THE NEO GEO SPEC IAL IST

EDGE - - INFINITE LIVES -

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)

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