Victory is within your grasp!

UFO catchers, as Japan calls claw/crane games, are diabolically deceptive. They seem simple enough: All you have to do is use the controls to maneuver the claw over the prize you want, then slap the button to drop it down, pick the item up, and carry it back to drop into the prize bin for you to retrieve, right?

The soul-crushing reality, though, is that variable grip strength, delayed inputs, obscured lines of sight, and inopportune prize placements are all working against you, It seems like it should be so easy, though, which is what makes it so hard to resist feeding a few more coins into the machine for another try, only to come up empty yet again.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a UFO catcher where you were guaranteed to eventually win? Well guess what – there is! As a matter of fact, there are whole banks of them at the arcade seen in these photos.

This is the Namco arcade inside the Vivre shopping center in downtown Yokohama, just a few minutes’ walk from Yokohama Station. If you’re looking for certain victory, check for the machines with signs on them that have フリープレイ written on them in katakana script.

▼ Like these ones

フリープレイ translates to “free play,” but the machines aren’t completely complimentary. When you first approach, they work like a regular UFO catcher, in that you have to drop a coin in before you can start playing.

▼ If you want one of these Tokyo Revenger plushies, you’re gonna have to toss at least a hundred yen (US$0.70) into the machine.

But if, or let’s be honest, when, you fail to win a prize, the machine starts keeping track of how many attempts you’ve made. Now, let’s take one more look at the “free play” signs.

See where it says 回連続失敗? That means “repeated failures,” and the number in front of it is where your possible number of failures without winning a prize tops out. So, for example, if you wanted one of these adorable Sumikkogurashi straps…

…after 10 unsuccessful tries, you become guaranteed to win one. After try number 10, the machine automatically engages its free play mode, enabling you to continue again and again without putting in any more money, until you win a prize.

In other words, these guaranteed-win crane games let you know the maximum amount you’ll have to spend to get something, a much nicer alternative to the standard “Who knows? Maybe you’ll have to spend an extra 500 yen to get a prize, or maybe you’ll have to spend another 5,000.”

These special UFO catchers cost 100 yen per play and tend to be stocked with smaller prizes than their no-safety net siblings, but that doesn’t mean they’re a dumping ground for prizes nobody wants. In addition to Tokyo Revengers and Sumikkogurashi,on the day I stopped by there were also guaranteed-win machines stocked with Studio Ghibli, Sanrio, Super Mario, and Kirby merch.

There’s something to be careful of, though. Prior to activating the free play mode, if you have an unsuccessful try, you have to put in a coin and continue within 60 seconds. The same goes for once you are in free play mode: you’ll need to hit the continue button within 60 seconds of an unsuccessful attempt, or else the machine will think you’ve left and reset its free play trigger count.

You’ll also want to make sure to check for the フリープレイ/free play sign before you start throwing coins in willy-nilly, since the machines without them will show you no such mercy,

The Yokohama Vivre isn’t the only Namco arcade with these generous crane games either. The Namco location inside the World Porters complex, a few stops down the line in the Minato Mirai harborside district, has them too.

▼ Check out the super-deformed JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure plushies in the top center machine!

Come to think of it, I should probably tell my boss about this.

Location information
Namco (Yokohama Vivre / ナムコ(横浜ビブレ店)
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Nishi-ku, Minami Saiwai 2-15-13, Yokohama Vivre 7th floor
Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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