California Extreme 2004

September 27, 2004 By R. LeFeuvre

If you combined my nostalgia for arcade machines with the passion my father has for old electro-mechanical pinball machines, you get two dudes who really love arcades. This time we head to California Extreme 2004, idealistically finding a game that we want to buy, but mostly just looking for some great games to play.

We attended this years California Extreme on August 7, 2004.

California Extreme is a classic arcade games show, collectors bring in games to share, show off, or sell and all the games are left on free play. With tons of classic, retro and rare games on exhibit, the show begged to be photographed.

Unfortunately, I lost all of my pictures of the show when the media card was corrupted during download. I was able to recover most of them after a few (frustrating) days, but some of the coolest ones where lost to the void. I'll do my best to fill in the blanks.

Speaking of lost photos... Oh well, this should work.

Our drive to the show was very... scenic. Some might say even call it "going the wrong way". Those people unfortunately, would be correct. We should have noticed that our directions lead us to Mountain View while the show was in San Jose. We started suspecting that something wasn't right when we were one final mile away from our destination and surrounded by trees. In the middle of the mountains. I don't think there are 300+ pinball machines in there.

Yay! We found it!

But after getting some good directions, driving to the correct city, parking twice, and getting lost once more, we found the place! Piece of cake.

A huge dark room lit only by the glow of arcade screens and pinball bulbs. Awesome.

After the quick process of getting our passes (an orange colored wristband - lame) my father and I wandered inside. Cal Extreme certainly had grown larger since 2002 and the amount of games was truly awesome.

Thanks Mr. Blocking The Side Art!

When I finally came to my senses, I found myself in front of this Space War cabinet. While the cabinet was original and looked fabulous, the board was corrupt causing the vector graphics to look like they had been thrown into a blender before being displayed on the screen.

Who knew that a satirical look at ice skating could be so fun?

Ice Revue was created in a time where people didn't need to win points in the millions, having a score in thousands was enough for them. Pfft... weaklings!

"Wanted dead or... just dead."

This Sheriff clone totally screwed me. I killed the Bandido but I didn't get my advertised ten thousand dollar reward. If Exidy was still in business I'd have half a mind to sue them for the money and put them out of business!

It's all the fun of Pong without any of the nostalgia! Hey wait...

Instead of sticking the standard Cal Extreme sticker on this machine, the owner slapped one that read: "Hello my name is Rebound." ... Uh... Hello.

Oh, so we meet again Joust Cocktail?!

I originally found this machine at the Cal Extreme in 2002 selling for $700. To me, it looked like the perfect coffee table, but due to the fact that I had no place to keep it, I passed. Recently I've learned that the cabinet is extremely rare and that only 500 were produced. This time it mocked me with it's 'not for sale' sticker. Oh yeah? I didn't want you anyway!

Visions of the Future by Atari.
Name the game or DIE! By bees! (oooh, that's two hints)
My arcade never had enough EXP to get to Level 2

Someone had set up a wall of old art from Atari. I guess I should have taken more pictures of the stuff, but the arcade called me back quickly.

Quasi-rare Atari swag and a boxed Odyssey 2000!

During the 70's Atari had a lot of money and a lot of strange products under development. One of the coolest to make it to market was "Video Music", a simple device that displayed visualizations of musical input onto a television in blocky 4-bit glory. Too bad this particular one was overpriced and broken. $75!!

There's something familiar about this thing.

This Nintendo Popeye game was going for 50 bucks. Ouch. Man, imagine if you could find one of these games at a garage sale!

Some people just don't know how to haggle.

The guy also had a ton of old Nintendo, Atari, Intellivision, Odyssey2 and Coleco games. I ended up grabbing a variety of games, mostly at random. If only garagesaling was this easy.

Despite appearances, this game does not feature horseshoes from outer space.

Voted "coolest" game at Cal Extreme 1997, Penny Pitch's objective is simple to understand yet impossible to master: spin the large metal disc mounted to the outside of the cabinet and land a coin at the feet of your opponent.

The innards of the beast!

The thing was full of enough relays, wire, switches, and coils to make a ham radio that could contact Mars.

It's the real Tapper (as opposed to the later release of Rootbeer Tapper)

Wow, the power of product placement can be amazing! Just being near this Tapper machine was getting me tipsy and I had a difficult time framing the shot.

Not Pictured: After I KO'd my father I danced around like Rocky.

If the fighting in Bubble Hockey (which constitutes spinning the hockey players wildly back and forth) isn't enough for you, then The Main Event should satisfy all your needs for dome-covered violence.

Does this count as "selling out"?

It was after this that we sat down for a seminar about restoring old pinball and arcade cabinets. The first guy talked all about pinball cabinet restoration and showed off a project cabinet that he was in the middle of working on. His talk seemed to focus more on the products he used and less on the actual restoration process.

"Big Brother has said no jumping, but it is all poor Robot 1984 loves to do."

I, Robot was the first game in the arcade to utilize 3D graphics. The game was received poorly by the gaming public. I'm guessing they weren't ready for the terrifying realism that 3D graphics can bring. That, or it sucked.

Black Knight 2000, which was of course made in 1989, is a rare example of a pinball sequel.

The next pinball machine I played was this
Black Knight 2000. Try as I might I was never able to hack off the Black Knight's limbs.

The kitbashing of Crossfire and Scrabble was not taken well in the arcade.

Just a few spots down from the Black Knight sat one of the most interesting pinball machines (if it can be called that) at the show, this
Hyperball machine. You fire countless steel marbles at drop targets labeled with the alphabet, spelling words like Laser and Energy. Apparently, finding a working Hyperball is a rarity and a treat. Huh, go me.

Ken Jennings head will float through the cosmos, buzzing in and granting wisdom the form of a question.

I have a few issues of the terrible Atari Force comic but I never knew they made a matching terrible arcade game called Liberator. Said liberation is achieved by controlling four ships that orbit a planet and, with extreme impassiveness, blow up every city on its surface.

Hey, if I win a gumball, I won't have to leave the show to get lunch!

Okay, who brought the crappy candy dispensing game. I guess it could be worse, it could dispense tickets.

Arcade guts. Mmmmm

This guy had PCBs everywhere, they covered the table and poured out of boxes. Too bad none of them were labeled.

It was about halfway though the day and our legs needed a bit of a rest. Near the PCB table we saw some cocktail cabinets and we sat down at Asteroids and played a bit. I ended up getting the second highest score on the game, totally kicking AAA's ass out of place!

It's good to have pride in a job well done.

Sadly, the real picture of my high score was lost. I think the guy that held first place on the machine was in the crowd because someone held up a single finger.

Classics. You have to love them. You hear that? You have to love them.

Pong and Space Race are two games that share a dark secret. The manual for Space Race was created by hand-writing the words "Space Race" over every instance of the word "Pong" in a photocopy of the Pong manual.

Four warlord enter, one warlord leave!

Warlords! I love this game like a-- Waitaminute... what do you mean its only four players on the cocktail version!? And what's with this colored overlay stuck on the screen!? Somehow the Atari 2600 version is better than its arcade counterpart.

The Federation got a lot of use out of this machine.

Star Trek Strategic Operation Simulator. Simulator! Star Trek is REAL!

Two Prototypes from Atari!!!

One of the most interesting things at Cal Extreme is the chance to see and play games that never made it out of the prototype stage. Oddly, I have already seen and played Freeze!, as this game was tested at my old arcade.

Next to it you can see Bio Freaks, another prototype that never saw full production (although it was ported to consoles a few years later). And wouldn't you know, I had already played that one too.

Finally, a prototype that I haven't seen before
If you can't tell, the marquee was drawn with Magic Marker!

Now this is more like it. Not only have I never heard nor seen this game before, but Exidy, the creators of the game, don't even remember making it! Unfortunately, the machine wasn't on. Sigh.

Here's a strange one: a Beavis and Butthead machine. Atari never even finished the game and it will live forever as a failure. Although, I'm doubtful that the game would have helped it not suck. A little strange how most of these never-came-to-be games are Atari's.

The title of this game was an omen.

Right after I snapped this picture of Wacko, my life was almost ended. It was at this moment that a very drunk elderly man hit on me. He proceeded to stare at me while I played Gorf and then insisted that we "play together". The longer he talked to me the more I imagined my face on milk cartons. I attempted to disorient him with the flash of my camera but he wouldn't go down! Unfortunately, the photo was one of the ones lost to the inky blackness of file corruption.


I ran.

Does this game need the title? Who else would combine a guitar with a machine gun?

When I stopped I found myself in front of this
Nugent machine. Ted, buddy, cover me. I think I'm being followed.

In the future, the spa will evolve and become an adult-themed water park.

As peculiar as
Future Spa's art is, at least it all kinda fits one theme. Well, except what's with the guy on the far right of the backglass art in the futuristic Iron Lung pumping weights with VR goggles?!?!

X's and O's isn't a game about hugs and kisses. Shucks.

I've got a brilliant idea. Let's take the game of Tic Tac Toe and combine it with cavemen! It will make the most fantabulous pinball game ever! What?! It's been done? And it sucked?! No kidding...

The backglass of this unknown pool pinball game was missing so the owner placed a poster of a wolf in its place. Hey, it's doing better than the machine to the right of it as it wasn't even good enough to even get a stupid poster.

I had to continually look over my shoulder while playing Major Havoc as it sat next to Wacko. Why risk my life for a simple vector based game? Because it blows away other vector based games in graphics and animation. The game shifts perspectives from outer space to the interior of a base and then to the cockpit of your ship (which has a miniature version of Breakout in the corner - which you can actually play!). The character has an idle animation! Definitely the best "It's new to me" game at the show.

Those are Laser discs getting loaded into the machine.

The night ended with a presentation of "Mechanical Monsters". The guys that owned the Penny Pitch and Main Event EM games brought out a few other odd cabinets and showed them inside and out. Using two Laser disc players, a robotic arm and all the 80's music you can cram onto 40 LDs (by my count that comes in at "way too many") this Video Jukebox.

It may resemble an arcade game, but internally it's built like EM pinballs.

Sega's Killer Shark machine was easily the highlight of the few "monsters" shown. It's as mysterious as it is complex as the owners didn't really know half of what made the thing work (keep in mind the thing is incredibly complex.)

The back panel opened
The front panel removed showing the zoetrope.

Not satisfied with simply projecting all of the "graphics" onto a flat screen, an animated shark was created with the use of a zoetrope (the black disc). As an added bonus, when ever you "shot" the shark with a blue light, the disc would move and the shark's image would be replaced that of him flailing around, covered in blood.

It was around 10 o'clock when were finished looking at all the "Monsters", and after 11 hours of almost non-stop arcading we were ready to go. Even considering all that things that went wrong and that neither of us found a machine to purchase, the day was exceptionally fun. It was the first time in years that I felt like I was actually in an arcade, and it felt great. Next year I'm going both days.

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