Theme bars are the rage all over, and Nagoya is no stranger to the novelty. We’ve got a bar dedicated to the band KISS, more than a few for fans of Gundam and any number of ones where you can step back in time to visit the 50s or even the disco age. If you’ve got a kink or itch, there’s probably a bar for you. Even for video gamers, a group who traditionally approach socialization only through vulgar insults hurled across a high-speed internet connection.
There was a time before online took hold, before the Big 3 started filching their customer base with DLC and micropayments. A time when story was more important than graphics (because they sucked), and you didn’t need the web to play two players (just a second controller). And to revisit this Golden Age of Gaming, you just have to visit Nagoya’s newest theme bar, Critical*Hit.
Owner and operator Alex “call me Al” Fraioli got inspiration for his bar by visiting Genesis, a retro gaming bar in Ichinomiya, and even studied under the master there before opening his doors last November. Three months of renovation and cleaning made the space into a gamer’s paradise. The black and red aesthetic is comfortable to the eyes, while the seating is comfortable to your rear; which is a good thing, because with the extensive selection of old school games you’re going to be doing a lot of sitting.
“I wanted it to be a nice bar with video games in it”, says Al. “Customers can come for the ambiance and stay for the games.”
And Al knows video games; he’s got the collection to prove it. A hardcore gamer for 24 years, he’s got nearly every console made since the original Nintendo ready to play, both in English and Japanese. Just a quick glance around the room and you’ll see all the greats: SNES, , Gameboy, Sega Genesis and even the Wii. However, according to Al, the most popular with his customers is the N64, probably due to classic games such as Mario Kart 64 and the fact that up to 4 players can drive drunk around the track at the same time.
If you want to enjoy their massive game library, you only have to purchase two drinks to play all you want. The menu is normal fare, cold beer, a well-stocked list of mixers and even a few original cocktails. If you game better when drunk, you should brave a Ganondorf’s Estate Tax, a mix of absinthe, Red Bull, grenadine and lime. It’s an original brew that Al confesses he “made on the fly” when a customer pressed him for something new.
Critical*Hit is open every day except Mondays from 5pm until 1am. But Al admits that he’s been known to stay open later especially when there are customers playing or he himself is in the middle of an epic session of Dragon Quest (his favorite series). If you find yourself in the middle of a game but have to catch the last train, don’t worry about losing your progress. C*H offers free memory service, so you can come back and finally defeat Mother Brain next time.
Critical*Hit also hosts a number of tournaments every month. The most popular to date is the Street Fighter 2 tourney, which participants can enter for ¥1000, which comes with a free drink, and play several rounds of multiple versions of the game including Turbo and Super for a ¥5000 gift voucher. They are also available for private parties, and it’s the perfect place for a birthday party that would make 10 year old you very jealous.
To get to Critical*Hit, take the Higashiyama or Tsurumai subway lines to Fushimi station, take exit #7 and walk straight along Hirokoji-doori. Take the first left and the the next right. On the left, next to a Chinese restaurant, you’ll see the sign for Critical*Hit. Head downstairs and say hi to Al.
Misononishi Building B1 #2
1-7-4 Sakae, Naka-ku