Feb 19 2019
Arcade1Up: Bringing back arcades or destroying them?
Late last year retro gaming merchendise became a big seller at retail stores such as Wal-Mart, with tiny reproductions of Coleco handhelds, the My Arcade lineup of handhelds and toys, and Arcade1Up hitting the scene with 3/4 scale arcade machines. These machines are the focus of this article, as the ability to purchase an arcade machine for your home for $300 is a dream for many adults who enjoyed arcades. The question is, what sacrifices were made to make these available, and are they worth it?
While working in my game room, I decided to sell off two arcade machines I have that I wanted to rebuild but never had, just keeping the one Magic Sword I have as my only full size cab, and decided to purchase some of the Arcade1Up machines instead both for the fact that they are smaller and lighter than a standard machine (making me able to fit more arcade games in my game room) and have a degree of modability (there's already ways to install a Pi in these, as well as sites that sell new artwork for them). Here's my thoughts on the machines.
The machines come disassembled in a box that is quite tall but not very thick. There's a bit of weight to it but it comes in at under 70 pounds. If you are purchasing at your local retail store, it should fit in your vehicles back seat just fine as long as its empty.
Assembly takes around an hour. The parts are packaged quite well, and I haven't had any missing or broken parts in the 3 machines I have purchased. Assembly is similar to IKEA furniture, using wooden guide pegs and locking screws to go together. One small caveat is that these use 1/2 inch presswood instead of 3/4 wood that you would find in your authentic arcade games. Also, presswood isn't as hardy as plywood, and is susceptible to moisture damage. The benefit is that these are a lot lighter than your standard machine, which comes in at around 200 to 300 pounds. They are easy to assemble, and some thought was put into the parts such as the sliders on the bottom of the machine. There are a few iffy moments, the most difficult being slapping the second side panel on (multiple sections need to fit perfect) and mounting the second side of the monitor (the holes haven't lined up properly on any of the 3 machines i got) but these are minor quibbles that are fixed by taking your time on the side panel and angling your screws a bit on the monitor side panel.
The control decks are decent, but there's definitely room for improvement. However, the decks are easily accessible with just a plastic cover being held on my a few screws. After the cover is removed, you can access the controls and wiring, which can be upgraded with name brand kits such as Sanwa.
Artwork is not the standard artwork on the front, instead showing a list of the games on the cabinet. Different artwork can be purchased at www.arcadegrafix.com
that gives you more authentic front panel artwork, extra artwork to place on your control panel front so that it's not a flat back, and even side artwork if you want to replace the original "green line" art on Rampage.
Of course at the price these are selling for, CRTs are not used for display (which would make these a lot heavier, plus CRTs have not been manufactured for a few years). Instead, LCD screens are used. It's a shame that Arcade1Up didn't use LED screens or even OLED (which would have given us better black levels instead of a washed out gray), but what is here is serviceable and is functional for basic gameplay.
One thing that is a must for these is a riser. The machines only stand 4 feet tall, so unless you plan on playing seated at all times, they need boosted. Arcade1Up manufactures a riser for $45 that boosts these another 13 inches, making them playable while standing. I feel the risers are a bit overpriced and should be sold for $30, but that being said, they use the same parts as the machine but have a lot more bracing built in, being very sturdy once put together. However, you could purchase some plywood and make your own riser cheaper. I have been using the official ones for a uniform look, but these can be made for cheap if you need them.
Overall, I think these are fine machines when purchased under MSRP. MSRP is $299, which is pricey but fair considering you get a legal license for the included games, nice artwork, a 17 inch LCD screen, and a control deck. That being said, you can find these cheaper using sites such as Brickseek. I paid $190 for Pac-Man and Street Fighter 2, and $150 for Rampage. Looking at current future releases, I would like to purchase the 12 in 1 Atari unit that has a bunch of trackball and spinner games on it (and also the only Arcade1Up that includes the riser), and also plan on getting the Final Fight and Mortal Kombat cabs that have been announced. They are a nice, budget alternative for a real machine. That being said, real machines can be found at this same price range depending on the title you want, and they offer sturdier construction and authentic gameplay and looks, including the warmth a CRT monitor displays. They can also be modded depending on the game simply by sticking a Pandoras Box in the JAMMA connector. But if you are working in a smaller room or want lighter machines that can also can be modded, these Arcade1Up machines are not a bad choice.