For several years now I have been collecting BEMANI arcade games, art, kits and accessories. I was first introduced to rhythm games as a genre in 2001 when my friend told me about Dance Dance Revolution. In September of that year I was at a bowling alley in San Diego with a group of other high school kids and gave DDR a try on a Solo cabinet in the arcade. I was hooked and spent the next several years of my life playing DDR daily. I taped off squares on my carpet and ran simulators in auto-play mode to practice. I bought home pads to play the Playstation (and eventually Playstation 2) versions. I started walking to the local Nickel City after school on Fridays with a group of other DDR players to play for hours until it was time to go home.
My friends and I watched as the 2nd Mix cabinet got upgraded to 5th Mix, then DDRMAX, then MAX2 and finally Extreme. The arcade picked up a Beatmania 6th mix cabinet and a Dance Freaks cabinet which I tried a few times but couldn't get into. Friends' parents asked me where they could buy pads for my friends in an attempt to get them to play more active video games. I started telling friends that one day I would totally own a DDR cabinet myself. This was, of course, met with the kind of skepticism reserved for compulsive liars and story tellers. Eventually, we graduated high school and eventually drifted off towards jobs and college. I stopped going to the arcade or playing at home and gave up trying to learn to play Beatmania or IIDX.
Throughout college I didn't have much time to play games. Most of the time I was either in class, doing homework or working to pay for tuition and rent. I got the occasional game of DDR in at arcades around campus, and even gave Pop'n Music a try since the UCLA arcade had a working cabinet. I mostly forgot about BEMANI for about six years.
Once I graduated from college, I started thinking about owning an arcade game or two myself. I did a fair bit of research and realized that games didn't actually cost all that much if you were careful and looked around. My first cab was a Neo Geo and I timed the purchase with the move into my first apartment out of my dad's house in 2010. I had moved back to San Diego at the time and I bought it from a guy who had owned it since he was a kid. It was home use only so it was in pretty decent condition. I spent quite a few nights after work playing through Metal Slug and Puzzle blbble, absolutely in disbelief that I had an actual arcade game in my house. A few months after the Neo Geo came home I started looking for a Centipede cabinet on craigslist. I'd grown up playing a clone of Centipede on a Tandy 1000 computer, taking turns with my mother when one of us died. A few weeks later, I found a Centipede in pretty good condition and met with the buyer to purchase it. I called it quits until I moved out of my apartment because it really couldn't fit more games into my apartment.
Once I moved into a condo with a garage, I decided that I would give my childhood dream of owning a DDR cabinet a solid try. I got lucky a few weeks later with a cheap eBay sale with shipping out of a local auction warehouse. It needed a fair bit of work but I was so excited to own an actual DDR cabinet that I didn't really care. I spend hours after work every day for a week straight assembling, cleaning and tweaking the cabinet to be as best as I could get it for playing. I invited friends over as often as I could to play sessions of DDR together. After a few months of playing the DDR, I decided to head back to the auction warehouse and see what else I could get. I bid on a terribly abused DDR solo and won it for next to nothing and took it home to restore. I ended up spending several hours scrubbing caked on spills off of the pads, bending the speaker mesh back and tearing off stickers from the front of the cabinet. Then, months later, I was checking out a one-time auction out in the desert a few hours north of San Diego and won a DanceManiaX on a whim. Once I got it home and turned on, I realized that I'd ignored an amazing game back in high school and spent several weeks getting good at doubles play.
Three BEMANI games soon became four when I purchased a broken ParaParaParadise cabinet with the intention of fixing it. I'd never seen one in person, let alone played the game, so I was beyond excited to get it working and see a game I'd never played before. I didn't have room for it so it ended up going in storage. The same person also sold me a few DDR marquees, starting off my collection of BEMANI marquees. I acquired a one or two Pop'n Music marquees and IIDX marquees off of other BEMANI players online and started putting them up on my wall.
The San Diego job market is terrible for software engineers, so after about a year and a half of living at that condo I broke my lease to move up to the Bay Area for better work. Just before moving up I picked up a Beatmania 5key cabinet off of another BEMANI enthusiast. At this point I had a few IIDX controllers and was playing the Playstation 2 mixes fairly frequently. My dream was to get a IIDX cabinet of my own since I'd only ever gotten to play the game once when I visited a friend in Hawaii. The Beatmania 5key was purchased on the reasoning that I'd probably never manage to find a IIDX cabinet so I might as well pick up something similar while it was available.
After getting settled in the Bay Area, I started poking around craigslist again to see what the local market was like. As luck would have it, somebody was selling a KeyboardMania cabinet. I picked it up and brought it home a week later and worked on restoring it alongside the ParaParaParadise cabinet. After about a month of tinkering after work, I had both of them working just fine and got to try out two games that before owning I'd never even seen. For several months afterwards I saved for the eventual goal of purchasing either a Pop'n Music or a IIDX cabinet. In the meantime, I continued to find and purchase BEMANI marquees. I bought a collection of about 2/3 of the Pop'n Music marquees that existed at the time as well as a bunch of random marquees from DDR, Beatmania and IIDX. By the end of the year I was at around 50-60 marquees.
Near the end of the year, a friend put me in contact with somebody overseas selling a Pop'n Music cabinet. I got an EIN to become a sole proprietorship so I could import it myself, in order to save on import fees. That was stressful as hell and took months, but the shipper ended up delivering the cab to my door on the evening of December 24th, so it was basically Christmas from me to me. That same month, in December 2013, I trekked down to Los Angeles on an overnight bus to pick up a IIDX cabinet that a friend found for me. It looked like I was basically done collecting, given that I'd managed to find basically everything I thought I could ever want.
2014 was filled with mostly marquee collecting. I bought a few other non-BEMANI arcade games to fill out my arcade, but I mostly concentrated on decorating my walls. I also started looking into reverse engineering the DVD player that provides the videos for IIDX 1st-8th style. My IIDX cabinet came with a Twinkle stack, meaning that I could play the really old IIDX mixes. However, given that I didn't have a working DVD player, the videos were missing. I got lucky and found a broken official DVD player on an auction site overseas and purchased it. As luck would have it, the only thing wrong was the tray was stuck. I fixed that and got to work figuring out the serial protocol and getting an emulator running. I also started tracking down the video discs for several old kits so that I could test with the actual videos. After some help from friends and several months of polish, I released a RasPI DVD player emulator for Twinkle to restore video functionality to old mixes. By the end of 2014 I had well over 100 BEMANI marquees on my wall and a healthy collection of mostly-restored BEMANI arcade cabinets.
Right on the new year I moved closer to San Jose into a house with much more space than before. I opted to rent a truck and rope friends into helping me move everything instead of paying movers due to the amount of damage the movers from San Diego ended up inflicting on the games years prior. We grabbed a lift-gate truck and had all of my games transported within a day, as well as all of the furniture and most boxes that I'd packed. Things like my marquees and other rare items I moved myself in my car on numerous trips back and forth through Oakland. The first part of 2015 I concentrated mostly on picking up more marquees as well as collecting kits. I'd picked up a few random kits here and there from BEMANI collectors and on eBay, but I started seriously tracking kits down during the winter months of 2015. At the beginning of summer, I bought a Beatmania III cabinet off of a friend in order to get ahold of the last Beatmania III marquee that I needed. I spent a few months restoring that cabinet to beautiful order. I had purchased a Pop'n Stage from another friend on a whim in March but hadn't had the chance to pick it up until September. In between restoring the new games, I continued collecting kits and marquees.
2016 has been a slow year so far. Aside from the addition of Sound Voltex and Jubeat cabinets which I purchased late in December 2015, I've added relatively few things to my collection. I've been saving money to import a few additional games, so less has been going to marquees. Also, I've collected almost all of the marquees there are to own so my collecting is slowing down. I've focused mostly on cosmetic restoration and preventative maintenance on my arcade games. I've also had a lot more time recently to play the games since I'm spending less time hunting them down and repairing them as a whole.
At the moment, I have twelve BEMANI arcade games, all in working order. I also have over 150 BEMANI marquees, including every single Beatmania, IIDX, Beatmania III, Guitar Freaks, Drum Mania, Pop'n Music and DDR marquee from the main series. I'm still working on finding a few marquees for Jubeat, Gitadora, GFDM XG, DDR Solo, HipHopMania, ParaParaParadise and a few other miscelaneous games. I'm working hard on collecting kits for Twinkle, 573, Firebeat, Python 1 and Bemani PC versions of various games. I have a near-complete collection of instructions sets for IIDX and am starting collect top and side pops to further restore my arcade games.
I continue to be very passionate about BEMANI games and their preservation. I bring some of my games out to CAX every year in July so that other people can try them out and hopefully get hooked. I run gamerepair.info as a way to document what I learn when repairing and restoring these games. The subpages here represent my attempt to catalog and document my collection as well as some of the history behind these incredibly fun games.