Neo Geo Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move

After posting the photo’s to FaceBook and Twitter, people asked the same question: you’re wife let you have that in the house? In point of fact, it was my wife who found the “for sale” listing on a selling group on FaceBook for it. So yes, she did, and it’s all her fault!

The thing in question here is my new arcade machine: a Neo Geo Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move cabinet. It was listed as working and good condition. The seller was asking $150.


My son, Cole, posing with the Neo Geo

I have never been a huge Neo Geo guy. Still, I don’t own an actual arcade cabinet, just my MAME cabinet, and that’s a headless one with a PC inside. I always wanted an actual arcade cabinet, and with the Neo Geo, I could always change the cartridge and, presto!, it’s a totally different game!

You can see the lighted marquee better in this photo

You can see the lighted marquee better in this photo


In the ad, the seller was asking $150/OBO/Trade. A few people offered him the $150 if he could deliver it, and another person offered $100. I was more interested in a trade, and offered up a Bluetooth speaker I don’t use. The speaker is worth more than his asking price, but I really didn’t expect he would do the trade. To my surprise, he did!

I enlisted the aid of Chad, a good friend, to help me move the Neo Geo. Chad was the best man in my wedding twelve years ago, and was the co-host of my original podcast. We had met twenty years ago while we both worked for the same company, and we spent many hours working together moving furniture. So much so, in fact, that to this day we barely need to verbally communicate when moving something big, bulky, or heavy. In this case, the Neo Geo is is all three of those things!

Did I mention that it was one of the coldest days of the year? And that we had almost two feet of snow on the ground? Or that the seller had not bothered to shovel his front walk? So yeah, not a fun time.

After almost multiple heart attacks, Chad and I got the Neo Geo in place in my house. Thanks, Chad! Free games for life for you!

We did check out the cabinet before I made the trade. It was dark in the sellers living room, where he had the machine running. The cabinet looked to be in really good shape, no water damage that I could see. He had the two keys for the coin doors. (Sadly, no keys for the rear door, so drilling that lock out and replacing it is in my near future, perhaps even this coming weekend.) The game played perfect. The screen, while a little dirty, was bright with no screen burn. The joysticks and buttons were all nice and working perfectly. In short, it looked for all intents and purposes like a great arcade machine.

Once back home, I spent an hour doing some cosmetic cleaning, including removing the plastic front to get at the monitor. WOW did that clean up well! After popping the front control panel open, a look inside made me very, very happy. This is one VERY clean arcade cabinet. While dirty inside, it’s in immaculate condition! There are a few blemishes to the outside of the cabinet, but nothing at all major. Easy fixes.

Puzzle Bobble is afun game. I have it on my MAME arcade, but playing it on the Neo Geo is better somehow. The joystick and buttons are way better than on my MAME, which has me considering upgrading my Tank Stick in the near future.

My plans are to paint the entire cabinet the Neo Geo red, replace the marquee to a red and white Neo Geo, and rotate some different game cartridges. The Neo Geo arcade machines are cartridge based, meaning an arcade owner, back in the day, just had to replace the game cartridge and marquee, and they had an all new game for people to play. That is/was a LOT less expensive than buying a new arcade machine!

I do think my first purchase will be a 161-in-1 cart. I know they are not the best, but it will allow me to play a lot of different games right off the bat. If one of those games becomes a favorite, I will hunt down and buy the original cartridge. Most can be had on ebay, although some can be quite pricey.

IMG_5821A moment, if you please, to thank the people in the “I Am A Classic Videogamer” page on FaceBook. When I first picked this game up, I posted the same photos you see here on that page. Almost 80 people “liked” my post, and a TON of people were quick to send me very helpful info, including Nick Lombardo, PocketBike Racing Tsmmr (that may not be his real name…), Jacques Morel, Rob Turner, Isaac Solomon, Rob Peloquin, Jason Branch, and more. I don’t really know any of these people, and to a person, they were helpful, encouraging, and very nice. A better bunch of people in a group I have never known. Thanks to them all! And if you are reading this because you have an interest in classic video gaming, join this group on FaceBook! Click here to learn more!

All in all, I am very happy with this machine. It is still sitting in my living room, as I have to do some major moves in my office to fit it in there next to my MAME arcade. It will be worth it, and eventually, I plan on having a few more full arcade machines join it. Four others, I think, would be a good number. What would those be? Mrs. Pac Man with the speed-up chip, Burger Time, Mr. Do!, and either Pac Man, Tempest, Donkey Kong, or Star Wars.

IF my wife will let me!


I wanted to change things up with my headless MAME arcade cabinet. First off, as my first post showed, I had it connected to my main video game screen, but to the left of it. I don’t enjoy playing games where I stand in one spot and look to the right. It’s not comfortable playing that way. Second, I didn’t have the space to position it correctly to use that screen, so buying another television to use was at the top of my things to do with the cabinet. And third, playing some arcade games on a horizontal TV sucks.

Moving the arcade cabinet was pointless until I addressed the need for a television. I saw a post on a local buy-sell-trade group on Facebook from someone selling a 32” Magnavox flat screen, and at a inexpensive price. Taking a chance, I picked up the Magnavox for $40. If didn’t come with a remote, so for another $7, I picked one up on ebay.

I didn’t want to just set this screen on top of my arcade cabinet. That would only solve two of my three issues. So my next purchase was on Amazon for the Cheetah Articulating Arm TV Wall Mount with a 20-Inch Extension. The big draw for me with the Cheetah was that you could also rotate the screen to a vertical orientation, thanks to the ball connector behind the mount itself.
Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 10.01.55 AM

Drilling some pilot holes, and some anchors, I installed the Cheetah on my wall at the level I wanted the television, then installed all the wiring I felt I would need. Finally, I installed the mount itself to the Magnavox, then connected it with the rest of the wall mount. A quick test showed it would be easy to rotate my screen 90’.

IMG_5801Because I play mostly vintage 1980s arcade titles, like Ms. PacMan, Mr. Do!, Burger Time, and the like, I set up the software to automatically show Maximum Arcade rotated 90’. The positive side of this is that I can now play those games on a vertical screen, more like they were in the actual arcade cabinets. The downside is I cannot get Maximum Arcade to fill the screen: it’s either smaller than the screen size, or too large.

This set up, at least for the time being, works well for me. While I would love to buy a few dedicated arcade cabinets, I simply don’t have the space in our home for one. I could fit one in if I did away with one of my gaming shelves, but I don’t want to do that, either. So for the time being, this is my set up, and it’s good enough for me to get my arcade fix.

Of Joysticks and Roller(s)

Having a MAME Cabinet is great. Putting the legality issues aside for now, this is the best video game system I have ever owned. The reason is simple: unlimited games on a controller correct system.

For instance, I have owned Ms. Pac-Man on about every gaming system there is. Atari, NES, SNES, Xbox, PS1-2-3, Xbox 360, Wii… you name it, I have owned a copy of Ms. Pac-Man on it. But the biggest problem with each and every one of those has been the controller.

Growing up, I played a lot of arcade games, especially my favorites of the day: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, BurgerTime, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, and many others. All had one thing in common: the joystick. Playing those same games on, say, the NES control pad sucked. And while the Atari 2600 had a joystick, it sucked as well. (Too spongy.) These games demanded a proper joystick.

For years, I would occasionally look in at the MAME stuff, and even dabbled in it from time to time. But playing these games on a computer with a mouse, keyboard, or even a game controller was no better than on the NES. The only difference, really, was that in MAME, these games were the arcade games, not a port like the console games were. They were copied from the actual ROMs, so they were nearly identical.

(Side note: not all MAME ROMs are 100% accurate. In fact, most are not. There are times when an arcade used a special chip, or special hardware, and there is no real way to emulate those things on the computer. Still and all, the people who do work on these ROMs are amazing people and do wonderful work.)

So having an arcade means I can finally play games the way they were meant to be: with a real joystick!

Since my first post, dated mid-October, things have already changed with my MAME arcade. First, I have a dedicated monitor/screen for it. Second, said screen is on a wall-mount that allows me to rotate the screen vertically. Most arcade games were built with the monitor in the vertical position, so it was long, not wide. TVs all just the opposite. So being able to rotate the TV and set the MAME games to rotate 90-degrees brings an even truer arcade experience than before.

While I am not done “messing” with my arcade (I may never be), I spend most of my time with it playing games. A great feature on my MAME software is it allows me to tag a game as a Favorite, and that is a very selective list for me. With one button push, I bring up my favorite games, so I spend less time searching through over 10,000 games just to play a few rounds of BurgerTime. I initially added all the games I was most excited to play, of course, and now spend quite a bit of my time trying out some of the lesser known games. But finding those other fun games can be a challenge, and that’s where the internet comes in.

Just today, in fact, I was searching YouTube for information on an arcade game (I forget which one now) and in the suggested linked videos, I saw one that caught my eye. It was a three minute video showcasing a game I had never seen, or at least don’t remember. It was called Crush Roller, and it had some maze-like Pac-Man gameplay to it. Interesting! A quick look through my MAME library showed that I had Crush Roller.

What a fun game! And it made my Favorites list! Instead of eating dots to clear a maze, you are a paint brush and your job is to paint the maze. There are two… I don’t know what they are. (I’m not going to Google it to find out) They chase you around the maze. So far, I can (sometimes) get to the third maze, but no further. The bad guys in this game are SMART! Level 1 is not so bad, but after that, man these things are brutal! I am embedding the video below for you to see what it’s like. I love this game, but HATE the sound and music, so I play on mute:-)

So much fun…

*A reader let me know that this game was also called “Make Trax” by Williams Electronics, Inc. I looked at the screen shots from that game and yes, it is the same game.

The Obligitory First Post

A new site, tons to write and post about. This is not a “news” site at all. In fact, it’s more of a way for me to get my thoughts out on one of my favorite hobbies: Video Games. But not the latest and greatest games, although I may (and probably will) write about those. But all video games, the ones I enjoy. That may be current games, or older games. It could be console games, or arcade games. My tastes run wide.

At the moment, most of my video game playing time goes two ways: classic arcade titles via MAME, and some iOS games.

On the arcade front, this started recently. I have always loved arcade games, but as a Mac user, the MAME support is just not there. And I was not willing to buy a full PC just to play a few MAME games on.

(If you don’t know what MAME is, I will get into further details in another post. Sometime in the future.)

I always wanted some arcade games, but space and cost have always been an issue. I honestly thought it would be way too expensive to own an arcade machine. And even if it was not, space is at a premium in my home, and I’m not sure where I would fit one.

I ran across, and subscribe to, a YouTube channel called John’s Arcade. In it, John Jakobson shows off his basement arcade, visits different arcades around the country (and world lately), and restores older Arcade machines. It’s the later that made me subscribe to his channel. It’s something I am interested in, but have no experience at doing. Maybe when I buy a new, bigger home, I will have the room and can look at buying a couple arcade machines and fixing them up myself, using some of the techniques I learned from John’s YouTube channel.

Still, the bug was there, and I started pursuing Craigslist for use arcade machines. There are quite a few in my area, but most are too expensive. But I did come across one that sounded right up my alley: a headless MAME cabinet!

What’s a headless MAME cabinet? Well, it’s an arcade machine with no monitor, with a control system, and a PC running the software. This was a no-screen Samsung laptop running Maximus Arcade. Included was the complete setup, with MAME, a bunch of Nintendo Consoles, and a couple others. All ROMs included. The cost? Not expensive. And the best thing? Only about five miles away.

After a little back and forth, I ended up buying the cabinet. The headless cabinet was custom built, included some speakers and a sound system (neither of which I have ever used), a X-Arcade Tankstick + Trackball, and the aforementioned Samsung laptop running all the software. Really, plug and play!

I already have one wall dedicated to my video games. There is a 40” LG LCD TV on the wall, surrounded by some IKEA shelves holding my classic video game consoles, and some shelves under it holder more modern consoles. (Look for another post where I go into much more detail on all that.) I just ran an HDMI cable from the Samsung laptop to the LG TV, and viola! I am playing arcade games of my youth!

And that’s where the fun, headache, and hours of tinkering began. And that is where I end this first post!