To FPGA or Not FPGA... The Arcade PCB Restoration & Preservation Question

Original arcade hardware will always have a special certification to it, like a seal of quality, but it also brings about the stress: "I hope this thing will fire up". Advice to remember: as long as you leave them turned off, "they're working..."

With original arcade hardware you'll know the sound and timing will play "correct". However, that Pacman, Gyruss or Street Fighter 2 you fondly remember playing back in the day may have actually been running a bootleg PCB.

What I did cherish in the arcades was a great glowing CRT arcade monitor, nice original controls, and the artwork.... and consistent play that I was accustomed to.

Before I started collecting games, I really had no idea of what the game boards looked like or the internal wiring and power supplies were, so I had no particular nostalgia for the game boards themselves. Only after I begun playing on the other side of the coin door and got into restoring games did I learn more.

On some of the original hardware it is amazing how much engineering was developed and necessary simply to entice a person to deposit a quarter. Quite remarkable.

Some of the more well-known arcade PCBs that have FPGA counter parts include:

JROK FPGA Arcade Series - which are all JAMMA compatible PCBs that can be set to play as either dedicated games on boot or display a menu to select a game.

-Williams Multi JROK PCB - plays Robotron, Joust, Blaster, Bubbles, Sinistar, Defender, Stargate, and Splat (but no... not Moon Patrol)
-Mystar Multi JROK PCB - plays Qbert, Faster Harder More Challenging Qbert, Qbert's Qubes, Mad Planets, Reactor, Argus etc.
-Zooq Taito Multi JROK FPGA - plays Zookeeper, Qix, Space Dungeon, Kram etc.

BitKit FPGA - this JAMMA PCB runs many games accurately that are based on specific hardware such as Pacman and Konami games: Pacman, Ms Pacman, Jr Pacman, Galaxian, Scramble, Super Cobra, Anteater, Nibbler, Pengo etc. More games have been continually added and more than 30 games are supported.

MISTer FPGA - this is a modular configurable setup which can be made to run in a JAMMA arcade cabinet with the correct add-ons. The uses a DE-10, RAM expansion and I/O boards to generate analogue video.

Cinematronics FPGA - this recently released board allows one to play the Cinematronics vector and Vectorbeam games in an original Asteroids arcade cabinet or an Asteroids Deluxe cabinet with an optional adapter. Games include Star Castle, Armor Attack, Rip Off, Solar Quest, Boxing Bugs, War of the Worlds, Sundance, Tail Gunner, Star Hawk, Space Wars, Barrier and more.


For Zookeeper/Taito (spaghetti wire), Qbert/Mylstar (voltages/sound board) and Robotron/Defender/Joust/Williams (interconnect cables/RAM) games I personally don't think twice and feel comfortable with a JROK if I'm restoring a game that is missing the original PCBs as long as the CRT and original controls work great. The Qbert here for instance, has original working boards but the JROK serves as a nice way to play the other Qbert variations without installing an 11-1 kit.



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