Nintendo Donkey Kong Restoration
I recently took in a Donkey Kong arcade for a customer. This machine has been in the family for over 30 years and was in serious need of repair. The monitor was dim, the sound was weak, and the bottom was falling apart. The machine also needs some cosmetic touchups and a good cleaning. When the machine first arrived, I was met with some of the strangest side art I've ever seen on a Donkey Kong. This alternative artwork was available from a Wico catalog back in the day and I'd imagine not many machines used this artwork. The longer I worked on the machine, the more it grew on me!
Getting the Outside Done
The machine got a good cleaning, as sitting in a garage for many years has caused a lot of dirt to build up on the outside and inside. All the instruction decals were faded and were replaced with brand new ones from Mike's Arcade. New t-molding was needed since the old stuff was yellowed and cracking off. However, this Donkey Kong is the particle board version and features a special offset t-molding which has not been available for quite a few years. I got in contact with Bill from Chomping Quarters to see if there was a chance that any extra stock was available. To my luck, there were enough scraps for one more machine! The t-molding matched the offset perfectly and this could very well be the last Donkey Kong to receive this special offset trim.
While cleaning the machine up, I was having a hard time removing the bezel and I couldn't figure out why. After poking my head in from the back, I found some makeshift metal brackets holding everything in from inside the cabinet. It isn't uncommon to see things like this, as operators would rig these cabinets with extra security measures to make sure someone can't break in or damage the cabinet. In a home environment, they are unnecessary so those were removed so that the customer can easily open it up if needed in the future. The marquee brackets were slightly shifted forward to accommodate these mods so everything had to be adjusted back into place. It was a little tricky getting the alignment right again, but eventually, it all fit back together.
One of the biggest eyesores on the cabinet was the bottom. The edges were chipped and the machine was unstable, causing it to slightly wobble. The older Nintendo cabinets did not have leg levelers like a majority of arcades at the time and solely relied on those 4 pieces of wood at the bottom. Instead of simply making a direct replacement, I wanted to give it more support and have it include leg levers so the wood doesn't drag on the ground. It took maybe a week of planning, but eventually, I was able to construct something that should last a lifetime. Look how clean the bottom is now!
Getting the Game to Play Again
I was told the monitor was quite dim, which isn't all that surprising given the age of the machine. I gave it a quick test to see what I was dealing with. The screen was indeed dim and all I could see were blue colors. At first, I was almost convinced there was a board issue, but after playing with the screen adjustment all the colors came back! Now that I can see the image on the screen, some other issues were more noticeable. There was some vertical fold-over on the left side of the screen and the image was slightly wavy. It was clear this monitor could use full servicing to keep it issue-free for many years. While I was at it, the audio amp could use some servicing as there was indeed some buzz even at low volume.
The monitor was pulled out of the cabinet and the audio amp and monitor chassis were removed. All the capacitors from each board were pulled out of the boards before they were given a good cleaning. Almost every monitor chassis I work on is filthy and cleaning them not only makes them look nicer but makes them easier to work on. The audio amp received new capacitors and new transistors, while the chassis received new capacitors including the filter cap and a new B+ potentiometer. Changing the B+ pot is critical as the old ones are very fragile, and making sure you have a good B+ voltage is vital to the monitor operating properly.
Once all the servicing was done, everything was attached to the monitor for testing and adjustments. All the previous problems were now gone and just needed some slight tweaks before being put back in the cabinet. The B+ was set to 108VDC and the colors were adjusted so that everything looks spot-on. A few brightness and position adjustments later and the picture looked amazing! It was night and day from when I started.
One last thing that was done to the game was the addition of a High Score Save Kit. So not only does the game save high scores, but now allows free play!
Finishing up/Final Result
The machine was almost done and just needed a few finishing touches. I took out the control panel for a cleaning and found something else that was strange, two harnesses! What seemed to have happened was a pin broke off the old one, and a new harness was put in place. Problem was that they never bothered to remove the old harness whenever the new one went into place. I disposed of the old harness so that the bottom wasn't a mess of floating wires.
And like that, Donkey Kong was finally complete! The machine played as if it were brand new, and is easily one of the cleanest examples I've seen in a long time. With the addition of leg levelers, the bottom shouldn't get torn up again and will stay structurally stable forever. The customer was very happy with the result, and I couldn't have been happier to have helped!