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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.



  1. This is why arcade passionate people. Great hardware for great games.


  2. I just recently started following this blog, and as much as the general shooter news and hi-score posts I love the frequent technical discourses of yours. Also, is anyone else glad for the migration of local arcades into the dens and basements of collectors? Who better to preserve this part of our history...and throw wild modern carnival tourneys?

  3. Cheers Douglas, and thanks for the positive comments.

    I couldn't agree more, this is the best possible outcome to preserve arcade culture without the financial burden of running a real business and catering to popular demand.

    I really get a kick out of visiting other collector's personal arcades.

  4. Pure insanity! I also like to see the hardware blogs, even though I know hardly anything at all about the subject.

    I especially like these moments where you put your hand to your chin, cock your head to the side and mumble, "I wonder if I can pull this off...." and you succeed in every way imaginable!

    Long live garage/cave arcades!

  5. I do have more ideas for cabinet linking projects, so stay tuned. :)

  6. Nice job! :) I totally agree that Astros don't have enough room in them. Actually, I linked two of the Noir cabs for a back-to-back Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition. It's sort of a ghetto rigged Vs City. :)

  7. That pile outside the cabs is intense! Good work man - very interesting stuff. How does it play?

  8. I was able to squeeze that pile into both cabs, but need to leave the front door open for ventilation. :)

    I haven't tried playing coop with a buddy yet, but after heading back up to GameCenter Arcade and trying their version of Gundam Next (with 4 linked cabinets) I could tell the Naomi version is a LOT slower paced. "Next" seems much closer to Sega's newer "Border Break" multiplayer arcade game.

  9. Great post! I've tried most other Naomi setups, but never linking them. Will look into this as soon as my 2nd Naomi arrives and I can find a couple of comm boards.