Behind the Scenes: Troubleshooting Retro Arcade Games for an Unforgettable Experience

Published on May 30, 2023 by Parash Thapa

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Running a retro arcade is a lot of fun, but it is a business with its own unique set of challenges. In our first week of operation, we encountered several issues with our games, but most of them have been fixed or are awaiting parts for repair. Let's take a look at the issues we've faced and the solutions we've implemented so far.


Freeplay Issues:
- Pole Position: The issue was resolved after identifying and fixing the root cause.
- NHL Open Ice: A workaround was implemented while awaiting a CMOS battery replacement.
- Moon Patrol: The issue was resolved by adjusting the monitor.
- Millipede: The issue was resolved by fixing the start button.


Our third Skeeball machine required extensive troubleshooting. We collaborated with Rob Kahr, a specialist in building boards for old pinball and Skeeball machines. Although the PCB board and scoreboard were successfully installed, the sensors for the balls did not function correctly. To address this, Rob developed customized software for our Skeeball Extreme machines, and the necessary parts are expected to arrive this week. We appreciate Rob's support in helping us preserve these classic games.


Air Hockey:
Initially, our air hockey table presented some puzzling issues. While it had all-new electronics and appeared to be working well, we discovered that a plug inside the game, used for the fan, had malfunctioned. To resolve this, we directly plugged the fan into an outlet, which restored the game's functionality. Air hockey has been a popular attraction, and we plan to add a second table soon to accommodate the demand.


Big Buckhunter Pro Open Season:
This relatively newer game from the early 2000s had a recurring issue where it would go offline randomly after a few hours of operation. Initially, we suspected a faulty hard drive, but a supplier with extensive arcade game maintenance experience suggested a temporary fix involving a paper clip. This workaround bypassed the dead CMOS battery and allowed the PC to start. We have since ordered and installed a new battery, and the game seems to be stable at the moment.


Rollercoaster Tycoon Pinball:
Upon its arrival from California, this pinball machine experienced issues with launching the balls correctly. Jeremy was able to address this issue, and he is currently restoring the game's sound card, which requires replacing several faulty capacitors. Once the sound card is repaired, the game will be fully operational.


Bubble Hockey:
Last weekend, our brand new Bubble Hockey game encountered a problem where it failed to launch the puck after scoring a goal or at the start of the game. Jeremy diagnosed and fixed the issue by slightly loosening the puck launcher solenoid—a peculiar but effective solution.


Time Crisis 3:
In Time Crisis 3, player 1 experienced a monitor issue where the screen did not recognize the gun. The required part to fix this problem will arrive on Wednesday (May 24, 2023), and we will promptly install it, ensuring the game is fully operational.


Mr and Mrs Pac-Man Pinball:
This game, fully restored a few months ago, faced an issue with diodes under the playfield. Although it has been challenging to keep this game online, we have decided to replace all the diodes and capacitors to resolve the problem. The repairs are scheduled for completion this week (week of 5/22/2023), and we anticipate that the game will be fully operational afterward.


Mortal Kombat:
Mortal Kombat required attention due to a non-functional player 1 button and a broken player 2 joystick. Both of these issues were fixed on 5/22/2023, and the game is now 100% operational.


Close Encounters Pinball:
Our oldest pinball machine, Close Encounters, is in need of

some maintenance. This fantastic game, inspired by the classic movie, is facing some issues. We recently located the manual for the game and will be fixing it soon.


Crazy Taxi 2:
Crazy Taxi 2 is currently offline and requires a new monitor. Additionally, it has some computer-related issues that need to be resolved. We aim to fix these problems and bring it to the arcade in the next few weeks. Once operational, it will be placed next to the original Crazy Taxi game.


Final Blow:
The CRT monitor in Final Blow malfunctioned, necessitating a cap kit. This will be fixed on Wednesday, 5/24/2023.


Donkey Kong 3:
The monitor in Donkey Kong 3 periodically becomes scrambled, despite adjusting the vertical and horizontal settings. To improve reliability, we will replace the capacitors in the monitor.


Frogger's CRT monitor failed again shortly after replacing the capacitors. Given the existing "burn in" issues, we have decided to upgrade the monitor to an LCD display. This upgrade will ensure greater reliability for this classic game.


WWF Superstars:
Recently, the characters in WWF Superstars stopped appearing on the screen during gameplay. To address this issue, we are replacing the game ROM and PCB board.


Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift:
This game occasionally restarts due to a computer issue. We have procured a completely rebuilt computer and will replace the existing one as soon as it arrives. This will resolve the intermittent restarts and ensure smooth operation.


Running a retro arcade is an exciting venture, but it requires constant maintenance and troubleshooting to keep the games in top condition. We are committed to providing the best gaming experience for our visitors and are continuously working to resolve any issues that arise. Stay tuned for more updates on our progress as we bring these classic games back to life!