Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Always Gets a Replay, Never Seen Him Fall

It's the First of May, so in addition to the Jonathan Coulton agenda (NSFW), we're seeing ASU move into final exams for the semester, and a few weeks later the rest of the schools will wrap up, assuming the teacher's strike doesn't add too many make-up days.  And that means the summer season is upon us, and customer footfall for suburban stores like ours should skyrocket.

And that means it's high time to get the DSG Vintage Arcade back bigger than ever!

I chronicled the Arcade's demise at our Gilbert location years ago right here on the Backstage Pass.  In that article, I wrote:
"The new location is being scouted and will be selected knowing that we intend to bring back all the glory of our vintage arcade many times over and we will need room to facilitate that.  I know I am setting a high expectation, but I also know how much amazing gear we have squirreled away right now, so I am confident of our ability to deliver on that promise."
And lo, it hath cometh to pass.

We have even more pinball and video awesomeness still yet to arrive, but the DSG Vintage Arcade right now is already the largest it has ever been, and is already earning better than it ever did.  It is, as observed in that article years ago, a draw all by itself.

So, without further ado, here is the arcade!

Right up front we have Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, the pinnacle of fighting games on Capcom's CPS3 platform and to this day one of the core tournament versions of Street Fighter.  The 3KOAM cabinet features a lag-free CRT and Sanwa JLF-1 joysticks.

Moving inward from SF3, we have Marvel vs Capcom 2, a perennial favorite in the smash-up fighter genre.  This Sega NAOMI mainstay is run deliberately on an American Dynamo cabinet with Spanish IL joysticks, whose springs are preferred for combos that require a quick release to center.

Immediately after that we have the post-golden classic 720 Degrees by Atari.  If you ever heard the term "Skate or Die!" in any context having to do with skateboarding, know that it originated in this video game, in which you must perform tricks and stunts to earn and redeem tickets to the skateparks before a swarm of angry bees kills you.  Not even making that up.

Four pinball machines reside at DSG for now, with literally over a dozen more still in the process of restoration (though I doubt we'll get them all on the floor at once).  You've seen High Speed and Lethal Weapon 3, they arrived during the winter.  They are joined now by Data East Star Wars and the Pinball 2000 Star Wars Episode 1.  Star Wars is classic 1990s pinball and has a fairly basic rule set but some very satisfying shots, one ramp in particular that you'll repeat ad nauseam.  Episode 1, unlike the movie, is actually really good as a pinball game!  But the public displeasure at the movie bled over into the world of pinball, where the Episode 1 table, despite using the groundbreaking Pin2K platform that debuted with Revenge from Mars, was a commercial failure.  Williams actually folded their pinball operations in its wake, and it was a few years before Stern rose up to serve the collector market.  So, in an oblique way, Star Wars Episode 1 was so bad it killed the pinball industry.

Right past the pins we have a Neo Geo MVS-2 expanded to an MVS-4, with even newer, even sharper Spanish IL joysticks.  It's probably more correct to get square-gated JLFs for this unit, and if this were the Candy Neo 6 cabinet we had back in the original DSG, we'd surely do so.  But the control panel on the American MVS cabinets isn't a good fit for them.  Instead we use oversized square grommets under the fittings to ensure proper cornering, so that fighting game "fireball" movements go off without a hitch.  The unit runs Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble, Metal Slug, Blazing Star, and a random cartridge we switch up from time to time.

I'm really happy we had one of these to bring in, because it's one of those classics that everyone remembers only when they encounter it, and then they just have to play, especially if you're with a friend, and the original arcade controls and screen are the only way it "feels" right.  Williams's Joust is an all-timer and we've got non-volatile memory on board so it will save your high scores.

We have a Dynamo cabinet with a Capcom CPS2 system installed, and that gives us access to the Street Fighter Alpha and Super series, the Vampire/Darkstalkers games, and a pile of great shooters and beat-em-ups.  But for a store like DSG where Dungeons & Dragons reigns, it was an easy decision to alternate this back and forth between Tower of Doom and Shadows Over Mystara.  There's a different wiring system we need to track down and we have a four-player control panel under construction, so that will also happen.

No MAME here, Billy Mitchell!  We play Donkey Kong on its original hardware -- almost.  With a customized ROM chip we have internet high score saving and leaderboards!  Play your best at DSG and become immortal!

Nintendo had some truly underrated arcade hardware.  This is our Playchoice, which thanks to some technical trickery has been enabled for NES cartridge play, with the following titles: Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Metroid, Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Mega Man 2, Gauntlet, Tetris, Super Mario Bros 3, and Contra!

Next to the Playchoice is a Nintendo Vs Double featuring Super Mario Bros and Castlevania.  What's the difference?  These are harder versions meant to challenge expert players!  The Vs Super Mario Bros eliminates some duplicate levels and includes Lost Levels stages instead.  Here's the list of differences.  Meanwhile, Vs Castlevania adds enemies and takes away most of the wall chicken.

Many of you have played our Ms. Pac-Man multi, which runs the ArcadeSD motherboard for faithful renditions of such classics as the Pac-Man and Donkey Kong series, Frogger, Dig Dug, Qix, Tutankham, Galaga, Sinistar, and Zaxxon.  Here's the full list of supported games.

Finally, we have a Konami 4-player JAMMA system, which runs the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, The Simpsons, and Sunset Riders, the latter of which is not found in abundance in the wild, so we'll see if we end up finding one that's affordable.  (You don't really get to bargain hunt in the arcade world unless you're willing to buy non-working gear and repair it, which we usually are.)  We're going to continue alternating between and among whichever of those titles we have the hardware for, to ensure the four-player beat-em-up lineup remains fresh.  The restoration on this cabinet was especially well done, with authentic leaf-switch controls throughout and correct colors and graphics, though we haven't vinyled up the sides yet as they're not essential.

And that's it... for now!  I know the business partners are eager to bring even more pins and vids to the floor, and with the Swingin' Safari Mini Golf set to open next door on the 19th of this month, and the word "ARCADE" beautifully emblazoned on their front window, we're delighted to anticipate even more foot traffic for these great retro throwbacks.

It's great to be doing this again.  It's great to be doing something different in our sector of the industry, and something that we know the mainstream "gets."  Who knows, before long we might even figure out how to run a game store.

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