Remember Ken Sei Mogura? British Professor Discovers And Restores Rare Coin-Op Videogame

Posted On: 11/6/2015

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TAGS: Dr. Alan F. Meades, coin-op, arcade video game historian, Dreamland in Margate, Capcom, Street Fighter 2, Whac-a-Mole, mallet game, video game restoration, rare video game discovery, Canterbury Christ Church University

MARGATE, KENT, England -- It's not often that real treasures are found in the trash heap, but that's exactly what happened to Dr. Alan F. Meades. While looking through photos of the then-closed Dreamland amusement park in Margate, Kent, he spotted the "rarest" of arcade games. Ken Sei Mogura is an unlikely hybrid of Capcom's Street Fighter 2 arcade video and Whac-a-Mole mallet game.

A senior lecturer in digital design at the UK's Canterbury Christ Church University, Meades is an expert on videogame history, so he knew when he spotted something truly astounding. The game was thought to have completely vanished until Meades' discovery at Dreamland.

Produced in very limited quantities in 1994, three years after Street Fighter 2's release, Ken Sei Mogura was a collaboration among Capcom, Sigma and Togo for distribution in Japan. Gameplay is simple: players whack the pop-up heads with a soft rubber mallet and the hits are played out on the video screen in fighting action.

Ken Sei Mogura was not a success, and its main flaw is obvious. Players could pay attention to the screen or to whacking the heads, but they could not do both at the same time. This is no small failing when it comes to gameplay.

"I came to learn about the game from some photographs a colleague of mine, Rob Ball, at Canterbury Christ Church University showed me," Meades told Vending Times. "One of his recent photographs shows a section of one of the KSM games. And I recalled seeing the machine in Margate's Dreamland amusement park arcade when I was a teenager. I have to admit, I'd not played the game, but I remembered it. At this point I had no idea that it was rare, let alone utterly missing from the historic record."

At the time, Dreamland was closed and fallen into a state of disrepair (though it has recently reopened). Meades conducted some research and found the game could be a long-lost KSM. "I approached the Dreamland Trust, which was the custodian of the amusement park, and they allowed me to do an 'arcade audit' and to explore the opportunity for restoration," he said.

This was no easy thing. At that point, Dreamland was in a state of limbo. The legendary seaside amusement park had been closed and its future uncertain. There was talk of turning it into a housing development and paving over its storied history that dates back to the age of Queen Victoria and Benjamin Disraeli.

"When I got access to the site, the park was in a very bad way, vandalism, disrepair, rotten floor joists, leaking roof," Meades recalled. "But I found not one KSM, but two. Both had been vandalized in an attempt to access their coinboxes, and then out of spite. Fantastically for me, in the guts of one machine was an instruction manual in Japanese and a plastic-wrapped machine topper, also in Japanese. While the games were smashed to bits, the PCBs seemed to be in pristine condition."

Using parts from both units, Meades and a group of dedicated volunteers were able to assemble a fully working Ken Sei Mogura coin machine. To date, it is the only fully functional version of the machine known to exist thanks to Meades' efforts at restoration. "I felt that I had a duty to do so, as had I not the chances were that it would have been cleared and disposed of," he said. "I simply did it so that there was a record of this game. Even if it's not the greatest, it's a significant side note in the history of Street Fighter 2 and arcades."

Dreamland also has a happy ending. Plans for the housing development were abandoned and the amusement park was fully renovated. "This is an interesting case of a coastal community lobbying for the reopening of a seaside amusement park," Meades noted. "Getting the local council to make compulsory purchase and preventing it from being turned into housing or burning down." Today, Meades' restored KSM has been returned to Dreamland, now run by Sands Heritage an operating company, and will someday make an appearance on the arcade floor. How well it'll earn remains anyone's guess.

Originally opened in 1920, Dreamland in Margate is Britain's oldest seaside pleasure park. It reopened in June, after 12 years.

Ken Sei Mogura, coin-op video, rare arcade game
RARE DISCOVERY: When Dr. Meades discovered the rare Ken Sei Mogura Street Fighter game (above) in a shuttered amusement park, it had been smashed to bits by vandals.

Ken Sei Mogura, coin-op video, rare arcade game
ONE AND ONE MAKES ONE: Meades was lucky when a second game was discovered at the Dreamland amusement park. Using parts from two games (above), he was able to reconstruct a single-working unit.

Ken Sei Mogura, coin-op video, rare arcade game
FOUND IN TRANSLATION: Luckily, Meades discovered Ken Sei Mogura's service manual in one of the rare videogame's cabinets. The manual was in Japanese, since the game was not expected to be exported outside Japan.

Ken Sei Mogura, coin-op video, rare arcade game
LIKE NEW: The completely restored Ken Sei Mogura has been returned to Dreamland in Margate. Although not a success when first released in 1994, its rarity might attract a new generation of knowledgeable players.

From Soho Down To Brighton, He Must Have Played Them All

Dr. Alan F. Meades, coin-op, arcade video game historian Dr. Alan F. Meades is not your typical academic. As a senior lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, UK, he's also a videogame enthusiast who just happens to write and speak about play and gaming. "I've lived in arcades all my life. And it all comes back to my experiences playing in amusement arcades on England's southeast coast, including Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate," he said. "Outrun, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, Italia 90 and Wonder Boy -- these were the things that surrounded me as I grew up."

Meades' interest lies not just in the games themselves, but also in the spaces and cultures that encapsulate them. "My experience of arcade culture was one from the perspective of someone who spent a good five years playing in them," he said. "I'm conscious that there's a story to be told from the operators' perspective, and that there's a chance that a really important aspect of recent play culture will be lost. That's the story of amusement arcades in the late '70s, '80s and '90s."