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 CRYSTAL CASTLES AGENT X / CLOAK & DAGGER CONVERSION

 
 

Atari's Cloak & Dagger, which was originally entitled Agent X but later changed to tie in with the movie, was first produced in 1983 as a dedicated upright in the same cabinet that was used for Crystal Castles.  20 dedicated original units were made, with many of them going to the programmers themselves, including project leader Breighton Dawe (a.k.a. Rusty).

The goal of the game is for Agent X to infiltrate the hideout (an underground bomb factory) of the evil Dr. Boom and recover the secret plans he has stolen.  There are 32 floors that Agent X must traverse in the hopes to find Dr. Boom's hidden lair, recover the stolen plans, and destroy bomb factory once and for all.

Due to the industry-wide crash in 1983, it was decided to produce Cloak & Dagger in kit form for installation on Williams coin-op titles Defender, Joust, Robotron: 2084 & Stargate.  Below is a picture from one of the flyers that illustrates this (I heard that wearing a green hat and coat while applying side art helps your concentration...that might be just urban legend though).

 
 

 

 

Rather than convert a Williams classic, and moreover due to how nice the dedicated units look vs. any of the Williams conversions, longtime coin-op collector Rick Ford began the quest to obtain the original Atari films for the dedicated model from Mr. Scott Evans, who owns not only the films for this title, but practically every classic Atari coin-op title ever produced.

Later on, Rick Ford hooked up with graphics guru Richard Lint of ThisOldGame and inquired about the possibility of taking on the entire artwork project, and thankfully Rich agreed.  Additionally, Jeff Rothe graciously came on board to help with some vector work, as in the case of a few of the pieces, the original screens were never located.

And now after several years, this very extensive and complicated reproduction artwork package is coming to a close.  In all there are 9 pieces total: both pieces of the side art, the front art, the control panel overlay, 3 versions of the speaker grill overlay (2 never seen or known of before until getting the original films for them) and 2 versions of the marquee ("Agent X" & "Cloak & Dagger").  For pictures and more details please visit the project status page at the ThisOldGame website: http://www.thisoldgame.com/Projects/AgentX.htm.

 

 

After hearing that the artwork project had commenced, I acquired a Crystal Castles cabinet from a local collector friend and then started to amass everything that I needed to convert it to an Agent X, which were a working board set, a burn free WG19K7648 monitor (which has the sharpest display of any CGA monitor I've ever come across), a smoked monitor glass (taken from a friend's project Tempest that would have remained a 'project' for forever) and various parts from a working C&D conversion (harness, sound board and power supply).  I had NOS Wico 8-way joysticks on hand as well as the LED cone buttons and a NOS red leaf switch button, and also, the black cardboard bezel was in perfect condition so the only other thing I needed to do get done while I was waiting for the artwork was to get the coin door parts powder coated (doors, bracket, bezels and flaps), and to get the control panel made.  The latter proved to be a very tough feat to say the least.

 

 

(Pictures of the cab minus the control panel)

 

 

       


To get the control panel made I asked Rich for a cpo template (shown below) and after receiving that, I brought it and the Crystal Castles panel to the place where I get my powder coating done.  The owner (Don) told me that they didn't have the means to make a new panel for me, but he said that he knew of a place that could, and said he would bring it over to them and ask for a price quote and the lead time for me.  So I left my panel and template there and drove away, happy that this phase of the project was underway.

 

 

 

 

Well...2 weeks passed and I had not  heard anything back, so I called and asked Don how things were going.  He told me that he never found time to bring the panel and template over so, although I was disappointed, I told him no worries, but if he could bring them over as soon as possible I'd appreciate it. He said that he would take care of it the following week.

The following week came, and went, and at this point I decided to just drive over and kindly ask for my panel and template back, and just start searching for a place on my own.  So I went to a place that I had seen driving to his shop that looked like they might be able to take this on, but after talking to someone there they said they couldn't do it, and so they directed me to a place about 15-20 min. away.  So I drove over to there, but the owner there said he was too busy to deal with it, and he directed me to another place just down the block, but the guy there said that they have the means to do it either.

Walking away a bit frustrated, and about ready to give up for the day, I asked some guy working in a paint shop next door if he knew of a place that could help me and he told me to try a metal shop that was next to a paint wholesaler that they do business with.  I figured I'd give it one last try before heading back to work so I drove over (another 20 min. or so) and found the place, but as I was walking up to the door I realized they were closed.  It was about 2:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, so I found it odd they weren't open.  I asked a guy working in a medical supply place next door if he knew anything and he didn't, but he said there was another metal shop just a few doors down.  So I walked down there, and honestly expected the same dead end scenario, but when I talked to the owner and told him what I needed he said he could make me a whole new panel for $200 and that he'd have it in done in a week. I was obviously VERY happy to hear this and the price was totally fine with me as well.  Heck I had probably spent at least $30 on gas driving around that day.

But of course, the panel was not done "in a week" (big surprise right?).  When I called him he said he needed another week.  Another week came and went and he said he hadn't finished it.  He said he was waiting on some dies to cut the holes for the control panel.  And so another 2 weeks passed actually and still I had not received a call from him.  It turned out the control panel holes are not a standard size and when his friend's dies came in, they weren't the right size.  So that meant he would have to do them by hand.  He actually devised a custom tool to make those 2 holes. He's a pretty skilled metal worker to be honest.  Then sadly, as it was nearing completion, the guy threw his back out, and was closed down for another week or so.

In the end, it took over 2 months from the time I first went to the powder coater with my Crystal Castles panel and template, until I was able to go pick up the newly made Agent X control panel. It came out perfect so I guess it was worth the wait, but I'll say this: that's the last custom control panel I'm ever going to try to get done.

 
 

 
 

 
 

The hinge he attached is a standard 'piano hinge' and the brackets for the control panel latches he actually 'took off' of the Crystal Castles panel, and then spot welded them on.

 
 

The next thing I received from Rich was a test print of the control panel overlay.  After lining it up, I saw that the joystick holes and the ignite button holes centered perfectly, but that the print extended off to the right about 3/32, and conversely, it was short on the left side the same width.

 
 

 

I also let Rich know that the 'Ignite' button graphics need to be moved over a bit to the right.  The top of the print could also be extended so as to allow a full wrap all the way around the top of the panel, vs. just meeting perfectly at the edge of the metal.  Extension would help to keep the cpo from wanting to lift at that sharp bend at the top of the panel.  I realized later though, that the best way to deal with the material that the cpo was eventually printed on was just to just cut it cleanly at the top edge of the panel.

 
 

 
 

While Rich was finalizing the details with the control panel overlay, I got to work on the Agent X marquee (the marquee overlay was actually the first piece of art that got produced).

 
 

 
 

The first thing to do obviously was to take the marquee assembly off of the Crystal Castles and strip it down to the bare frame.

 
 

 
 

 
 

After removing the hardware for the florescent light, I stripped off all the glue from the frame and the glass, and then sanded the wood along the bends smooth.  I then let the marquee overlay form on the frame for a week with some clamps.

 
 

 
 

Clamping trains an overlay to the form factor it will assume once applied.  Many collectors prefer this method vs. heat as heat expands material (which does relax the marquee which is why on the surface it looks like a good method) but then when the overlay cools, it contracts.  This expanding and contracting encourages premature cracking, which is something that most collectors would rather avoid.   The material that this overlay was printed on was a bit thicker than usual, and because of that I left the clamps on for longer than I normally do.  In the end, it adhered perfectly.

 
 

 
 

 
 

I stapled along the interior bottom of the marquee, as it started to lift slightly the next morning after application.  The top was fine though, as the top has quite a bit more material to handle the topmost bend without wanting to lift, vs. the bottom which has very little leftover.  Lastly I installed the fluorescent light hardware and retaining bracket.  Still to do is to cut out the 3 small holes for the bolts.  Here's a picture of it in the dark, backlit by the lamp on my workbench.

 
 

 
 

Meanwhile, while I was waiting for the cpo to get finalized I  burnt some Agent X roms for my Cloak & Dagger board set.  One night I played about 10 games of it on my PAT9000 and I was getting my butt kicked to be honest.

 
 

 
 

 

One day Rich contacted me and said he was sending down a few cpos for me to take a look at.  When I got them I took one over to the control panel and saw that the alignment was perfect!  So I let him know and he commenced on the entire run.  I formed the cpo on the panel for a few days, and then applied it.  It looked absolutely beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see all the clamps that I placed at the 2nd top bend there in the 1st picture above  That bend is always the tightest bend on most Atari panels to deal with.  That bend is not seen once the panel is situated of course, so it's easiest just to trim the cpo right there, but as Rich allotted extra material for the top I wanted to try to make it conform.  In the end though, it just ended up cracking there, so I just trimmed it cleanly (as shown below):

 

 

 

 

Also, on the bottom where the hinge is, the cpo overlapped just a tiny bit, so I needed to trim along the panel's edge there. Otherwise it would catch and lift when the panel is unlatched and fully open.

 

 

Then came a moment of horror.  As I was getting ready to populate the panel, I realized that a vital detail had been overlooked: there were no holes for the Wico joysticks to mount to (which is noticeable in the pictures of the bare panel that were shown previously).   So sadly, the cpo had to come off as I needed to bring it in for drilling and each hole needed to be filed squarely so that the bolts would sit flush.  At least the cpo wasn't a total waste: I used it to mark where the holes for the joystick housings needed to go.  Here's how it looked when I got it back.

 

 

 

 

And after application of a new cpo, it was then time (again) to populate the panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it goes without saying that I was very happy to have been finally done with the control panel portion of this project.

 

 

The next piece of artwork that I received was the speaker grill overlay.  Up until  a few years ago when Rich at ThisOldGame was sent the original artwork films for this game, the world had only known of one type of speaker grill overlay for the dedicated cabinet version of Agent X / Clock & Dagger. 

It turned out that there were actually 3 different versions of the speaker grill overlay: Rev. A and Rev. B (both of which no one had ever seen before), and the original release version, which I consider to be the least attractive of the 3:

 

 

 

 

 

The speaker grill overlay that I received was Rev. B which is my personal favorite, and that which I'll be applying to my speaker grill and installing on my cabinet.

 

 

 

 

 

What I like about the Rev. B version is that the Atari logo area in red has a border that ties in with the rest of the artwork for this game.  I also prefer the black background used in this version vs. the grey background used for the others.

 

 

 

 

 

Back when I had the control panel powdercoated, I had the speaker grill powdercoated too.  I also removed all the glue residue off the square piece of tempered glass that sits in the center of the speaker grill and cleaned that up as well.

 

 

 

 

MORE TO COME...

 

 


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Copyright 2004-2010 Francis Mariani. All rights reserved.