We recently covered the launch of the Sky Skipper Project, which is an ambitious project by three retro enthusiasts – Whitney Roberts, Olly Cotton and Alex Crowley – to unveil a fully restored arcade cabinet of the game in 2017.
Sky Skipper was one of a number of arcades planned to arrive after the success of Donkey Kong. It was play-tested and marketed in the US but ultimately canned in 1982, making it immediately fascinating to retro arcade enthusiasts. Though ROMS have found their way online and the game actually has an Atari 2600 iteration, no complete cabinets are known to exist – only a very small number of PCBs.
Whitney recently gained access to the only Sky Skipper arcade ever made which is hidden away at the vaults of Nintendo of America. The Sky Skipper Project team were able to spend several hours taking scans and photos of this prototype cabinet.
The cabinet has the serial number 001 and was playtested at the nearby University campus in the early 80s, but unfortunately it wasn’t a hit so plans to roll it out further were scrapped. This prototype cabinet is therefore the only one ever made. It’s also going to be a massive help with the restoration project – before the team were granted access they had intended to use a promotional flyer as reference.
There are only four known arcade circuit boards (PCBs) in existence. Alex Crowley found one in Sweden and another in the UK, converted to run Popeye instead. However, the serial numbers gave them away and with support of the retro arcade enthusiast community, it was possible to convert them back to play Sky Skipper again. One more turned up recently in the Netherlands on eBay, and of course the other one is at NOA. Who knows if any more will turn up?
The grand plan now is to use these detailed photos and scans to reproduce the arcade marquee artwork and convert two Popeye cabinets – one located in the UK and the other in the US – to represent how this prototype in the vaults at NOA would have looked in all its glory.
It’s a great milestone in this story, we can’t wait to see the two restored cabinets one day.