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Fix & improve MARS Lightcon

The reviews on this site are the text versions of the videos on my YouTube channel. The text based reviews use (if at all) very little pictures. Please follow the link to the corresponding video in order to see in game graphics.

In episode 159 I reviewed the PDP MARS light gun system. I enjoyed myself and I am glad to own it, but in my opinion there are many aggravating flaws. That the Lightcons aren't zeroed properly which means they all have an offset is unacceptable considering there is no gun calibration feature in any of the games. I planned to open the gun to see whether there is a way to adjust the laser myself. In the worst case I would cement some threads around the laser so that I can adjust its beam from the outside by the means of screws, similarly as I did in episode 126. Luckily the laser is already equipped with the necessary adjustment screws. In order to reach them the player has to remove the pump handle. To do so the nubby white plastic plate at the left hand side is pried out. The chance to break off some pegs is very high, as the plate sits quite firm. After sliding the pump handle over the front the laser is revealed. For the adjustment a 2 mm hex screwdriver is needed. This equals 5/64 inch in imperial units.

Aside from the offset there were other things I wasn't happy with and therefore I continued to open the gun. There is a hidden screw behind the white circle at the left hand side. One has to cut out the plastic without damaging the Philips screw beneath. Among my gripes was the high power consumption. I soldered a power cable from behind onto the battery terminals. The cable ends with a DC barrel socket. That way I can connect the gun via a 3 V power supply instead of using batteries. If I really want to have a wireless session some time, the battery tray is still functional.

At last I wasn't stoked about the button placement and I thought that the pump action handle reloading is too clunky when aiming with the sights. Personally I really like the C button reloading on the Namco Guncon 2. From another project I had one laying around loose and I decided to put it into the Lightcon. Sadly I lacked the PCB back of it. Button boards like this have a trace pattern which looks a bit like folded hands. In the past I had great success using stripe boards instead. I tinned the traces as bare copper can oxidize. The wires for the reload function go into the blue connector. In order to compensate the loss of weight from the lack of batteries I decided to remove the old actuator and switch from the pump action and reused the present wires. I guided them down to the C button which I cemented into a recess I have cut out. This leaves the pump handle without a firm grasp to the shell and therefore I tape it down, while playing. It would have been smarter to remove it all together or to leave the original pump action assembly in there and use weights to balance it but I left the handle there just for the looks. I painted the nubby plates black to make the gun look like the early prototypes PDP has shown in 2018 on trade shows.

Overall I am pleased with the results, but I am sad to report that fixing the laser offset did not fix the accuracy issue. Apparently the screen calibration of the IR Station isn't perfect and/or the system has issues tracking the laser. I am still glad though I adjusted the laser. At least now the on screen dot is perfectly aligned with the sights at the center off the screen. Being aware that I can't do anything against the remaining inaccuracy myself, helps me to live with it. This modified controller was a great help to beat Voyage of the Dead which I reviewed in episode 160. In hind sight, knowing that I have to play the game Akimbo to beat it, I probably would have put in a second button at the handle of the gun which would have allowed me to reload one handedly.