Ultraseven: The Ultimate Power of the Space
ウルトラセブン (Ultraseven)
Sammy - 1997

On a whim I was searching my local craigslist for pachinko and pachislo around the second week of August 2022, when I saw a posting for a $100 machine about an hour away from me.  The pictures weren't that great and the description wasn't much better, but the machine looked themed after my favorite live action Japanese series, Ultraseven.  Ultraman may be universally known but its sequel, Ultraseven, is by far the high point of the entire Ultra Series - even to this day in my opinion.  The seller didn't seem to have any idea what the theming was, listing the machine as Banpresto (who I believe was in charge of licensing the Ultra properties at the time) which meant I wouldn't be fighting against other Bay Area tokusatsu fans.  The problem was I saw it a few days after it was posted, and for $100 I figured it was long gone.

A day or so later the seller got back to me and said they were waiting for someone to pick it up.  Sure enough, I figured that was it.  However they ended up flaking on the guy so he said he'd sell it to me the next day.  My wife and I drove about two and a half hours round trip after work to pick it up.  It was in the seller's garage, totally coated with filth and grime.  It turned on but had an error message and he didn't want to deal with figuring out how to repair it.  Once getting it home I gave it a basic wipe down before bringing it inside.

After an initial wipe down and reset, the machine powered on and worked for the most part.

It started with an E1 error as expected.  I reset the machine and it seemed to work fine, however the coin hopper was jammed up and not spinning.  Flipping the hopper switch didn't do anything other than give off a pulsing noise so I figured it was gummed up.  This wasn't surprising as the hopper sits at the bottom and the machine was simply totally coated with dust and dirt.  The seller said it came out of a storage locker and I believe him.

The hopper being taken apart in preparation for cleaning and rebuild.

I spent a few hours after work the next day tearing down and rebuilding the hopper.  The mechanism was interesting in how complex it was, with a plate that spins on the top to grab and eject coins, passing them along a tab that depresses a switch to count them off.  It also has a rather powerful motor and transformer, in addition to quite a few mechanical parts that all move when a coin is dispensed.  The whole thing is also armored to prevent it from being tampered with in a casino setting.  I also completely cleaned out all the old grease from the gearbox and repacked it with high speed / temperature grease that I use in radio control car transmissions.  After the full rebuild the hopper was working great.

A wedge base that this machine uses, loaded with a lamp.

I was missing a few wedge bases that hold the lamps in place, in addition to having quite a few lamps burned out.  The machine also didn't come with any medals / tokens, so I was going to need a supply of at least 400 of those, which is really the absolute minimum for a machine.  Looking up information lead me to the PachiTalk Forums, which I had been a member of for years but rarely accessed.  I didn't know it at the time but my return to PachiTalk would send me down a path of pachinko and pachislo and restart my interest in the hobby.

I ordered replacement wedge bases and lamps from a couple vendors online and moved to start stripping the entire machine down to give it a full top to bottom cleaning.

Hopper, reel cage, PCBs, and top light bar removed.

The rebuilt hopper was no longer jamming up or getting stuck on power-up.  In doing research on pachislo machines I found a lot of information stating that problems with the payout system in the hopper can cause a lot of errors.  Since this was the part of the machine that was totally stuck and buzzing when I picked it up, I know it had to be gummed up for quite some time.  I'm really glad I picked up the machine before the guy I bought it from kept slamming it with power rather than trying to figure out what the problem was.

The restored hopper looking brand new.

I cleaned all the harnesses and boards, in addition to the PCB cases and the mounting rails.  With everything removed it allowed me to give the cabinet itself a good scrubbing and ensure all structural screws were tightened down properly, same with all the mounting rails.

A word of advice is to be careful when the machine has the hopper removed, as it makes the whole thing surprisingly front heavy.  I put a dumbbell in the bottom of the machine whenever the hopper was out and I was working on it and it seemed to do the trick and keep it from wanting to fall forward.  On this machine the reset key (which has been replaced with a simple switch) and reset button are located on a metal chassis on the side of the machine, above where the reel stop PCB is located.  Once everything was cleaned to my linking, I refitted the mainboard.

I've seen a stamp on many pachislo mainboard cases but haven't been able to figure out the significance of them.  The silver sticker and tamper label are obviously manufacturer serial numbers and part of the licensing requirement for a gambling machine but the other stamp looks like a regular postage stamp.  Maybe it's some kind of traditional thing?  Perhaps a second seal that parlors would stick on there?  If you know, let me know!

Next was the reel cage and this thing was in horrible shape.  A lot of people don't seem to do anything to the reel cage on their machines but there was no way I could have left it as is.  At this point I wasn't feeling confident enough to take the reels out and do a 100% clean, but I still took the PCB off and cleaned everything as best I could without disassembling it all.  It wasn't just the dirt and grime, the reel cage absolutely stank, which I traced to the PCB.  The residual solder flux on the board had broken down and turned sticky, so it was a grime magnet.  It took quite a while but I got all the grime cleaned off, the harnesses cleaned, and reels cleaned as best as I could without removing them - making everything look 100x better with way less smell.  I still can't believe how filthy it all was.

At this point I noticed what I initially though was a problem with the left speaker, it was barely audible and sounded very tinny.  I unplugged the right speaker so I could hear it better and yeah, something was up. I cycled and cleaned the connector, no change. There was no volume adjustment added (only the usual cabinet "loud - louder - loudest" slider), so I set the issue aside as something to diagnose once I pulled everything off the front for cleaning.  I swapped the speakers to see if the problem traveled and it did not, so at the time I figured it had to be something with the output of the left side.  This would actually be a problem that nagged at me for the entire rebuild process, but I'd figure out what the issue was later on.

I ended up pulling pretty much everything out of the machine for cleaning and servicing.  I'm usually not anything approaching a "factory resto" type of person with stuff like this, and generally stop at getting it clean and operable but this needed the full pull.  No more grime or abuse for this machine - it'll get to live out its retirement years in style.

I bought some of the small volume adjustment pots that a lot of people use on their machines, which allowed me to adjust the volume to each speaker.  Even with volume adjustment pots installed, the audio relationship for the left speaker was still really weird.  I plotted out the circuitry and everything looked fine but it was almost as if it was getting overdriven. The factory volume switch was pretty suspect but even after pulling and cleaning it no change occurred.  Interestingly each speaker is on its own channel - yet still share some kind of output through the volume resistor bank. When hitting a bonus the game plays the Theme of Ultraseven, and the left speaker plays some snare effects and rhythms, while the right speaker plays the beat, and both speakers play the melody.  This was driving me nuts since everything seemed to be in good order but the sound out of the left speaker was still strange.  Yet the machine had still come a long way from when I picked it up.


I bought an order of 1000 assorted medals from a member on PachiTalk so I could finally put the machine through its paces and everything seemed good to go.  The one issue I was having was a bit of a power drain when the hopper would be paying out during a bonus.  At the time I chalked it up to the coin mechanism having been so dirty for so long and possibly being damaged.  Everything seemed really smooth after the rebuild however, so at the time I was simply going to see if it would shake out on its own.

I pulled the transformer out and saw it was the issue, as it was only rated for 2A.  Pachislo machines are usually 24V and you want at minimum 4A for anything without a video screen and 5A at the minimum for a machine with a video screen.  Machines generally didn't leave Japan for export with a power adapter installed, it was something the importer would do.  Whoever brought this machine to the USA wasn't well equipped to do so and stuck a little 2A Radio Shack transformer in it.  Makes me wonder if this thing ever worked correctly outside of a parlor.

I ordered a 4A transformer off eBay that was an industrial pull and honestly it looked as good as new.  I attempted to mount it where the old transformer was but it was fouling the hopper as it is larger and the clearances in this machine are pretty tight.  I pulled it out and oriented it differently in the same area, allowing everything to fit.  Good clearance all around to prevent heat from being trapped and nothing fouls.  I also eventually replaced the power cord and ran a grounding line to the power supply chassis.

The new transformer prior to me replacing the power cord.

Clearances are pretty tight but everything fits and is isolated.

When mounting the larger transformer I came to realize why so many transformers are mounted on the other side of the machine in a lot of them I see that are this configuration.  They're usually either up next to the reels or down where the hopper overflow is (marked with yellow X's below).

I'm going to leave it at the bottom left as less wire running all over the place is good.  Also the wide hopper on this machine is way easier to fill using the funnel to the right side of the reels and I would rather not have a mains connection right above that.  As for putting a transformer where the overflow is... that's just crazy and asking for a short.

With the new transformer the machine works far better now.  Much less heat, the machine doesn't struggle when turning the hopper on, and the hopper moves coins way faster.  The whole game is much more snappy with no lag or bobbles.  Of course a 5A transformer would have given me even more head room but 24v 5A or greater transformers are surprisingly hard to find, with the supplier many used for years, PowerVolt, being almost impossible to order from now.

The more powerful transformer also made the machine's sound a lot better.  Sure enough it seems the left speaker is supposed to be quieter during normal play, as now during the bonuses the rhythms and sound effects from that side are at even volume with the right speaker and everything sounds great.

I was still getting an HP error (hopper error) every now and then when cashing out but after using some contact cleaner on all the connections throughout the machine the problem went away.  If you do have one of these machines and get stuck in an HP error, it is cleared by using the secondary door lock switch.  If you have a door key, insert it and turn it the opposite direction of unlock.  If you don't have a key, open the door and look for a microswitch along the lock lever on the inside.  Give it a press and the machine will clear the error.

As a bit of a cosmetic touch, I gave the top of the cabinet a couple coats of gloss black acrylic paint to help hide the parlor mounting scars. The wood drank it right in and I think it looks more finished now.

With the machine working correctly, I was able to get into its gameplay quirks more and how the Ultraseven theming works into how the bonuses start.

Each of the three ways into a Big Chance are accompanied by different sound and light events.  7-7-7 will do a transformation sound with matching light bar effects and play the "Seven! Seven! Seven!" fanfare from the show's theme.  Windom-Windom-7 or Miclas-Miclas-7 each play a different sound effect flourish and have a different light pattern - which makes sense since they are two of Dan's capsule monsters, if you're unfamiliar with Ultraseven.  Ultraseven was a hugely influential show in Japan, with the capsule monsters directly influencing all the Capsule Corporation stuff in Dragon Ball, in addition to the concept of capsulized monsters in Pokemon.  Big Chance plays the show's battle theme, while Bonus Chance plays the show's theme song.  It's a simple machine, but for the property it uses it's kind of perfect in that neo-retro way.

At this point all that was really left to clean were the reels themselves so I figured I'd go for it, including getting the last of the grime off the stepper motors.  Stepper motors are generally pretty bulletproof but I gave them just a bit of a contact cleaner treatment since the machine was so dirty and they feel and sound a lot smoother. I also took the opportunity to very carefully straighten up the third reel as it was just a bit too wobbly.

For anyone who may have a similar model late 90's Sammy machine, this is how you can remove the individual reels for cleaning or maintenance...

Unplug the harness that runs from the mainboard to the board on the reel cage.  Then disconnect the stepper motor and sensor plugs from the board on the cage and remove and set it aside.

Each reel is held in place by two screws on the top and two screws on the bottom. I'm removing the center reel here...

The other screws around the back and side hold the cage together and can be removed if you need to tear it down completely for cleaning.  After getting the screws on the top and bottom removed, push the wires over into this little channel...

With the wires over there, the reel mount will slide forward.  Be sure to keep the wires in the channel to prevent them from being pinched...

When you get to the end, the wires and their connectors can be pulled through the opening at the end to allow them to slide free of the cage...

And the reel mount slides right out...

The reel can be removed from the stepper motor by removing the screw atop the shaft and then the grub screw at the side.  This will give you easy access for cleaning, in addition to the stepper motor and the optic sensor for each reel . Do the same in reverse to put it back together - easy.  When cleaning the reels themselves be extremely careful not to dent or crack them.  They are extremely fragile, please take your time when cleaning them.

Everything seemed great with the machine at this point, but I wasn't really happy with the tiny little volume adjustment pots after using them for a while.  The volume adjustment range is just way too narrow, they're fiddly to adjust as they require a tool, and I don't like how they're manufactured (the substrate they're mounted on is honestly pretty garbage).  I ended up ordering an alternate kit off eBay to replace them with.  Sure I could just buy a couple 500 ohm pots but the local electronics parts supplier is only open when I'm working so I ordered the kit off eBay.

Kit is the key word, as it really does come with everything you need in the package.  Two pots with long pre-stripped leads, wire nuts, double sided mounting tape, cable management clips, and basic instructions.  If you have no tools other than a pair of scissors you can install this kit.  I shortened the leads and soldered them in and then covered the joints with heat shrink, but it's cool that varying skill levels can install it.

Before... (one on each side obviously)

After... (again, one on each side obviously)

The adjustment range is still going to be kinda narrow with this method obviously, but these are so much nicer than the components I was using before.  There's a lot more range of adjustment and it's far easier to dial the balance in to exactly what you want.  They're way more robust as well.

As for everything else on the machine, it all seems to be working perfectly.  No hopper errors and no issues with the game loosing track of where it is during a payout.  The molybdenum grease I repacked the gearbox with makes it run butter smooth.  I use it in high speed / high torque radio control car gearboxes and it does a spectacular job at lubricating them over the years.  Of course having a transformer that can handle the current draw makes a big difference too - not to mention everything is really clean now.

The machine turned off, focus on artwork.

The machine turned on, focus on lighting.

Close up of reels, machine off, focus on artwork.

Close up of reels, machine on, focus on lighting.

It's a simple machine but I've really been enjoying it - the theme goes a long way for me in that regard.  It helps that I really love Ultraseven.

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Last updated 09/23/2023
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