Mini Galaga Arcade Machine

Below are the details on our Mini Galaga arcade machine. We got the plans online from Jakobud, and we cut it all out on our CNC machine.

Some of the Materials We Used

  • Mini Galaga/Ms. Pac-Man Kit: As mentioned above, we cut this out with our CNC machine, it was so fun to put together, we are actually offering kits for sale so others can put something similar together. When we finalize the kits, I’ll update this section with a link to where you can buy them.
  • Jakks Ms. Pac-Man TV Plug ‘n Play Joystick: This is what we used as the “Arcade Hardware”. You can find these at most shopping outlets like Walmart etc… or online at amazon or ebay. They make these with many different arcade games, but since we were making a Galaga, we chose this one (which comes with Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, Mappy, Xevious, and Pole Position).
  • Intec Gamecube 5″ LCD Screen: This is just one of those LCD screen you can get for a gaming system (they sell them for all the majoy console games). I happened to have a spare gamecube one laying around that I used, but I would guess that playstation ones are probably more popular and cheaper on ebay etc… You can usually find them from $20 – $50 used.
  • Arcade Pushbuttons: I have a bunch of these laying around from various projects, but they aren’t that expensive to buy. You can get them directly from Happ Controls (they are the people who make them), or you can get them on ebay or other places from Happ Resellers for a much better deal (especially on shipping). You could also just go to radio shack and grab some momentary switches from them, but that’s not as fun as real arcade buttons :).
  • Mini Joystick: This isn’t required though, once I decased the jakks joystick, it was suprisingly small, and only a little bit bigger than the mini joystick I bought. Also, the jakks joystick felt sturdier than this one (that’s not saying jakks joysticks are sturdy, far from it, they are very flimsy compared to industrial arcade joysticks, but compared to this mini one, it was sturdier). I also lost the steering ability in pole position (since you twist the joystick which acts as a sort of spinner on the jakks joystick, wasn’t able to make that work with the new mini joystick). The only real problem with using the jakks joystick is the ball top. I had to break my yellow ball top to get it out of the casing, and even if you could get it out of the casing without breaking it, you would have to break it to mount it in the control panel on the mini arcade. We ended up just taking a hacksaw and cutting off the ball and a bit of the shaft, there is probably a way to tap and thread the remaining shaft and a marble or something, and it would work great after that. Something to try in the future. At any rate, the exact joystick I used in this machine is from P3America, I beleive they are around $15 each, I could be wrong, it’s been a while since I ordered them.
  • Some T-molding: No better way to dress up the edges of an arcade cabinet than t-molding. Nothing special about the kind I used, just your standard 3/4″ smooth black t-molding, purchased from T-Molding.com.
  • Galaga Artwork Files: I downloaded all of the Galaga artwork from The Arcade Art Library. It was all in vector format so I was able to edit/resize to fit perfectly on my machine.
  • Tools/Misc: Here are some of the things I used to put this all together.
    • Wood Glue: This was used to put the kit together.
    • Black Spray Paint: This is what was used to paint the cabinet after it was assembled.
    • Exacto Knife: This is handy, especially when applying the artwork and cutting out button holes etc…
    • Hammer: This was used to help install the t-molding, as well as to give the machine a little “english” when needed.
    • Hot Glue Gun: I used hot glue in several places, such as in some spots to help the t-molding stick in better, and also on the inside of the cabinet, to help steady some of the internals as well as place some of the electronics.
    • Screwdriver: This was handy while installing the internal electronics and also to lift up the t-molding if I needed to get at something.
    • Wall-Wart Power Supplies: I used 2 wall wart style power supplies, one to power the jakks game board, and one to power the LCD screen. You can find them at your local walmart, or just do what I did and hit the thrift store and find a few that will work.
    • Power Strip: This is what I used as the main power source for the cabinet. I plugged the 2 wall warts into this, and then ran the power cord out the back, so plugging in the one plug powerers everything.
    • Electrical Tape: Used this while working on the electronics, always comes in handy.
    • Soldering Iron: Used this to hack the jakks board to work with my own controls.

    Getting Started

    As mentioned above, the first thing we did was cut out the cabinet and assemble it. This would have been much more difficult if we didn’t have the CNC machine, but after we got it programmed in, it was a breeze to cut out and put together. We actually cut grooves into the side pieces making it very easy to run a bead of glue in the groove and then slide the middle pieces in.

    Once we had everything glued and put together, we used some clamps to hold it tight while the glue dried. You don’t really need to use clamps, a heavy book to rest on top or some big rubber bands to hold everything in place would have worked in a pinch.


    (Here is the assembled cabinet with the glue all dried)

    Next we decided to work on the “guts” or the electronics for the inside. We had to make sure we were going to be able to hack the Jakks joystick and LCD screen to work in our cabinet.

    Luckily, the Jakks boards are suprisingly well marked (all of the inputs are listed on the board), so it was an easy task to solder a wire from the board to our own micro switches. The trickier part was getting the jakks board to work with the LCD screen we had. Usually these screens will come with a cord that allows you to hook up an alternate a/v source to them, but I had long since lost that cord (it’s usually a cable that looks like a headphone jack that goes to a red/yellow/white RCA plugs on the end). Without that cable, we had to cut the proprietary AV cord for the gamecube LCD screen, found out which wires in it were video, left audio, and right audio, and then clipped the wire on the jakks game and and soldered the appropriate wires together.


    (Here you can see all of the “guts’ of the cab laying out while we tested everything)

    The monitor comes with some built in speakers and they are suprisingly sufficient (loud for as small as they are). Since the Jakks games aren’t stereo, we just soldered the white RCA jack into the right and left channel on the speakers, works great). Now, when the machine is turned on, it’s just automatically booted up to the jakks game menu, and the volume dial on the screen controls all of the volume on the game. We cut out a space on the bezel area so you could adjust it etc…


    (Here is a shot of the screen area of the cabinet, you can see the cut out spot for adjusting the volume and contrast etc…)

    Painting

    Once we got all of the electronics figured out, we striped everything from the cabinet to get it ready to paint. We sanded any rough spots, wiped it down, and then sprayed the whole thing inside and out with semi-gloss black spray paint. I gave it quite a few coats (still didn’t use a whole can of spray paint though). Once I finished spraying it, I let it dry for quite a few days (because it was fairly cold where I painted it, I allowed the paint to dry for a longer period of time, it would have been more ideal to paint in a warmer area, but I had none available at the time).


    (Here you can see that most of it is painted, still have some on the side I need to cover, but coming along nicely)


    (Getting there)


    (Almost finished)


    (done painting, now just need to let it dry)

    Finishing Touches

    Once the paint finished drying, I had all of the artwork sized and printed at my local print shop. I had the side art, kick panel, and control panel overlay all printed on adhesive material. I just peeled the back off and stuck it to the machine. The marquee was printed on normal paper, then laminated. I had added a bit of black space to the top and bottom of the marquee file, so I just cut it out and then super glued it in place on the cabinet. This seemed to be the best solution since I didn’t want to have to use screws or nails to fasten it with some sort of marquee retainer as it’s much too small for something like that.


    (As you can see all the artwork looked great when applied. The “coin door” is just an image of a coin door I found on google image search and printed out and stuck on the front like the other artwork, I think it adds to the final package)


    (It really turned out nice and it was a lot of fun to put together)

    Gameplay

    The game play on this is not the best. Probably the biggest problem is the screen angle. LCD monitors really only look good when looked at straight on, but to keep with the original design of a galaga arcade cabinet, I laid the screen more flat. At the angle it’s at, it almost looks like a photo negative (for instance, the black space background in Galaga is white on the screen). The screen is fine, it’s just the angle it’s viewed at. It’s playable this way, but less than ideal.

    Another problem is the fact that it’s using the Jakks arcade game board. It is a decent port/emulation, but it’s not exact. It’s good enough for most, but die hard galaga enthusiasts could probably point out a dozen nit picky items that make it not 100% arcade accurate.

    Another thing, as mentioned above, the joystick is less than ideal. It works ok, but it’s nothing like a real arcade joystick of course. The push buttons might look big and out of place on the control panel, but they work great.

    Here are some pictures of my little boy and wife playing the machine:


    (I like how he has his hand resting on the side of the cabinet. Many of the real arcade machines have a worn spot right there from where people would rest their hand while playing)


    (He’s really having fun with it)


    (Looks like someone just lost one of their ships :) )


    (Tons of fun)


    (He’s making his dad so proud with his baby gaming skills, he’s only 1)


    (My wife giving it a go. Gotta love the matching shirt)