Dig Dug Golden Axe
Dig Dug
Golden Axe

Neo Geo

Pinball: Freedom
Neo Geo
Pinball - Freedom

Yep, its true, I got my own little arcade. It's pretty sweet being that theres never any waiting to play, no quarters spent, and the controls are never broken. In short, its the greatest thing in the world, being able to play arcade games at home. Of course my little arcade didn't come in one nice big box, and is the product of many years and many dollars of effort by me.

It all started way back in late 1998. One day, probably when I was really bored, I asked my mom why on Earth the room in the back of the house was called the game room when all it did was house a cabinet of board games and an electronic dart board. In my opinion a game room should remind someone of a mini-arcade or at least similar to an apartment's rec room. Her suggestion to fixing this issue was that I should buy an arcade machine to put in the back room. After a bit of research and the realization that there was no way I could spend $2000 on a Ms. Pac Man, I settled for another nostalgic game that I enjoyed many of times in a particular rec room at certain condo complex in Mammoth Lakes (as well as the arcade at Pismo Beach for a brief while). Of course this game was none other than Dig Dug, the 1982 classic by Namco, with the cabinet being manufactured by Atari. Soon enough, I found a Dig Dug game, in incredibly nice condition, at a pool table shop nearby. After inspecting it and my mom engaging in a bit of haggling with the owner, I was able to buy the game for $500, mostly with the money I got from a recent birthday. And so began what I thought was the end... Well anyways long story short, I became obsessed with that game. I must admit that out of all the 8-bit arcade games ever made, Dig Dug has got to be my favorite. It's a classic in its own class, following the formula of being simple to play but difficult to master. Of course after playing this game almost daily for many months, it got to feel a bit on the old side. Even after changing the difficulty level to hardest, I still seemed to be able to get to very far levels. Probably not too long after that, Dig Dug kinda got forgotten among a massive library of Nintendo 64 games.

However, in December of 2000, I got a very unexpected and one of my more popular presents, a 1976 Bally Freedom pinball machine. This pinball is very patriotic and was put out to celebrate the American bicentennial. This pinball is also special in that Freedom was the first pinball that was released in solid state (electronic) format. However, mine was one of the older electromechanical models, which is probably why it still runs today. The early solid state pinballs were notorious for breaking down easily. When I first got it, it worked fairly well, but had some odd recurring issues like the back light circuit breaking or the flippers cracking. Early January I opened the whole thing up and cleaned out many centuries of dust and dirt that had accumulated on the components. After sodering a few new wires, buying new flippers and flipper rubbers, and trying to figure out where the millions of wires go, I finally got the pinball working in top condition with the exception of the "last digit free game" mechanism which, of the remains of it, looks like it melted or caught fire in the back of the machine. To this very day Freedom works, though it seems to occasionally act up with things like stuck score reels and such. Regardless though, it really is a tribute to American ingenuity that a pinball with so many wires and relay banks could keep on working after more than 25 years after it was made. Id still like to get my hands on the schematic diagram that shows what each and every wire goes to in that game, but I have yet to find one. Freedom is without a doubt the most popular game in my arcade, though I would definitely consider buying a new pinball machine if they weren't so prohibitively expensive.

Around May of 2001, I came up with an idea of how to solve one of the issues that was plaguing my other arcade game in that they get old after awhile. To solve this, I realized that I should buy a "system" based video game, one that could have the games changed without buying a whole new cabinet.While I did briefly think about systems like the Sega System 16 or the CPS II system, I opted for the more recent and popular Neo Geo system. In fact the Neo Geo seemed just like a console system, being that you could buy games in cartridge format and swap them in easily. It was even more of a plus when I found out that (at the time) they were still producing new games for the system. Prices on Neo Geo systems seemed to vary radically between really ugly cheap ones on eBay to pricey but pristine ones at local stores. In any case, I eventually found a place called The Game Doc who happened to have a 1 slot Neo Geo with a large 25 inch monitor for only $500. At the time I did notice that it wasn't an original cabinet (actually it looks like one that somebody made out of plywood) and though of it as kinda not a good one to buy. But after awhile of noticing that it would be hard to find an original Neo Geo in the $500 range, I got it. Frankly I'm glad I did, as I don't really think a big red original cabinet Neo Geo would look too good. The people working there were pretty nice, and threw in the game Samurai Shodown with it, and I also purchased Bust-a-Move (aka Puzzle Bobble) from them for an additional $100 (kinda a bit on the pricey side now that I look back). I also ended up coming back to them when my Dig Dug main circuit board died (yes, I still have the old dead one) for a replacement. In short, nice people but kinda pricey (but not ridiculous or anything). The cheap stuff can be had on eBay anyways. For the most part, I've bought all my other Neo Geo cartridges from people on eBay. My Neo Geo games include: Metal Slug, Metal Slug X, Metal Slug 3, Metal Slug 5, Neo Bomberman, Panic Bomber, Top Player Golf, Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 4, King of Fighters '99, Bust-A-Move (Puzzle Bobble), and Top Hunter.

My next installment came in late 2002. My uncle happened to need a computer and was willing to trade me one of the many that I had just lying around my room not being used. So, long story short, I traded a Pentium II machine for a beat up Golden Axe. I can't say that I really ever liked that game, but I never hated it either, it is a classic after all! Originally I intended to fix up the cabinet, but it had particle board and had some very difficult water damage to fix. It's not that it couldn't be done, it would just involve replacing a side of the game with new wood, and considering the cabinet was both stable and safe, I figured not to fix it up. I actually wanted to sell it and get a 4 player Simpsons arcade machine, but that never happened for some reason. Eventually it just became the machine in the corner that gets played sometimes. I'm still willing to sell it, but who knows when that'll happen (btw, if you want a fixer-up-er Golden Axe, feel free to e-mail me at the address on the about page). Coincidentally my little arcade is out of room and I can't buy anymore for the meantime (unless I sell Golden Axe), but I'm sure if I got a place with more space my little hobby would flourish once again.

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