Before we get into the construction of this amazing cabinet, I want to write a little about why I chose this cab, what it is that draws me to this game and also cover the sometimes controversial topic of ‘build not buy’. Then I promise, we will get onto the good stuff, with lots of glossy photos to boot.
Around the time when I started to consider my next cab, although I hadn’t settled for the specific game, I had decided, mainly due to continued limited space, to try and find some nice cabaret cabs. A lovely row of dedicated early cabaret games would be amazing, Tempest, Centipede, Beserk, Pacman to name but a few.
But what about Robotron? Whilst it is certainly one of my favourites, it wasn’t a game I was playing much of, in fact Bombjack was topping my playlist, but I have another plan for that game. Truth is that the reason I don’t play it much, is that I can’t, I simply don’t have a twin stick set-up on mame and the twin sticks on modern gamepads are ok but just not the same. So my play times are limited to visits to Arcade Club or regional events throughout the year. And it was at one such event, NERG 2016 – which, for those who don’t know, stands for North East Retro Gaming and is an ever growing get together in the North East which happens in early summer each year – where I really got to put some time into this game.
It was also here that I met up with an old friend Jimmy, who had brought his pal Russ along for the weekend. Russ, at it turns out is a huge Robotron fan and a damn good player too. And it was with his help and encouragement that I found myself playing more and more games and seeing vast improvements on my meagre skills.
I was hooked.
Getting into the game, I also realised that it sparked memories of a game called Berks which I played to death on my trusted and loved Commodore 16 back in the day. And so my mind had been made up for me. This was a game I really had to have. Now at NERG, there were 3 Robotron cabinets, a full size upright, a cabaret upright and a cocktail table, all of which I played (a lot). Here’s a copy of an arcade flyer that shows all 3 as released by Williams in 1982;
As you can see, the three styles are all quite different, obviously the cocktail holds the biggest difference, with it’s sit down playing position, but even the two uprights are set apart, not only in the obvious size contrast but also in the positioning of the monitor. You can see that the cabaret model has a much more almost horizontally fixed screen, whilst the full size is near vertical by comparison. On playing all 3, it was the cabaret that best suited me and also the one I scored higher on, so that settled it. I had the game, I had the cab, now to find one for myself….
And that is where things got a little tricky, you see, despite Williams being a tour de force in the arcade world in the early eighties, and this being a successful game for them, it seems that there just weren’t that many of the cabaret sized cabs built. I’ve asked around and the general consensus is that there were less than 500, possibly as low as 300, built worldwide, with maybe 6, known to be in the UK. This meant that I would likely have to get very lucky or get very patient. Plus if/when one did come up for sale, there would be many willing punters, willing to pay many pounds, to secure it for themselves.
And so that really is the back story behind this build, which I hope adds a little context to my reasons for embarking on this. Just before we get the tools sharpened and the pencil sharpened, quite often on the forums, the topic of scratch building is raised and normally a debate of fairly healthy, yet quite decisive views are aired. The basis is usually those that support any means of keeping the old games alive, admitting that whilst owning the original hardware would be great, they are elusive, expensive and sometimes prone to a lot of technical issues, who welcome these builds; versus those who simply see these as ‘fake’ and having little or no place in the world of arcade collecting or preservation. Sitting on the fence I am able to see both points of view, although I do (maybe obviously) put myself in group one, I would never try to pass this cabinet over as anything other than what I hope it becomes.
A way to play a game I love, on a system that replicates the original as closely as I can access.
Now, enough talking, lets get some plans drawn, wood cut, batons glued and see what we can create. With any luck it will look something similar to this;
Wish me luck and pop back for the next update to see how things go.