It's no secret that I've been really into Third Strike lately. I've been so enamored with the game that I recently decided to get a 3rd Strike arcade board. While the PS2 and emulated versions of Third Strike are not bad at all, there's something magical about playing the arcade version of a game.
I thought it'd be a simple matter to get a hold of an old arcade game; however, I ran into several issues. 3rd Strike was released in several territories, namely Asia, Japan, and the USA. The Asian No-CD version is to be avoided, as it lacks many of the game's sound effects. The Japanese version has a second "Rev A" that changes the game for the worse, mostly by removing unblockables. The USA version is undesirable for another reason entirely, the "suicide battery."
The suicide battery is contained in an essential piece of the 3S arcade hardware, the security cartridge (right, above). While most of the game data is contained on a CD-ROM, the security cartridge is like a special key that unlocks the decrypted game data. In an apparent attempt to thwart tampering and piracy, these security cartridges are equipped with this suicide battery. If the battery is removed from the cartridge, it is destroyed. Even when the battery eventually runs out, the cartridge is destroyed. The 3rd Strike arcade hardware is essentially a ticking time bomb destined to commit seppuku. At this time, all of the original batteries in Third Strike cartridges are either dead or close to dying. Only Capcom Japan can restore a dead board, and they only support the Japanese version. If you have a dead USA 3S, you are out of luck.
In spite of this, there are remedies for this built-in obsolescence. The battery can be swapped, but it is very tricky. One must open the cartridge and swap the battery while the system is powered on. This sounds simple enough, except for one problem: the battery is soldered into the cartridge. Of course, the battery can be desoldered with very careful and prolonged effort. Keep in mind that if power is lost to the board for even a moment, it will be rendered permanently useless. So, it is possible to salvage these dying relics, but the process is anything but straightforward.
In light of the difficulty in obtaining the proper version, as well as the entire suicide battery conundrum, I've decided that the PS2 version of Third Strike will be sufficient to hold me over until 3S: Online's release.