The Imperishable Night dedicated cab!

By bloodflowers / August 13, 2008

Shooting games are fun.

Shooting games with nice music, that are pretty to look at and play well, are even more fun.

Not a lot of people outside Japan know these games; they're by a guy called Zun who does all the code, graphics and music himself. While there have been other, older games in the series that were not danmaku, most of the newer ones are.

One of these, Imperishable Night, impressed me so much that I decided to do the games justice. They deserve a better life than being stuck on PC keyboards and blurred flatscreens. Here I present the only Imperishable Night dedicated arcade cabinet in the world (I think)...


As with all ill-advised projects, the costs were... amazing:

(all values in UKP)
 750.00  -  Brand new JAMMA cabinet, triple-res 29" screen
  50.00  -  Ultimarc ArcadeVGA card
  00.00  -  JPAC JAMMA interface board (freebie)
 108.00  -  Shuttle SN45G-V3 barebones PC
  53.39  -  AMD Athlon XP2800+ CPU
  29.74  -  2x 256MB PC2700 DIMMS
  28.39  -  Seagate Barracuda 40gb 5400RPM hard drive
   5.16  -  12mm Plywood, 4'x3'
  21.98  -  2x Sanwa arcade sticks
  20.00  -  8x translucent arcade buttons
  35.99  -  PC twin speaker + subwoofer audio system
   2.50  -  Kettle lead type power splitter
   1.50  -  US style power plug
   3.00  -  2x kettle lead type plugs
   0.99  -  Pack of 20 1mm connectors
   0.60  -  2x 10pin 1mm pitch connector casings
  32.00  -  Cloned control panel top plastic
  37.00  -  Cloned marquee plastic, one 3mm smoked, one 1mm clear
  20.00  -  Large format poster printing of 150DPI image.
  13.00  -  Imperishable Night (from Palet Mail Service)
1213.24 UKP  ($2184.19)

It didn't end there either -- the following additional tool costs were incurred:

 114.00  -  Makita Jigsaw (my old cheap one broke while cutting the plywood)
 118.00  -  Makita Percussion Drill (my old one broke drilling button holes)
  15.99  -  Bi-metal hole cutter set with mandrels
   1.50  -  18mm wood hole cutter
   9.99  -  Jigsaw blade set
   3.50  -  Protective goggles (lost my old ones)
   2.50  -  Protective gloves
   2.50  -  Breathing mask
   5.00  -  2x g-clamps
 272.98 UKP  ($491.44)

The Saga

Initially, I wanted to use a European-style cabinet. Trouble is, I knew I needed a 29" screen, to give the game area window the same size as a 20" screen at 90 degrees -- the classic vertical shooter display of choice. I did a LOT of hunting, trying to find cabinets big enough to take a 29" screen, but eventually had to admit defeat. At that point, I started searching eBay for candy cabs. I found an auction for a MAME cabinet, asked the seller a few questions, and found out that he imports the cabinets brand new -- WITH triple-res screens (this is needed to get 640x480 resolution).

Two weeks later and I had the cabinet. It had to be almost entirely dismantled to fit through the front door (even with the door itself off the hinges), but eventually it went in. Next I needed the brain for the machine. I checked eBay again, and noticed the small form factor shuttle PCs. I thought the Shuttle would probably fit in the coinbox bay. It didn't.

I set the PC up anyway; this was all kinds of hell, especially when it came to the graphics cards -- I had to do the install using a borrowed GeForce 4, as XP couldn't cope with the ArcadeVGA card during install. Then there was all the fun of turning off the huge number of needless services, cutting back all the eyecandy, installing the three games (Imperishable Night, Perfect Cherry Blossom and Embodiment of Scarlet Devil), and making it autostart when any button is pressed, booting straight into IN. I hooked it up to the JPAC next in the cabinet -- this also gave me lots of headaches to begin with, due to the sync correction and video booster. I configured the shift function on the JPAC, so that holding P1 Start and pressing other buttons gives you functions such as the escape key, return, and the Windows key. P1 + P2 start was configured to shut down the machine.

I tried various ways of getting the Shuttle inside the cabinet, but there just wasn't room. At this point I decided to tear it apart and rebuild the PC directly on the board bay wood. This provided some interesting problems, but came out pretty well.

With this done, it was time to sort out the control panel. Originally it was six buttons per player, and the layout sucked for STGs. I bought some plywood, traced the outline of the existing panel, and cut a new one of my own. I'll spare the details as they were very annoying, but I ended up having to almost entirely retool for this job. The new sticks were also too small for the huge existing joystick holes, so the new panel was going to have to happen regardless. I couldn't stick with the original joysticks, they were US-style long throw sticks -- useless for quick small movements. The plastic top panel (normally screen-printed) needed to be remade too. I got hold of some 2 mm clear poly sheet, managed to cut a reasonable copy of the original -- but see below; I learned some harsh lessons about drilling holes in plastic, and the drawbacks of using rigid plastic which could crack easily.

I got kind of downbeat after the panel plastic problems... Eventually I started checking the local plastics companies, and found one not far away who would do small single item runs. I gave them the original panel plastic, and they copied it -- perfectly. They also did it in 3 mm perspex, much stronger and slightly flexible -- making hole drilling much much easier. They did such a good job, I also took the marquee plastic there and had that cloned onto one sheet of smoked perspex, and one clear.

Next, the cab needed proper sound. It was 2-speaker mono as standard, pretty much normal for a JAMMA cabinet, but being a PC I needed amplification. The cheapest and easiest way to do this was to buy a PC multimedia speaker kit from Maplin Electronics. A pretty good set, but cheap -- two satellite speakers and a subwoofer unit. The small speakers turned out to be physically too small to go in the upper speaker enclosures, so I pulled the wiring out and hooked them up to the original cab speakers instead -- the amp is more than capable of driving them. The sub turned out to fit perfectly in the coinbox bay, but there was a problem -- no power. The cab had an internal 3-socket breakout box, but I now needed 4 (screen, JAMMA PSU -- needed for the marquee light and coin door, PC, speakers). I got hold of a kettle lead splitter, some plugs, and cut up some old PC power cables to make an extended run into the board and coinbox bays. I also ran the speaker feed from the PC through the same holes as the power, keeping it somewhat tidy.

Now for the hardest part: artwork. I couldn't afford to have it screened onto the plastic -- finding a place to do a single item is just impossible. Since both bits of artwork were going to be sandwiched under the plastic, I decided to try poster-type print. This turned out to be expensive too, at the size I needed. Some savings were made putting both bits of art into one large image to be cut to fit, but it was still expensive. The artwork was custom-made for the marquee, and the control panel was a cleaned up version of an image posted to the Touhou and Rozen Maiden image board. Thanks to whoever drew that! I searched Google for a few hours, and finally found a low cost printer online, who would print an image to a set size and mail it. The result is quite good, although the paper has formed some light ripples in places, and could do with being a bit thicker really. The company also print to canvas; I'm very tempted to try this out at some point -- it would give a very unique control panel look.

Of course, as soon as it was all finally assembled, we had a power cut, and XP destroyed the graphics card drivers, leaving me stuck with a machine I couldn't even run in safe mode, because that (and the XP repair) don't seem to like the ArcadeVGA card. This made me very sad. I ended up having to borrow the GeForce 4 again, and reinstall the machine completely. I think I'll back it up this time.

Some pictures from the journey:

The remade panel and panel plastic, with the old buttons just thrown into place. The layout is perfect for Imperishable Night. Your middle finger holds the top button (fire), index is used for the second button (slow), the thumb can hit button three (bomb). The reasoning is, bomb is infrequently used, fire is held all the time (middle fingers are strong and good for this), but the agility is required on the slow button.

How to bolt a PC to a bit of painted plywood. I need to remake that video cable to be much smaller; it's acting as an aeriel and causing a trace of ghosting. The odd bit of wood at the power supply lightly angles the PSU heat exhaust away from the CPU fan intake area.

Testing when the sides were still off, and the PC still in its metal chassis (on the floor).

Evaluating one of the 29" candy cabs in the seller's garage. We hooked my laptop up to it -- this proved annoyingly hard thanks to Dell.

An unpleasant learning curve. The first version of the plastic panel.


ZUN's website - maker of these wonderful games!

Palet Mail Service - these people are one stockist of these games

Maidens of the Kaleidoscope - these people are as nuts as me

Touhou image board

Ultimarc - makers of the JPAC and ArcadeVGA

Designer Print - this is where I got the art printed

Engineering & Design Plastics Ltd - they copied my panel and marquee cheaply


It takes a special kind of madness to spend $2600 to play a $15 game. Do not do this.