Arcades

10 Minute Review: Mario Kart Arcade GP

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What follows is my “10 Minute Review” of Mario Kart Arcade GP / GP2

Mario Kart Arcade GP -> KLOV LInk
Mario Kart Arcade GP2 -> KLOV Link

Acquisition

One of my cabinets came by way of a hookup through a friend in Birmingham. This cabinet still has a stock tag on it from asset inventory or from an auction perhaps. The inclusion of an NSN number leads me to suspect it may have spent some time on a military base or perhaps it just passed hands through an auction authority that frequently deals with US Government or Military items.

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The other cabinet came by way of a miniature golf closure in Southern Mississippi. Both cabinets are in good shape, they have a few cabinet repairs here and there and some scuffs in artwork or missing decals.

Hardware

The game is based on the Namco, Sega, Nintendo Triforce platform. Typically a IBM power PC w/ 512mb of RAM roughly similar in architecture to the Nintendo Gamecube. The cabinet is a JVS wiring class, includes a Triforce CPU, a JVS IOS Interface Board, a force-feedback controller board & sound amp.

This game also includes Namco’s Namcam(2) camera, a gimmick to snap photos of the player to be used in leaderboards or as in-race identifiers to distinguish players from bot-racers.

The game originally shipped with a 29” CRT but I was forced to put in Wells-Gardner (the video mentions Vision Pro but my memory for these details is crap) 27” LED Monitors in order to get support for Mario Kart Arcade GP2.

GamePlay

The gameplay shares similarity in racing dynamics to the console Mario Kart games with key differences and Namco cross-licensed characters (pacman, ms pacman). The original game advertised 6 worlds and 24 tracks but they phoned-in the effort in that each world really only had two track variations and then environment or reverse traffic flow on those two comprising the remaining 12 tracks.

Mario Kart Arcade GP2 expands the track offering by adding deeper variation between tracks, bringing the total up to 8 cups & 32 tracks.

Maintenance, Value, Rarity, Fun-Factor

These games are pretty rare and tended to be higher maintenance games when placed on location because of camera failures and force-feedback failures.

I’m not sure what they are worth but I have roughly $1400 in the Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 upgrade, roughly $900 in the monitors, $400 in force feedback repairs on top of an average price paid of over $3,000 each. With incidental repairs I’d put the total cost of ownership in the pair a little over $9,000. After about 4 years of ownership they continue to be the most-played-arcade games in our game room. Pinball-inclined friends like to comment:

“You could put three pinball machines in the amount of space these consume”

With that out of the way, I estimate that the Mario Kart Pair has gotten more play in four years than every Pinball machine I’ve owned over that amount of time; combined.

It isn’t just kids and friends of kids, either. Adults have been known to use it as a form of rock-paper-scissors or as a sobriety scale. (Legal Disclaimer: Accuracy of Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 to determine a person’s ability to drive safely has not been established)

Is it fun? Yep.

Namco 20yr Reunion

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I saw this Namco 20 year come across the As Found / For Sale Arcade Group on Facebook

..and decided to take the plunge. Bob Cunningham is awesome and knows how to handle and grade game condition. Lots of pictures, arrived exactly as described.

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The FryBack

Unfortunately in this hobby, stuff happens. After leaving the game on for a couple hours one night a friend looked at me quizzically : “What’s that smell?”

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The Flyback became a FryBack. What was odd was it was a brand new Flyback (clear date code on it) but it certainly melted down.

I mentioned on a different Facebook group when asked how it was going that “the monitor needs a little love but it’ll be fine” and Bob reached out to the person that had recently rebuilt the chassis. They were both super cool about it and replaced the flyback, I was only out shipping and a little time. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything - this stuff happens. But there you go, solid people people solid. :)

Other Clean-up Items

While the chassis was away I took the opportunity to correct some other things w/ the monitor and other parts of the game. There was a ground issue coming into the chassis from primary A/C and some floppiness in the purity / convergence rings.

The rings were just floating on the neck and not really locked in place. I believe some plastic likely got brittle and cracked that was used to create circular tension around the neck glass. Hot Glue & High Temp Silicon to the rescue..

I also took the mail-off time to redo the control panel with a new CPO from Rich @ This Old Game. It turned out awesome as his stuff always does..

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Also went back with a Pac-Pro 4-Way Leaf from Groovy Game Gear.

..Putting it back together..

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Rebuilt chassis, re-adhered and adjusted purity / convergence rings and fixed chassis ground..

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With the help of a little Wifi Endoscope and a cellphone, I got tack-sharp focus out of the monitor.
(Thanks to Nathan for useful tools as gifts!)

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Done for now..

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Just have to install the coin lock, replace the mech bulb and adjust out the controller some and we’ll call this one done, for now. :)

Micro Machines.. well... kinda.

With a few games leaving and after making some room in the game room, I started looking for the next titles to occupy the arcade for awhile. Going…. big on.. going.. small…

Finally ran across two Cabarets that I’ve been seeking for over a year. The first, is a project Ms. Pacman. It is “all there but not working”.

Ms Pac Cabaret (Project)

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From the photos, I’m expecting to have to do some cabinet work, new laminate and new control panel overlay. Depending on the condition of the PCBs I may end up using a Bitkit. We will see what happens as I get into it…

Centipede Cabaret

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One thing I haven’t actually owned in 5 years of arcading - is a trackball. Seriously. Kinda weird right? I’ve come super close to buying full-size Centipedes that come up nearby but the timing has always been off. This cabinet is working just needs to be cleaned up a little.

It is pretty cool that these cabarets use a 19” arcade monitor.

Excited to get to know this classic better.

Atari Star Wars Finds a New Home

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After about a year of ownership, I listed and sold my Atari Star Wars Arcade. It was part of what was my “Star Wars Shrine” in the back of the room, comprised of an arcade, a pin and my home-made battle pod.

To determine which games needed to go I just looked at their play frequency over the last year, took into account their size. etc. In SQL Developer terms:

SELECT TOP 2 NAME
FROM GAMES
ORDER BY ACTIVITY ASC

I listed it on Facebook Marketplace and a few Arcade groups with the following pictures, highlighting areas of the game that have been fixed or should be fixed in the future.

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Cabinet Sides

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Video Walkthrough of Condition

Video Walkthrough of Game Operation

A buyer in Birmingham reached out and bought if. We met in person, went over the game condition and arranged delivery through Bob Cunningham on his way through here, heading North.

Getting the game pretty for its short trip North.

Getting the game pretty for its short trip North.

It was really cool to meet the game’s new owner and hear his story regarding seeking this title out. He is someone entering the hobby after looking for this game for over 20 years. His first game! Honestly, being exposed to the enthusiasm and excitement of someone entering the hobby a-new was a nice shot in the arm for my own hobby morale. Always awesome to meet cool people in this hobby.

RoadBlasters Hits the Road

I abandoned the idea of turning Roadblasters into an Indiana Jones after seeing the cost and rarity of the control panel and PCBs (and optional side art).
I figured I’d be about twice the asking price for a RoadBlasters into the conversion. Also, playing it in MAME - it seemed “Consoley” to me, so … Roadblasters went up for sale to make a hole..

It sold in about an hour on Facebook Marketplace.

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The buyer went with Fastenal 3PL, so I palleted it up and brought it to depot. I’d.. forgotten just how heavy Atari cabinets were. Loading it on the trailer by myself was… strenuous.

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Was really concerned the game might turn into a lawn dart if someone stopped in front of me. In addition to 1200lb tie straps, the pallet got screwed into the decking of my trailer.

Was really concerned the game might turn into a lawn dart if someone stopped in front of me. In addition to 1200lb tie straps, the pallet got screwed into the decking of my trailer.

It made it.. (woot!)

It made it.. (woot!)

Done, and.... done.

Midway 12 in 1

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I picked up a Midway 12 in 1 on Facebook Marketplace, recently.

What in the hell was I thinking?

Apparently, not “Impulse control.”


Well… in my defense, awhile back I picked up one of those retail Konami Vertical multis awhile back. These cabinets have super-bad reputations for being flimsy and.. bad. The thing is, the Vertical Konami variant has a pretty bitchin’ little cabaret-sized VGA monitor that supports a surprising range of resolutions and frequencies. Mine, pictured here in my upstairs closet, has an Pi-MAME config and is great for discovering and re-discovering classic vertical games.

So, I thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to have the horizontal cousin to this thing?”


(Maybe I was drinking?)

You know how like Picasso had a Blue Period?
Spoiler alert, maybe January 2019 was my Arson Period.

 

Well, KLOV is pretty clear on the Horizontal version of the cabinet but I didn’t listen. I figured - haters gonna hate, right?

https://forums.arcade-museum.com/showthread.php?t=409055

Well, the haters.. were right in this case. In my opinion..

The Problem:

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The machine wasn’t really maintainable and of course it is cheaply made compared to commercial arcade cabinets. The colors were washed out on the monitor (cough: TV) and there are OSD menus you can use to tweak the appearance. The issue is adjustments and the IR Receiver are on the front of the monitor behind the plastic surround. As I started trying to get the monitor out of the cabinet to make adjustments, I was greeted with the fact that the numb-nuts that built the game, glued support blocks over top of screws. Screws… that need to turn… to get the monitor out..

So, I sat back and thought to myself…

”Self? “
”Yo!”

”Are you going to keep this cabinet?”
”Nope.”

”Self, you have $200 in it. If you sell it on Facebook for $150, you are already loosing money. “
”Right…”

”To feel good about selling it.. you really are going to obsess over fixing the display issue, right?”
”Yeah, that’s kinda how I roll.”

”And… how many evenings are you going to sink into that?”
”A couple, at least, from all appearances.”

”And… when you do sell it, what are the chances the buyer is high maintenance about the sell?”
”Chances are pretty good they are going to come out and talk me down to $100 and hassle me for support.”

”Would you .. PAY, $100 to get your weekend back?”
”Hell yes, I would!”

Decision Made.

The Solution:

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Firepit. Meet P.O.S. P.O.S, meet Firepit.

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Aftermath

Typically, not a wasteful person. I did pull the doors, parts of the side art, the game board, overlay and controls, anything I deemed as “potential wall-hanger” and plastics and metals. If you read this and need parts for your cabinet, reach out to me via Private Message and they are yours.

I noticed the cabinet sides reminded me alot of an over-sized bartop kit. I could see a far-away project of using them to create a MAME system or something. The monitor (ahem: TV) I pulled and may end up using with my Atari 2600 or as a tube-swap candidate for a cabaret down the road.

Ultimately, though - this was a gigantic waste of time and $200 down the toilet. That’s really, my takeaway. The next time I feel the impulse to pop on something cheap on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, I'm going to think about this cabinet and my experience versus the value of my time and think long and hard on the question:

Just because it is cheap and convenient, should you really still buy it?

Probably not.

now.. off to go make S’mores…