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Friday, July 29, 2011

Cabinet Linking: Gundam DX (Naomi)

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I never had much interest in Gundam anime or games, but some cool mecha shmups are slowly turning me. After seeing Gundam v.s. Gundam Next in a 4 linked cabinet configuration at Game Center Arcade, I became much more interested in how this particular series plays.

As most Naomi collectors probably know, "Mobile Suit Gundam - Federation VS Zeon DX" on GDRom is one of the cheapest titles you can get for the platform, and gets boring pretty quickly, hence the cheap price. But how does this series continue to exist, and garner such excitement in Japan? Well it seem multiplayer is what really makes this game fun, and being such an arcade hardware geek, I decided to see if I could link two of my own cabinets together for some Gundam action!

Now, I already owned a copy of Gundam DX (like pretty much everyone), and I also have a pair of Naomi GDRom setups, so what I needed to buy first was a second copy of the game. No biggie, it was only $20 on eBay.

Next I needed the all important "communications board". This sits in-between the GDRom DIMM board and the motherboard. I seriously don't understand why the Naomi motherboard has fiber optic connections, yet requires this extra communications board to actually work. Anyway, you'll need two of these boards, and two fiber cables to link the motherboards together.

Checking the brilliant Sega-Naomi website, you'll find the bios list mentions you need EPR-21576F or greater to link Naomi cabinets. I happened to have the latest JPN H bios in two mother boards. Note: you do not need the Network version of the DIMM board to make this work!

Next is the dreaded part of hooking a Naomi system up to a standard jamma Astro City. Needless to say its quite painful to get all the parts required to make this happen, but you should have no problem finding everything on eBay.

My New Astro City has the same power supply as a Blast City, and I also have Naomi cables for this bad boy allowing me to run a Naomi motherboard directly without need for a second power supply or audio amplifier. My original Astro City is not as lucky, so I had to run the entire lot with Sega Power supply, Sega Amplifer with sound pot, etc. Of course both require a JVS to Jamma I/O converter.

The resulting mess, is something that would take a lot of work squeezing inside the cabinets, so I just left them outside for now.

At this point, powering up both systems, with the fiber optic cables hooked up, would do nothing more than run both games independently. You need to go into the game configuration, and set the networking assignment to "Master" on one, and "Slave" on the other. "Max Operations" and "Side Select" are used if you still want people to be able to play independently of each other, and choose which side of the battle they wish to be on. I just left these to their defaults since I wanted cooperative play.

Now after restarting both systems, you should get a message saying its checking the network, and after 5-10 seconds of this blinking message, they should show they are linked, and the games should start in parallel.

Now all I need is to invite a few friends over and convince them to play this game instead of some shmups. This is probably the most difficult part of the experiment.