I Played Japan’s Medal Pusher Game Star Dragon Quest: King Splash for Over an Hour

I won’t lie: I wanted to play Pachinko when we visited Japan but I legit got scared. There were so many places and so many machines, but I didn’t want to do anything wrong and mess stuff up. I’m sure it would have been fine: no one likely would have said anything, and I’m sure the establishment wouldn’t mind if I gave them money. But I would mind if I didn’t know how to truly enjoy my time with the game. So instead, I found a similar game at an arcade, not a Pachinko shop, that had similar feeling gameplay. And it was Dragon Quest of all things, so even better!

In the basement of the Taito Station arcade near Shibuya Crossing we found a lovely little game called Star Dragon Quest: King Splash (or perhaps it was Dragon Quest of the Stars: King Splash… I can’t really tell from the Japanese). Well, it wasn’t really little, in fact it was quite large. There were 6 different seats, each of them with a nice comfortable 2-person seat, and tons of Dragon Quest themed buttons and characters on the sides of the cabinet. If that alone wasn’t enough to attract you over to play, the medal pushing game with Slimes and monster capsules, as well as a huge screen showing a party of various monsters sure will. I happily plopped down 1000¥, got like 500 medals, and sat down at the machine.

A medal Pusher game is a relatively common type of redemption game in most arcades. You drop in a quarter or token, and hope that it falls in such a way that it gets pushed off the edge of a tiny shelf, and then it pushes other coins down into a chute which lets you collect said coin or token to do all over again. I feel most American arcade attendees will recognize this as a type of ticket game, but there are other options I’ve seen where you get to keep the items that fall down like little trinkets or even money, but the one here was strictly medals only to continue playing the game. That might seem kind of like a downer, but there is a small incentive to keep playing, and that incentive is Dragon Quest. Literally.

As you push in Medal after medal, your characters on screen continue to walk forward battling enemies. If you get lucky and you can knock one of the capsules down into the chute, you get the monster locked inside that capsule to join you on screen. After you get an entire party of characters, you can attempt to take on the boss. Doing so can be difficult depending on the part you’ve recruited as party members are not created equal. For example in my first run I had a powerful Killing Machine and Mage ally and beating the boss was easy as they dealt a lot of damage, however on my second run a lowly Slime and a Dracky were on my team and it was much more challenging. Seeing them attack, hearing the familiar Dragon Quest sounds, and eventually overcoming the boss was honestly kind of fun. If you aren’t a Dragon Quest fan I’m sure your mileage may vary, but assuming you are there’s a lot to enjoy.

Star Dragon Quest: King Splash isn’t a super engaging arcade game, especially when compared to other “traditional” games. You aren’t battling another player. You don’t have a big bad guy that captured your girlfriend who you must defeat. You don’t even have a strategy (kind of) to win. Instead, you’re just pumping in medal after medal in hopes of hitting a randomly generated jackpot, or getting some coins to satisfyingly fall into the chute. After maybe 10 or 15 minutes I had experience all the game had to offer. But despite this, we ended up staying for just over an hour playing this mindless arcade game.

I think that’s where some of Star Dragon Quest: King Splash magic comes from. It’s just so mindless you can have fun doing it while at the same time doing something else. For me, it was chatting with my friends while we relaxed and sat down in the middle of a long day exploring Japan. When the occasional sound triggered and alerted us we hit a jackpot, we’d look and exclaim, giving us that tiny hit of dopamine you might get from playing an idle game on your phone. When a huge collection of medals would get to the very edge, I felt like I had to keep playing to see it fall. And when the game would randomly give you a jackpot or something, and a whole bunch of medals would fall into the play zone it was exciting! All of those things earn you more medals, which can only be used to play the game, so you end up playing more as you win more. It was fun, if not a bit boring as time went on.

Personally I would have liked there to be something to win at the end. There were signs on the machine that stated the capsules were not something you “Win” by having them fall, and they are for in-game entertainment only. If the capsules actually did reward you with a toy, I would have loved the game that much more. It would have been incredible to take home a miniature Dragon Quest souvenir, something you can do at virtually every arcade and store in Japan, but alas that was not what this was. Instead, Dragon Quest of the Stars is a type of gambling game for the whole family. One that is accentuated if you like the source material. Would I play the game again? Yes, most likely. But I certainly wouldn’t drop down ~$10 USD having already experienced all the game has to offer.


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– Jason J

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