There’s plenty of gamers who have fond memories of going to arcades and standing in front of their favourites chewing through coins. Whether it be Street Fighter II, Golden Axe or Pac-Man a lot of good memories were thanks to those games and though modern consoles can easily surpass the capabilities of those systems it’s not the same as standing side by side in front of the arcade machine.
Some people are fortunate to have the actual machines in their homes but it isn’t always the easiest option for everyone as they are usually heavy, sometimes unreliable and over time harder to come by. That’s where Arcade1Up has come in. Though their website advertises multiple machines being available, here in Australia we only had access to the Street Fighter and Rampage machines. Seeing as I was never much good at fighting games and had good memories of the others it was an easy enough choice.
The package comes in a flat pack with everything you need to assemble it bar a screwdriver. The pieces are clearly marked and one person could put the whole thing together in an hour. The monitor (LCD) is already attached to the glass and the controls are preassembled too, only requiring a cable be attached to a connector on the back of the monitor. I was really impressed with how much thought went into the design and it’s construction as the finished product is quite solid but because its panels are MDF it’s a lot lighter than you’d expect. Being 3/4 size it can be moved fairly easily by one person unlike a full size cabinet.
That 3/4 size does mean that adults wont be standing up to play on this as it’s too short. Sitting on a stool seems like the best option especially if you plan to crowd around it. You can buy a riser to get it up to the right height but you might prefer to build that yourself. Kids wont have any issues with the height though. The biggest issue with its size might actually be the width. Cramming three players in front of it will be a challenge, unless they’re all children. Players may have to lean in and reach towards the controls which may not be comfortable.
Now for the games which are selectable via a menu. This machine has Rampage, Joust, Gauntlet and Defender. Seeing as Rampage is the “marquee” game the control panel is designed for it with support for three players with their own joystick and buttons. The game looks pretty good and plays well – it’s the kind of game you could imagine having friends jump in and out regularly to destroy cities over a lengthy period of time… and a few drinks. Joust is the real star here and is simply great fun and just about perfect. I suppose the modern description of it would Flappy Bird with killing but there’s a little more it that that. It’s still as challenging as when it was first released. I had high hopes for Gauntlet but I’ve been a little disappointed with it. I don’t know what it is about the game but the emulation seems a little choppy and sample playback isn’t great. I’ve seen the same game on a Raspberry Pi and it was significantly better. I get the impression that either the hardware spec for the emulator board may not be up to scratch or the software needs extra work. Note: there is a replacement board that remedies some of the Gauntlet issues – you need to contact the distributor to obtain it.
And then there’s Defender… what happened here? The game itself seems to be emulated well but the controls are horrid. The original arcade machine made use of a joystick and five buttons but to achieve that on the Rampage cabinet buttons from the other players are used and it just doesn’t work. Defender is a FAST game and you’re going to need to need some digit gymnastics to get anything from this. Having the other player joysticks in the way too doesn’t help either. This would be where a MAME like implementation of the game would be really useful by having the reverse and thrust get mapped to the joystick, saving some buttons and unnecessary injuries.
I know I’ve sounded mostly negative about the Arcade1Up machine but I do like it a lot. It’s a striking unit to have sitting in your house and is bound to attract plenty of attention. Three of the four games I will play a lot and despite some issues with Gauntlet it still plays fine. For anyone considering getting into home arcades this might be a good place to start and has a lot of the bones you need to build out your own multi-arcade system. It’s something I’m thinking about and thanks to the way it’s constructed it’s a much simpler (and cheaper) option than doing it from scratch.
It’s not for everyone and there is limited choice of units here in Australia but if the games are to your liking (and you like to tinker) this could help you start on a new hobby or two.