Daylight reigns upon me, yet the purple glow of the NQ64 sign draws my eye. Glaring down the atmospherically lit staircase, I make my descent. Mere moments after entering the venue proper, I know that removing me from it shall be a near impossible task.
Like a military strategist, my eyes immediately get to work scanning the environment. Initial observations present a room densely populated with arcade cabinets. Their brightly flashing CRT displays send me into a state of hypnosis.
The same can be said of the wall mounted television monitors displaying classic console titles of years gone by, with the original consoles stored in cages of stylish design to ensure that external forces do not compromise their vintage beauty.
Directing my gaze away slightly from the consoles, I catch sight of the bar. The multiplicity of refreshing beverages guarantees that all thirsts shall be quenched.
Fetching myself a cola drink, I take a moment to soak in the very Mancunian aesthetic that NQ64 presents. Walls adorned with graffiti artwork brought to life through UV lighting beautifully marries retro influences with futuristic design.
A smile blazes across my face. Now, tokens at the ready, I prepare to immerse myself in the digital dimensions available to me, courtesy of NQ64.
Ready Player Two
Of course, this is no solo mission I have undertaken. Not only do I have my closest friends in tow, but I am also surrounded by like-minded gaming connoisseurs. It then occurs to me that NQ64 have identified the most important aspect of gaming: community.
As I take the all too literal wheel of Crazy Taxi and dash from objective-to-objective in an, ultimately futile, attempt to surpass the high score of my former ally, who had occupied the chair prior to me, that earlier musing of a community focus becomes more apparent.
Glorious rock tones soothe my eardrums. Admiring Guitar Hero from afar, I notice the current occupant has amassed a following. My thoughts drift to NQ64’s inspired decision to include titles like this where gamers can enjoy themselves solely through an external mutual interest.
Reaching a stagnation in my interactivity I challenge my friend to a Tekken 2 duel. Though only I achieve victory, being able to look our opponent in the eyes makes us both feel like winners. NQ64 is leading the charge in the resurrection of competitive, local co-op.
Refreshing Elixir Acquired
Alas, I must put a brief stop to my escapist gaming fantasies as my lips are consumed by a thirst that must be quenched. So, I take myself speedily to the bar and order another cola drink, while a selection of posters draw my eye.
Lovingly detailed on these posters are recipes for custom cocktails, selected by the NQ64 team, themed around the various titles interactively exhibited in the venue. Among these is the Princess Peach which comprises Prosecco, Peach, Orgeat, Pimento, and Dram.
Maintaining brand identity is very important to the team which I discover as I speak more with them. They say that doing so will help “generate interest, get repeat customers and get our name out there as the top venue for drinks and entertainment”.
Push Start to Retro
The wall decorated with retro consoles again commands my attention. Being not the possessor of a truly retro console aside from the original PlayStation, NQ64 has generously granted me the once thought unattainable fantasy of experiencing an interactive video game museum.
Among the stellar titles on offer are Goldeneye 007 and Mario Kart 64. Two titles which, it suddenly strikes me, are yet to receive current gen ports. Therefore, I cherish each passing moment as for me, similar to many others, this acquaintance is a rarity.
Of course, the visuals have not aged gracefully, but witnessing the rather primitive looking Nintendo 64 generate Goldeneye’s relatively complex AI generates a profound respect and appreciation within me. A feat no modern title has ever successfully pulled off.
Why though, I must ask, are arcade cabinets co-habiting the same space as retro consoles? For NQ64, it is all very simple: “we wanted to offer our customers the full retro experience”. To that end, Manchester’s premiere arcade bar is receiving high scores from me.
Charitably donating my last, spare token by the same door I walked through a couple of hours ago, I turn about and take in the venue’s atmosphere, still dripping in mancunian style, one more time.
I shall have many take aways from my evening: the laughter of friends, the history that lines each wall of the building, and the unsurpassable feeling of joy that being a part of it supplied.
The same stupid smile I donned at the beginning of my journey remains as I exit through the door behind me, infinitely satisfied.
18 or over and looking to check out NQ64 for yourself? It is open 4pm – 2am on weekdays, and midday – 2am on weekends. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram @NQ64mcr as well as on their website – nq64.co.uk.