Rebuilding An Arcade Game (post 1 of 4)

Remember these guys?!

I have ALWAYS wanted a stand-up arcade game in my home. You remember Chuck E. Cheese’s or Aladdin’s Castle? Man, I spent SOOOO many quarters at those places. I always thought it be so awesome to have one of my own.

In junior high, I even attempted to build my own. My thought was if I could just build the cabinet, I could put a TV in there with my Nintendo. I drew up plans and daydreamed about it during school. Alas, I’ve never been very good with a saw, hammer, and nails.

So yesterday I’m running for exercise with my daughter Stevie and I see this guy hauling an old Atari Centipede arcade game (circa 1980 — the year I was born) to the curb. I ask him if he’s getting rid of it and he tells me, “I bought this forever ago thinking that I would make a project out of it, but it’s just sat in the garage and now the wife says that it’s gotta go.” My reply, “I’m all over this like a cheap suit!!”

Finally in the garage - day 1

Getting it home was no easy task. Not only is the cabinet extremely awkward to carry, it also weighs close to 400 pounds! We wiggle the thing into the back of the 1000 Generations van and I drove a few blocks to my house. I wasn’t sure if Amanda was going to go for this, but to my joy, she loved the idea (she did know that I’ve really wanted something like this for a while)!

Once I had it in the garage, I was able to take a closer look at the thing. While the artwork on the sides was in relatively amazing shape, I noticed that the marquee sign was not “Centipede,” but “Wonderboy 2.” Wonderboy? What the heck is that? Click here for info on the Wonderboy series, but I wouldn’t waste my time…

Then I noticed that the control panel was totally different. No trackball, but a joystick surrounded by some really lame looking overlay. A few other observations: the glass bezel in front of the screen was not quite right, having been painted over at the bottom, and the CRT TV inside was placed horizontally, not vertically like it was supposed to be.

Wonderboy: It's like Zelda, but with horrible graphics, annoying sounds, and terrible gameplay

I plugged in the game and it fired right up. Unfortunately, it fired up to Wonder boy 2. LAME. I then discovered that while this is an authentic original 1980 Centipede cabinet, it had been converted some time ago (probably around 1989) to this horizontal scroller.

Well, I’m not interested in having a Wonderboy game, but I am VERY interested in having Centipede or something else super-vintage like that (Pac-Man, 1942, Tempest, whatever…). So, what do I do now?

Honestly, I couldn’t have been more excited about all this. If I would have plugged it in and Centipede came on perfectly, I would have thought it was cool. But the chance to actually completely rebuild this thing and learn firsthand about how it works? I was THRILLED!

This is how big the board is for Centipede. Today, you can fit about 35,000 of these on a flash card.

I searched around on the net to find original parts and was really pleased to see that while they haven’t been made in years, they aren’t totally scarce yet either.

Then I invited some friends over. They told me that you can now buy a specialized board that has Centipede plus 59 other classic games on it! Pac-Man, 1942, Dig Dug, Super Breakout, Donkey Kong, Mappy, Arkanoid, Galaga 1, 2, 3, 4….

This presented a bit of a dilemma. I really wanted to rebuild an authentic Centipede, but as I researched I found that not only would it cost me almost double to just get that 1 game, but in the end, I’d only have 1 game. So what I’ve decided to do is this: I’m going to refurbish the cabinet to be a beautifully restored Centipede cabinet with original artwork on the sides, control panel, marquee, backglass, bezels, etc… But inside I’m going to put the 60-in-1 board (to see where I bought this board, click here).

This was not going to be an easy task! I’d need to find either original parts or at least New Old Stock to make it authentic. Because the inside of the cabinet was also completely redone, I knew I’d need to do some serious woodwork as well.

Halo doesn't hold a candle to this...

I just started in on this project and want to keep updating you on it. Maybe you’re like me and always thought about doing something like this. Maybe you think I’m crazy when I could just download all 60 of these games on an iPhone for probably $4. Regardless, I’m having a BLAST and I truly feel like the end product is going to be something to be proud of. Heck, I’d love for you to come over and play me in Dig Dug or something!

I’ll keep you posted as it comes along. Expect updates every few days or so. I’m working on this every night after my little girl goes to bed (and often after Amanda does too). I’m knee-deep in this thing now and I’m having a nostalgic blast!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Joshua shumaker
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 22:21:02

    I guess i know what the white marker was for now? 🙂 If you need any help with the wood working part let me know!

    Reply

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