Thursday, 15 February 2018

New Arrival – SNK Super Neo 29 Type II

The Future Is Now
First a little story.  Between 1997 and 2004 I worked on a tanker, transporting liquefied natural gas from Brunei to Japan.  We would discharge at various ports near Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka every three weeks or so.  Quite often we would go to Sodegaura.  Sodegaura had a small street, a shopping mall and a few small bars and eateries.  If I only had a couple of hours ashore, I’d do a bit of shopping and have a few beers and some Yakitori chicken.  One shop sold games, and I still have the used but minty Axelay I picked up.  The company put on a courtesy bus from Sodegaura to Chiba, with a journey time of about one hour.  When I had more time ashore I’d go to Chiba.  Chiba was a great run ashore, with loads of shops, bars, restaurants and excellent arcades.  And Akihabara was only a forty minute train ride from Chiba.  Shore leave in Japan was one of the great things about the job, and as an engineer I’d always volunteer to work the early stand-by shift going in to port to get the afternoon and evening ashore.

So what’s all this got to do with a SNK Super Neo cab?  Well on the bus ride to Chiba, we always passed Neo Geo Bowl, a large arcade / bowling alley run by SNK.  I don’t have many gaming regrets, but one of them is never asking the bus driver to stop and spending the afternoon there. 

Image 1

Image 2
In 2011 we visited Tokyo Leisureland arcade, Odaiba. 

The venue was formerly the infamous Neo Geo World.  Opening March 1999, the venue featured rows of machines showcasing Neo Geo titles, as well as rides, bowling, karaoke, restaurants, shopping and cinema.  Neo Geo World closed March 2001 and later re-opened as Tokyo Leisureland.  It was nice that the venue still housed an arcade, but NGW and the awesome SNK candy cabinets were long gone.

It is likely my SNK Super Neo Type II cab came from one of these SNK amusement parks.  Who knows, maybe it came from the one I used to drive past all those years ago.

Image 3
About The Cab
I have a New Astro City which is my dedicated vertical shooter cab, and I really liked the idea of getting another 29” cab with the monitor set to horizontal.  The cab currently has Akai Katana installed.

There were several versions of the Super Neo 29 cabinet.  The Super Neo 29 was wired for MVS in stereo, and had a select button and space on the marquee for four Neo mini marquees.  

The Super Neo 29 Candy was wired for Jamma in mono.  In addition to the version with the ‘Super Neo 29 Candy’ marquee, there is also a ‘pop’ version with an insertion space on the marquee for arcade art and logos.  

The Super Neo 29 Type II was wired for the Hyper Neo Geo.  Some versions came with an LCD fitted in the Hyper Neo Geo marquee to show the game to spectators.  

Interestingly the seller told me that the cab used to be owned by a guy from Ignition Software, who handled all of the UK home console SNK releases during the PS2 and Xbox era.

A couple of feet were slightly bent and needed straightening.  When I was loading the cab onto the tail lift van, I straightened one of the feet and found a 50 Yen coin had become trapped next to it!

The Good
-It’s a fully working SNK candy cab!
-The cab is totally original and in great condition with only a few minor marks.

-The monitor is very nice with no noticeable burn.
-The side art is in excellent condition with no rips or tears.

-The cab is extremely clean.
-It came complete with manual and keys.
-The amount of space available for PCB’s is awesome!  I’m thinking of constructing a shelf to store multiple boards.

The Not So Good
-There is some slight cigarette burn on the control panel upper near the instruction strip space.  I will probably just leave this.  It’s not too intrusive and all part of the character.
-The plastic monitor surround is a bit yellowed.
-Spares and parts seem to be much harder to source compared with my trusty NAC.

A massive thanks to Jamie (Arcade Otaku) for this awesome cab.

Image 1: Neo Geo Bowl, Chiba - Remains the copyright of John Anderson.
Image 2: Neo Geo Land, from Neo Geo Freak - 1996 September issue.
Image 3: Neo Geo Land, Osaka - Source 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The King of Arcades – A look back at Nanboya Arcade, Osaka

‘No need to book up’, I had told the Mrs.  ‘There are loads of hotels in Osaka, and I know a great one’.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find the place I had in mind, time was getting on and finding a bed for the night was proving difficult.  We must have looked somewhat lost as a kind local stopped and asked if he could assist.  After explaining our plight, he took us to a hotel and even managed to negotiate a cheaper rate!  We dumped our bags, left the hotel for a bite to eat and just happened to pass Nanboya Arcade. 

The arcade was located on a busting street adjacent to a crossing, and looked very similar to The King of Fighters ’98 Osaka stage.

A worn sun faded Gradius poster in the window hinted at the awesome selection of classic cabinets inside. 

The arcade was decrepit and filthy, the cabinets stained nicotine brown from years of cigarette smoke.  In other words, a proper old school Japanese arcade!

The arcade had an awesome line up of rare candy cabs, including Irem Madonna’s, Namco Consolette, Jaleco Pony’s, Konami Domy Jr, Nintendo Vs, and SNK Candy Cabinets.  The arcade felt anachronistic and I was amazed to find such an arcade still exists. 

There was a nice selection of games, including Alien vs. Predator, Donkey Kong, Mr Driller G, Raiden II, Strikers 1999, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, as well as various Neo Geo MVS and Mahjong titles.

Playing Namco Classic Collection on the Domy Jr.  I love these cabinets!

The Mrs getting excited with Bomber Man World.

The next day we just so happened to walk past the hotel I was originally looking for.  I’m so glad we didn’t find it or else we may never have stumbled upon this awesome arcade.

I have seen Nanboya arcade featured in two Japanese publications.  First up is Joystick Gamers! Video Game Photo Magazine #2. 

This magazine features beautiful photographs of old school Japanese arcades and candy cabs.  Below are some shots of Nanboya Arcade.

Next we have the fan made Arcade Manual series.  Each book in the series focuses on a particular candy cab and in the Namco Consolette 26 edition the author visits Nanboya Arcade.

Jeff / Rancor (Shmups / Arcade Otaku) very kindly translated these pages for me.

The write up on page 16 and 17 is a review of the arcade.  The author writes about how it was the first arcade that he had ever seen an actual Namco Consolette in, and it was a shame that is was so deserted.  Apparently it’s quite large and has many other candy cabs that are not often seen (Madonna, Domy Jr, Nintendo Vs, DECO etc).  He stayed there for about three hours, and only saw five customers come and go, and he wonders how much longer the arcade can stay open.  Since the air conditioning was cold (he was there in August) he thinks that maybe people just came in to cool down, and didn’t actually want to play any games.  A few just sat in chairs and played their smartphones for a bit before leaving.  He uploaded a video of the arcade to the URL.

He’d like to be able to spend more time in the arcade to make some 3D models of the machines.  Apparently this arcade is quite special.

On page 17 he just describes the neighbourhood that it’s in, as well as how to find the shop.  He says it’s quite grimy on the outside and is in a run down neighbourhood next to a place that sells grilled chicken.

Many thanks once again to Jeff for the translation.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Arcade Club

Once again we journeyed up North to Arcade Club, the largest gaming venue in Europe.  The biggest change since my last visit is Floor Two ‘Modern Arcade’ is now up and running.  Floor Two features PC gaming, a pinball room, VR stations as well as some extremely cool modern Japanese arcade games.  It was awesome and slightly surreal seeing these Japanese games in the UK, and they were proving extremely popular.  This floor is over eighteens only, or sixteen plus when accompanied by an adult.

Here is walk round video of Floor Two recorded on a busy Saturday night.  There is also a pinball room and a classic arcade game room not featured in the video.

Floor One ‘Classic Arcade’ has lots of awesome new additions as well.  Here are some of my gaming highlights, in no particular order.

Food Fight – Atari, Inc. – 1983

Another Arcade Club first for me.  Guide Charley Chuck to the ice cream before it melts, whilst fending off angry chefs.

The ’49-way joystick’ gives players precise control over Charley Chuck.

A fun game and beautiful cabinet.

Alien Syndrome – Sega – 1987

Shoot the aliens and rescue the survivors in this overhead run and gun shooter. 

A cool game and a fantastic looking cabinet, I love the alien topper!

Groove Coaster 3: Link Fever – Matrix Software / Taito - 2016

Rez meets Guitar Hero, as the player follows their in-game avatar on a high-speed journey along a fantastic 3D rollercoaster track.  The game is really fun and immersive. 

The game features tracks by Zuntata, Taito Corporation’s ‘house band’, known for the soundtrack of games such as Bubble Bobble, The Darius series and the Ray series, among others.

The cabinet even has a headphone jack, very cool!

Jubeat – Konami – 2008

Jubeat is an arcade rhythm game for Konami’s Bemani line of games.  Whilst checking out the arcades in Japan, this title really stood out.  It was something completely different, and watching a good player is pretty mesmerising. 

Utilising an arrangement of sixteen buttons in a four by four grid, the player must press the squares as they illuminate in time with the music.

Initial D Arcade Stage 8 Infinity ∞ – Sega – 2014

I enjoyed a couple of credits on this one-on-one racer, and love the cab aesthetics.  Again it’s a shame there hasn’t been a Western release.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker – Sega – 1990

Regent Bowl in Great Yarmouth, which sadly burnt down last year, had one of these dedicated three player Moonwalker cabs back in the day.

I remember going down the bowling alley one Saturday afternoon with a pocket full of change and playing through to the end.  It was the only place I had seen one of these cabs until now, and the game is just as awesome as it was then. 

Saving the children and defeating Mr. Big’s henchmen, I was ten years old again.  Catching Bubbles the chimp and seeing Michael transform into a giant robot complete with laser cannon arms and missiles never gets old!

Monkey Ball – Amusement Vision / Sega – 2001

One of my favourite Gamecube titles, it was great to play the arcade version. 

The game was produced by the team behind another favourite of mine, Planet Harriers, and is extremely fun and unique.  Check out that control panel!

Strike Force – Midway – 1991

Another uncommon and obscure title!  Strike Force is a modern update of Defender, featuring pre-rendered graphics typical of the early nineties.  Different weapons can be collected and the player can choose which planets to attack, giving the game a strategical element.  A cool cab and an interesting game.

Cho Chabudai Gaeshi! 2 / Super Table-Flip! 2 – Taito – 2010

Flip the table, sending dishes flying and watch as the havoc unfolds in Matrix-style bullet time.  I first played this in Akihabara, Tokyo back in 2012 and never imagined I’d get to play it on these shores.  Hilarious and utterly brilliant!

Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters – Atari Games – 1989
This is a game I had never seen before and knew very little about, but had wanted to play for a long time.  The name alone is one of the best video game titles ever!

The game has a science fiction B movie vibe.  Intergalactic S.W.A.T. team members Jake and Duke must rescue the human hostages.  Blast, duck and dodge robots and eliminate the Reptilons evil empire from Factory Planet X. 

I would describe the game as a sort of cross between Marble Madness and Smash T.V., combining the isometric viewpoint and bright vibrant colours of the former with the relentless shooting action of the latter.  

The levels within the Factory Planet X complex are comprised of different floors.  To ascend to higher floors, the player must locate the master switch that turns on the ‘electro-stairs’.  Wander too close to an unprotected ledge and you may fall and end up holding on to the sides for dear life.

The panel features Hall-effect joysticks, giving the player precision control.

I really enjoyed EFTPORM.  It was great to finally play it and is definitely a new favourite old game!

Ice Cold Beer – Taito – 1983

This electro-mechanical classic is the perfect game to have next to the bar!  Use the joysticks to balance and tilt the ball on the bar up to a lit hole on the playfield, whilst avoiding unlit holes. 

MÚSECA - Konami – 2015

MÚSECA is a recent addition to the Bemani line of arcade rhythm games, and plays like a cross between Pop’n Music and a dance mat game.

The game is played with five circular pads, which can be pressed and spun, and also a foot pedal.

The game is fun, and the addition of the spinning pads and foot pedal is a nice twist.

There was an awesome selection of shooters, including Cyvern: The Dragon Weapons, Ketsui, Armed Police Batrider and DoDonPachi DaiOuJou.

DoDonPachi DaiOuJou was installed in a Capcom Impress.  It was the first time I had seen one of these in the flesh.  The cab is Capcom’s take on the Astro City, similar to how the Status was styled on the Jaleco Pony.

The awesome Electrocoin cab line up.

Some more pics of Arcade Club.

This visit was made particularly enjoyable by my five year old daughter really starting to enjoy the games.  BurgerTime and Pac-Land were definite favourites.  During a game of BurgerTime she turned round, exasperated and said “Oh no, I’ve just been egged!”  We also had fun protecting our castles from dragon fire on Warlords and enjoyed a few races on OutRun2, although until her legs grow a bit longer I’m on accelerator duty.

Andy and the team should be proud of what they have accomplished.  Arcade Club is a monumental achievement and truly world class.