LED Storm – the original and best

Living as I do in the UK, consoles weren’t really the big thing and everyone had home computers – the Spectrum, C64, and later the Atari and Amiga.  On the ZX Spectrum and the Amiga when I graduated to it, I used to absolutely love an arcade conversion called LED Storm (also known as Mad Gear in the arcades).  I played it for hours, it’s a vertically scrolling ‘race against the clock’ type deal in futuristic cities and wastelands.    It looked a bit like this:

amiga_ledstorm

One of the things I always remembered about it was the amazing music, on the ZX Spectrum 128K and the Amiga it was composed by Tim Follin, one of the best tunes (although short) was during the map screen which showed the overall route and a bit of text introducing the computer, Mac:

The music in the game generally really dug its hooks into me and as a result I played the game for hours and hours and hour and … eventually I moved on to other things.  Fast forward many years and I’d got into arcade collecting, the first thing I did was start getting hold of anything I’d enjoyed before – games like Robocop, Black Tiger, and LED Storm.

It had been years, LED Storm was a different beast entirely – the music wasn’t as good (it just isn’t), it seemed to play very differently (part of this was the corrected screen aspect), you could choose cars at the start (boring ones)- and Mac along with his route map was gone.  That made me sad, I liked Mac.  I wrote it off as just one of those things that so often happened back when home computers got ports – game differences were common as they were rarely provided with the original code or assets.

Recently on a mailing list I’m part of, Shou started asking if anyone had a lead on a Rally 2011 LED Storm PCB, I’d never actually noticed before but it’s been in MAME for a while with broken graphics due to difficulties dumping the strange surface mount ROMs.  All the Mad Gear and working LED Storm dumps came from boards with an extra ROM riser fitted with standard chips so they were no problem.  I had a quick look around and found a dirty looking faulty PCB on ebay with a low BIN and ‘rally 2011 led storm’ written in pen on a sticker.  Since at this point we hadn’t really contemplated it too much, nobody seemed to think it was the right game but spotting the LSE labels I knew it had to be an undumped revision of some kind anyway, so bought it for the greater good.  It arrived today:

og_ledstorm7

Sure enough as promised, it was .. quite faulty.  And it has some minor corrosion that I should be able to easily remove (a few sockets will need replacing too).  You can still just make out the serial number – 00009.  It needed a lot of juice to run, more than it should certainly.  It was failing RAM tests and when it finally booted the screen was strobing horrible shades of yellow.  It was quite painful to look at to be honest.  However – it also turned out to actually be a Rally 2011 LED Storm.  Reseating the ribbon cables got it to boot, and after some testing against my LED Storm (newer rev) board I narrowed the fault location down a bit and had to replace both of the colour RAM, they’re the couple of Toshiba ones (now) in sockets.  Bingo – fixed!

og_ledstorm1

The story goes that the game tested quite poorly in arcades, so Capcom went away and reworked it a bit, and what people have mostly seen in the arcades and MAME was the LED Storm / Mad Gear version.  As we’d later discussed as being likely on the mailing list, the home computer versions must have been based on the original revision of the game – so finding one in Europe was not that unusual really.  It might even be pretty common, I don’t think that many people care about the game outside of ex Amiga/etc owners.

The differences are actually … huge.  The intro is different and doesn’t jump straight into attract gameplay, you don’t get to pick from 3 ugly cars and instead have the lovely futuristic one I remembered.  Mac is there with his map, and HE TALKS!  The car jump feature is fast like I remembered it instead of floating in the air for all eternity which makes the game stupidly easy, the maps are closer to how I remember, and something which wasn’t in the port – you can transform into some kind of bike by pressing button 2.

og_ledstorm2

og_ledstorm3

og_ledstorm4

og_ledstorm6

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So now I finally have a PCB which is as good as the game I remembered and I have a big grin, even if the music still isn’t as good as Tim Follin’s.  If someone has a better condition one of these they’d like to sell me – please get in touch, you know where.  Then I won’t have to feel too bad about the nightmare desoldering job required to get this version dumped so everyone can play it.  Update: The Guru managed to dump the troublesome graphics ROMs and sold me the PCB, you can enjoy this in MAME now.