THE NEO GEO SPEC IAL IST
Pedro Perez has been a part of the coin-op collecting scene for nearly ten years. Starting out, he decided to focus on arcade machines originating from Japan, particularly SNK’s Neo Geo. Since then, his collection has fluctuated in size, and today it’s all about quality rather than scale, settling on an arrangement of four cabinets which share space with consoles, games and stacks of arcade PCBs in the lower-level ‘man cave’ of his home in Connecticut.
How did you get started? I started collecting arcade cabinets once I got back from my military deployment in 2006. I needed a bit of a stress reliever, and I wanted to get that arcade experience at home because I grew up around arcades. So back in 2006 I purchased my first cabinet, which was a Neo Geo big red arcade machine. From there, a bunch of different arcade cabinets have come and gone, and now I’m back to having just four cabinets, but with tons of PCBs.
What’s the rarest item in your collection? It would have to be my Capcom Mini Cute arcade cabinet. All my arcade machines are the Japanese sitdown type, and the Capcom Mini Cute comes up to about almost five feet tall – it’s rare because it’s one of the smallest arcade cabinets around. It’s comparable to the cabaret cabinets, or mini cabinets, that have been made for other classic arcade games. This was designed and manufactured by Capcom, and it sports an 18-inch monitor that can be rotated. It was actually designed for twoplayer games, such as Street Fighter II. Where do you store everything? Has your setup changed over the years? When I first started this collection I was living with roommates, so all my arcade gear and cabinets were set up in what we called the party room – the bar-type deal. Since I moved out of there and settled in my own home I actually have a dedicated space in the lower level of the house, which is my own little arcade gaming area. When I got this house it was pretty much set in stone where the games
90 were going to go – we actually picked a house that would be able to accommodate the man cave/gaming room. The goal was to have them all in one centralised area. How about maintenance – do you handle all of that yourself? Arcade collecting can be a little bit technically challenging, especially for beginners. I have experience in minor electronics due to the military and also personal life experiences. It does help to have a basic knowledge of how electronics work – relays, signal flow, etc. If you’re pretty good with electronics, and if you happen to have a manual for anything with schematics, and if you know how to read those schematics, you can navigate your way. With electronics, obviously you’re dealing with power supplies and electricity, so there are some things that you do have to keep in mind. A lot of times whenever I’ve gotten a new cabinet, I’ve had to clean it out properly and look for certain things that haven’t been plugged in correctly.
Also, when parts aren’t available to you, sometimes they need to be fabricated by hand – control panels, for example, or artwork for the cabinet. If you’re artistically inclined or know people that can actually do the job for you, that obviously comes in handy. How much use does your collection get? And is it important to share it with other people who share your passion? I’d say my gaming collection – not just arcadewise, but everything – gets used whenever I get a chance. I’m a family man, but whenever I get a free moment I go down and play on the machines or I play on various game systems and consoles.
I like having friends over who appreciate the arcade setup that I have. Some people take a look at the machines and say, “Oh, that’s great – I haven’t played this in quite awhile”. Other people are more surprised – like, “You own
arcade machines?” And then other people joke around: “Wow, that’s pretty geeky.”
I’m very happy with the collection that I have. It’s smaller then it used to be, and it’s manageable. I like having that nostalgic feeling you get from playing on the machines. Tell us about your experiences of the collecting scene. Is it a particularly competitive environment? With any kind of collecting there are people that are friendly and kind, and then you have the other types of people who try to overcollect, to the point of hoarding, and that can affect the scene quite a bit. Some people want to collect every game that they’ve ever played, and that’s cool, if they have the space. It’s up to them. Personally, I just wanted to collect a couple of machines for my collection. I just happened to go the Japanese route. I like the style, the way they look. You do have people that are sticklers for every ounce of detail, but that’s cool. I’m pretty lax when it comes to the collecting. I have fun on the machines that I have. I play on them pretty much whenever I get a chance. Now, if you’re talking about the competitiveness of people playing arcade games, that’s a whole different story [laughs].
You do have people that shun Japanese arcade machines, and then there are people who only like the classic games – I’m talking about anything that was released before 1987. You just have people with different types of personalities. Some people aren’t interested in the classic games, and maybe like to play only the ’90s-era fighters, and some people don’t like that one bit and would rather play your standard Nintendo arcade machines like Donkey
Kong, or maybe Atari vector-based games. Sometimes they shun people: “Oh, you like those newer games. They don’t pose any kind of a challenge when compared to the true classics blah, blah, blah”. If I play a game and I like it, I enjoy it. If not, I move on. But I don’t make a big stink about it. What about the future? What sort of lifespan do you think these machines have? I would love for the machines to go on working forever, but unfortunately, considering that my machines all have CRT monitors, there will come a time when these displays will need a major overhaul if they do decide to malfunction or stop working. I’d like to keep them up and running as long as I can. It’s like anything – for a person who takes care of a classic car, it’s just constant maintenance.
I’ll reevaluate my status when it comes to these machines as I get older, to see if do I really want to put in the effort to maintain this hobby, or if I move on. Personally, I’d like these machines to go to my kids. My son already plays on the machines, and he’s not even two. He likes the colours, he likes the action on the screen. Sharing the hobby with my children brings me joy. If it’s a hobby that brings me joy, and I can share it with family members or friends, that makes me happy. You’re a big Neo Geo fan. If you were going to load up a four-slot Neo Geo cabinet, what games would you choose to go in there? I have that list already. OK, ready? Here we go, first one: Windjammers. I remember playing this game back in 1994, in an arcade in Portugal. It was in a little seaside town called Figueira da Foz, with great nightlife. Before everything really started in the evenings, before 11 o’clock during the summertime, there would be people piled into the arcades there, and I remember seeing a line of people waiting to challenge another person in Windjammers. I remember that vividly, like it was yesterday. I’ve gotten pretty good at Windjammers, and I would love to play some of the people that used to play that game back in the day. I would love to see if they could play it now. The second game would have to be Garou:
Mark Of The Wolves. A fun game, more of a recent game, a fighting game. It’s really detailed, the sound’s great, and the controls, the playability is all there. It’s really good. For the third game, I would have to say
Blazing Star. Fun for a shoot ’em up. Graphicswise, it’s great – there’s a little bit of slowdown, but its fun nonetheless.
The fourth game would have to be a tossup. It’d be either Metal Slug 1, which I could play till the cows come home, or the really challenging Last Resort. I’ve been trying to complete that game using one credit on level eight, its hardest difficulty setting, and I’m almost there. Wow, I love that game. Let’s say you don’t have to worry about space, budget or anything else: what would be your Holy Grail game? It would be the deluxe version of OutRun. That game brings back so many childhood memories it’s not even funny. I’ve just recently started wondering how much money I’ve pumped into that game over the years, trying to figure it out, even adjusting the price for inflation. That game, especially the deluxe version I used to play on the Jersey boardwalk, it had to be 75c per credit, or a dollar. A lot of games are a dollar a play now, but it wasn’t common back then. Back when you were a kid, you really had to choose carefully. If you had $5, that meant five games of OutRun, or you could spend it instead on games where each credit cost a quarter. But it would have to be OutRun.
“IT’S LIKE ANYTHING – FOR A PERSON WHO TAKES CARE OF A CLASSIC CAR, IT’S JUST CONSTANT MAINTENANCE”
Name Pedro Perez Location Middletown, Connecticut Three favourite coin-ops OutRun (deluxe version), StreetFighterII, ArmedPoliceBatrider
Cabinets in collection Four (plus “tons of PCBs”)
OutRun (Sega, 1986)
Perez’s first purchase in 2006 was a big red Neo Geo cabinet
Original Japanese flyer for Capcom’s Mini Cute cabinet
Street Fighter II (Capcom, 1991)