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Puck Man Original Japanese Pac-Man Arcade PCB - History, Tech, And Demo!


Before Namco’s iconic Pac-Man was Pac-Man, he was Puckman. In this video I explore an original Japanese Puckman arcade PCB, talk a bit about the story behind it, show you how it works, and show you some actual gameplay footage!

Gameplay captured with an OSSC 1.6 on default settings, RGB SCART, 4x scaling, into a StarTech USB3HDCAP.

Images Credit: Wikipedia

End Music Credit:


So in one of my early videos I talked a bit about importing some stuff from Yahoo Auctions Japan and showed off some of my pickups. Well one that I’ve had for a while and not really done anything with is this original Japanese Pac-Man arcade PCB, so I wanted to finally get it hooked up and see if it works.

But what’s this Puckman thing all about? Well, when this game was first released in Japan in July 1980, the game was known as “Pakkuman”, taken from the Japanese word “Paku” meaning “to chomp”. The Japanese love wordplay. When gearing up for the English language release, it was decided that the joke would be lost on Western audiences and so Namco decided to rename the character “Puckman” due to his resemblance to a hockey puck. It was only when cabinets started to hit American shores in December of that year that problems started - problems in the form of young miscreants modifying the game’s marquee to make it spell something else entirely.

It was decided that it would probably be best to change it to “Pac-Man”, which was closer phonetically to the original Japanese name anyway. I’m not sure of the best way to date my PCB but as it came with both “Pakkuman” and “Puckman” leaflets I’m going to assume it was from around this period.

So we’ll just take a quick look at these. They would have originally been stuck to the machine and show how the game works. As you can see this one has the original “Puckman” name at the top in English. The next section just explains how many points and lives we get and that we get a bonus life at 10,000 points. These things are actually configurable by the arcade operator as we’ll see shortly.

I love this hand drawn artwork - Get higher points fighting with monsters! Make double points by continuous bites! How to warp to the other side through the tunnels and so on. Of course we all know how Pac-Man works by now but it would have been a really novel thing back in those days. Then there’s the bottom section all about the bonus fruits.

My PCB also came with this Japanese leaflet. Pretty much the same deal here, it has the “Pakkuman” name at the top. The only real difference is the addition of the price at the bottom here, 100 Yen for a one player game or 200 yen for two players.

Just while we’re on the subject of paperwork, my PCB also came with this photocopied page from the instruction manual. It has the wiring for the edge connector which I’ll go into in a second, some notes on how the game can be configured, and the DIP switches which I’ll go into shortly. The date on here is 1980 which would make this an early version.

Onto the PCB itself. This board was filthy when it arrived so I decided to give it a good clean first. You can definitely tell that this has seen some action. I also wanted to give it the best possible chance of working so of course I cleaned the edge connectors too.

On the subject of those edge connectors, the bigger one may look like an industry standard JAMMA connector but it isn’t, it actually predates it and the pinout is different. Someone at some point must have fitted this PCB into a JAMMA cabinet because it came with this handmade converter. The other smaller edge connector was used to test the PCBs at the factory.

The first immediately obvious thing is that this board actually consists of two separate PCBs connected by a ribbon cable. The first run of Puckman PCBs were huge and some arcade operators complained that they were unwieldy to handle so later revisions were split into two halves and joined like this.

Just having a look around the top PCB we have some power regulation and timing circuitry in this corner, as well as the DIP switches. Later arcade games would store their configuration in battery backed RAM or even flash memory, but in early games like this the arcade operator could configure the game by flipping these small toggle switches.

These determine things like how many credits are needed for a game, whether the game is in free play mode, how many lives the player will get per game, and in the case of Pac-Man, how many points are needed for the bonus lives. So it’s pretty configurable.

Moving along this big IC is the CPU, an NEC D760C which is a clone of the ubiquitous Zilog Z80, famously used in the Amstrad CPC, TRS-80, Sinclair machines like the ZX80, 81 and Spectrum, and the MSX computers. On the gaming side of things it was also used as the CPU in the Sega Master System and as a co-processor in the Mega Drive and Neo Geo AES. This is before we even get started on all the arcade machines that either used it as a main CPU or doing audio duty, so you’re almost definitely familiar with it in some form already.

These numbered chips are NEC D2716 16K EPROMs, there are 8 here and 4 more on the bottom PCB making for a total of 192K. With most arcade games these are split in such a way that certain sprites will be on one, the mazes on another, in-game text on another, attract screens on yet another, and so on, making it relatively easy to diagnose a ROM fault and swap in the correct replacement. It’s also possible to add hacks or new game modes or even run different games entirely by swapping out the EPROMs. Ms. Pac-Man actually started life as an illicit ROM hack for the original Pac-Man boards, but that’s a story for a different time.

So this chip (7F) is a PROM, which is like an EPROM but can only be programmed once. The game board has 4 of these and this is one of 2 that determine the colours of the maze and of pac-man himself. I’m really intrigued as to why these weren’t part of the main ROMs but haven’t been able to dig that info up so please do pass the info along in the comments if you know!

On the underside we can see the remaining 4 ROM chips, our other colour PROM chip (4A), and two more PROMs (1M,3M) which are where our sound effects are stored. Other than that we just have a whole load of 7400 series TTL chips, these are just common basic logic for moving bits around.

So let’s get this hooked up!

Of course this was supposed to live inside an arcade machine so I’m using a supergun here, which is a hardware device for connecting arcade PCBs to a standard TV. It powers the game board and adds a SCART connector for the video and sound. It also connects to a controller, and that’s where this Neo Geo AES joystick comes in. Of course I have everything hooked up to my video capture setup as always.

You may also notice that I’ve turned my monitor sideways. The reason being that monitors aren’t perfectly square so for games that needed more vertical than horizontal space it was very common to rotate the screen in the cabinet. Most Japanese candy cabs have built in mechanisms that allow arcade operators to do this very easily.

So as you can see this is all up and running no problem at all. We have the original Japanese names and personalities of the ghosts here, I’ll have a crack at these although my pronunciation will no doubt be terrible. We have “oikake” meaning “chaser”, “machibuse” is the ambusher, “kimagure” is fickle, apparently, and “otoboke” means feigned ignorance.

The second part just refers to their colour, well, apart from the poor orange guy here.

Then the game goes into the attract mode we all know and love. There isn’t any sound at this point of course.

So if I just insert a credit by pressing the select button on the joystick we can see the Puckman name come up.

Now I’m by no means an expert at Pac-Man but I want to at least complete level 2 to see if the animations are there, so I’ll give it a go. This game was designed for a 4-way joystick while I’m using an 8-way joystick as well. Just getting my professional excuses in early.

One thing I have noticed is a strange wobble which seems to coincide with the sounds. The louder the sound the more the screen wobbles. I think this is due to either a poor ground somewhere or something on the audio side not being properly isolated. I’m not sure whether this is an issue with the JAMMA adapter that came with the board or with my supergun. It’s something I’ll need to look into.

So there you have it, I suck at Pac-Man. No, wait, that’s not what this video was about, was it? No…

So I hope this has been an interesting look into the history of the game, how an arcade PCB works and how it’s possible to get one hooked up to play these old games. If you enjoyed that and/or found it educational I’d appreciate it if you could hit that like button!

I’m going to be having some more fun with this supergun and I also have some plans for this Neo Geo joystick, so do hit that subscribe button if that’s something you want to see in the near future.

As always thanks for watching, maybe catch you down in the comments, and I’ll hopefully see you soon.

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