Currently playing:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rapid Hero highscore

I finally spent some quality time with Rapid Hero this Saturday, racking up a decent score, with plenty of room for improvement. In this run, I died twice in a row on stage 5, and was about to restart the game, but decided to stick it out to see how far I could get with 1 ship remaining. I got a 1UP in stage 6, and finally died part way into stage 7.

Overall, I'd say Rapid Hero is pretty easy up until stage 5, making this a pure joy to pickup and play without any prior practicing. Nothing beats ripping through waves of popcorn enemy, and collecting 10000 bonus chips. Stage 5 and onward has lots of scoring potential with strategies for positioning your ship for maximum amount of enemy destruction, while weaving through slow moving bullets that get left behind. There is really only 1 boss of the game, who keeps running away at the end of each level after taking a beating, but comes back with bigger and badder armor and attachments next time.

I'm pretty confident I could 1CC this soon, but now I need to prepare for next weekend's shmupmeet!

DJK - 2,102,030 - Stage 7 [Score Update!]

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rapid Hero

If you hadn't noticed by now, I'm a huge NMK fan, and this PCB had occupied the number 1 slot of my most wanted list for the last 3 years! What most consider the pinnacle of NMK's vertical shooters, is also the most rare, so words can't express how happy I am to now have this in my collection. ^_^

[Update 08/31/13]
Earlier this year, a Korean / International version of Rapid Hero was discovered called Arcadia.  As with other Korean region games, these have notably different colored silk-screening and components (typically cheaper to save costs).  System11 over at shmups forum has broken down the general difference between regions as follows:

Japanese build NMK pcb:

  • Amp screwed down to the PCB
  • Small filter caps near all TTL chips
  • Typical paper square NMK ROM labels
  • Typical paper NMK serial sticker (obviously these are often missing)
  • Mostly Japanese brand TTL chips - Motorola everywhere

Korean built NMK pcb:
  • Amp just floating - typical assembly method for Korean and bootleg games
  • Mitsubishi ROM labels - again common in Korea
  • Incorrect large filter cap sizes - back in the day cheaper brands were often larger
  • Most of the small filters are missing (a cost cutting measure, extrremely common on Korean boards of all makes)
  • Masses of Goldstar chips - while you do see isolated use on some Japanese boards, it's normal for Korean boards to be covered with them.

There has been at least one occurrence of a Korean built Arcadia board surfacing with Rapid Hero roms covered with Mitsubishi stickers.  Its unclear if this was a rom-swap by Korean importers, or are original JP roms populated by Korean distributors.  I've included some examples of recent sales, the last one being the board with RH roms.

Arcadia sold on eBay for $611 by boardfixxer (Korean importer) on Jun 03, 2013

Arcadia sold on eBay for $999 by www_worldhobbyist_com for $999 (Korean importer) on Aug 13, 2013

Aracdia with Rapid Hero roms on shmups forum sold for (unknown amt) by snkpowa on Jul 13, 2013 and then again for €460 by warlord on Aug 31, 2013

Arcadia unsold on ebay for $999 by by boardfixxer (Korean importer) on May 30, 2015

[Update 08/28/19]
So it turns out one of my friends recently bought a Rapid Hero board, which is a pretty rare find nowadays.  Upon looking at the picture, it was clear the board was actually an Arcadia that had been rom swapped to Rapid Hero.  All the tell tail signs were there, as described above, in fact upon closer inspection, the board he bought (in late 2019) was actually the 2nd board I have pictured above that sold on eBay Aug 13th 2013!  Lets take a closer look at his board:

First off, the pea green colored silkscreened top board is a dead giveaway of an Arcadia.  Then there is the floating amp, black caps, and goldstar chips.  What has changed is removing of the Korean tax sticker across the mask roms, and of course newly burned roms with fake labels (which were pretty well done).

So how do we know for sure this is the same as the 2013 Arcadia on eBay?  Look closely at the mask roms where the tax sticker was removed.  Notice the scraps along the bottom right most mask rom.  Also notice the same irregularities around the jamma edge.  And finally if you look at the first SMT chip below the jamma edge, again you will see a similar scrape along the right and left on the chip.

So yes, people are trying to pass off Korean Arcadia's as Japan Rapid Hero's, and going to great lengths to do so.  Now why would someone do this?  I'm sure the Korean version is just as rare, and in my opinion just as valuable.  But to the otaku PCB collector, they will pay much more money for an authentic Japan region board than the same game made for international distribution.  This is what creates demand for these types of conversion shenanigans.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Astro Restoration

Last month I bought this fixer-upper from Kenchan on the shmups forum. I remember the same cabinet being offered on the sega-naomi forum awhile ago, due to the distict "Lyfer" graffiti scratched into the monitor. :(

Besides the ruined tube, the monitor chassis was non-functioning, the control panel wiring was a mess, and there was a ton of caked on dirt inside the cab.

Since I already had a spare tube, chassis, and panel sitting in my garage, the actual restoration time was just two weekends. I completely gutted it, hosed down the fiberglass frame, then put it back together with the replacement parts. I ran into one small problem with the replacement chassis, which came from an Egret II, but was able to make it compatible with the Astro monitor harness via a slight modification.

I documented the project via twitter using my yfrog picture stream. Here are a few select before and after shots:

And here is the finished cab.

Many thanks to Kenchan for driving this down from Reno!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ketsui Highscore

I've never given Ketsui a lot of attention since my last high score, only playing it on random occasions. In fact I'd almost call it casual play, since I have no strategy, other than trying to get as many 5 chips as possible. I think I decided to bomb more often in this run, and it paid off, getting me almost halfway into stage 5.

DJK - 95,357,314 - Stage 5 - Tiger Schwert

I'd really like to clear this before the port comes out for xbox360...but seems unlikely without some serious time and attention.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Ketsui crashes with no battery. Solved!

After having discovered what happens to Varta batteries if left unchecked, I decided it was best to remove them from all of my PGM Cave boards (Espgaluda, DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou, Ketsui). Since I always use default settings and always play with coins, I figured there was no need to buy new batteries, only to have them fail sometime in the future, so I just left them off the PCB.

I continued playing without batteries for a few weeks, with no problem, and then yesterday after I powered up Ketsui, I got this crash. This looks very similar to the known "Freeplay" bug....only difference is with no battery my game was set to use coins, yet it still crashed!

In fact, once in this state, the game crashes every time I power it on, in exactly the same place, during the start of the "Demonstration" sequence. Now my thinking was: buy a new varta battery, and/or replace the ROM with the "Fixed" version. Given the fixed ROM has a *very annoying* lock-on laser sound change - that was a not an option. And I really didn't want to have to keep changing the battery like CPS2 games. So I investigated the crash further, and found the reason, and how to prevent it.

How it happened:
Ketsui will run fine without a battery as long as you DO NOT turn off the PCB during the middle of an active game. If you turn off the PCB while its still playing an active credit, this can potentially leave NVRAM in a corrupted state. And with no battery, the board seems to fall victum to this corrupted state, and crashes when it tries to execute the stored demonstration sequence.

How to fix if your PCB is stuck in this crash state?:
1. Insert a credit before the first demonstration cycle, and play normally. Then just remember to not power down the PCB during the middle of an active game.

- or -

2. Before powering on Ketsui, flip that red devil switch shown in the first picture. Actually you will need to hold the switch for a few seconds, then release, then power up the board. This grounds the NVRAM chip, clearing it of any data. Then power on the PCB and everything will work fine. Again, make sure you do not power off until after your credit ends normally.

So it seems option 2 above, using the red switch to reset NVRAM (and fix the demo crashing bug), didn't seem to work 100% of the time. So option 1 is really the only way to ensure your Ketsui doesn't crash without a battery: just insert a coin (or press the credit button) after booting up the PCB and all will be fine.

And there you have it. Also note that ESPGaluda and DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou have no problem powering off during an active those games run perfectly fine without a battery.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Merry Christmas!

Santa was good to me this Christmas, got some much wanted Technosoft and NMK games, and even a great puzzler for the wife!

Also, my wife got me a 60G harddrive for my XB360, so I can finally log onto the Xbox Live Marketplace to download Mushihemesama Futari Black Label (and more). For those that care, my gamertag is "ArcadeFever".

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cyvern The Dragon Weapons

Cyvern is an exceptional Kaneko game on the Super Nova motherboard system. I bought this awhile ago, and don't see it come up for sale often anymore. I started playing this today after watching NRKCFK's 27M superplay (and 41M Cyvern Plus superplay). As seen in the videos, using a 30hz rapid fire on the C button can recharge your banish shot a lot faster!

*Updated* with my newly aquired artwork, and score from STGT'10 Cyvern competition.

DJK - 5,193,250 1-4

Friday, December 18, 2009


Galmedes is one of those hidden gems you don't hear much about, most likely because it was designed to eat credits. The level of difficulty is quite steep from the very start, adding another credit to continue does not reset your score, and there is no way to disable continues. Outside of these deficiencies, I'm finding the game quite addictive, and surprisingly similar to Dangun Feveron with respect to ship speed, and charge shot types. Did I mention this was produced 6 years before Dangun?

I found it strange that Galmedes was produced on Taito hardware, yet no mention or credits of Taito in the game.

I had play tested this in Mame, and never made it past the first stage, so I was quite pleased with this accomplishment, making it well into stage 3, using a rapid fire board.

DJK - 572,200 - Stage 3

[update]I had a heck of time trying to figure out why the game had no sound on my Astro City 2 or New Astro City cabs, but worked fine in the Windy or original Astro City cabs. Turns out Galmedes, being an old Taito board, requires -5V for the sound to function.[/update]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Japanese STG blogs

While searching for information on NMK produced shooters, I stumbled upon another STG collector in Japan who has similar stories (and struggles) when it comes to obtaining and playing these rare games. Well, at least these are rare in the United States, but probably not so rare in Japan.

Although I cannot read kanji or katakana, I found using Google Translate to read Japanese blogs can give me the high level subject matter and conversation. Of course this is not optimal, and I'm probably missing much humor and intricacies when it comes to game strategies. I wish I had time to learn Japanese, but between my work and hobbies, there is just not enough time for such an undertaking!

Anyway, the blog I found interesting is owned by Ikeda_San, and is titled "Watcher ][" at . He is a collector and STG player who has been building an impressive collection of PCB and arcade hardware over the last year. I was particularly impressed with his classic 1980's era black Taito sitdown cabinet, which leads me to believe this style cabinet may have been the motivation for Dillinger's computer desk in the 1982 movie Tron! :)

==?==> ^_^

Commonly referred to as "cocktail" cabinets, these sit down machines did not gain much popularity in the US, preferring to stand than sit while playing arcade games. Personally, I prefer the newer "Candy"cabinets to the cocktail style, but do own a few classic upright games from the early 1980s.

I tried to leave a comment on Ikeda_San's blog, but could not navigate the input form correctly (perhaps password protected) so I decided to send him an email instead. He graciously responded in English, which I'm sure was not easy for him, so I appreciated the response! おかげでIkeda_San

One last item worth mentioning, if you read back through Ikeda_San's blog far enough, you will see he has also encountered the dreaded VARTA battery leakage.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weekend Project - XB360 to Jamma

After finally receiving Mushihimesama Futari for XB360 in the mail last week (14 days shipping!), I took some time this weekend to get my XB360 hooked up proper to my Exceleena cab.

Used xbox controllers were $20 each from gamestop (what a ripoff!), $10 project box from Fry's, a fingerboard I had laying around, and two 12 position barrier strips from Radio Shack.

Connected the two barrier strips together with quick-zip ties, disassembled the joysticks and soldered wires to the digital controls. Next, drilled and trimmed the fingerboard, and soldered wires onto it. Then ran both sets of wires to the 12 position barrier strip, which is just enough for 1 joystick, 6 buttons, 1 start, and 1 ground.

Why did I use a barrier strip? This allowed me to rewire the button configuration if I needed, and ended up having to do this after I finished the project. I initially wired the buttons to match the XB360 Street Fighter IV tournament stick, but realized afterwards that arcade cabinets have A,B,C buttons on the top row, not the bottom row. Also standard jamma only supports 3 buttons (some cabs support 4), so I ended up mapping A,B,X,Y buttons to the first 4 in the jamma connector.

Next was to take out the dremmel and trim my project box so I could mount the fingerboard between the two end screws, and have it still close properly. It was a tight fit, and just barely got everything squeezed inside this small box.

Final touch was to drill two strain relief holes for the controller plugs right at the seam, and close it up. And here is the final product.

Since I plan to play the XB360 on my Exceleena cab, there was no need for audio or video to the jamma box, all that would be taken care of via the cab's vga connector and stereo amplifier. But to make this really jamma compatible, future enhancements could include my Ultracade UVC converter to downscale 480p to 15khz or 24khz, and a mono amp, although that requires 12v from somewhere. Lastly, I'd probably wire a capcom kickharness to use the lower 3 buttons properly if I wanted to play some fighter games.

Anyway, here we are in hires shmupping goodness!

Update: I have since made one more modification to this converter which makes it a bit safer to operaate!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Espgaluda Arrange 104M

Finally broke 100M in Espgaluda Arrange today, which is a big up from my last score (64M). Takes me about 20 minutes of warmup before I'm comfortable with the 4 button layout.

DJK. - 104,364,082 - 4 - Black (Arrange)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Planet Harriers Highscore

Beat my last highscore by a little over 100K. This time you can see how armed to the teeth I was when I hit the midpoint Star Shop on Stage 4.

Didn't help me much as the second set of enemy after the midpoint are the suiciding turtles, that you need to shoot down + extreme dodge all within 1 second of spotting them on the screen or its an instant hit taking 1 full heart. I think I must have gotten down to the last turtle that nailed me here giving me this 571K score.

DJK - 571,939 - Stage 4 (Lavaa)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Muchi Muchi Pork - 59M

I died foolishly with one bomb in stock that could have easily gotten me past the 60M extend.

DJK - 59,809,530 - Stage 4 - Momo

Friday, July 03, 2009

Muchi Muchi Pork - 43M

I picked up what could very well be Shinobu Yagawa's last arcade game, Muchi Muchi Pork. This game has such humor/charm, its just downright sinful how much fun it is to play. From little parachuting pigs, to litters of piglets that get released when you blow stuff up on the ground (they try to make a break for it, but don't get very far being fat and lazy). The game is very well balanced, and has something for everyone. 1CC is within grasp of average players, 2LC (two loop clear) requires rank management and lots of strategy, high scoring sucicide bombing for the untraditional, and harder mode (manpuku) for the insane Japanese pro's.

After playing it for a few nights this week, I've made a pretty good start.

DJK - 43,723,220 - Stage 4 - Momo

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Inside the Taito Type X (Part 1)

The Taito Type X arcade board came out in 2004, and is essentially a custom PC running the Windows XP Embedded operating system. Using commodity PC hardware and software development tools meant significant cost savings in producing games. This however, did not mean crappy and bloated doujin style PC games coming into arcades, as Taito kept strict quality controls over was released on the platform.

I was expecting an older desktop sized computer, but was surprised to find the unit is the same size as a Naomi motherboard (although obviously a bit taller). The motherboard is a custom 865G type, with "Taito Type X Rev A1" silkscreened onto it, and comes with onboard dolby 5.1 optical sound support, although I don't know of any arcade cabinet that would actually use this. The base unit comes with a Celeron 2.5Ghz processor, 256M RAM, ATI Radeon 9600 SE (AGP) and proprietary JVS I/O card. Even though this may seem whimpy by today's consumer PC standards, its surprising how efficent XPE can be without all the extra bloat of unnecessary device drivers and services running. Raiden III and IV for example, play at a rock solid 60fps with increidble graphic detail and sound.

The proprietary JVS I/O card is the key to the entire system, as games will not run without it. It's not a PCI card, but rather a free floating adapter which connects to a COMM port on the motherboard. It also connects to the motherboard's control panel header (for power on/off and lights) as well as the onboard optical sound. The black square at the bottom of the card is actually a plastic panel covering a set of dip switches. On the Type X, the dip switches do nothing, but on the Type X2 they do things like change the game's output resolution.

Games are distributed as an IDE hard drive and USB security dongle, and are conveniently installed via a square opening in the top of the case (each game comes comes with its own top plate). The Type X can play on a standard 15khz jamma cabinet via a JVS->Jamma I/O converter, such as those used for the Naomi platform. The graphics card has two ports, one for 15khz lowres and one for 31khz hires monitors.

Here is the complete shooter collection for the Type X, consisting of: GigaWing Generations, Homura, Shikigami No Shiro III, Raiden III, and Raiden IV.