Universal is a Japanese entertainment company with quite a history. As well as an arcade heritage from Lady Bug to Mr Do!, they also produced Pachinko and slot machines to furnish Japanese arcade parlours back in the day.
Here in the UK, I recall some of their earlier video game titles, specifically the Cosmic series. The cabinets were particularly striking, presenting the player with seductive curves and glorious artwork (both generic and game specific), which were very much of their time. Coming across a row of Universal cabs, such as the ones found at Funspot’s arcade in New Hampshire is a sight to behold for any self-respecting classic arcade connoisseur:
I was very surprised to see a Universal Cosmic Guerilla cab come up for auction last week, and decided to have a bid. Discovered along with other arcade bits and pieces, the cab was part of the inventory of a long retired and recently deceased arcade operator, and was described as a “barn find”. The seller was unsure if the machine worked as he refused to plug it in (a very wise thing to do) for fear of damaging anything. Care needs to be taken when acquiring a new cabinet from an unknown source. The switch on process needs to be methodical if you want to avoid an early disaster. However, based on what I could see, the cab looked complete and in excellent condition for its age.
The game itself is a shoot-em-up released in 1979, very much in the spirit of Space Invaders, where the invaders come from the sides of the screen to steal the player’s ships sitting in the middle. Gameplay footage is here if you’re interested. The original flyer promises a thrilling ride and gives some player tips:
Well my luck was in and I got the cab for a song, much less than I would have been prepared to pay, and travelled up to Nottinghamshire to collect it over the weekend. What a great find it turned out to be.
Arriving at the seller’s yard, what struck me was the condition of the side art. bear in mind this cabinet is now 37 years old!
Barely a scuff on that fabulous art. The rest of the cab has held up well cosmetically too. I really like the way some of the colours have faded gradually with age, especially on the marquee. I’ll be keeping this natural ageing for authenticity; it gives the cab a nice vintage look:
There’s a crack and a tiny piece missing from the control panel art work, but I’m sure that can be fixed easily – might even be able to scan and reproduce it. Original joystick and buttons are still in place, as well as the original gels on the monitor screen, which give the appearance of colour on this Black & White game.
Inside, things have held up well at first glance. Monitor, PCB and wiring are all present and untouched.
Here’s my buddy Paul helping out to get it in the SUV ready for the journey back home:
Even the base was intact, which is usually the first thing to go on these old cabinets, as damp tends to get in over time and weaken the wood. It’s really clear that this cab was stored well and in a dry place. So despite the way the market has gone in recent years, there are still bargains to be had if you look hard enough.
A nice bonus was the addition of a set of original hand written schematics which will come in handy for sure.
So all in all, a perfect candidate for a restore – I’m feeling confident about it based on what I can see. It isn’t going to take much to get this back to minty cosmetic shape again. I may get lucky and find everything working, but really need to check all voltages before powering up fully.
So for now this is stored in the garage, and I hope to make a start on the restoration in the coming weeks as soon as time allows. I will of course document progress.
Another great classic arcade machine saved!
See you next week.