Saturday, September 14, 2013

Meet the Collectors - #7 - Alex Crowley

In previous episodes of this blog's Meet the Collectors series, we have already seen some of the best collections out there that are dedicated to Nintendo's history.

But even though these consisted of wonderful displays of Game & Watches, vintage toys and retro video games, there is one department that has been seriously underexposed here so far: arcade games.

Arcade games are an important part of Nintendo's history and heritage. Key Nintendo characters and game franchises were born in the arcade. Many of today's Nintendo collectors first got exposed to Nintendo through these games. Most of us love them for it. I know I do.

But collecting arcade games is a different matter altogether. They are big and heavy. Their monitors and printed circuit boards are sensitive to technical problems (contrary to consoles and handhelds, which are virtually indestructible). Most arcade game have been out in the field for many years, resulting in wear and tear. So they usually require tender love and care to restore, get working and maintain in top shape.

It takes some special dedication to build your own home arcade. In today's episode we will meet Alex, who has done just that. Even more exciting is the fact that he created a Nintendo arcade! Alex loves his arcade so much that he gave up an extensive collection of Game & Watch for it. Talk about dedication!

Alex posing justifiably proud in his personal hall of Nintendo arcade history

"Hi! My name is Alex Crowley. I am from Twickenham London, 42 years old and I am a brickwork specialist."

Alex has a nice set of Nintendo games from
the 8 bit , 16 bit and 64 bit eras

"I have been collecting video games, and especially Game & Watch, for 30 years."

Namcot Famicom classic games line the shelf

"What attracting me to Nintendo was playing Donkey Kong for the first time. The level design was way ahead of anything else and I loved the art work. Since I could never own the arcade as a kid, I wanted the Game & Watch."

A handful of Game & Watch games complete the display

For many years Alex collected Game & Watch games. But at some point he switched to arcade games.

"I started collecting Nintendo arcades basically when I realised I could! But I couldn't afford both the Game & Watch collection and the arcades."

Framed flyers for various Donkey Kong games - the sign of a true fan

"I sold off forty of my boxed Game & Watch games, which paid for a new van and my first arcade Donkey Kong Junior. I never wanted to sell my Game & Watch collection, but when I saw the JR up for sale I had to have it. I still managed to keep hold of all the Donkey Kong Game & Watch variants."

The kong trinity: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior
and Donkey Kong 3, flanked by a Punch-out!!

"So it started with Donkey Kong Junior. Many others like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Fast Freddie and Robotron came and went through the door."


"But once I realised it was possible to get a Donkey Kong, I knew I had to collect as many Nintendo arcade machines as I could possibly fit in my games room."


"These machines are all rare outside of America from Donkey Kong onwards, as Nintendo of America only made upright cabs for there own market. In the UK we only had [the clone] Crazy Kong."


"Donkey Kong Junior is my favourite game of all time and Donkey Kong 3 is my favourite machine to look at, as I converted it from a VS. cabinet."


Donkey Kong 3 is indeed a very colorful machine. For those of you that do not know this game, it is a special mix of Galaxian like swarms of bomb dropping insect aliens, a little bit of platforming and Donkey Kong hanging on a couple of vines.


There are three objectives in this game: shooting down the insects, protecting the five flowers at the bottom of the screen (which the aliens are trying to abduct) and spraying Donkey Kong numerous times until he has retreated to the top of the screen. Taking care all these tasks at the same time provides for a hectic but fun game play.

It should also be noted that in this game you play as Stanley the bug-man. Clearly Mario wasn't the only one to cross swords with the big ape.


Alex's Donkey Kong 3 machine looks great, and closer inspection reveals something even more special.


Next to the coin slot, Alex had a friend create a special engraving of Stanley!


Alex continues: "My current collection of Nintendo arcades stands at eight: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Donkey Kong 3, Popeye, Punch-Out!!, Space Firebird, Space Fever and Space Launcher."


"Most of my machines I have bought in working condition but most of them need some sort of attention, like a cap kit on the monitor or some new art work."


"I manage to get help with the technical side of maintaining and repairing the game board (PCB or printed circuit board). But restoring the body and artwork I like to do myself."


"Popeye I am actually still waiting to be delivered from the States, but is on its way."

This Popeye will soon join the other games in Alex's game room

"But the rarest of my machine has to be Space Launcher, as I don't know anyone else who owns a dedicated machine. I recently acquired it and I am picking it up at Replay Expo next month, so I cannot yet show it here. It is also in need of a full refurbishment."

Well, when you have it restored, we will gladly run a new blog post on it!

Let's take a look at the Nintendo cocktail cabinets currently in Alex's game room.

Nintendo Space Fever

Alex has two Space Fever cocktails, but will let one go to make room for the Space Launcher.

Space Fever players can select from three game variants

Space Fever dates from early 1979 and is one of the first of Nintendo's video arcade games.


The game play of Space Fever bears more than a small resemblance to that other space shooter with four bunkers at the bottom of the screen and left-right marching aliens that invade from space.

Taking a peek under the hood of Space Fever.
The monitor is black and white.

Nintendo's Space Firebird was released in 1980 and is more original than Space Fever, but it still closely follows the mould set by others at the time.

Nintendo Space Firebird

It does have a couple of unique game play features, though. Like a protective shield that can be activated and the ability to doge a swarm of incoming birds.


Shigeru Miyamoto was part of the team that created this game. This was shortly before he created Nintendo's landmark arcade game Donkey Kong.


After the string of somewhat predictable space shooters created by Nintendo in 1979 and 1980, the 1981 release Donkey Kong was a revelation, as it was bursting with original ideas that were wonderfully executed.

Space Firebird with the top open.
It is one of the first color video games Nintendo made.

Alex's Space Firebird is in excellent condition. Like Space Fever, it is not among the greatest video games ever made. But it is an important part of Nintendo's history nevertheless. It shows the development of Nintendo in these early video game days, and as such has a deserved place in this Nintendo arcade.


The box shown below is one of the rare pieces in Alex's collection.


It is the original packaging of a conversion kit that Nintendo sold to owners of a Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior or Donkey Kong 3 or Mario Bros. arcade cabinets. When earnings from these games slowed down, arcade owners could use this kit to upgrade their machine to a Nintendo VS. UniSystem and play more recent, head-to-head games from the VS. series.


Alex, thank you for showing us around your game room. With so many great machines already ligned up next to each other, and two more underway, is there anything more on your wish list?

"I don't have room to have all of the Nintendo arcade machines but there are two more I would really like and that's a Sheriff cocktail & a Vs. Red Tent."


Well, when you lay your hands on these, please let us know. Thanks again for sharing your collection with us.



For more Nintendo collections, go to this overview of Meet the Collectors. Also check out previous posts about the Nintendo Space Fever and Space Launcher.

2 comments:

  1. So.... looks like I'm gunna want to move in with this guy.

    That collection is gorgeous! Plus I only live around the corner haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where do you live then Luke?
      Are you chris's son who used to work for Nintendo?

      Delete