This arcade may be on its last life.
Sunset Park’s Next Level — known to many as a mecca for brawler titles such as “Street Fighter” — may close its doors after the business’s lease expires in February, an owner said.
“We’re trying to see if we can renew it or find a new location,” said owner Henry Cen. “That’s business, though.”
Next Level lets players rent time and play through a library of games on old-school arcade cabinets and the latest video game consoles. Players also gather to go head-to-head in trading card games, but the shop’s weekly Wednesday night “Battle Circuit” tournament is its true claim to fame — gamers travel from all over the city to test their reflexes against one another at games such as “Street Fighter” and “Guilty Gear,” patrons said.
“I’m here every Wednesday — I don’t think I’ve missed one,” said John Genciana, of Queens. “I’ve been coming here since it opened.”
The arcade rose from the ashes of Manhattan’s famous Chinatown Fair, where patrons lined up to duke it out on old-school arcade machines and challenge live chickens to Tic-tac-toe for decades before a bitter rent dispute forced the game hall’s 2011 shuttering. The last quarter had barely dropped in Manhattan when Cen, a former manager at Chinatown Fair, opened Next Level in Sunset Park’s own Chinatown in 2011, he said.
In its four years, Next Level has established itself as one of the top New York arcades for fight game competition, Cen said.
“This is the most well-known location on the East Coast,” Cen said. “The competition is high, and there is opportunity to break onto the pro-circuit.”
Professional gamer Christopher Gonzalez — who goes by the handle NYChrisG and recently nabbed a sponsorship from eSports group Tempo Storm — trained at the arcade until he moved to California last year.
If Cen can’t negotiate a lease renewal, he’ll try to find a new home for Next Level, he said. The current site is zoned for residential and retail uses.
If Next Level does move, at least one player said he’d quest long and hard to get to the new location.
“I’d travel hours and hours,” said Andrew Greenberg. “I’m a dedicated customer.”
Next Level Arcade [4013 Eighth Ave. between 40th and 41st streets in Sunset Park, www.nycne