Hi Everyone and thanks for popping back.
Whilst I’m just waiting on being in a position to post the next update of my Robotron Build, I thought I would share another of my current cabs with you.
It is a cabinet that I had never seen or even heard of, before I started in this hobby, but from the first moment I saw one, I just loved it. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, especially the more purist/classic collector, but I’ll cover why I like it so much and you can make your own mind up.
The real reason though, for making this post, now, is to cover a newly acquired set-up, which I have running inside this cab, which has transformed how I now use this cabinet.
Sound exciting? Well, let’s stop waffling and get on with this.
As I’ve mentioned here before, my thoughts on which cabs I would like to own, have wavered dramatically, as I have became more ‘educated’ over what is out there, coupled with the invaluable experiences of being able to actually play these cabs at various events and the inimitable Arcade Club, in Bury. My mind has been changed from cab to cab, genre to genre, era to era, but from when I first saw this cabinet, I knew I wanted to own one…..
It was August 2014 and I had been in the hobby for about a year and a half and owned a sit-down Sega Scud Race and a Zaccaria Invaders upright cabinet, and I was active on a couple of online forums, when Arcade Club, first opened it’s doors, in a different location to where it can now be found. I remember the excitement I felt as I first walked in and was greeted by not just the owner, Andy, but also the cacophony of sounds coming from the main room. But there were also a few cabinets placed in the foyer area, which were cabinets I had not seen before, they were white metal/plastic cabs, with controls low down, at which the players sat down on stools to play, and they sported the most amazingly large crt monitor, which was playing a maddening vertical shooter, filled with wave after wave of mesmerising pink bullets. Smitten.
I describe, of course, what are commonly called ‘Candy Cabs’, Japanese cabinets, produced by various developers in the early nineties. Mainstay arcade names, such as Sega, Taito, Capcom, Namco and Konami, as well as others, all produced their own variety of this cabinet.
Here’s a photo snatched from a random search online showing a few different cabs in a Japanese arcade.
There are, of course, differences between models, in the monitor specifications (frequency/sync), the internal wiring (Jamma/JVS/Naomi), with some models even sporting a very handy monitor rotating mechanism, (very welcomed by anyone who has had to lift a 29″ crt monitor by themselves).
There are some great reference pages/wikis online for anyone wanting to know more about these types of cabinets, such as; Arcade Otaku Wiki
For myself though, I loved the physical look of the Sega Astro City cabinet style, the same as the cabinet that had languished in the Arcade Club foyer, the large monitor was stunning, the Sanwa/Seimitsu populated control panel feels nice and is especially suited to the more frenetic games these cabinets can be associated with.
So, with that decided it was time to try and find one for my own. In my short time in this hobby, I’ve found the sourcing of specifically wanted cabs to be very much like the proverbial country bus service, in as much as when you don’t need one, you will see one after the other, but when you want one – nowhere…
As with a lot of arcade cabinets, the UK has sparse pickings when it comes to a lot of other countries, which opens up the option of importing, and if you have the money and desperately need the cab delivered soonest, this is definitely an option. http://www.rklok.com is one such company to consider for this service.
But I was in no rush and happy to wait for the right cab to find me, which, I am pleased to say, it did, or else this post may have ended right here. It was another example of being in the right place – the UKVac forum, at the right time – as a good condition Sega New Astro City cabinet was put up for sale. Without hesitation (ya snooze, ya lose), I contacted the seller and secured the sale. The cabinet came with all the internals in place (minus any pcb), a populated two player control panel and a step-down convertor to regulate the power to the Japanese PSU. A week or so later, and it was being rolled out of Martin (everyone’s friendliest delivery man’s) lorry and into my garage.
The exterior condition of the cabinet was very good, it had been resprayed at some point in it’s past, the plastics on the speaker and monitor surround on these cabinets are prone to yellowing, the main interior was good too. I had a spare 19in1 jamma pcb, which went straight in and after a few pre-flight checks to ensure, nothing had became dislodged during transit, I had the cab fired up and working.
After just a few games though it was evident that the sticks in this cabinet had seen better days, player one, more so than player two, but both were going to need replacing and this would also afford a good opportunity to spruce up the control panel whilst I was at it.
You can see that from a first glance, things don’t look too bad, however, a more closer inspection shows some spots of rust creeping out at the edges and more discolouration on the underside too.
Taking the metal control panel off shows where the bad stuff has seeped out and eaten into the supporting frame.
But there is little that cannot be removed or fixed with hard work, determination and some damn good cleaning products, so fast forward a fair few hours on, and a decent amount of calories shed, using a scourer, dremel, soap, water and various polishes and the results are evident – yes, it’s the same panel.
Next up was the metal control panel plate, the rust protruding from underneath the overlay, told of further issues hidden below and although the overlay was original it was heavily faded. So after a lot of consideration between, original but damaged, versus, new but reproduction, it was out with the old and a newly printed reproduction overlay ordered. On removing the old overlay, the metal panel underneath was heavily rusted and pitted, evidence of maybe a spilled drink or two over the years.
But out with the polishing wheel, various grades and polish later and you could do your makeup in front of this. It is really important to get this stage perfect as the overlay, once applied, will show up any and all imperfections.
Then the new overlay is applied, using masking tape to hold it in position whilst a small squeegee pushes out any lingering air bubbles. Once in place, I was happy with my decision, comparing the previous photos against the new panel, the colours are so much more vivid and really jump out.
To tackle the tired controls, I ordered some shiny new sticks and buttons, a combination of Seimitsu LS32 sticks and Sanwa ‘silent’ buttons in the customary ‘candy’ colours and these simply click into place through the panel. I favour matching the ball top to the colour of the buttons.
I also polished up the bolts as the devil is always in the detail. (Manicure required)
Fitting it back onto the cabinet and not only does it look great but it now plays brilliantly too. I love the feel of the LS32’s as they come from the factory but I’ve also ordered some extra springs in different tensions to experiment with in the future.
I also took the opportunity to redo the wiring for the controls as the old loom was hacked and a bit messy and dirty. It would’ve cleaned up after a cycle through the dishwasher, but I enjoy wiring, I find it quite therapeutic, so out with the old and in with some new.
Now we were ready to play some games with my multi jamma board. But as good as some of the games on the 19in1 pcb are, it was the only spare pcb I had, and I had so many other games I wanted to experience on the huge screen of this new cabinet. So, I had to consider my options, and whilst I would love to own a library of original pcbs, the simple truth is I don’t, but I didn’t want a bulky PC, either inside or to the side of the cabinet with all the extra wiring and power supplies that entails. Plus with the wiring and monitor needing a jamma signal at 15hz, this wasn’t necessarily an easy option either.
I’ve mentioned on another post on this blog, about how much I love the Raspberry Pi computers and having been pleasantly surprised with the capabilities of these tiny and affordable machines, I wondered if this was a possibility? I had seen a few posts on various forums where people, more tech savvy than I, had successfully married up a ‘Pi2Jamma’ system, which had been an ongoing development, that was still going through the early stages, that carried with them, teething problems, but they were getting better and better, and closer to being a solution to my needs.
I kept an eye on one of the main ‘developers’ until he released an updated version that I was happy with, and I got in touch with him. He was absolutely spot on with all his answers, clearly no hard sales pitch, just honest answers to my questions. And with my appetite stoked and my concerns allayed, I took the plunge and ordered his piece of kit.
And then it arrived..
As you can see, it is made up of a RPi3 which is attached to a JPac and that to a jamma edge connector. The wireless/Bluetooth functionality is obviously in place for adding/removing files via your home network. The work has already been done in preloading images and a decent front end emulator and all the assigning of controls, etc, both for playing games and internally within mame.
This really is as simple as, unbox, plug in, test your voltages, as it seem to run better with the 5v slightly higher at 5.5v, then sit down and play. The load up times is especially good, booting straight into my saved favourites. I currently have my monitor physically rotated to the horizontal, so my set-up is programmed to auto-rotate any vertical games, leaving black borders either side. I’ve secured the unit to the PCB board in the cab, which shows you just how tiny it is in comparison.
There are a few very minor snags, but the vendor is really good in aftersales care and is looking at fixing these niggles, which are really slight and do not stop or really effect gameplay and are possibly to be expected in any new venture.
So finally for this post, I’ve uploaded a video, which shows the system from a cold start and a few minutes of play on some randomly selected games, which I hope shows just how good this system is and how well the games play. I am really happy overall with this set up, which means this cabinet, which I love the look and feel of, is now versatile enough to be my everyday go to cab.
One final thought, before people ask, the vendor is taking some time out from new orders to invest in fixing the snags and hopefully making a better experience for everyone, before taking on new orders.
I wish him all the best and hope he succeeds and does well, as he has transformed my playing.
Thanks for reading everyone, hope to see you again next time.