I’m embarking on a new-to-me bavacade adventure, namely working with Bryan Mathers to create custom side art for the 1985 fighter Yie-Ar Kung-Fu. This game was the most popular arcade conversion kit of 1985. What’s a conversion kit? It often refers to a board modification that enables operators to convert an older, less popular game into a brand new title—all without buying a new cabinet. It probably made good sense for the arcade owners back-in-the-day, and such conversions helped the industry recover from the video game crash of 1983. But the conversion kits often meant that the cabinets were never really as iconic as their predecessors, and the first thing to go was usually attention to the art, which was definitely the case with Yie-Ar. The side art was a slap on, rectangular image that does little justice to the various characters you challenge along the way.
I got one of those Yie-Ar Kung-Fu conversion kits in a Defender cabinet a few years ago, and recently did some work to clean it up and add wheels. Rather than buying a reproduction sticker for the side art, I thought it would be cool to dream up some custom art for this cabinet. This is something I’ve seen folks do in the hobby, and it can make for an awesome art project. Problem is I’m not a graphic artist, but then I thought of the magical Bryan Mathers, so I reached out and he is game.
So, the cabinet we will be creating the art for is a previously converted Defender cabinet that has a very distinctive shape. When sanding down the various coats of paint the original art work appeared. What’s more, it was in very good shape! We primed over it as a layer of protection in the event someone wants to reclaim this cabinet in the future.
So we know the shape of the cabinet, and Bryan and I chatted about possible side art, and I was hoping to highlight the different backgrounds which are a cave-based waterfall for level one rounds, and a Japanese palace for level two. So using those backgrounds on the side art somehow would be cool.
Then I thought of the side art from the Sidam Explorer, which features comic panels with an abstracted, brooding astronaut:
So amazing, then the idea brewed that we might do 11 unique panels each featuring one of the various characters you fight. perhaps 6 on one side and 5 on the other. Perhaps highlighting the cave fights on one side and the palace fights on another? I don’t know, but it sounded awesome in the moment. Bryan is planning on using a 3-D rendering of a defender cabinet to fit the panels together like a puzzle, and then work within those pieces to see how it all looks in glorious 3D, so wild:
I’m not sure if the above model is what Bryan will use, but I really dug the idea of him modelling it all in 3D and building virtually first to figure out how to fit the panels to match the cabinet, see what colors will work, and get a sense of the design in three dimensions, etc. Once we have that all locked-in, I will find a someone here in Italy who can do a hi-res print to vinyl. So, this is the beginning of what will be my first custom art conversion kit that will be a true one-of-a-kind in the bavacade. YEAH!