• Cassie

Red Donkey Kong Restoration (Part 1)

Well as you might have guessed from my last blog post ranting about red Donkey Kongs, yes I have in my possession one of these rare beasts. Fresh off a dairy farm and into my workshop lets dive into this cool early version of one of the all time arcade classics.

Farm to garage fresh



This is a genuine TKG3 version of the highly sought after red Donkey Kong cabinet. In case you didn't read the previous blog entry, this means this game came from the factory as a red DK machine and was not a converted factory Radar Scope. Making it the first run of dedicated DK machines. About 2000-3000 red TKG3's were made in my estimate out of the around 75,000-100,000 US bound DK uprights. The story of how this particular example came into my possession is pretty interesting.





That is a lot of quarters

As you might have read in this blog (or heard in my videos) I am currently back in college to work on my Masters Degree. While talking to my fellow students (most of them are about on average at least 20 years younger than I am) my hobby of arcade game collecting came up. One student who lives on a dairy farm about 15 miles from Nintendo of America HQ here in Seattle, Washington noted they had an old (and now non-working) Mario arcade game in their garage/barn. I offered to buy it for a decent price (I am not one of those low ballers when it comes to buying games) and soon I was driving the old van up to a cool farm with cows and everything.



Early DK games aren't just red on the outside, for some reason the serial numbers are also red.

The game was dirty like any game that has been sitting for a good while. Like many classic Nintendo cabinets it has been converted to a Unisystem VS. configuration at the end of its commercial life. Despite the typical scratches, dents, and marks the cabinet was in remarkably good condition. No evidence of water damage or damage from pests could be located. The cabinet still bore its original serial number badge and paperwork inside.

It is just me or when the coin door is open like that, and arcade game looks like it's throwing up.


Once I dug into the game a bit more, I noticed someone at some point attempted retouching the red sides of the cabinet with non matching spray paint. There are a number of deep scratches in the laminate, including an attempt by some 80's punk to carve in a curse word (punk kids!). The power supply was indeed working (much to my surprise) but the monitor was totally dead, and I could not get the game to "play blind" either. I decided to take the monitor out of the cabinet for a full rebuild as my first volley into the restoration of this iconic gorilla barrel throwing game.




The Sanyo 20EZ monitor, despite the EZ in its model number is one of the more difficult raster monitors to work on. The audio board (and sometimes a board to reverse the video output) are included in the monitor. The cage which does safely protect the neck better than most monitors, must be taken apart to safely get the main PCB board out of the unit. My experience with these monitors as also lead to a bit of head scratching with issues of vertical collapses for no reason, and a very touchy B voltage circuit that you really need to rebuild on every EZ you want to recondition.


Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and desolder a PCB once in a while, you could miss it.

A few things made this rebuild a little less painful then ones I have done in the past. Firstly, I have a new tool in the workshop, a desoldering station. It was actually my Christmas present this year from my Dad (thanks Dad). Let me tell you, this thing is amazing. It is much more accurate that desoldering with an old school desoldering pump, creating neat and accurate desoldering points every single time you use it. To quote the very wise Ferris Buller, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up". Second I had a box of two broken but good for parts EZ chassis I could never get working correctly. Extra parts are always a great thing. Finally I just happened to have a brand new replacement flyback for it as well for some reason.


With all new capacitors, some re-soldering of cold solder joints, a few new resistors, and a new flyback we were back in business. The photo above does not do this monitor justice, it is one of the nicest 20EZ's I have ever seen. The colors are very vivid and clear, and there is zero burn from any game. Despite the large amount of plays on this game, this monitor (which appears to be the original one from the game) is in remarkable condition for its age. Also as a bonus, the Unisystem board was working perfectly and will be added to our multi Unisystem cabinet in the arcade. Since we already have a Super Mario Bros. board, I plan on converting this one to play the Nintendo classic Ice Climbers.


Attention then was turned to the cabinet itself. The VS. Unisystem control panel doesn't help me with this restoration so I pulled it off and put in in the pile of other misfit control panels I have from other past restoration projects. I removed the front speaker grill/control panel bottom panel of the cabinet to assess the slight damage just above the coin door and to the bottom of the control panel area. it doesn't seem too bad, and should be easy to fix with some wood glue and putty. The arcade operator has also places a number of metal brackets to prevent people from popping out the plexiglass bezel. I removed these and started to repair the damage from the brackets.


I am somewhat limited to the amount of cabinet repair and repainting I can do right now since we are in the middle of winter in Seattle. I did go ahead and buy the proper paint for repainting the side laminates using an exact color match of oil based paint (never use latex paint for painting on laminate). This game will be my first attempt to use an air spray gun system, which will also require me to build a painting booth. Spring can't come soon enough as I am excited to make my portable spray booth a reality. I will focus on getting the game properly running Donkey Kong instead, I have a DK PCB on the way. Most of the original DK wiring is still in the bottom of the cabinet, I do still need to find a control panel (this should be too hard).


This neat piece of arcade history will make a great addition to the collection as I have always had a soft spot for these cool red cabinets. Given the close proximity to Nintendo of America's HQ, it is very possible this cabinet has never left the greater Seattle area since originally being shipped from Japan. This adds to its allure to me, and I can't wait to see how it all turns out in the end.

- Cassie







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