Monday, 9 April 2018

Operator Raid – February 2018

I set off on a six hundred mile round trip to visit an Operator. The destination was an unremarkable unit on an industrial estate.

I rang the intercom buzzer several times. After a wait which seemed like forever, the door finally unbolted and I was led inside. There were loads of fruit machines and pub quiz games, as well as jukeboxes, kiddie rides, pool tables, crane grabbers, table football, air hockey and modern arcade games.

Whilst having a look around the unit I saw After Burner Climax SDLX, Guitar Hero Arcade, Mario Kart Arcade GP 2, Sega Rally 2 twin and Terminator Salvation 42”.

Terminator: Judgment Raid!

After Burner Climax SDLX is a very cool machine and seems to be quite scarce these days. The last time I saw one was at Planet Fun arcade in Ingoldmells a couple of years ago. The machine was for sale, but not cheap!

There was also a Virtual Pinball table and some modern arcade cocktail cabs.

I was really pleased to pick up a couple of boxes of arcade PCB’s and MVS cartridges, as well as MVS motherboards. The Op said these had been sited in Jamma cabs and had been stood a while in his storeroom. This is not the first time an Op has sold me PCB’s. A few years ago I picked up Galaga ‘88, OutZone and R-Type II from an arcade in Norwich. The venue is still open, but sadly it only has gambling machines now. More recently I got some CPS2 games and motherboards from a pub / entertainment venue in Chapel St. Leonard’s, near Skegness.

The car loaded up with boards and MVS.

A nice original Cadillacs and Dinosaurs on top of the PCB pile!

There is a decent variety of games and all the carts are original which is a nice bonus.

I gave all the carts a clean and tested them. I was quite pleased as some of the carts marked faulty worked fine after giving the edge connectors a clean with an eraser. All are now working.

I also picked up eight MVS 4 slots and one 1 slot.  Unfortunately all of these turned out to be faulty.

They are a bit of a mixed bag as expected, with a mixture of workers, partial workers and completely dead boards. Here is a list of titles:

1. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

2. Euro League. The board has some broken caps.

3. Final Blow

4. Golden Tee Golf

5. Golfing Greats

6. International Cup '94 & Taito F3 Mobo

7. Mortal Kombat 4

8. Pang 3

9. R-Type

10. Shinobi, on a Sega 16A board with a Quartet 2 label!

11. Street Fighter II'

12. Street Fighter: The Movie. A board is missing.

13. Super Pang

14. Tecmo World Cup '90

15. The Simpsons

16. World Rally

Raid Highlights

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs – Capcom - 1993
I was very surprised to see this PCB. Bootlegs are quite common and it’s rare to see original Capcom CP System I Q-Sound hardware. The board is in extremely clean condition and looks almost new, although the plastic grey case is missing. I do wonder if some of these boards were shipped out without the case.

I tested the board and the game was completely dead. The A, B and C boards were tested and appeared to be good. This is the World version. The ROMs were verified as correct. The voltage on the button battery was good. However the battery on the Q-Sound board was completely dead, i.e., the board had suicided. The Kabuki chip has been re-programmed and the battery replaced, and the board is now working perfectly. A massive thanks to Aaron, aka GadgetFreak (Ukvac) for the repair work.

R-Type – Irem – 1987
It was awesome to find an original R-Type board amongst the haul. The game was working, but had some graphical glitches. I sent it off to Phil, aka IronGiant / VectorGlow, along with some other boards from the Raid. He managed to repair the board fully, tracing the issue to two bad chips on two boards. Phil offers a fantastic service and comes highly recommended.

Shinobi / Quartet 2 – Sega – 1986
This is an interesting one. It’s a Sega 16A board running Shinobi, and has an official looking Quartet 2 label. I suspect it’s a factory conversion. Admittedly I didn’t know much about Quartet 2, and looking into it has piqued my interest even further!

Quartet was released in a four player dedicated cabinet, with each player using a specific set of joysticks and buttons. Quartet 2 is a two player version of the original, with a character select. It appears the game was sold as a conversion kit, allowing pre system 16 Quartet boards to be converted to Quartet 2 by swapping the ROM boards. Original boards seem to be scarce. Apparently it was common in Japan for Quartet 2 PCB’s to be hand converted from other System 16A PCB’s. Indeed there is one on the System II blog which was originally a Passing Shot. The fact that my board actually has a Quartet 2 label makes it very unusual. Hopefully I’ll be able to convert it back.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Return to The House of the Dead

I was extremely happy to see Daytona USA back in the arcades last year, and it’s awesome to see the return of another classic Sega franchise.  Arriving twelve years after last installment, The House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn was location tested last month in Japan and the game was showcased at the Japan Amusement Expo 2018. 

These promotional masks were given out to JAEPO 2018 attendees.  I was fortunate to win one from the Throwback Tokyo – Gaming in Japan Facebook group.

It’s testament to the quality and popularity of the series that machines can still be found in many arcades around the UK.  The games play well and are still loads of fun today.

This awesome The House of the Dead trio is currently on location at the Grande Pier, Weston-super-Mare, UK.

Here is a look back at the series, with pictures of machines I have played over the years.

The House of the Dead
Year of release: 1996
Developer: Sega AM1 / WOW Entertainment
Hardware: Sega Model 2C CRX
Cabinet: 29” Upright, 29” Standard ‘Midi’ Cabinet & 50” projection screen Deluxe

The plot revolves around Dr. Roy Curien, a renowned biochemist and geneticist, reportedly obsessed with discovering the nature of life and death.  Yes, that old chestnut!  Agents Thomas Rogan and “G” are tasked with investigating Dr. Curien’s Mansion.  His experiments have driven him insane, resulting in him releasing the subjects into the world.  Well you knew it wasn’t going to end well! 

Combining the first-person rail shooter game play of Virtua Cop with a horror zombie-survival / B movie theme, the game was an instant hit.  With its gruesome visuals and cheesy voice acting, the game was a complete departure from anything Sega had released before.  It’s hard to believe the game was released 22 years ago!

The House of the Dead Standard ‘Midi’ cab at Hemsby, UK.

This machine at Hayling Island, UK appears to be a Virtua Cop conversion.

The House of the Dead 2
Year of release: 1998
Developer: Sega AM1 / WOW Entertainment
Hardware: Sega Naomi
Cabinet: 29” Upright, 50” projection screen Deluxe & 50” projection screen Super Deluxe Theatre Cabinet

Set fourteen months after the 1998 Curien Mansion incident in The House of the Dead, the game takes place in 2000 on the streets of Venice following a zombie outbreak.  Goldman, the man who funded Dr. Curien, is responsible.  Agents James Taylor and Gary Stewart are sent to stop him.

The House of the Dead 2 Super Deluxe cab on Great Yarmouth seafront.

I picked up the awesome THOTD2 Gun Set for the Japanese Dreamcast upon release.  If I remember rightly it was from ACE, a video game import shop down one of the small side streets off Carnaby Street, London.  I was blown away by the conversion and I still have the game today.  This game has also proved very popular with my little girl.

The House of the Dead 2 Upright at Hermanus Leisure, Winterton-on-Sea.

Gunning down zombies on a night out in Peckham at The Four Quarters.

The House of the Dead III
Year of release: 2002
Developer: Sega AM1 / WOW Entertainment
Hardware: Sega Chihiro
Cabinet: 29” Upright, 29” Naomi Upright & 50” projection screen Deluxe

The third entry in the series is set in the post-apocalyptic year of 2019.  Players take control of Lisa Rogan and Agent “G” as they search for Lisa’s father, Thomas Rogan after he goes missing when embarking on a mission into a mysterious facility.

This time players are armed with a shotgun to take out the hordes of crazed zombies.  The game features time-sensitive game play and a wide variety of branching paths.

The first and third installments at Weymouth, UK.

This arcade at Hemsby had The House of the Dead Naomi Upright, but sadly it’s no longer on site.

The House of the Dead 4
Year of release: 2005
Developer: Sega AM1 / WOW Entertainment
Hardware: Sega Lindbergh
Cabinet: 29” Standard ‘Midi’ Cabinet, 52” HD Deluxe & 62” HD Super Deluxe

This is set in the year 2003, between the events of the second and third installments.  Agent James Taylor and newcomer Kate Green are investigating the Goldman Incident of 2000 and gathering intelligence at the AMS European headquarters.  There is a sudden earthquake which leaves them trapped, and they are shocked to discover that the undead from three years prior have returned.  Talk about having a bad day!

The Uzi submachine gun is the weapon of choice, and players also have grenades at their disposal.  The action is unrelenting and at times there are dozens of enemies simultaneously on-screen.  The game also features branching paths and has a critical shots counter, encouraging the player to go for headshots. 

The House of the Dead 4 Super Deluxe cab at Sega Joypolis in Odaiba, Japan.

I love the gruesome cabinet details.  Truly horrifying, in a good way!  It’s also notable for being the first arcade light gun game to feature a high definition widescreen display.

Here is the Deluxe version on Great Yarmouth seafront and some pics of the internals.

Lindbergh power!

The House of the Dead 4 Special
Year of release: 2006
Developer: Sega AM1 / WOW Entertainment
Hardware: Sega Lindbergh
Cabinet: 360° Motion Theatre Ride featuring two 100” screens & five-speaker sound system

The game takes place shortly after THOTD4, with Kate Green teaming up with Agent “G” to destroy the zombie infestation at its source, leading them to confront the Magician, a boss character who returns after having been destroyed in the first two installments.

I absolutely loved playing this at Sega Joypolis in Odaiba.  Before the game commences, players sit down inside the theater unit, buckle up and are given a short safety brief.  This reminded me of those pre-flight safety briefings, except all in Japanese.  Two 100-inch screens are utilised, one in front of the players and another behind, and the seat automatically rotates to face the players towards whichever screen the zombies are attacking from.  The seat shakes during attacks, and players are blasted with air when damage is sustained.  The game features a life bar and there are no continues.  In a two-player game, players are judged on how compatible they are.  The game is fantastic fun and unintentionally hilarious!

My wife posing with the instruction card at Joypolis back in 2008.

Arcade Spin-offs

There has been a couple of The House of the Dead arcade spin-offs: The Typing of the Dead (1999), Zombie Revenge (1999) and The House of the Dead EX (2009). 

The only one I’ve played is Zombie Revenge, a cool beat ‘em up which was sited in a local bowling alley back in the day.  Interestingly the game is a collaboration between Sega AM1 / WOW Entertainment and Data East, although the exact involvement of the latter isn’t clear.

The plot involves AMS agents being sent to Woodside City to eliminate the undead and track down the leader behind the attack, the mysterious ZED.  There are various references to the original game.  These include the Curien Mansion appearing as its own stage, and the final boss is Black Magician Type 01, clearly based on the Magician.  The game runs on Naomi hardware.

I would really love to play The House of the Dead EX. 

From what I’ve read the game has a more light-hearted, comical vibe.  The protagonists are Zobio and Zobika, a pair of young zombies in love, who seek to escape from captivity.  The levels are made up of a series of minigames, similar to Namco’s Point Blank, and the game also uses a foot pedal.  It runs on Lindbergh hardware and was only released in Japan.

The first installment and The House of the Dead Special made the biggest impact on me, and I consider them my personal favourites of the series.  I can’t wait to see how Sega will continue the series with The House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn.  Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to find out!