Here’s a cool arcade raid tale from a few years back that turned up several rare titles.
US-based collector Joe Magiera received a message from a fellow collector back in 2006 with a lead on some arcade cabinets being sold off. It read:
I got a cold-call email stemming from my web site from some guy wanting to sell a bunch of video games. He’s in the Midwest, and you’re the only collector I know in the Midwest, so if you’re interested, I’ll pass it along to you. He sent me a list of games that he has.
The original message received by Joe
As a result, Joe immediately begin an email exchange with the owner of the games in South Dakota. After getting the specific address, it turns out the cabinets were located about 800 miles away, something amounting to a 12 hour drive from Joe’s location. After receiving some pictures of the games, Joe was pretty excited for what he saw.
A date was set, and Joe set off in his truck and a borrowed trailer to load the games. An hour away from the location, his truck ground to a halt with a blown engine. A long story short – the vehicle was unrepairable, and after a true Planes, Trains and Automobiles story (that I won’t go into here), Joe ended up on a flight back home, having abandoned the truck and trailer in a small town in South Dakota. The games were left untouched!
New arrangements were made a couple of weeks later, and Joe and a friend left on a Friday night for an all night drive to South Dakota. They arrived the following morning, had breakfast, picked up the previously left trailer and headed onwards for the games!
The machines themselves were being sold by a building owner, who had rented space to an operator, who in turn had now defaulted on his rental payments and abandoned the cabinets. There were about 20 games present in total, at two shed buildings within the property. The location was external storage where the ground had a lot of soot, possibly from a fire. The doors to each shed did not seal very well and weren’t locked, so several of the games had been vandalized.
Joe tells me that they were working in pretty cold conditions, low 30s, and because of the soot and wind, they ended up as filthy as the cabinets. Because of the soot and wind, it was one of the dirtiest op raids he’d ever been on!
That said, the raid turned up some incredibly rare arcade games. Here’s what they found:
Cosmic Chasm is an interesting title. It was originally released in 1982 as a vector game by GCE for the Vectrex home video game system. It became the first game developed for a home system to be turned into an arcade game after Cinematronics, which was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the time, released it as their last colour vector game. Suffice to say its provenance together with the timing of its release, makes it a very rare title indeed…
Holy smokes! A pair of Cinematronics Cosmic Chasms!
Shed 1 was going to be hard to beat, but Shed 2 turned up some worthwhile finds too:
Kozmik Krooz’r is another rare title. Its an innovative shoot ’em up video game developed by Bally Midway and released in arcades in 1982. The spaceship, a core element of the gameplay, is not an in-game graphic, but a physical plastic model. A series of mirrors projects the mothership just above the game’s monitor. A video review is here if you want to find out more.
Sadly, the Kozmik K’roozer was totally rotted out and all Joe could do was strip it for parts.
So after picking out what was going to be taken, Joe and his friend loaded up the trailer:
So this was quite the haul. Joe parted out several of the games, took both Cosmic Chasms, a Xevious, a few monitors, the Fun Four cocktail table, plus any miscellaneous parts they could stuff in the vehicle and trailer.
I mentioned the large PCB cage earlier. It was filthy dirty and neither collector knew what it was. Joe’s initial thought was to leave it because it was so large. It was sitting on top of a cigarette machine next to a juke box, so he figured it was something related to those. They grabbed it though, and we stuffed it in the vehicle.
When Joe was loading the trailer up, he wiped off a piece of the PCB cage and saw Simutrek inscribed on it. What? Simutrek? They made another rare game called Cube Quest. Could this be a Cube Quest PCB? Joe closed the deal with the storage location owner at a good price and went on his way.
A few days after Joe got home and unloaded, he had some time to hose off the PCB. The picture above (with the Sprint 2 in the back left) shows how it looked when it was found. After hosing it off and comparing it to some pictures on the Dragon’s Lair Project web site, Joe was able to confrim that it was indeed a Cube Quest PCB. This is how it looked after some cleaning:
What followed was a long and arduous task of trying to track down what had happened to the original Cube Quest cabinet. After many cold phone calls, Joe was able to track down the family of the operator and many weeks later, was in his car driving back down to the location to strike a deal on the cabinet! Not only that, the Cube Quest he picked up had another PCB inside!
Cube Quest was released in 1983 and combines real-time 3D polygon graphics with laserdisc-streamed, animated backgrounds, making it the first arcade video game to use real-time 3D computer graphics. – predating Atari’s 1984 I,Robot. The gameplay is pretty psychedelic:
So all told, this was an amazing arcade raid that produced several very rare titles, all restored and now fully working.
Huge thanks to Joe Magiera for allowing me to share these pictures and story here on the blog.
See you next time!