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[Offbeat]: Joypolis Is a Funtopia of Entertainmentmania

Zip, zap, zoom. A tour of the Sega Joypolis arcade and amusement park in Global Harbor Mall.
2016-03-16 17:30:52
Remember Sega? Sega Genesis? Sonic the Hedgehog? Knuckles? Virtua Fighter? Altered Beast? Revenge of Shinobi? X-Men 2: Clone Wars? Golden Axe? Streets of Rage 2? Earthworm Jim? Anyone?




Yeah, Sega doesn’t really do much on the console games front anymore. After their big boom and heyday in the ‘80s and early ‘90s with the Sega Master System and the Sega Genesis, they released a series of unsuccessful console systems (Sega CD? Ooof. Sega 32X? Ugh. Sega Saturn? Gahhh.), culminating in the release of a little thing called the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, which basically tanked the company. They only sold one of those, total.

To my college roommate.

What a fool.

At the start of the ‘00s, Sega switched to being a third party developer, which means they make games for other systems, as well as their own stand-alone full-on arcade games for their own arcade chains. Sega, today, is the biggest producer of arcade games in the world with over 500 titles to their credit, including some of the best and most popular out there like The House of the Dead, Virtua Fighter 2, and Sega Rally Championship.

So that’s where “Joypolis” comes in. Joypolis is a chain of indoor amusement parks operated by Sega in Japan, featuring their own popular arcade games as well as amusement park rides based on their Sega titles. The first one opened in Japan during the height of Sega’s prime in 1994. Despite the fact that they got pushed out of the highly competitive consoles biz, Sega is still really successful with their arcade line and they do make some cool arcade games. Joypolis'essses have really caught on in Japan and there's like eight of them now all over the country. As of last month, there’s one in Shanghai as well.

That’s the back story. Did you need the back story? Probably not. But you got it anyways!

Here’s the TL;DR version: Joypolis is a big, indoor Sega arcade and amusement park. It’s spread out over two entire floors of the Global Harbor Jules Verne Mall in Changning. It features a whole bunch of Sega’s most cutting edge arcade technology, which, these days, is state-of-the-art virtual rides, driving simulators, and 3D interactive games. It also features more traditional amusement park stuff as well -- a haunted house, bumper cars, and non-digital skill games.

Basically, take a spazzoid arcade, mash it up with an amusement park, stick it in a mall, and douse the whole thing in classic kooky, madcap, twinkling, glittering Japanese infantilism and you’ve got Joypolis. It’s where teenagers go in Japan. It’s the new white-guys-on-dates-with-Chinese-girls in Shanghai.

Check it:

Pretty nutty, huh?

So, I went! Want a tour of the rides? Of course you do! Let's gooooooo!

The Transformers Balls

The spinning Transformers Balls video game is the main thing. It's actually called Transformers: Human Alliance Special.


But, yeah, Transformers: Human Alliance Special is the marquee ride at the whole thing. It's headlining all the promotion for Joypolis Shanghai and features Sega's signature piece of arcade gaming innovation: the famous Sega R360, a "gyroscopic arcade cabinet".

In layman's terms, it's a ball that spins around a lot. With the player strapped inside.

Look at us go!

So, while that's spinning around, you're also inside the thing shooting at a real pile of garbage called Megatron on a standard fighter pilot controller. Pew, pew, pew. You heard of this Megatron guy? What a real bummer that guy is. So, you're zooming through the city chasing this nasty piece of work around and the ball spinning around is making it seem like you're doing barrel rolls, flying through buildings, and doing death drops and stuff. It's a two-person game and you're competing for score against your partner in the ball.

For me, I happened to be competing against a little Chinese girl about 9-years-old, whom I SMOKED.


So... is it good?

Yeah, yeah, I'd say it's pretty good. It's fun. Yeah, it's fun! The technology's been around since the mid '00s with these "gyroscopic arcade cabinets" but this is the latest generation of them. It was really flying around. Backwards, forwards, upside-down, 360s...


The Virtual Racecar Things

You're in a racecar. Racecar is facing a big screen. Car is set up on these hydraulics that move the car around as you "drive".

So... is it good?

Line was too damn long. Didn't look all that hot.


The Manatee Face Swap Thing

How great is this.

Yes! You put your face up against a circular screen lens and then it transposes it onto a manatee!

Haha! Look, I'm a manatee! Bloop bloop! Just doing manatee things! Look at me! Look at me! Hellooooo! Hellloooo, from the manatee!

Ahhhhh, good times...

So... is it good?

Oh God yes, I love the Manatee Face Swap Thing. Best part about it is you merely have to exist within the same general vicinity as it and you win! That's a game I can get behind.


Various Dancing / VR Machines (For Babies?)

More games that it's impossible to lose. I like these. Joypolis has a section of these VR dancing type games that scans your body and inserts you into a virtual playing field. Here I am havin' a lil dance with the cartoon mascot of Joypolis, "LOPIT".

LOPIT is kind of like a cross between Sailor Moon and the Battle Royale Rules Video. "She" was doing hourly concerts up on this big stage area to a riveted crowd.

There's lots of these popping bubbles, catching stars, drawing things in the air, sorts of video machines. It's great fun for like 4 seconds, clapping at nothing like an asshole, and then you need a drink or something.


The Cracked Out Indoor Roller Coaster Thing

Okay, the other main thing: The Indoor Roller Coaster. They wouldn't let us take our camera in there so you'll just have to take my word for it that it's in that Tron-looking room on the right. So yeah. It's about as big as you would imagine a roller coaster could be that's inside a mall, which is to say, not very.

What they lack in height and speed, though, they make up in cracked out-ness. It's basically a darkened shoe-box of a room with all these TVs on the walls, cranking out LOPIT music videos, screeching gibberish in your face and you zoom by on the roller coaster. It's kind of like being brainwashed with suck.

So... is it good?

It's pretty discombobulating. I still can't even tell if I really liked it or totally hated it. Maybe both. Yeah, both.


The "Haunted Hospital" Haunted House Thing

Now we're going to be getting into some filler here. The downstairs bit of Joypolis is the "amusement park" of the thing, and it's basically just janky little puzzle games and stuff. The haunted house is just a twisting corridor that leads you past about 4 bloody manikins and then one big jump scare at the end.

I'm not very good at haunted houses so obviously this scared the bejeezus out of me. Not cool, man. Not cool.

So... is it good?

Is this the Joypolis or the Trying-to-Give-Me-a-Fuckin'-Heart-Attack-Palooza?


Some Educational Dinosaur BS

Here's some educational dinosaur BS, which is like they give you a piece of paper and you look around for dinosaurs on the walls and do a little etching of it on your paper when you find one.

Probably awesome for HUGE BOOKWORM LOSERS.

So... is it good?

Pfffth. PASS.


Inscrutable Beauty Contest

You go in here, get you photo taken and then you compete against every one else who got their photo taken for the day on a big screen and then... I don't know. Something.

So... is it good?


Wild Wings Simulator

Rounding out on a high note, they've got some really great simulators at Joypolis. These are what they're known for in Japan as well, these fully immersive simulator rides, with shaking and shuddering carriages and 3D screen effects. They basically stick you in a darkened room, and then the front of the room opens up into a massive movie screen, and you embark on a five-minute plane, jeep, or boat simulation, strapped into a car that's moving around. (There's three of them: "Wild Wings", "Wild River", and "Wild Jungle").

We couldn't take pictures inside of the ride, but you can click here to see some Japanese kids take the "Wild Wing" ride. It's kind of like being on a roller coaster but without any feelings of danger or immanent death because it's a simulator.

So... is it good?

Oh yeah, thumbs up.


So that's the broad strokes to Joypolis. There's a few other games and simulators but those are the main ones. Is it worth it? Meh. Yeah, it's alright. It's just-a so-so. The manatee picture with my face on it is my new MySpace profile, so I'm happy with that. Think it would be great for kids and teenagers. Or maybe if you have a special nerd in your life, it could be alright for a date or something. I would also recommend going with a bunch of acid screaming through your dirty, dirty veins. Take your kids and then a whole bunch of powerful blotter acid. Yes, I think I speak for the SmartShanghai corporation as a whole in this serious recommendation. Should tide you and yours over for a bit until The Mouse takes over Shanghai.

On the other hand, if you're super serious about crazy, adrenaline-pumping amusement park roller coaster rides and / or serious business arcades, you'll probably find the whole thing a little tame, and therefore not worth the admission fee. But, also, know this: you sound insufferable.

The Logistics: Joypolis is open daily from 10am to 10pm; last entry is at 9.15pm. Tickets are 198rmb on weekdays and 248rmb on weekends. Address details right here.