As any child who grew up in the 80’s, I was obsessed with arcade games as a kid. If my parents took me anywhere with an arcade cabinet in sight, I would beg for quarters so I could play whatever game was contained inside. From grocery stores, bowling alleys, and even restaurants, I spent a lot of my parents’ pocket change playing classic coin-op games. While arcades may have died off in the United States in the mid-90’s, the love I had for arcade games have always existed inside of me.
One of my goals in life since I was a child was to own an arcade cabinet in my home, yet even in my adult age, that seems to be a lofty goal to reach. Arcade machines are extremely expensive to purchase, ranging in the two thousand dollar or more range. Getting a vintage cabinet cheap at an auction was always an option, but restoring these relics and keeping them functional can be a pricey venture in itself, not to mention the technical know-how required for the upkeep can be daunting. Simply having the space in my home for one is a challenge in itself.
Over the years, build-it-yourself arcade cabinet projects have been popular with retro gamers. Building your own cabinet, finding the perfect monitor, installing USB encoders and custom buttons, all while powering the cabinet with a PC using emulation is certainly do-able. However, who has the time, money and carpentry skills to pull that off properly? I know I don’t. Some companies do sell pre-build arcade cabinets that gamers can customize to their liking, but not many of them exist and only manufacture their products as ordered, which can also be quite expensive.
In comes Arcade1UP, a company that aims to deliver a product for retro gamers like myself who’ve always dreamed of owning their own arcade cab but lack the funds or technical knowledge to pull it off. Arcade1UP has produced an easily assembled arcade cabinet at an affordable price that mimics the design and artwork of many classic arcade titles, all at 3/4th the scale of a typical arcade machine. These cabinets retail at $299, are put together using only a screwdriver, and promise to deliver an authentic arcade experience in your home without taking up too much space. Sounds like a dream come true, right?
I was excited about these products, but also highly skeptical. Can Arcade1UP really deliver an arcade machine at $300 that rivals the build quality and reliability of a $2,000 official cabinet? It seems do-able in the age of Raspberry Pis, emulation and IKEA furniture, but fooling an arcade enthusiast or retro gamer with a poorly made product would be tough for any company. I decided to give Arcade1UP the benefit of the doubt and purchased their Street Fighter II cabinet and gave it a spin.
This particular cabinet includes Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Super Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. All three are solid Street Fighter games, but the inclusion of Turbo is a little puzzling to me since it’s basically just a faster, tweaked up version of Super Street Fighter II. I would have much preferred they included one of the Street Fighter Alpha games, or even Street Fighter III to add a little bit of variety to the machine. Regardless, I think Street Fighter fans will be pretty happy with the included games.
The first thing I noticed about my Arcade1UP Street Fighter cabinet is how it was packaged. The unit came disassembled in a fairly heavy box that resembles a piece of IKEA furniture. Like our favorite Swedish furniture shop, the arcade cabinet is very easy to assemble and only requires a simple Philips head screwdriver. The instructions were easy to follow and written clearly with each piece and screw being lettered to easy identify. It took me around 40 minutes to put the cabinet together before I was up and running. No electronics or computer knowledge is needed here. You’ll only be screwing the ball tops onto the joysticks and plugging in a cable into the back of the LCD panel that runs to the control deck. That’s it, aside from screwing in many screws, that is.
My only complaint with the packaging was from the lack of padding on several of the wooden components. While my unit was in pretty good shape aside from a minor scuff or two on the marquee, I have noticed many owners of these cabinets complaining about broken or scuffed components. If the retailer you purchased this cabinet from decides to be a little rough with handling it, the packaging won’t do much to save some of the parts from being damaged. That’s one thing to consider when putting these things together so keep your receipt handy.
After being fully assembled, the arcade cabinet stands a little above four feet tall. I’m a pretty small guy and even I had to squat down on my knees in order to play it — a chair didn’t even do it justice. If this is a problem for you, Arcade1UP sells an optional riser for $44.99 that will bump it up to five feet tall. Being a 5’3 smaller guy, this made the arcade cabinet perfect for my height when standing up. My 6’4 brother-in-law didn’t seem to have too much trouble either, so I’m assuming the riser will cure the height issue for most people. I do believe the riser should have been included with the unit itself instead of being optional since I feel most people will want it, but I guess having the option is nice without forcing a price increase on the consumer.
I’m a big fan of the design of these cabinets. The artwork located on the front, sides and marquee are all very authentic feeling and nails the look of those classic cabinets I played as a kid. I found that the cabinet is sturdy enough without any wobble or flex to the wood. Many owners of these cabinets have found a flaw in the artwork located on the control deck that will cause the paint to warp and peel after extended use, which is a huge bummer.
Thankfully, you can fill out a form on the Arcade1UP website with a photo of your receipt and the company will send you a new overlay and a plexiglass cover that screws on to the top of the control deck to prevent this from happening. I have yet to receive mine so I can’t comment on the quality of it, but I have heard that Arcade1UP are starting to include these in the box with newer shipments. Judging from the Arcade1UP sub-reddit I frequent, folks who have received the covers seem to be pretty happy with it.
My Street Fighter II cabinet includes a 17 inch LCD monitor that has a pretty solid picture. I did notice some lines running through it, sort of resembling video feedback, within black backgrounds, but it’s a non-issue when actually playing the game. I may have to pop the cabinet open and play with the cables to see if this can be corrected, but I feel it’s a minor issue. Although, if you’re expecting retro CRT features or emulated scan-lines, you’ll be disappointed here.
Before purchasing this cabinet, my biggest concern were the controls. How responsive would the joysticks and buttons be? How high quality are they? Well, I can’t speak for the other Arcade1UP cabinets since each one has a different control setup, but the official stance I have on the Street Fighter II cabinet is that the controls are a mixed bag. It really depends on how you approach them. For an arcade cabinet that costs $300, the controls are pretty good. Yet, in terms of a $2000 authentic Street Fighter cabinet, the controls are pretty sub-par.
After putting a few hours into playing around in all three included Street Fighter II titles, I’m happy to say that the arcade controls feel pretty good. I haven’t struggled to pull off any of the moves I’m familiar with and have been throwing those sweet Hadoukens with ease. The only thing I’m worried about is the long term durability of these sticks and buttons. Upon closer inspection inside of the control deck, many of the components seem to be made out of plastic and other cheap materials. With enough pounding on these controls, I could see wear and tear not being too kind to this machine. Thankfully, most of the components are fairly standard arcade parts that can be replaced with ease or even upgraded if you’re willing to put a little elbow grease into it.
The entire arcade machine is powered by a single core board with around 512mb of RAM. All three games are running off of custom emulation, so don’t expect replicas of the actual Street Fighter II arcade boards being included here. I honestly have little issues with the emulation . All three titles feel fine and even include the same slowdown that I’ve always noticed in the classic versions of these games too. Again, I expect Street Fighter fans to be pretty happy here.
One flaw I noticed is with the audio. The cabinet includes one mono speaker located within the control deck. There are three volume levels included on the control deck — high, low and mute. Street Fighter II: Champion Edition sounds just fine from my experience. I did notice that both Super Street Fighter II and Turbo have muted sound effects that are barely audible due to the lack of stereo sound. Anyone expecting arcade perfect emulation may be a bit bummed due to some of the audio flaws but to me it’s another minor issue. Hopefully Arcade1UP will work this out in future cabinets.
Arcade1UP has released other cabinets as well for those looking for different types of classic arcade games in their homes. So far the company has released a Midway cabinet that includes Rampage, Joust, Gauntlet and Defender. This cabinet has reports of lockup issues when hitting level 31 in Gauntlet and Defender’s controllers are very wonky with the included control setup. Thankfully, Arcade1UP will send owners a brand new board that corrects the Gauntlet issue if you contact them. Other arcade cabinets include Pac-Man, Asteroids, and a 12-in-1 cabinet with a very poor spinner included. Again, Arcade1UP has seemed to fix the spinner issue on that cabinet and will send you a new one upon contacting their support team.
I’ve kept a very close eye on Arcade1UP and their line of home arcade cabinets. The company seems to be having some growing pains with a few design issues backfiring on them, like the Gauntlet emulation issues, audio flaws, peeling paint on the decks and banged up components within shipping. However, the company seems to have very good customer service that’ll take care of you if any of those issues are experienced by the end user. My cabinet seems to be pretty solid and I have very little complaints, but I’m also worried about the long term viability of those arcade controls. Still, I’m pretty impressed with what Arcade1UP has achieved.
If you’re interested in owning your own arcade cabinet, I feel Arcade1UP’s products are pretty fun to have in your home. I personally would like to see better quality buttons, an included riser and a bit more quality control in their emulation, but I feel the company is listening very well to feedback and seem to be reacting appropriately. A Final Fight cabinet is scheduled to release in the Spring and the rumor of new cabinets being announced at CES in January has been floating around too. We’ll see what the future holds for Arcade1UP. Hopefully they can worked out the kinks and release some truly awesome products that make the dream of owning your own arcade cabinet a reality for many. I, for one, am impressed and will continue to follow the company and their products closely.
NOTE: This review is based on a retail Arcade1UP Street Fighter II cabinet purchased out-of-pocket and has no affiliation with Arcade1UP or their PR team.