Every "Doh!" Has His Day (Simpsons Restoration Part 1)
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
About two years ago when we still lived in Houston, we would drive up to the American Amusement Auctions coin-op events outside of Dallas about 4 times a year. This was a real treat since so many arcade auction events have dried up over the last 10 years or so. I would often go with my wife and my best friend Alex (who has since become as equally obsessive about arcade game collecting as we are), and I would come back with a cool game of some kind or another. Usually I pick up a game that has some inherent nostalgia attached to me personally, but when I picked up the Simpsons you see below I did it for slightly different reasons.
A pretty solid example, it was mostly working with a few quirks here and there. Konami 4 player cabinets were starting to get some serious interest with collectors and prices were going up, so at 850 dollars I felt this was a good time to jump into the Konami game. Now, let me be clear I am not a flipper of arcade games per se... although I do trade or sell them once in a blue moon to make more space for games I really do want in my collection. I just saw the opportunity here to get a decent example before prices skyrocketed.
Today I often see Simpsons machines in good condition sell for anywhere from 1500-2500, and the prices seem to be continuing on an uphill climb. The restore on this game has been a long time coming, it has constantly been "bumped to the back of the line" by other games. This list included Super Mario Bros., Mikie, Donkey Kong Junior, Rally-X, and Battlezone. But the family from Springfield finally will have their day in the workshop starting now.
The intent was to do a full restoration on the game, and allow it to also play other Konami 4 player classics such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The side art was in bad shape, and the whole game needed an overhaul. The front of the cabinet was the worst off bit, appearing that someone took a boot to it at some point splitting the front panel into several pieces. The operator of the game used some haphazard metal brackets to keep the game going, but the front would have to be replaced. During our move to Seattle it took hit on the bottom shearing off the two front corners which were already fairly brittle to being with. These would also need to be mended.
I bought a nice sturdy utility cart (one of those things I wish I had bought eons ago for this hobby) from a local kitchen supply store just to be able to work on the large 25 inch monitor safely. The last thing I want to do is accidentally break the neck of this huge thing. The monitor is in overall pretty nice shape. It will receive the typical full "cap" job as well and a new flyback. The monitor also needs a decent scrubbing (like all restored games), but there is little burn in other than the typical "Game Over" burn in from the Simpsons game. I am not sure if this is the original monitor or no. It is made by a company called NeoTec and has more capacitors on it than any monitor I have ever seen.
First thing was to remove the faded and torn side art. A few notes here for those who are looking to restore your own Simpsons. First, the teal color of this side art is very difficult to reproduce correctly so use caution on who you order your repo art from. I have seen a lot of terrible Simpsons art reproductions out there. The art should also have the copyright information on the bottom of the side art which is usually missing from lesser reproductions. The other issue is often the side art is reprinted as one large sheet which is not how Konami applied it originally. The art is actually made of three sections cut horizontally and lined up at different points of the side panel. I plan on doing this in a strive for authenticity in the restoration process.
Using an orbital sander I slowly started taking off the nasty old side art. You could use a solvent here as well, I just prefer not using chemicals if I can with these projects. Heat guns work well to loosen sticker art also but the side art was so baked on with this game I don't think it would have done anything but burn it. Ironically even though removal the side art is the first thing I am doing on this project, the new art will be one of the last things we do once we finish the game. Taking off the side art we could start to asses the cabinet damage more fully.
Above you can see the large amount of damage to the front of the game, looking in from the back of the game. To the left the upper monitor bracket was the victim of some sort of operator scheming to fit a bracket for a monitor in without moving the bracket. These kinds of lazy haphazard fixes are common when a game starts to get to the end of its profitability for operators.
The other part of restoration is the rather large and heavy control panel. This four player panel is kind of nice to work on since it can be easily taken off and worked on independently from the game as a whole. By itself, the control panel is fairly heavy and sturdy which is a good thing considering the amount of abuse these kinds of side scrolling games get.
There are a few issues with the control panel here, beyond the dings and dongs along the wood itself. The control panel overlay graphics are wrong, it's what appears to be an early 2000's ink jet reproduction. You may not be able to see it in the photos, but the aqua is totally the wrong color and the Simpson's actually look more dark orange then the yellow they need to be.
The other main issue are the modern cheap joysticks which have replaced the original color coded Wico originals. These Konami games got a lot of abuse and use, so they are often missing the Wico sticks. So far I have found two new old stock ones (green for Bart, and Blue for Homer). Marge's red stick should be an easy one to find, Lisa's orange is a little tougher to find but I have hope.
Normally I like to plan out these restorations in my notebook, and this game is not an exception to this tradition. The goal is to have an accurate restoration of the game, which will contain a JAMMA 2 way switcher allowing the user to choose between both The Simpsons and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game (all running on original hardware of course). Next up will be a rebuild of the power supply system, all new wiring, fixing the front corners, rebuilding the monitor and cutting a new front of the cabinet. Until then, smell you later. - Cassie