In this installment of “Form of Awesome” Wonder Twins are cornered by evil Crypto Bros in a dark alley. The Crypto Bros are trying to sell them NFTs and will not take no for an answer. Zan and Jayna need to transform to battle these evil doers! What forms should they take and how will those forms help them defeat these crypto creeps?
Looking for some inspiration? After you submit your entry you’ll be able to see a list of solutions other super friends have submitted. Turns out the more fun the solution, the more damage is done to the Tech Bros.
I’m on a bit of a bavacade blog roll to document some of the work done on a few cabinets, namely Condor, Bagman, and finally—for now—Donkey Kong Junior.
Funny enough I thought Donkey Kong Junior was the least beat up of the three initially, it had some gouges at the corners, a broken lip where the T-molding fits, and the bottom pedestal was crumbling a bit—but overall the cabinet looked solid.
But in the following image you get a sense of not only some issues with the rounded corner but also the black pedestal crumbling:
Turns out the entire base was extensively water damaged and needed to be replaced. The sides are made of 5/8″ particle board rather than plywood, which made me think it might have been replaced, but according to this forum thread on KLOV that was the building material for cabinets made in the US*, as opposed to the plywood cabinets being from Japan. The things you learn on the internet.
Anyway, I went to work dismantling Donkey Kong Junior, and given this is the fourth game I have stripped down to its bones, I’m getting quicker and more efficient. But, as always, I took ALL the photos just to be sure, as the album on Flickr above confirms.
After taking it apart Alberto picked it up and got to work on replacing the pedestal and fixing any gouges. I also asked him to add wheels like he had for Bagman given I loved how they functioned. After a couple of weeks he finished up and reported it was a bit of a beast to restore, but he is awesome and it looked pretty awesome.
In the image below you can see part of the front panel beneath the coin door was cut out and replaced. It is noticeable from the bottom corners of the front panel that angle to the bottom corners of the space where the coin door goes. A sign of the beast Alberto was struggling with.
Alberto even made me a custom coin barrel given the original was missing, which is freaking awesome:
In the image below you can see the bottom sides have been repaired, and that it was, again, more extensive than either of us imagined:
You can get a sense of the clean up on the back, upper corners as well as the reinforcement of the T-molding groove from the following images:
And once I got the cabinet on its back in preparation for being painted, you have a good look at the new pedestal built with 2″ x 4″s as well as those awesome hidden wheels that Alberto installed:
I documented the paint job pretty well on twitter, because that is always fun:
It ultimately took four coats to get rid of any signs of the work. What’s more, after finishing coat number four I realized I got matte rather than glossy paint, which is what I technically should have used to be truly faithful. So being OCD, I tried a transparent gloss spray paint but that looked uneven, so I just added a fifth coat of the matte and called it a day.
Some final glossy transparent spray paint sealer, and the orange for the Donkey Kong Jr cabinet is done. The on to black trim… pic.twitter.com/W3vHoDUDJf
Previous to adding to the brown paper covering on the side art shown above, I applied masking tape and cut around the side art with an Exacto knife:
After the orange on both sides were done, I turned to the black trim and that came out pretty well. But it did bleed through the masking tape barrier in a few areas so I needed to do some clean-up. If I were to do it over, I would have started with the black trim and then done the orange, given black hides more than orange.
Finished up black trim on Donkey Kong Jr cabinet this morning, which means it’s now time to put it back together. pic.twitter.com/kodJMSPaTX
The trick now was to put it back together, and that took a couple of hours and I did consult my teardown album quite a few times. But despite my nerves, it turned on without an issue. Look mom, no smoke!
All back together, but promised I would wait until after lunch to try turning it on as to not kill that festive Friday feeling if shit goes south pic.twitter.com/SAvZ3vu33S
The happy ending here is that a local store owner had expressed interest in having Donkey Kong Junior on display in his store. I told him I was working on a restoration, and Saturday morning Miles and I delivered the goods, and this gorgeous Donkey Kong Junior is now on site and can be played at the hip clothing store 5 Tasche here in Trento.
I have to note that along with the Scramble restoration, this was a really rewarding project given how beautiful this cabinet turned out. Perhaps not as next-level as Scramble given that required stenciling the side art, but the orange and black combination of Donkey Kong Junior is really magical. Also, this wraps up all the cabinet work to be done with the existing collection in Italy at the moment, which clears the deck for the incoming 15 14 games that will need a fair amount of TLC.
*These cabinets were made specifically in Redmond, Washington.
Moving on from “Saving the Condor,” the next restoration project was for the 1982 arcade cabinet Bagman. This golden-age game was created by the French arcade company Valadon Automation, and licensed to Stern in the US and Taito in Japan. Valadon followed-up with Super Bagman (1984) that I have yet to see or play in the wild, but I must say the original Bagman is difficult enough!
I bought this cabinet here in Italy, and I choose it because it was in good shape and almost entirely original—not to mention a bit off the beaten arcade path. The glass bezel is the only original piece missing, and I must say the comic margins add a nice touch:
I’m considering getting the original image embedded above printed to the glass bezel fitted to the cabinet, but first I have to find someone who does that work. Not essential, but that would truly be the finishing touch.
Anyway, the cabinet did have some water damage towards the bottom, similar to my Scramble project but far less extensive. I stripped the cabinet of all its internal parts, control panel, coin door, marquee, etc. so that all was left was the bones so that Alberto could take it and do his woodworking magic. I documented all the parts removed and various connections so I would remember how to put it back together, although for this one I really didn’t need the photos because the game board and power supply are all housed together in a drawer at the bottom of the cabinet.
The teardown went surprisingly smooth thanks to all Duke’s hard work 🙂
And after removing the marquee light and monitor the game was out the door. I got it back a couple of weeks later and had previously matched the yellow at a local paint store.
Alberto not only cut out the water damage and replaced the base, he also added some really elegant hidden wheels to the bottom of Bagman that lift the game about a quarter inch off the floor. You would never know the game is on wheels, but castors like this definitely make moving the game around the basement a lot easier. The wheels are not lockable, but I find the game remains stable when leaned against and only moves when pushed with some force. That said, I do think keeping a game with these wheels flush against a wall would avoid any possible issues. I liked them so much I had the same wheels added to the Donkey Kong Jr cabinet, but more on that in the next post.
You can see the original wheels for tilting the game back to move it are still there, but having castors for moving the games around is really the way to go with a home arcade:
After covering the Bagman side art and the existing T-molding with masking tape, I gave the cabinet a clean coat of yellow paint on the sides and back, and touched up the black on the front panel. This is my favorite part because it’s really the only thing I can do 🙂
And once I did a few coats and made everything beautiful it was time to rebuild:
Again, it went quite quickly and I was left with a gorgeous specimen! I love the monitor on this machine, it is running a spiffy G07.
And with that I have bagged the Bagman cabinet, and it is looking brand spanking new!
Sometimes the blog post titles just write themselves…but on with the show.
Over the past month or so I’ve been fixing up several cabinets in the bavacade that have cosmetic issues. I’ve been pushing hard on this because I want to ensure the current games in the collection are in tip-top shape before the next wave of games invades in June 🙂 So, I’ll start a series of posts talking about some of the work that’s been happening to make sure it’s all documented. First up is Condor, an interesting bootleg of the venerable Phoenix arcade cabinet by the Italian game company Sidam. Condor is basically identical save the music and fuel gauge that makes it infinitely more difficult than Phoenix. I picked this up in March and it is all original but there where a couple of gouges in the back of the cabinet.
The other thing is the edge connector which connects the game board to various other parts of the cabinet like the control panel, monitor and power supply was a total mess, so that needed an overhaul.
I did some repair soldering on the edge connector, but I know it needed a total overhaul, so that was on the list. The marquee light was also not working, so I went ahead and added an LED marquee light that worked well, and I took a quick video describing that process.
The fun thing about these refurbishing projects is you really have to strip the cabinet down to nothing, which often means documenting every piece so that you know how to put it back together again. This might make the camera on the standard smart phone the greatest thing for how-to DIY projects ever—not to mention the flashlight.
I have started making albums in Flickr with all the photos for each project that requires dismantling a cabinet so that I have an easy reference for re-assembly, and here is the Condor prepped for surgery:
And here is the cabinet after Alberto, the woodworking magician, cleaned up the gouges:
It is perfect, I do paint the cabinets when needed, but Condor needed some black touch up paint, so Alberto did that and it basically came back to me ready to be rebuilt immediately.
I was also able to get the edge-connector cleaned up with some help of another local electronics miracle worker, Roberto, you’ll notice a theme emerging here wherein I am doing next to no work. Forbo, as they say in Italian.
The final pieces on this game’s revitalization project was getting some wing nuts to secure the control panel, which was loose. The other was getting the spare board fixed given it was throwing garbage when I tested it—despite the fact the seller noting “it works fine!” Gotta keep your spare boards in good shape, you never know when one is gonna blow. Mine extra Condor board is still be looked at back in the US, but hoping to retrieve it when I am back in the Midwest two weeks from now.
Nonetheless, this project is finished and it sits comfortably between two of its similarly minted out brethren to make for a gorgeous trinity of Sidam bootlegs in the bavacade.
Tim Clarke is helping a faculty member get Ghost up and running on Reclaim Cloud, and has used Reclaim’s EdTech Discord channel to ask for clarification around Mailgun settings and environmental variables. Both of which I did not document fully in my Ghost series earlier this year. Tsk, tsk, Jimmy! What’s more, Taylor Jadin has showed me an easier way to add environment variables to Ghost since then, so I figured I would quickly document it. This below method allows you to add the Ghost site’s URL and/or Mailgun settings to the container without editing the config file on the server, this makes any updates easier to do.
His questions also helped me realize we do have all the necessary stats around open rates for our newsletter in Mailgun, but that data is not being recognized/shared with Roundup’s Ghost install, so will have to dig in a bit deeper. I am also quite glad Tim asked this question cause I was really happy to learn almost 60% of folks subscribed to the Roundup have at the very least opened it. Yeah!
N.B. – The variables option illustrated here works for a Ghost instance installed directly from Docker Hub on Reclaim Cloud. If you install Ghost within Docker Engine you no longer have the ability to add variables directly to the container’s Variables setting in Reclaim Cloud, you will need to edit them within Ghost at on the container at /var/lib/ghost/config.production.json and then reload the container being sure to give it some time to come back up.
I recently welcomed a new game into bavacade, namely Pleiades. The acquisition of which reminded me of a scene from a childhood favorite b-movie horror omnibus called Nightmares (1983). I just posted about this film and its relationship—at least in my mind—to another 80s cult classic Repo Man. As I mentioned in that post, there is a scene where JJ Cooney (Emilio Estevez) is hustling a kid out of money at Pleiades while listening to Fear’s “Let’s Have a War.” You can see that scene in the clip below:
And for those with a discerning arcade ear, you might realize the sound effects that they link with Pleiades are actually for Moon Cresta, but that may be outside your golden age of video games arcade trivia pay-grade.
Anyway, all that led me back to Nightmares to play one of my favorite movie games, identify the video game cabinet. I should do a whole series of posts on video games that show up in 80s movies—it speaks volumes to their ubiquity and also tells an interesting tale of just how popular arcade games were during the early 1980s. In terms of business revenue, I love this bit from the “golden age of arcade video games” Wikipedia page:
In 1982, the arcade video game industry’s revenue in quarters was estimated at $8 billion surpassing the annual gross revenue of both pop music ($4 billion) and Hollywood films ($3 billion) combined that year. It also exceeded the revenues of all major sports combined at the time, earning three times the combined ticket and television revenues of Major League Baseball, basketball, and American football, as well as earning twice as much as all the casinos in Nevada combined.
The idea that arcade games had more revenue than all major sports combined is mind-blowing, not to mention Hollywood and pop music. It’s easy to forget just how big a phenomenon they were in the early 80s, and while they never really lost steam in terms of growing popularity (in fact, they are once again bigger than Hollywood and professional sports combined in the US thanks to the pandemic) they can be easily overlooked given how ingrained into the culture they’ve become. So, it’s always interesting to see early 80s takes on arcades, video game addictions, delinquent youth, and punk rock—and “Bishop of Battle” has it all and more. But that’s not what this post is about, it’s actually about what I discovered when re-watching Nightmares, and this is where things get a bit geeky.
Over the last several years I’ve worked with Tim to create Reclaim Arcade, which has been a total blast and has pushed me into all kinds of cool corners of not only buying these old games but also repairing and restoring them. When it became clear during the pandemic I was not going back to the US anytime soon to enjoy Reclaim Arcade, I started collecting games here in Italy, hence the bavacade. One of the coolest things I discovered was a whole bootleg market in Italy wherein companies would “borrow” games from the US market (such as Asteroids, Scramble, Phoenix, Dig Dug, Galaga, Missile Command, etc.) and then reverse engineer them, re-name them, and create new cabinet designs to hop on the wave that was invading Europe as well. The premier Italian company doing this was Sidam, and I have three of their games: Asterock (Asteroids bootleg), Condor (Phoenix bootleg), and Explorer (Scramble bootleg). The Explorer cabinet’s side art is particularly beautiful, it is like panels from a comic book of an astronaut in space.
So, it struck me when I was searching for screenshots of the “Bishop of Battle” episode to come across side art from an Explorer:
The Explorer side art in Bishop of battle
I recognized that red astronaut behind Emilio, that’s Explorer! I was pretty excited, and it prompted me to go through the scene in the arcade when JJ Cooney gets to the 13th level of the game, at which point it is no longer a game. The collapse of the virtual and real worlds is realized on level 13—kinda like the 13th floor—and the space shooter is now taking place within a mall arcade in the Valley. The animation for this sequence is pretty amazing, and according to the IMDB trivia page it almost killed the production given how much it ran over budget.
Don’t shoot the Explorer JJ! You can just make out the Explorer cabinet to the right of the red glowing orb
But back to Sidam’s Explorer, it actually plays a key role in this scene as the arcade cabinet that is routinely blown up by JJ Cooney as he tries to shoot the adversaries that have come out of the game into the arcade. Below you can get a good shot of the Explorer cabinet falling like a chopped tree:
A falling Explorer
And sadly, below, you see the cabinet lying lifeless on the arcade floor. It breaks my heart.
A downed Explorer
In the following shot you can just about glimpse the Explorer marquee as it is being shot for a second time in this sequence, turns out Explorer was one of the games they deemed unworthy enough to sacrifice multiple times. I mean it’s just an Italian-made knock-off of Scramble, which they already have in this arcade. And you don’t see them destroying an Asteroids, it’s way too valuable!
You can just make out the Explorer marquee in this shot
The morning after JJ’s late night exploits the Explorer can be seen, once again, lying dead on the floor.
Image of a destroyed Explorer the morning after
And when the arcade proprietor, Willy, picks up a piece of the wreckage to bemoan the vandals, he grabs a broken part of the Explorer cabinet which can be identified by the side art.
Willy, the arcade proprietor, removing a broken piece of the Explorer cabinet
It’s an Explorer bloodbath! I would really love to know how many of these Sidam cabinets made it to the US, and even more interesting—why? Seems like selling to US distributors/arcades would be against Sidam’s interests given they were clearly ripping the intellectual property off from US and Japanese companies, so it would behoove them to keep it in Europe. Anyway, not sure on those details, but following the fate of this Explorer was quite fun. It was a sacrificial lamb, and I can’t help but think its status as foreign fake, hence lesser, was part of that decision.
I recently picked up Scream Factory’s 2015 blu-ray release of Nightmares (1983), a low-budget urban legends/horror omnibus in the vein of Creepshow (1982) and Cat’s Eye (1985)—the latter of which my brother loved. I’ve been watching and re-watching “The Bishop of Battle” episode of Nightmares because it is not only the best of the four chapters by a long shot, but also because it has some vintage footage of early 80s arcades—not to mention a prolonged sequence highlighting the gameplay of Pleiades to the soundtrack of Fear’s “Let’s have a War.”
It’s a lot of fun to watch this 25 minute episode and try to identify the various games of the era in the arcades. In fact, there was a pretty big surprise for me in my recent close watchings, but I’ll save that revelation for my next post. Like and subscribe!
Here I want to highlight something I stumbled upon that provides an interesting link, at least for me, between the “The Bishop of Battle” episode another childhood favorite: Repo Man (1984). To set the stage, in “Bishop of Battle” young punk JJ Cooney (Emilio Estevez) hustles some kids in a downtown LA arcade to raise money for his video game addiction. He and his accomplice just barely escape on the bus after being found out and pursued. In the above scene, immediately following their getaway, you see them exiting the bus and heading to their local arcade in the Valley which is like totally in a mall.
In this companion scene from Repo Man you also have a young 80s punk, Otto, played again by Emilio Estevez just a year later who also listens to the same LA punk bands he did in “Bishop of Battle.” And it’s almost an identical shot of Otto returning from LA, but this time not to an arcade but his parents house to get some promised college money. Otto is ultimately frustrated when he hears his hippie parents have given his college money to a TV evangelist who is supplying bibles to El Salvador.
What’s wild about these scenes is almost as if JJ and Otto are the same character walking out of one film into another at different, yet chronologically aligned, moments in their young adult life. In “Bishop of Battle” JJ admits stealing quarters to his concerned parents but promises it’s all about to end once he beats the Bishop.
In Repo Man, you find Otto a year later having graduated high school in a dead-end job at a super market looking for a way out.
After Otto loses his job and his parents can’t help him he resigns to becoming a repo man. And after working with Bud (the great Harry Dean Stanton!) for a while you find him wearing the shirt and tie rejecting his punk past as he jokes about ever liking the Circle Jerks. So good!
I don’t know why it hit me so hard—like a diamond through the forehead— but after seeing the bus scene in “Bishop of Battle” and an almost identical Emilio Estevez, if only a bit younger, it got me wondering if Alex Cox had scene Nightmares and said, “That’s my Otto!” And, on top of that, used his Edge City bus scenes as a subtle homage to Joseph Sargent’s episode in Nightmares, which is really the template from which Otto seems to be built. Probably not, but I like to think the lattice of coincidence is alive and well in these films 🙂
Trying to play a bit of catch-up on my bavacade given I have made some significant strides towards getting fully operational. One of the recent highlights was finally getting the Gyrussmultigame mod-kit installed so that it can also allow you to play Time Pilot and Pooyan. This mod-kit was by far the most complex yet with the need to desolder 5 chips and install as many daughter boards, and that was just on the main board. There is an additional daughter board for the auxiliary/sound board as well, bringing the gran total to 6 additional boards on the boards.
Here is a look at the Gyruss boards before the mod-kit was installed:
And here is an image after the installation:
The A6/A7 daughter board in the image above (you can identify it by the white stick with writing) has a socket for connecting to the main board, which gives you a sense of the Frankenstein creation of the whole thing 🙂 If you want more details images of the game board chips there is a Flickr album here.
I love having Pooyan and Time Pilot easily accessible on Gyruss by simply pressing down the player 1 button for 5 seconds and being brought to the selector screen to choose my game of choice. I particularly love Pooyan, so that is a total treat for me—it’s the three little pigs fairy tale come to video games:
Although one thing you might notice here, and also on the Time Pilot screen below is that there is a bit of bleeding in the graphics under Free Play, Round One, and the momma pig’s elevator.
You can see the bleeding pretty starkly against the black background of Time Pilot’s opening screen, particularly underneath the red “LICENSED FROM KONAMI.” Not a deal breaker per se, but I would like to know if that is an issue with the mod-kit, or something else. The strange bit is Gyruss shows no signs of that bleeding, so I am thinking—perhaps mistakenly—it’s the mod kit.
That said, the actual game play of Time Pilot shows no bleeding at all, so it is bizarre.
One of the things I learned after trying to desolder and socket chips on the Stargate board which resulted in breaking a trace was that using a desoldering gun on these boards may not be the best approach for a newbie like me. I gave this board to Roberto, a local game repair guru, and he desoldered the five chips and added sockets for me. He recommended as much after seeing my early attempts on the A2 chip on this board, but luckily I knew I was heading into troubled waters and swam back to shore immediately. I guess desoldering a pristine board like this Gyruss with hot air rather than a gun that touches the board is both a cleaner and safer way to go.
This was the last of the multigame mod-kits I had to install in the cabinets I have here in Italy. And it feels good to have gotten that done because as of today I officially have 14 more games on the way to the bavacade, and I have a few mod-kits on-hand to install on those games when they arrive, most excitedly Pac-man and Elevator Action! What’s more, I have to figure out where I’m going to put the 30+ games I have amassed!
Below is a quick video showing off the LED strip setup for lighting my Condor marquee. Most of the tube marquees I have work, but for those that do not I am installing a simple LED solution because it will be a bit more efficient, last longer, and help preserve the original equipment. Not to mention I don’t think you can buy old gold florescent lights in Italy any more. I know some might take issue with using LEDs for some abstract notion of purity, but after dealing with enough of these games that you want to actually play, you quickly learn that old power supply units represent a huge amount of overhead, and if you can modernize that alongside the original components you can save yourself some serious headaches.
Anyway, it was a pretty simple conversion. You can get strips of 12V LED lights and put them in a cut-to-size aluminum LED channel with a diffuser lens. After that, you would use a 12V switching power supply to convert the AC voltage (between 110-220V) coming into the original florescent light and convert it to 12V DC for the LED strip. Finally, I used silicon to fasten the aluminum LED channel to the pre-existing light fixture and that was that. It should cost about $20 to do this for a game, and it might save you at least that in electricity if you use them a fair amount.
I do think the Robotron and Condor LED marquees are looking quite good with their new LED light overlords!
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