Zoo Keeper (Taito, 1982)
September 13th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The manual to Zoo Keeper says “ZOOKEEPER.” Everyone else, including the marquee, says “Zoo Keeper.” So let’s go with that.

I had been playing the game on my GP2X for a very long time, ever since I found a working stash of MAME ROMs through, ah, the Pirate Bay. As you can see, I take ROM piracy so seriously that I just bought the whole thing.

Anyway, due to the lousy thumb pad on the GP2X, it infuriated me to not be able to get to the screen with the lion on Zoo Keeper, so when I saw one for sale from Jon Exidy I wanted to go for the real thing. It’s somehwat rare, it’s a game I am utterly addicted to, and once you get it working it seems to stay that way.

The only issue I have with mine is that the settings and high scores do not consistently save. They save some of the time, which is how I know it’s not necessarily a battery issue… but not all the time. I found one last piece of information regarding a jumper that you can pull, and I did that today – if it works, great, if not, sells a unit that replaces the 5114 chips.

(Back in the day, they didn’t use NVRAM, so they had RAM with the battery supplying the juice so it didn’t get wiped clean upon a power down. The save kit eliminate the need for a battery of any sort.

One interesting thing I found involved the jump buttons. My game is a converted Qix (like my Mr. Do! is) and I wanted to see what the buttons on a dedicated game looked like. However, every single picture I saw showed a different color. My buttons are orange leaf – I have seen white and green out there as well. Since I prefer buttons with microswitches (and had some extra white ones) I was going to install them… and then switch to orange the next time I placed an order with the Real Bob Roberts.

Well, let me disabuse future ‘Keeper owners of that: you literally get just enough wire for leaf switches, and that’s it.

Here’s a picture of a leaf switch.

And here is a picture of a cherry microswitch:

You may notice that the leaf switch is “longer.” That difference in length is too much for the left-hand side jump button on Zoo Keeper. The wires come over from the joystick and they are JUST long enough for a leaf button. Jesus. But hey, Taito is still in business, so I guess their cost-cutting practices ultimately paid off.

(I should say, since mine is a converted Qix, that a dedicated cab may not have that issue, but a dedicated cab should be running the original buttons it came with anyway, so there you go.)

I managed to break 516,000 points on it as of December 9th, but it did not store properly – here’s hoping the jumper thing works, but if not I’ll detail the process of installing the NVRAM replacement kit.

12/26/07 Update! I had tried the following in an attempt to get it to save high scores and settings:

– Soldered a new 3.6 volt, 300 mah battery onto the board. The settings were saved the first time I turned off and restarted the system, but that was it. They went right back to failing afterwards.

– Ordered some new 5114 RAM from the Real Bob Roberts and replaced the ones in there. This didn’t help. (I did reseat a few other chips on the board that were not in securely, and this seemed to clear up an issue with graphical distortion appearing until the machine warmed up.)

So I bought the Taito High Score Kit from QuarterArcade. I installed it incorrectly the first time out, so let me offer the following advice to neophytes like myself: the kit has a wire that needs to be soldered to +5 on a nearby chip (like U83). (Oh, and the kit completely sits in U86 and sits in 4 pins of U85.) You start counting pins at the upper left, go straight down, go across, and then go up. So pin 20 (the pin you solder the wire to) is at the “upper right” location of the U83, if you are looking at the board with the battery towards the bottom. Probably goes without saying to more experienced techs, but having this info out on the net can’t hurt.

The kit works great, worked instantly once I had the wire soldered to the correct leg, and I couldn’t be happier.
(Additionally, I completely removed the battery.)

I ended up getting a marquee from MAME Marquees as a gift, so that is currently bolted on. The original is in my office, living nicely, like it is out to stud or something. So serene!

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