BEMANI History

For almost a decade 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. Before I could afford any controller 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 build a parallel port adapter to interface the controllers with the PC simulators. 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 individually 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. But, I mostly forgot about BEMANI for about six years. Only when I finally graduated, got a job and moved out did I start to rekindle my interest in rhythm games.

I collected all of my BEMANI cabinets, marquees and tie-in merch at the same time as I was amassing my general arade collection. So, if you are interested in the full story you'll want to read my Arcade History page as well.


Dance Dance Revolution cabinetGarage shot

My BEMANI collection got off the ground when I moved into a condo with a garage and 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 that included 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 at the time. 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.


Beatmania the Final cabinetParaParaParadise in storageMarquee haul

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. However, I didn't have room for it at the condo I was renting so it ended up going to storage. The same person also sold me a few DDR marquees, starting off my collection of BEMANI marquees. I acquired one or two Pop'n Music marquees and a few 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 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. Once I started playing 5key, I realized that once again I had neglected a great game back at the arcade and started playing it frequently.


ParaParaParadise cabinetKeyboardMania cabinetRandom marqueesRandom marqueesRandom marqueesRandom marqueesRandom marquees

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 had amassed around 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 and formed 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 I trekked down to Los Angeles on an overnight bus to pick up a IIDX cabinet that another friend alerted me to. It looked like I was basically done collecting, given that I'd managed to find basically everything I thought I could ever want. I claimed to multiple friends that I was out of room and finished buying stuff, thus starting the trend of lying to myself and everyone else about being done collecting.

IIDX cabinetPopDownstairs lineup


Fixing Twinkle DVD playerTwinkle DVD discsTwinkle DVD discsTwinkle DVD discs

In 2014 I occupied myself mostly with marquee collecting. I bought a few other non-BEMANI arcade games to fill out my arcade, but I was 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.

A friend had done some work capturing serial packets and wrote a simple Visual Basic program that decoded them, so I had a really nice starting point. However, older games checked the responses coming back from the DVD player, so I had my work cut out for me in that regard. Without those responses, some of the games would refuse to boot and thus weren't playable even if the rest of the hardware as okay. 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.

Random marqueesRandom TT stickers


Random TT stickers

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 my stuff incurred during the move from San Diego 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. All in all it took about a month to take everything apart at my old place and another month to finish assembling it at my new place.

After I finished recovering from the move, I spent the first part of 2015 concentrated mostly on picking up more marquees as well as collecting arcade 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, including designing my own circuit to drive replacement neon transformers. I also purchased a Pop'n Stage from another friend on a whim in March but didn't get the chance to pick it up until September. In between restoring the new games, I continued collecting kits and marquees.


Jubeat, Centipede and Quantum cabinets

2016 was a pretty slow year overall. Aside from the addition of Sound Voltex and Jubeat cabinets which I purchased late in December 2015, I added relatively few things to my collection. I'd been saving money to import a few additional games, so less money was available for marquees. Also, at this point I had found almost all of the marquees there were to own so my collecting started slowing down. I spent the year mostly focused on cosmetic restoration and preventative maintenance on my arcade games. I also took a lot more time to play the games since I was spending less time hunting them down and repairing them as a whole.

Since I had a bunch of spare time, I also took on a project to reverse-engineer the DVD protocol on ParaParaParadise. This involved heavily modifying MAME in order to get the game to think there was a player attached and hand-stepping through machine instructions to figure out what responses the game expected. Unlike my time reverse-engineering the Twinkle DVD player, I did not have the luxury of owning a ParaParaParadise DVD player. So, I had to do it through the much harder means of deciphering what the game expected in serial responses. All in all it took me about three weeks of fairly intense reverse engineering to get a working demo. What resulted was a program that could emulate the DVD player and play back the demo dances in sync with the game! I still have this running on my Para cabinet as its a great way for new people to learn the dances.


Reflec BeatMarqueesMuseca And Friends

In 2017, I ramped up hard on marquee collecting in order to attempt to finish several collections. I finished collecting for Twinkle, having found Beatmania IIDX 3rd Style (the only one I was missing). I finished my IIDX restore with a pair of wavepass readers that finally showed up on YAJ. Lots more artwork showed up, a few games were re-arranged, and I started to run out of space on my walls for new marquees (again!). Not a lot of BEMANI games show up stateside that I don't already own, so mid-year I started saving to do another import with some friends. In December, my MUSECA and Reflec Beat cabinets arrived! I had to juggle a few things into new spaces on the wall in order to make room for both cabinets. By the end of the year I was completely full up on space in the house for both marquees and games, or so I thought.


2 Minis 1 HHM CabinetAppend J-Paradise Pops

2018 started off with a bang as I was offered and subsequently purchased a Beatmania Mini cabinet. Much of the beginning of the year revolved around slowly locating parts for it and restoring it to its former glory. As luck would have it, a friend that owed me money had a broken Mini that he gave to me in exchange for debt forgiveness. I was able to combine the parts from both to restore my cabinet as well as reproduce the missing parts for the second Mini. I got the second cabinet working again and later sold it to a friend who couldn't fit a regular Beatmania 5key in his house but wanted to own a 5key cabinet. This remains, to this day, the only cabinet I've ever sold as I've kept every other cabinet I've ever purchased. Watching my friend stream 5key on Twitch and make amazing improvements to his 5key skills was extremely satisfying, so I feel like I made the right decision to sell the cabinet to him.

Beatmania MiniSecond Beatmania III

Halfway through the year, a coworker who owned a Beatmania III cabinet quit to go work somewhere else. I'd put a solid 20 hours of work into the cabinet with him while we were repairing it, so when I heard that he was considering selling it instead of moving it home, I jumped at the opportunity. While I left the cabinet at the work arcade for others to play, I spent some more time cleaning it up, restoring the knobs and switches, and making sure the scores saved properly.

I also finally located a IIDX Gold instruction card, completing my instructions collection! I also tracked down a set of side pops for DanceManiaX Append J-Paradise. All that's left now is to find a top pop. As the year continued on, I mostly focused on trying to find the pieces of artwork I was missing and continued restoration and upkeep of the games that I own. With most of the marquees for all BEMANI series tracked down, I moved my attention to tracking down B1 posters, side pops and other cabinet artwork that I was missing.


Dance EvolutionMUSECA Advertisement

I made multiple cabinet purchases overseas in 2018 that arrived in the first half of the year. In late march, my Dance Evolution that I'd ordered way back in September arrived! I'd been looking for one of these for years and when the opportunity to import one came up I jumped. In late may, a DDR Solo that I'd imported also arrived. Normally I wouldn't import a DDR Solo cabinet since there are so many of them available stateside, but one showed up for sale with legitimate DDR Solo 4th+ artwork. I'd only ever seen two pictures of the artwork ever, so I jumped at owning a rare piece of history that I have a huge soft spot for.

With the arrival of these two cabinets, I was once again completely and utterly out of space. In order to make room for the second DDR Solo I rearranged my front living room to swap places between the DDR Solo and DDR Doubles cabinets. This ended up being just the ticket as the new location for both games made better use of the floorplan.

DDR Rearranged

I also continued to look for and import artwork, B1 posters, side pops and also BEMANI trinkets. I had completely run out of room on my walls to hang art, so I gave up and started hanging art on the slanted ceiling in the bonus room. While it didn't look as good as wall-hung art, it meant that I had a lot more room to continue displaying artwork!


KeyboardMania wood workKeyboardMania damageKeyboardMania key replacement

Aside from continuing to receive new marquees at a trickle, I didn't acquire any additional BEMANI games in 2020. The friend who bought my Beatmania Mini moved to Japan and sold the cabinet back to me. I gave it to another friend as a huge thank you for helping me pack four semi-trailers full of games when I moved to the east coast. I also had to go on a rescue mission to save my second Beatmania III from the Facebook arcade which was using COVID-19 as an excuse to hold it hostage.

As you can imagine, moving 40+ games across the continent is no easy feat and it is certainly not kind to the games. Upon opening up one of the trailers I found that the KeyboardMania top which I repaired years ago had rattled completely apart. The damage was much worse than last time, with all four neons shattered, all of the metal bent or twisted in some manner, the wood ripped to about 15 pieces and the marquee back scratched to hell. However, despite the damage I vowed to restore it once again. All in all it took me about a month of work on and off but I rebuilt the wood shell, tracked down and swapped brand new keys onto the cabinet and hammered out the dents in the metal before repainting it. It ended up looking better than when I originally purchased the cabinet so all's well that ends well!


Sound Voltex with generatorbeatmaniaIII original mix

The year started out with a bang as I received my Sound Voltex generator add-on and fixed all of the hardware issues with my third DDR Solo cabinet. There was no shortage of work there as the top harness was missing, the bottom tube harness had broken wires, every single screw on the stage had to be dremeled out, the monitor mounts were busted and it was running a non-solo mix. However, I got the whole thing fixed up and running a copy of 5thMIX Solo which was restored from unused code found in 5thMIX by a friend.

I also focused heavily on restoration and preservation for the first half of the year. I replaced all of the rusty screws on my Beatmania Mini, finally tracked down the correct black oxide screws to replace tons of missing screws on my ParaParaParadise, refurbished the decks of both of my beatmaniaIII cabinets and fixed all of the rusty screws on all three of my DDR Solo cabinets. I even achieved one of my long-time dreams by finally getting one of the beatmaniaIII cabinets running the original version of the game complete with dancemania crossover licenses! I also turned my attention to getting the rest of my Firebeat, DJ Main and Twinkle mixes in MAME. This involved not just verifying my dumps of the hard drives and CDs but also writing custom code to run on both Firebeat and Twinkle which was capable of dumping dongle contents. Its safe to say that all of this is now safely preserved in MAME for future generations to enjoy!

Mambo a GoGo button replacement

Just when I thought I was done, a friend messaged me and told me that he was selling his Mambo a GoGo cabinet because the Museum of Pinball which was holding it for him was shutting down. He asked if I wanted to buy it and of course I said yes! I rearranged the basement a little to make room for the cabinet, paid my friend and arranged shipment from Southern California all the way to New England. But, after a long journey it arrived safe and sound and in pretty good cosmetic shape as well. I still need to fix the flame fans as one side is missing the streamers but aside from that I've got it tuned up and in excellent shape cosmetically as well as electrically.

The Present

Cabinet Layout

At the moment, I have twenty BEMANI arcade games including duplicates running different mixes, all in working order. I also have just about 200 BEMANI marquees, including every single Beatmania, HipHopMania, IIDX, Beatmania III, Guitar Freaks, Drum Mania, Pop'n Music, Jubeat, Pop'n Stage, Sound Voltex, Reflec Beat and every DDR marquee from the main series including all four DDR Solo marquees. I'm still working on finding a few marquees for Gitadora, GFDM XG, ParaParaParadise, Dancing Stage and a few other iscelaneous games. I'm working on collecting kits for 573, Firebeat, Python 1 and Bemani PC. I have a complete collection of instructions sets for IIDX as well as turntable emblems for both Betmania and IIDX. I've started slowing down my collecting as life takes me in other directions but I am still on the occasional lookout for new artwork and games.

Cabinet Layout

I continue to be very passionate about BEMANI games and their preservation. I used to bring some of my games out to CAX every other year in July so that other people could try them out and hopefully get hooked. In 2018 I brought 17 of my own games including all of the pops and other artwork. In lieu of conventions, I host occasional open houses where people can come over and play all of the games for free. I also run as a way to document what I learn when repairing and restoring these games. I've also started dabbling in fabricating replacement sub assembly boards to restore various arcade 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.