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One of the most loved arcades by the Japanese: Ufo catcher

ufo 1

Japanese arcades are full of them, even in the larger ones there are entire floors reserved for them. You can really win everything from small toys, figures (among other models just released), clothes, things to eat, in short, really everything.
The UFO catcher is a structure where prizes are placed, to obtain them the player must be able to drop them into an opening, using a mechanical arm or claw crane, which can be controlled via a series of levers and buttons.
The concept of the game is therefore elementary: insert the coin, move the mechanical arm, wait for it to claw the desired object and observe it as it is transported and dropped into the collection area.

Too bad no, it's not as simple as it seems, because over time, these gaming machines have evolved.


ufo 2


The very first "retro" models date back to before the sixties and worked electromechanically: the player moved the claw before inserting the money, using a wheel; the insertion of the money triggered the claw motor, which equipped with an immediately retractable rope, swooped down on the object and retreated, regardless of whether it had taken it or not, now this model is fortunately very rare.

Over the years other models like those with the joystick were developed: in this case, the player enjoys full control of the claw in all directions and a separate button is used to deploy the claw.

Where is the problem with these? Seems easier.

Exactly "it seems". This type of machine has "physical" obstacles to complicate the situation, such as asymmetrical bars and even the claw itself, or rather its arms, notoriously swinging and with almost no resistance.

The latest "physical" model of these machines (since now there are also online versions, as available on youtube there are even tutorials to win) and the most popular in the world are those developed by SEGA in 1985 that use the "up &" game system. across ", skill-intensive.


ufo 3


The player has 2 buttons available, one to move the mechanical arm forward (in Japan only forward) and the other for lateral movement to the right or left, moreover each button can be pressed only once and, not as soon as the last button is released, the claw drops. Although it would seem easy as a basic concept from there to win, however it passes. Before each game you have to think very well about the move you want to make and the prize you want to take.

In Japan, compared to the rest of the world, ufo catchers are a very popular entertainment, so much so that they occupy huge arcades and have their own characteristics.

First of all, they have everything inside them: puppets of all sizes and even brands, watches, cushions, small chairs, cell phone holders, towers made up of potato chips, packets of candies, chocolate bars, snacks of all kinds, and for moreover, some prizes are exclusive that is only available in arcades and, consequently, become even more attractive for collectors.

In addition the UFO catchers stand out for being real "tempters": in fact there is almost always that doll that seems to be about to fall into the hole by itself, but in reality it is pure illusion, because most of these machines they contain prizes that can only be raised if the grip is perfect.

However, if you think you will never be able to catch anything, you can call an arcade employee who will offer you some helpful suggestions.

Tip 1: if the desired reward is in an unsuitable position, give a whistle to the staff, or the "rescuer", after you have indicated what you want, he will open the cabinet door and move the object to an easier position , usually on top of the pile.

Tip 2: don't grab, but hook; i.e. don't focus on using the claw to grab the stuffed animal. Instead, think about how to hook it up. Try to figure out where the toy's center of gravity is and imagine hooking it so that it rolls.

This makes it easier for a part of the toy's body to catch on one or both claws.

Tip 3: plan the recovery of the toy in a few attempts instead of trying to get it in one go; that is, keep hooking the toy and rolling it forward so that it approaches until it is right in front of the duct.

The last peculiarity that makes the Japanese experience unique of its kind occurs when, finally, you will get the coveted prize: you will immediately find an employee who will pack it in a comfortable bag and congratulate you on the victory achieved.

So proud and satisfied with you, now that you've got something to show triumphantly, do you stop or do you want to try your luck again? It is not uncommon to see people walking around Akihabara with bags full of soft toys and above all figures (which are sold for great profits).


Samantha Sisto

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Personal Archive


Info credits:







Pop Culture, Ufo catcher, Samantha Sisto

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