Updated: Mar 22, 2018
Like most collectors of anything, I will never be satisfied. The curse of collecting is sometimes you go down this deep hole of questioning the art of collecting. Am I collecting because I enjoy collecting these things? Or am I just collecting to collect? And since it's impossible to collect all of everything (a stamp collector will never have every stamp ever made... etc.), will one ever be totally satisfied with the hunt that is collecting arcade games? The reality is I know despite my hopes and dreams some games I will simply never have. So let's start out 2018 with a list of games that will probably never grace my collection, but it would be cool if they did.
1) Atari - TX-1
This Namco derived quasi follow up to games like Pole Position sports 3 monitors in a sit down cabinet. Yeap, 3 freaking monitors. Look at that thing, it's bigger than my first apartment was. I actually played it when I was a kid in Ocean City, Maryland during a family vacation. I am pretty sure it cost 75 cents to play when most games were still a quarter. The wide perspective using the three monitors was very effective despite the plastic bezels dividing the view somewhat. You can even choose your path after each stage much like in Sega's Out Run. This cabinet has to weigh at least 800 pounds, and I doubt many are left in existence. I bet there weren't really that many made in the first place. Years ago I did spot one at an auction in North Carolina that looked like it had been in a war (and lost that war). Someone did get it to power up at one point, but it would only display garbage on the screen and make high pitched noises. Almost like I would imagine a zombie brought back to life would scream "PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY AHHHHH!!!" I guess this game isn't too far out of the crazy area of attainability but where the heck would I put it? And again I bet there are less than 50 examples of working TX-1's left in North America.
2) Sega - Out Run Deluxe Sit-Down
Out Run is my all time favorite arcade game. It's a fun driver with a sense of humor, and has one of the best video game soundtracks of all time. I don't have one in my collection currently (I used to), but one of my big 2018 collecting goals is to reacquire one. They made a lot of Out Run machines; they aren't that rare or that expensive on the collector market. So why not dream big and get the Out Run of my dreams? Ah, the "Deluxe Sit Down" version of the game. Just look at this thing! I dare you not to smile at the thought of climbing in that plastic car that shakes you all around as your pixel Ferrari in front of you moves the same directions. These games do pop up from time to time, although the deluxe version pictured here is somewhat more difficult to find that the regular sit down version (which also moves but isn't quite as "car shaped"). Some of the same issues I would have with the TX-1 apply here. It probably weighs more than a 1986 Chevy Astro, so how the heck do I get one home? I bet there probably aren't a large about of surviving functional examples. The other issue is these motion games might get a little bit beyond my comfort zone of what I can fix. I can recap a monitor, replace a ROM, or build a all new wiring harness with the best of them. But rebuild a hydraulic moving seat... uh...
3) Cinematronics - Cosmic Chasm
Ahhh vector monitor arcade games... those crisp lines... those bright colors... that unreliable feeling that it could all go up in flames at any given moment. Just kidding, although I doubt many collectors would put a vector game's reliability on par with a "normal" raster style arcade game. I first played Cosmic Chasm in the early 90's at an exhibit called Videotopia which was a touring exhibit of classic arcade games. (I do believe it is still around, but in what capacity I do not know). Collectors hold most vector games on a pedestal due to the unique nature of the graphics produced by a X/Y (or vector) style monitor. There is a timelessness to those crisp lines against a black background. In what might be controversial is this statement, I now will state in my opinion most vector games are not great games. Oh sure, I love Tempest and Battlezone. But I find Major Havoc and Quantum two huge rare cult classics totally boring to play. Atari's Black Widow is a poor Robotron 2084 copy, and most vector Sega games are pretty disappointing (except Tac-Scan which is rad). But Cosmic Chasm is a gem, a very rare gem at that. The last vector game released by Cinematronics, it's housed an a beautiful cabinet that is very similar in shape to the one used for Dragon's Lair. You fly a space ship inside a confined space station room to room and try to get to the core of the space station. Once you destroy the core you have to make it out using the same path you went in. It's fun, challenging, and features beautiful animation. But with less than 400 manufactured, you have to imagine less than 50 of these machines still exist.
4) Atari - Cloak and Dagger (Dedicated)
My god just look at this thing. LOOK AT IT! This series of Atari cabinets that may or may not have an official name (we will just call them Larry for now) are just the bee's knees. Millipede and Crystal Castles come in a very similar style cabinet and are also very good looking (and fun to play) games. But then there is Cloak and Dagger, originally planned to be released as Agent X. Atari changed the name to coincide with the release of the film Cloak and Dagger starring Dabney Coleman and that kid from E.T. The movie was pretty much a kiddie spy caper with some fun moments, and a walking talking infomercial for Atari products. The more common variation of this game is a conversion kit for Williams games like Robotron, and mark my words dear reader (all 6 of you)... I will own one of those one day. But the beautiful dedicated version pictured on the right of your screen I will just have to dream of. Less than 25 prototypes in these cabinets exist. The first one (Serial Number 0001) supposedly sold for $12,000 several years ago. The biggest bummer is 1984 wasn't a great year for Atari or video games, and Cloak and Dagger never really saw a wide release as an arcade game. The home versions were somewhat buried along with some other interesting products shown in the film (like an Atari 2600 version of Tempest, which prototypes have been found). Maybe the game would have found success if they had dropped the movie tie-in. Because it's a hell of a fun game, combining the run and gun two joystick action of Robotron with some more strategy based game play elements. It even has a dash of humor. This was Atari firing on all cylinders. Great job Larry.
5) Entertainment Sciences - Bouncer
Here is a game that no one might ever get to own, since it simply may not exist anymore. Entertainment Sciences showed Bouncer in 1983 at the AMOA Trade Show and supposedly tested it at several locations. Using state of the art animation (for the time), Bouncer was said to be a step up in the quality of graphics for the time period. The game even shows up in the low budget film Ninja III: The Domination. Things get a little questionable from there. I would check out this site for much more information than I can write on the subject. Bouncer had become THE Holy Grail of arcade collecting. And I have to admit being somewhat drawn into the story of it all. The game looks a lot like a reworked Tapper/Timber with superior animation. However the game (at least a whole working one, or a populated PCB) has been missing since 1983. Check your basements, folks.