One of the things I love about the bava blog is that it contains multitudes, I’m realizing I’ve posted well over 40 times about the bavacade in the last two years, and that’s a beautiful thing! So, let’s put another brick in that wall, this time with a little Visual Thinkery graffiti! Talking about the great Bryan Mathers’ art in the same breath as the bavacade is a bit like crossing the professional and hobby streams, and I love that.
Defender Cabinet primed and ready for custom art
Anyway, last month I posted about working with Bryan to create custom art for my Yie-Ar Kung-Fu cabinet that is housed in a re-purposed Defender cabinet. And right before I started my travels last week Bryan got me his mad creations, and to no one’s surprise who knows his work, the art is absolutely gorgeous. It really brings the various opponents you fight in this 1985 kung-fu video game to life. The magic of this game is in the cast of characters you fight, as well as the two different backdrops in which you battle each of them. The first stage features a waterfall and the second a Japanese-inspired palace/temple. When we were thinking through how to use the space, I had referenced the way Sidam’s Explorer uses panels to cut the space up, and we wondered what this might look like for Yie-Ar Kung-Fu, and that’s the basis for the left and right side-art, which are showcasing the opponents you fight. Below is the left-side art featuring Star, Sword, Pole, Fan, and Nuncha.
We’ll be using a black base to break up the panels, each of which will be printed out separately on vinyl and are custom fit to work with the Defender cabinet, pretty awesome right? The other side has five more characters, namely Feedle, Club, Buchu, Blues, and Tonfun.
Freaking magic, amirite? The colors, the highlighting of each opponent, the sheer glory of the Yie-ar cast of characters decorating this soon-to-be-real custom cabinet, be still my bava heart! Now, at this point the discerning video game fan will note that there are actually 11 opponents, not the more easily divisible 10 we have above. You would be correct! Chain is missing from the side art, and Bryan’s ingenious solution to this dilemma was putting both Chain and the protagonist Oolong on the marquee fighting one another.
So good! I don’t know what to say, I love it soooooo much! Now as good as the above is, when Bryan was talking through his art for the project, he noted that two of his favorite figures, in particular Sword and Fan, might make real compelling figures for the side art if I was looking for a less comprehensive approach:
I’m telling you, it was a hard one, cause I can immediately see the power of a single, almost 3 or 4 foot tall character on the cabinet’s side art cutting an imposing silhouette. In fact, Bryan’s suggestion might have been the preferable path given his better sense of design, but I tried to compromise a bit and decided to make the above two images flank the coin door because I want to use all of it! I hate empty space, and the bava is not a minimalist!
The above bezel design, which is the art surrounding the monitor, was one of the innumerable inspirations Bryan brought based on various versions of this game ported to home consoles. This one comes from an almost Mortal Kombat 2-like interface where you pick your opponent, allowing us to reinforce the idea of a “Cast of Characters” featuring all of them yet again. This time in the order you face them, and the left and right sides of the bezel highlight stages one and two respectively.
Moving down, the next challenge was the control panel overlay, and I think we decided to keep it simple, but with a really brilliant twist that Bryan came up with that I absolutely love for what will soon be obvious reasons. There is some text to play the game as well as some illustrations for how to perform various moves, which are blown up a bit in the following image:
We decided to get rid of the explanatory text and keep the overall design simple:
But, in that tried and true tradition of patron and artist, Bryan found it within his expansive heart to draw me into the control panel overlay, so move over Oolong, here comes the bava kicking ass and taking names!
It really doesn’t get much funner than this! And while I understand the ego involved in putting yourself on the control panel of a custom video game arcade cabinet, let’s be honest here that the simple fact I’m funding custom art for an almost 40 year old video game cabinet few people have ever heard of is already far enough down the rabbit hole that I figured the bava illustrations would be the least of my offenses against propriety—not to mention that I LOVE IT!
Sometimes life is good. And the final piece, given I already mentioned the coin door decorations, is the space directly beneath the coin door, which will feature the Japanese palace/temple that is the backdrop for all the fights in stage two. It’s really a striking background, and we wanted to find a way to feature it, so in my quest to eradicate all empty space, we’re filling up the front part of the cabinet beneath the coin door with it.
So, the art is in, and per usual Bryan came through in technicolor! Now I have to paint the cabinet black while I shop around for a printer who will create high resolution versions of of the side art, coin door art, and lower front panel art. I imagine these will all be some version of vinyl, but I’ll see what my options are. Also, for the marquee and bezel I want to see if I can get those printed on top of some heavy duty glass, rather than plastic, but I guess we will see what’s possible. Nonetheless, we’re getting pretty close to reality for a project that seemed a mere dream a couple of months ago, how sick is that?! So, so sick, so sick!