Thursday, 9 August 2018

Darius PCB – Pick Up from the Weymouth Raid


Sega Taikan cabs were massive crowd pleasers back in the day, wowing arcade goers with the very latest arcade tech.  Not to be outdone, Taito’s response to this was the incredible Darius triple-screen cabinet, released in 1987.

WARNING!!  A HUGE PCB IS APPROACHING FAST


Darius was the highlight of my recent Raid in Weymouth. I must admit I was pretty shocked to see this one in the crate amongst the PCB’s, although the large triple layer boardset isn’t exactly hard to miss.  Just look at the size of it, it’s almost as intimidating as those mechanical aquatic monstrosities which appear at the end of each level!


The PCB is a little dusty, but is otherwise in very good cosmetic condition.



Aaron, aka GadgetFreak (Ukvac) very kindly made a custom harness to test my Darius PCB. 


This post on ‘Arcade Power Up’ blog proved extremely useful with its excellent harness and board pin out information:
https://pcbiroiro.blogspot.com/2012/01/ninja-warriors-and-darius-to-jamma.html

Given that the board is thirty years old, the complexity and the fact it had been stored in a dusty crate, I didn’t have high hopes.  Needless to say I was absolutely amazed to find it’s fully working! 


On the first boot up, we did get a Ram Error, possibly because all the power points weren’t connected.  However the board was tested numerous times afterwards and proved to be fully working.



The game plays surprisingly well just using the centre monitor.  At first we were a bit concerned sprites were missing, but then remembered it was designed for triple-screens.  Only the centre monitor was connected and the ships were still off screen!  Here is a short video of Darius up and running.


Here are three shots showing the left, centre and right monitor.


In order to seamlessly connect the three-screens together inside the arcade cabinet, the left and right monitors were placed underneath the playfield, facing upwards, with their visuals reflected into view via a one-way mirror.  The centre monitor was placed behind the mirror and is the only one actually facing the player.  The reflection of the two bottom monitors partially overlaps the third monitor, giving the illusion of a seamless massive horizontal playfield. 

The placement of the monitors can be seen in this pic of The Ninja Warriors, taken at Mikado game centre.


The music is absolutely fantastic and is one of the first great soundtracks to come from Zuntata, Taito’s in-house band.  The PCB has left and right channel headphone outputs and the cab came equipped with headphone jacks, another innovative feature. 


The Making of Darius

Source: Shmuplations.com
The website shmuplations.com has a report entitled ‘The Making of Darius’.  This is a translation of an article which originally featured in the 4/87 edition of BEEP! magazine.  It’s an excellent read about Darius and its development, and includes an interview with the team behind the game.  There are some great insights.  I found it fascinating to hear that once they got the three monitors working seamlessly, there was a lot of debate around what type of game to make and that there was even an idea to make all three monitors vertical!

Here is the link to the full article.

The Electrocoin Connection

Like many Taito arcade titles released here in the UK, the cab was produced under license by Electrocoin.  I asked Electrocoin’s John Stergides about how they managed to develop such a strong working relationship with Taito, and he commented “The founder and owner Mr Kogan, was good friends with my father when the TAITO UK division was discontinued.  HQ in Japan decided to appoint Electrocoin as their distributer and manufacturer and we still have a close relation with them however at this time there are currently no new products earmarked for Europe.”

When asked about Darius, John Stergides noted “The game was built at our factory for the European and Middle East markets although some units made it to the USA.  We built over 100 units and the machine sold for £6,000.  It had a moderate income.”  Hopefully there are still a couple of machines out there, gathering dust, just waiting to be found!

I don’t recall ever seeing a Darius cab on these shores, although I did see The Ninja Warriors triple-screen cab many years ago on a school trip to the zoo.  There was a fault, either the controls weren’t working correctly or a monitor was dead, and the cab had an ‘Out of Order’ sign prominently displayed.  I remember removing the obtrusive sign, putting one or two ten pence pieces in it anyway and having a go.  The cab must have made quite an impression on me as that’s the only thing I can remember about the trip!

Darius in Japan

Here are some pics of the awesome Darius games I’ve played in Japanese game centres.

TRY Amusement Tower, Akihabara, 2004


TRY Amusement Tower, 2011


Taito HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard), Akihabara, 2011


The awesome Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX.



A pretty impressive Darius II set-up.


Mikado, Takadanobaba, 2011
Both Darius and The Ninja Warriors were selectable via a switch.  The Darius II is a duel-screen cab.  Interestingly two different versions of the Darius II PCB were produced, one for duel-screen and one for triple-screen.


St. Tropez, Ikebukuro, 2011


Taito Station, Hiroshima, 2011
G-Darius and Darius Gaiden are on the left of the row.


Sega Avion, Osaka, 2011
Darius Gaiden


When I visited Taito Station in Osaka back in 2011, I loved that there was a book for fans to write comments and exchange tips about Darius Burst.



I would love one of these in the games room!



Play Continue Game?
Darius is incredible for its time and its legacy lives on.  The game has a large following and there have been many sequels released over the years for the arcade as well as home systems.  In fact Taito has recently announced Darius Cozmic Collection for the Nintendo Switch, a compilation of classic Darius titles, due for release early next year.  Darius is a landmark title and the legendary series will be enjoyed by gamers for many years to come.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Super Operator Raid II’ Turbo Edition

An open road, blue skies and sandy beaches.  Although in this case it was more stony than sandy.  It was a lovely day for a Raid in sunny Weymouth.


Weymouth is a fair old trek from home and so it became part Raid and part caravan holiday. It all started a couple of months ago when I saw an advert for some Electrocoin Duet cabinets.


This piqued my interest and I enquired whether they had any more PCB’s or arcade gear for sale.  It turns out the seller was an Arcade Operator working for Bristol Coin Equipment. The company had operated arcades since 1972, and at one point they had fourteen arcades. They even had a custom built Jamma test rig and a full electronics workshop for repairing boards.  Unfortunately loads of parts had been binned a couple of years ago.  Last year the decision was made to close their last site in Weymouth, Harry’s Amusements.



The Op mentioned that they had twenty BAS Jamma cabs in the basement, and had sold them all to a collector.  He also had three Ridge Racer DLX cabinets which were sold to collectors. 

I visited the arcade back in 2016 when I was working in Portland.  The arcade still had some nice machines, especially Ridge Racer DLX, which was one of the nicest ones I’d seen. Here are some pics.





After clearing out the old office in Bristol, the Op got back to me saying he had found some PCB’s.  During our holiday, I visited the Op.  Everything was sold as untested and supposedly working until it was pulled from service.  It amazes me what’s still out there in storage, lock-ups and old buildings after all these years.


When I got back from our holiday, I started off by checking through and testing the PCB’s in the crate on the right.  These boards have been stored in Namco kit boxes, which were sent from Brent Leisure.  The boards are in like new condition, and amazingly all of them proved to be fully working.  There is a definite running theme with these boards!

1. Street Fighter II’ The World Warrior



2. Street Fighter II’ Turbo-Hyper Fighting



3. Street Fighter II’ Champion Edition
I was pleasantly surprised to find some arts when I opened up this box.


I removed the arts and was in for another surprise.  Check out that gigantic spider!



It was dead and has probably been dead for a long time, but it didn’t half make me jump.  It would be more at home with an Aliens PCB!

Here are the arts.  Unfortunately the Electrocoin marquee has yellowed quite badly.


4. Street Fighter II’ Champion Edition
Yes, yet another one!



5. Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
This one looks like it’s had a hard life.


However the board cleaned up well and is fully working.



6. RoboCop
Now for something completely different!  An awesome game, I have fond memories of playing this back in the day.


The PCB’s in the left crate were more varied, with some very cool and rare titles.

1. Black Tiger
I was a bit stumped identifying this board as it had a Wrestlefest tag attached to it.  I powered it up and was pleasantly surprised to find it was a fully working Black Tiger.


2. Darius
Yes, Darius!  Well this is one you don’t see very often!  It’s such a shame the original cab was scrapped, but at least the PCB was saved.


3. Football Champ
No Raid would be complete without a couple of football titles!


4. League Bowling
Well I wasn’t expecting to find this cart when I opened the box.  Another case of mistaken identity! 


5. Mortal Kombat


6. Mortal Kombat (bootleg)


7. Robo Army and mobo
I’m really pleased with this being a massive fan of SNK and scrolling beat-em-ups, and can’t wait to play it.  It’s a little dusty, but fully working.


8. Tecmo World Cup ‘90


9. Xevious


Raid Highlights

My Raid highlights are Black Tiger, Darius, Robo Army and Street Fighter II’ The World Warrior.  Darius is a particularly rare find, I’ll be looking into that one a bit more on my next blog entry.