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For my 30th birthday, I was given the rather spectacular gift of a genuine
4-slot Neo Geo arcade unit. It was such a shocker to receive that I've
become a bit obsessed by the machine. Originally thinking that this unit
was a "conversion" cabinet (another game turned into a Neo Geo), I did quite a
bit of research into it, digging around the insides, and checking out all of the
external features inch by inch. Nearest I can tell, my arcade unit was
(and is) a dedicated cabinet, specifically, a MVS-4-25, revision 1.
The Neo Geo has been a thrill to own, and a gathering point during parties.
However, this machine has absolutely been through the ringer - it has definitely
seen arcade time, or more simply, abuse. I've decided to restore the
machine, and with my community's help, chronicle my success or failure at
bringing this cabinet as close to original as possible (given my budget!).
Below, you'll see a picture of the cabinet's control panel, along with the filth
trapped between the plexi and the overlay, and the paint chippings along the
side that show the cabinet's original red color. The joysticks look and
feel original, although I haven't seen this particular type of joystick on a Neo
Geo cabinet before (are they authentic? is there something better out
there?). I typically see "long necked" joysticks on Neo Geos, but I do
appreciate this style of joystick more, as it seems more likely to accept abuse.
I've replaced 2 buttons, and removed and cleaned the rest, so they're all in
great shape with good action.
(Click any picture to enlarge. Sorry about the cat's butt in this shot.
She likes to rub against the Neo Geo and purr - something I do occasionally, but
not while photos are being taken)
Upon opening the panel, you can see that the wiring is in pretty good shape -
bundled well (although a bit hard to trace), and generally unobtrusive.
The power supply in this picture is relatively new, as I had to replace it
almost immediately after acquiring the unit.
"Funny" story about that... If you look back at the first picture, you'll
see that the LED "how many credits are left" panels aren't in the cabinet right
now. One of my first activities was to hook these bad boys up. The
wiring is "keyed" so you can't do it wrong. Hook up the first one, power
it up, and it worked great. Hooked up the second one, turned on the Neo
Geo, and got nothing. "GAH! I've destroyed my 1 week old (to me)
arcade! NO!", I whispered, immediately wishing I hadn't done anything,
and hoping that my wife was nowhere nearby. I unhooked everything, and the
machine still wouldn't power up - the power supply had no lights on at all!
My trusty (but cheap) multimeter confirmed that the PSU (power supply unit) was
getting power, so I took it apart. Maybe it was the fuse... Nope.
Nothing, and it didn't even look damaged. Somewhere on the board, some
component failed, and that was the end of that PSU, period. I bought a
replacement power supply, hooked it up, and no problems since. I have,
however, officially declared the LED boards haunted - even though
they probably work just fine.
The bottom of the control panel isn't rusted - that reddish color is some type
of primer, I believe. The black paint on top of the primer has been
peeling off over the years. I am unsure if I should attempt any manner of
repair on the bottom of the console. I will likely buff out the corrosion
on the motherboard cover, and repaint. I may even add a bit of "pizzazz"
to that paint job, just to personalize the "engine" a bit. Anybody with an
electroplating shop and some spare chrome?
Now, a few words on how I came to believe that this is a dedicated cabinet,
despite the horrible glossy black paint job. First is that the Service
Panel inside the machine was exactly as pictured
in the manual. I
promptly tore the panel apart, and mounted the power, coin, and setup switches
on the outside of the unit. Although I don't have the memory card reader /
headphone jack daughterboard, I can see where it's supposed to go. Aside
from the front being repainted and dirty (and
partially the wrong color), everything mostly looks to be in good shape
here. You'll notice the tinted glass panel on the left side of the unit.
This dark thing used to be over the monitor. I'm hoping to replace the
glass with a clear tempered glass, so that more of the monitor's light comes
The rest of the cabinet needs more than just a simple clean-up job. I'm
not entirely sure what to do with it, if I should strip it all the way to the
wood and repaint with a matte or semi-gloss finish red (after several primer
coats - particle board is THIRSTY), or if I can find a way to get some
replacement matte finish vinyl. To be honest, I don't know how to install
vinyl, but I'd be willing to give it a shot, if it isn't difficult. One of
my friends had the rather radical idea of replacing the side panels completely
with new MDF (particle board) or other more durable wood (plywood?). I
think it's a neat idea, but I don't have the equipment (like a table saw), and I
am unsure if that'd fit into my budget. I also have some misgivings about
dissembling the entire cabinet - I'm not sure I'm mechanically inclined enough
to put it back together 100% properly when I finished. Any suggestions in
restoring the sides would be welcome.
As you can see, in places, the original red vinyl was peeling off, and rather
than take it all off, or repair the damaged sections, it was simply painted
In this picture, I've outlined where (in person), you can see
where they also painted over the logo work. A real shame, as I expect
making a new logo-template to be one of the more difficult parts of the
You can also see that the cabinet has sustained some additional wear and tear
since its unfortunate paint job, with more of the MDF and red vinyl exposed.
In the picture below, you can also make out the "Neo Geo" text, immediately
below the camera's flash.
Finally, there's the issue of the Neo Geo's monitor. I'm not entirely
sure that there's anything I can do about it, short of buying a new monitor.
As is, I'm relatively happy with the monitor, but know it could / should be
better. Any tips here would be appreciated. You see, the monitor is
perfectly usable when my room's lights are not on. As the monitor "warms
up", it gets brighter - at about 45 minutes of use, the monitor is at its full
brightness. These pictures are after 15 minutes of use, so they are a bit
darker than normal, but the effect is more or less the same.
The monitor is perfectly usable with less ambient light
I have heard several people talk about "re-capping" their monitors to repair
them. However, the reasons for recapping seem to stem from people having
color weirdness or herky jerky displays. This is not the case with my
monitor, the colors are rich and true, and the picture is stable. When I
dial up the brightness control, it just gets washed out - I've played with it a
lot, and know that I've got things set up more or less correctly (I used
emulator screens to calibrate the monitor - it took a long time. Darkness
in a monitor seems to stem from some manner of "heating coil", and that's about
the limit of my understanding. I'm also unsure about whether or not I want
to take on a monitor project, given the voltages associated with that work
(30,000 volts can kill a man). My information about dark monitors comes in
forum posts about dark monitors / recapping, etc. I would love it if
someone had any additional words on the topic.
The bright lights of my game room do the screen no justice.
The replacement monitor
would be the Wells Gardner K7400 - new, they cost around $365-400, refurbished,
it is about $285-300. I currently
have a 25K7193 (25", 7100 series). I do not have enough room in my cabinet
for the 27 inch D9200, priced at $470. I wish I had the room, that's for
sure. At 24" wide, 22"
tall, 20" deep, I think I'm about an inch or two too narrow on every side,
and that's taking modification of the cabinet into account. Basically,
there's no way I'm getting that beauty in there. The K7400 is basically a
drop-in replacement, but doesn't have the advanced features, and is a far lower
resolution display. In other words, I couldn't pick up newer JAMMA based
boards if I wanted to, I'd probably be stuck emulating with a computer.
No room for a larger monitor, but that's OK by me.
Plugging this Neo Geo into an emulation system is another goal - I intend to
purchase an Arcade VGA and JPac as a part of this project. There is a
massive amount of room in the cabinet, I expect to have no problems at all
adding the computer components (without affecting the aesthetics of the Neo
Geo). I already have the computer (a light-weight jobbie, 350Mhz).
I'm going to run a wireless keyboard / mouse / network into the computer before
I put it into the box, hopefully that will mean that I won't have to open the
cabinet very often. I plan to make switching between the PC and the Neo
Geo motherboard as seemless as possible (by extending the JAMMA connector so
that it's accessible through the coin door. Perhaps there's a better way
to do this, I don't know.
Here's a look at the back of the monitor, as well as the cavernous space that I
have under the monitor. Aside from the dials to adjust the monitor, I
haven't done much here. You can't see the isolation transformer in this
picture, because that's in the very bottom of the cabinet, as is the original
Neo Geo ATX power supply (long dead, by the looks of it). One thing that
might be nice about getting a new monitor is that I would no longer need the
transformer (possibly making it safer to work inside of the unit).
I look forward to hearing the community's input on this project.
Basically, my goals are as follows:
- Make the unit look good.
- Improve the monitor, if possible.
- Add a computer to the setup, and keep it hidden.