The Triple Pick-Up
I'll be honest with you, I am pretty busy these days. Going back to school at (Gack!) 45 is a bit tougher than I thought it would be. It has been very rewarding so far and I do look froward to the new adventures in both my education and future career in social work. But despite this, my lust for more arcade game projects continues.
I was recently introduced to a nice guy who happens to be a vending flipper/picker. For the last several decades this gentleman has been going around buying out warehouses and selling the contents as is. Of course these leads to two challenges for me as a collector. First since the games are so far away from me, they have to be shipped which is both expensive and somewhat nerve racking. (I hate waiting for packages) Second, I can't see the games other than in the photos before hand. So condition although somewhat viewable and guessable... isn't absolute. But sometimes you have to roll those dice.
When a decent haul from the picker showed up in my email one game in particular really grabbed my attention. An honest to God dedicated Elevator Action, a game I have wanted since I started collecting arcade games in the 90's. It's the only dedicated one I have ever seen in person now, previously seeing only conversions from other Taito game cabinets.
Taito as a manufacture I feel is a bit underrated. Space Invaders of course was a huge milestone game that really kicked off the golden age of arcade games. (Pong was huge in 1972 of course, but nothing compared to when Space Invaders came out in 1978) Taito produced some fantastic games post Space Invaders like Jungle King, Qix, Kram, Bubble Bobble, Space Dungeon, Frontline, and my personal favorite Elevator Action. An innovative platform run and gun game that combine well balanced game play with dynamic play ideas that were years ahead of its time.
Since it's normally the same price to ship two arcade games across the country as shipping one, I decided to splurge and pick up a second game from the batch. I considered an interesting Sprint 2 by Atari (never owning a black and white game before) before settling in on a very nice looking and 100% complete Defender. Both games had been sitting in a Montana basement since being pulled off duty in the late 80's. So I expected they wouldn't work anytime soon and would take good bit of work to get going. I was soon to be shocked when I was able to get both games to boot up the first day I had them in the workshop.
The Elevator Action received a hell of a scrub down, a joystick rebuild, LED light bulbs, new buttons (The old ones were so stained and pitted I couldn't get them clean), a new marquee to replaced the flaky one (www.thisoldgame.com) .... and now it finds itself in the house among the other games. Although we have run out of room officially in the "Arcade Room" so it lives in the lounge area of the house. The soothing earth tones seem to match the room pretty well, along with our currently problematic Asteroids Deluxe cocktail.
As for the fate of the Defender, it is currently going through a deep clean and I have rebuilt both the monitor and the power supply. The inside of the machine was about as dusty and dirty as a machine can get. But you do have to keep in mind the machine was sitting unused since the late 80's.
We already own a Stargate with the excellent multi Williams "JROK" board system so one I get the Defender more or less fully restored I plan on selling it or trading it for something else. I will rebuild the sound board, replace the leaky battery compartment, and replace the troublesome Williams power supply with a newer switching one. But since all the components are "numbers matching" on this machine I will keep all the original parts together in the machine.
It is an absolute joy to work on machines such as these, untouched and all original machines from the 80's. Although I am sure there are still machines of this caber out in the world there is no doubt they are becoming harder to find in good condition. Games sitting for years and years tend to get damaged by both time and the elements. Water, rodents, and sometime people just forget about them. Hopefully I will be able to score another batch like these soon. So let's take a look at machine number three, which might be the most interesting of the lot. This very rare Taito Jungle King cocktail, or that is at least what it was at one point.
Converted to, yes... an Elevator Action at some point in its life I bought this complete but in need of love game from a fellow Washington collector. He simply had one too many projects (which sounds like a vaguely familiar situation) and decided to let someone else have a go at making this little buddy worth a darn again. Obviously it is missing the top glass, which is a shame since Taito top glass artwork is not available from any of the number of decent reproduction arcade part companies that have sprung up in recent years. The game does "work" per say, but the board needs work since it mostly displays garbage instead of the proper sprites.
AS you can see above in this flyer, the original top glass artwork is pretty amazing. I am not quite sure what Taito was going for with this design but I am into it. The used this art for the Qix, Frontline, and possibly some other cocktail cabinets from this era. I get the feeling Taito made very few cocktail cabinets for the US market from 1981-1984 but I can't find any hard numbers. But I bet it was much less than 1,000 per title if that many. Jungle King was a very popular title for Taito, despite having to slightly change the game after a lawsuit from the people who owned the copyright to the Tarzan character. The game was changed to Jungle Hunt, and the Tarzan-like character was modified to look more like a British adventurer from the 30's. Jungle Hunt enjoyed a number of decent conversions to the home market of the era. I have fond memories of the Atari 2600 version of the game, which was a very decent conversion for the rather primitive system.
The cabinet is kind of a beast compared to other cocktail cabinets I have worked on in the past. The tiny 13 inch Wells Gardner 4600 monitor seems microscopic in that huge wooden box. I haven't quite decided what to do with this game yet, although I am leaning towards a full restoration to the original Jungle King if I can get my hands on a proper top glass or the art to make a decent reproduction. Anyhoo we have some fun projects for sure in the workshop to get us through the winter, and who knows what new treasures might await us in the Spring.