Between The Buttons

Caught a few interesting pieces this past weekend. Loading them out of a hundred degree warehouse wasn’t a treat, but it was worth the effort.

First is what started as a dedicated Nintendo R-Type upright. Serial number is quite low, but it wasn’t exactly a common game either.

At some point it received a conversion to Golden Axe 2 that looks a lot messier than it is. The wiring was all terminated nicely so I can clip a Nintendo harness right back into place on the original connectors that were left intact. The coin door and vault were pretty messed up or absent but I’ve got spares I salvaged from some destroyed cabs at another warehouse years ago that will be a good match.

With some cleaning and the installation of a few parts it’s already looking most of the way there.

 

The second grab is another example of the purpose designed conversion kits that many manufacturers put out for the ubiquitous Pac Man and Ms Pac Man as they got on in years and stopped earning once the fever around those titles broke.

It’s a Nintendo conversion kit for the Vs. multi-game system. Similar in character to the Bally Sente conversion kit for these cabs, it takes a different approach to reconfiguring the monitor orientation and changing out the control panel.

This one clearly earned its keep as Pac Man before the transformation with almost twenty thousand plays on the clock, likely paying for itself twice over in its original incarnation.

The conversion was quite cleanly executed, though the Nintendo switching power supply has at some point been swapped for a generic model which was left hanging against the PCB cage.

Not a lot is retained of the original Midway internals. Portions of the power panel, AC wiring, and the Wells Gardner K4600 monitor are all that came along for the ride. The monitor has the maze burn you’d expect from any Pac Man game but it’s hidden pretty well by the smoked plexiglass panel that goes in front. Interestingly a standard Nintendo isolation transformer was included with the kit, though its 100V output is left unused and the Midway transformer is used to isolate power to the monitor.

A Nintendo video inverter and sound amp board is used to adapt the signal from the Vs. PCB to the output hardware in the cabinet.

Detritus in the cab says this one hung around in the Pacific Northwest, nearby one of the outposts of the Fred Meyer chain. The straw trick (“It has been brought to our attention that a flattened straw or similar object can be passed through the center opening in the upper hinge. If the object makes contact with the coin switch, it can be used to run up multiple credits.”) to getting free credits on Nintendo games must have made the rounds too, though whoever applied it didn’t realize that it only works on original Nintendo coin doors. We can also see the Vs. boardset played host to a few different titles over time, with Ice Climbers and Mach Rider in evidence.

This one will stay converted, though I’ll swap in a Dr. Mario daughterboard for the Super Mario Bros. chipset.

Together Again To Tear It Apart

From this…

…to this…

…took about 3.5 hours over two sessions. Or, to put it in relative terms, about a third of the time I put into Sorcerer, and even more favorable compared to Comet… Though I can’t say exactly how much better since I didn’t keep time for that one. I’m very pleased with how streamlined my workflow is becoming. During disassembly I basically break the playfield into a 2×8 grid and work my way through each section, photograph it, remove parts in logical (to me, at least) groupings, and bag and label each subassembly.

I found that the most time consuming part of reassembly on the previous two tables was filling in the blanks where I hadn’t done enough documentation during teardown. Being extra methodical with breaking this one down saved me a ton of time in recomposing it, despite the significant increase in complexity from System 9 pins like Comet and Sorcerer to the more feature laden System 11 based Big Guns.

Given there are 2-4 layers of parts to remove to get to any given bulb, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of having to tear things down to get to short-lived incandescents, so I decided to go the LED route. I used Pinballbulbs.com non-ghosting LEDs in warm white for the #44 general illumination and cool white for the #89 flasher bulbs on the top of the playfield and in the area behind the ‘wall’ at the back.

I think the results look pretty nice. The photo makes it look like a lot of the plastics are blown out by the brightness of the LED bulbs but in person they have a nice bright, even light behind them that shows off the art and lights up the playfield nicely without being overpowering. After seeing how the top of the playfield looks I’m going to go forward with replacing the lamps under the inserts on the bottom of the playfield, and replace the lamps in the backbox as well. The previous owner installed a color ‘coordinated’ LED kit in the backbox and it makes the art look really bad, since the color of the LEDs completely overpowers the translite’s coloration.

Now that Big Guns is back together I’m going to swap it in for Sorcerer at the office and bring that one into the shop for some MPU diagnosis… After having several hundred balls played through it without a hiccup during a party the company hosted I turned it on the day after and it was resetting randomly during gameplay. Poking around (very literally) narrowed the issue down to a bad connection or flaky component in the lower right corner of the MPU board, but tracing it further than that is more than I want to do with the limited tools I have at the office.

If you’re interested in seeing what the disassembly process looks like (or have one of these things you’re trying to piece together yourself), see the gallery below for all of the reference photos I took while tearing this thing down:

Damn dirty apes!

Traded one Nintendo for another over the weekend. I drove my R-Type project and a few Playchoice 10 carts (Mario Bros and Punch Out, for those keeping count) up to Tacoma, and came back with a Donkey Kong Junior and a DK3 kit.

It’s a dedicated unit that doesn’t show any signs of ever having been converted, which is great! Unfortunately it’s also a US made DK Jr cabinet, which means it has particle board sides instead of plywood. When production was added in Redmond, WA to accommodate demand for the games in the US, some aspects of the cab design and materials were changed too, and the 1/2″ plywood used for the Japanese produced cabs was abandoned. This also means that the lovely new t-molding the previous owner installed actually isn’t wide enough, since it’s intended for the thinner plywood cabinets.

It plays, mostly… Though there’s some “slight” graphical issues that cropped up after my having moved it.

Need to go in and reseat the interconnect cables between the boards and see if that helps, they’re rather notorious for causing issues in Nintendo games.