to be the first installation of a R360 in the United States. This is where things get interesting…
On the night of July 14th, 1992 (undoubtedly soon after the R360 was installed at the Space Needle) the city of Gatlinburg experienced a tragic fire. This fire is considered to be one of the largest fires in the United States if not the largest. This fire burned down an entire city block which consisted of 12 businesses. The businesses affected by this fire were located directly on the block referred to by the locals as the “Rebel Corner”. This started with the Rebel Corner store and ends with the Space needle and arcade below it. The Rebel corner completely burned down along with many other businesses, including a Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, all the artifacts within, and the entire Ripley’s arcade that was connected to the museum. All of the businesses on this block were interconnected, so you could walk through them through doors, without going outside. This also made the fire spread faster, and throughout all of them. Most of what burned down was considered a total loss, with almost nothing salvagable. While fighting the fire, those firefighters that bravely fought the fire did their best to keep the fire away from the historic Space Needle and by coincidence, the arcade located beneath it where the R360 resided. The efforts of the firefighters kept the Space Needle safe, as well as the R360 and probably some other games as well. The fire was so severe that it took until 1995 or 1996 for the popular tourist block around the Space Needle to be rebuilt.
One of my friends, Tighe Lory, recalls visiting the Space Needle in the early 1990’s. He remembers seeing an article in a gaming magazine for the R360 located at the Space Needle in Gatlinburg before going there. Since he thought the machine looked fun to play and the article said that it was the only R360 in the United states at the time, he went to the arcade to play it. Upon arriving at the arcade, he found out the arcade was closed due to the fire. Fortunately the R360 did not go up in flames.
The R360 continued to operate at Arcadia in Gatlinburg then when Arcadia changed ownership, it was sold and transported to the Skylon Tower in the early to mid 90’s. An epic 15 hour road trip was taken to transport it from Gatlinburg to the Skylon. It operated in the arcade along with many other games, some children’s amusement rides, bumper cars, batting cages, a small carousel, a haunted house, and a wooden-track indoor Go-Kart track. There was also a large collection of Sega simulator games operating alongside the R360, games like Space Harrier, After Burner, Galaxy Force II Super Deluxe, G-LOC, Hang-On, Rad Mobile, Out Run and Virtua Racing all in the super deluxe moving cabinets Sega was famous for at the time, they also operated multiples of some of these games, I know they had 2 Galaxy Force II Super Deluxe’s, and at least 2 After Burners. They had the largest collection of deluxe simulator games that I knew of anywhere in the area. The R360 and the other amusement rides at the Skylon Tower operated using tickets. The arcade games operated using tokens. The R360 was brought in shortly after Maple Leaf Village, another nearby Amusement park in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada closed and the bumper cars were brought to the Skylon from there. I myself made a visit to the Skylon Tower amusement park at some point during this period, though I do not remember exactly when. I saw a picture and advertisement in a travel brochure from the area advertising the R360 as the only one in Canada and since I liked interesting amusement attractions I naturally wanted to go on something that I had not seen before. Even though I was not into video games at the time I managed to somehow spot the R360 as something really, really cool. I visited and I went on the wooden-track Go-Karts and the R360. It operated at the Skylon until around 1998, and the R360 was removed from the Skylon Tower sometimes between the end of 1998 and the end of 1999. It was the favorite game of all the staff members at the Skylon Tower at the time since it was arguably the best arcade game in the most impressive cabinet made at the time. It was definitely gone by the end of 1999, as I went there myself at the end of 1999 because I wanted to play it again after looking up what the large spinning machine I played at the Skylon tower was on the internet and I found it was not there. Additionally I found that other amusement rides and large attractions were also removed at this point. The arcade at the basement of the Skylon Tower still exists today but does not contain any amusement rides or other large attractions however some of the deluxe Sega games still exist there today. Arcadia at the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN still exists today as well.
The arcade area at the basement of the Skylon Tower in 1995. Photo from the archives of the Niagara Falls Public Library, Ontario, Canada. Note the Turbo Outrun cabinets.
The R360 operating at the Skylon Tower as seen in the advertising brochure for the Skylon Tower. You can see the bumper cars in the background.
Here is a picture of tokens and tickets I saved from the Skylon Tower arcade. The blue tickets were used to play the R360 and go on the other amusement rides. The tickets with the clown on them may have been used in the 1990’s as well as the Skyquest token. The Skylon Tower Fun Center token is more current and is used today at the Skylon Tower arcade.
The R360 can be seen in these photos taken at the Skylon Tower Amusement Park in 1998 by Sam Shurgott. These are some of the only photos I have seen of the Skylon Amusement park from the era. It is very difficult to find photos from the Skylon Tower Amusement park of the era.
The R360 was then transported from the Skylon to a local operator in Toronto and then sold to a shopping mall in Laval, Quebec Canada (A suburb of Montreal) called Les Galeries Laval. The R360 resided in an arcade that was attached to a movie theater called Cinema Tops 8 inside the mall. The Cinema was previously known as Galeries Laval 8. The Cinema closed around 2001, then reopened a few months later while it changed ownership, and finally closed for good in 2010 and I am assuming the arcade closed up with it. When the arcade closed, some of the games that still worked from this arcade were moved to the Darkzone Laval laser tag center also in Les Galeries. The arcade with the R360 was to the right of the movie theater, and the R360 was located front and center to the right of the entrance of the arcade. The R360 cost $6 to play (Canadian Dollars). The R360 was last spotted in playable condition in 2002 by Ian Fitzpatrick of the MAACA forums, who recalls playing it at the arcade attached to Cinema Tops 8. He remembers sometimes when he would play it, it would not move, and other times there was an out of order sign on it. Other times he played it and it worked perfectly. He also reported that the R360 was not watched as closely as it should have been, as the R360 usually requires its own attendant. It is likely that the R360 was working well past 2002, at least for a few years.
Cinema Tops 8 as it was in Les Galeries Laval in 2002-2003. The arcade where the R360 resided was to the right in the first photo. Photos from Cinematreasures.org
While the R360 was at Les Galeries in the late 2000’s, there was some electrical work being done at the mall and the R360 was damaged or fried while the work was being done. The boards were fried in the R360 to the point where they were burned and no longer repairable. The R360 was then dismantled and structural issues were found with the game. Replacement boards and parts were not able to be located and while there were attempts to save it the R360 eventually had to be removed and scrapped. There was no way to save this game (besides getting another R360 and using the parts from both of them to make one which would be very difficult to do), it just met its final end.
I started looking for the R360 at the beginning of 2016 because I received information about the area that it was taken to after it was finished at the Skylon and information that perhaps it might still be out there, naturally I wanted to find out if the game I played as a kid and loved still existed. While I did not intend to bring the R360 home with me as I do not have the means to house a large machine where I live I hoped to find a safe home for it with someone else. Unfortunately things didn’t happen that way but sometimes these things happen just because machines are older and cannot always be saved. I understand this and I enjoyed looking for this game very much, it was a very interesting search.
I would like to thank all the people who helped me investigate this matter, it was definitely a long road but we all made it possible to find out what happened to this game that was loved by so many people: The staff members of the arcade at the Skylon Tower, the staff at Arcadia, Various members of the MAACA forums (Montreal Arcade & Amusement Collectors Association), various members of the CGCC forums (Classic Gaming Collectors of Canada), Various members of the Laval, Quebec, and Ottawa Ontario Subreddits, Ontario Subreddit (reddit.com) John Robertson, Mira Amusements, Playdium Store, Darkzone Laval, Nemesis Lan Center, Sean Cooper, Luckas Bertholet, Joe V. and Sam Shurgott and all the other people who I may have talked to about this game.