The arcade was king when I was a child. Sure, we had simplistic systems like the original NES and the Atari 2600, but if you wanted really cutting-edge video entertainment, you required a couple of quarters and a trip to the mall. The great idea was to buy your own arcade machine. Ricky Schroeder of Silver Spoons, who had his own Frogger cabinet in his home, enraged ’80s men. But no kid could afford the purchase price of a full-size video game, so those fantasies were always just that.
The AtGames Ultimate Legends arcade cabinet, which costs $599.99, renders such fantasies a reality. There are several companies on the market that sell pre-fabricated arcade machines pre-loaded with games, but this one strikes the perfect balance between price and value. It’s a good place to launch for any home arcade, with over 350 games and a slew of enticing next-gen features.
The panels of the cabinet are constructed of thick MDF and match together neatly. Assembly took just under 30 minutes. Also with risers, the completely designed cabinet stands 66 inches wide, which is higher than most Arcade1Up versions (around 45 inches) (around 60 inches). One factor to keep in mind is that the unit is very top-heavy, and operating it without the optional wall anchor is not a smart idea. The display is a 24-inch 1080p monitor.
There are several control options available. There are two joysticks with six buttons each, two spinners, and a trackball on the panel. Around the top is a series of system-specific navigation keys, as well as a pair of HDMI ports and a pair of USB ports. Bluetooth compatibility is also given for a number of peripherals in the cabinet.
All functions well and is securely fastened. The responsiveness of the two joysticks is my only real concern. They both use four-way gates, which are perfect for Atari 2600 games and other games that don’t need smooth diagonal movement but are completely inappropriate for many arcade games. It seems to be an unusual decision by AtGames, but it is also simple to correct. I opened the control console and ordered a pair of eight-way Sanwa gates to replace the stock four-ways.
It was easy to swap out the gates. The control console houses the real circuitry (the video unit is just a monitor), and it is simple to extract, rotate, and unlock. If you wish to make further substitutes, the procedure should be similar. Overall, the Ultimate Legends is a really solid piece of hardware that is both robust and user-friendly.
The user interface is strong and simple to use. You may have some issues with software. The pre-installed games are a mixed bag. The overwhelming majority of the arcade games are taken from the repositories of Data East and Jaleco. All of the businesses used…innovative methods to quality management. There are few true classics in the mix, such as Burger Time and City Connection, but the majority of them are forgettable at best. Consoles fair no better—the Atari 2600 isn’t remembered for many hits that are still enjoyable four decades later, and the majority of those were third-party titles from Activision and the like that aren’t included here.
One noteworthy selling point is a selection of Disney-licensed titles, which were clearly included to entice prospective customers. The majority of them look nice—the Sega Genesis Aladdin game, in particular, is noted for its smooth animation—but they lack complexity and replayability. They clearly seem to be around for the name value, but without them, the Legends Ultimate doesn’t have many more all-time killers to boast about.
However, Legends Ultimate is internet-capable and constantly updated, which means the library will adjust for the best (or worse) when the organization enters new licensing agreements. I had a problem with initial boot where the system needed a manual reset (with a paperclip) before downloading and running the new firmware, but it’s been stable since then.
The ArcadeNet feature of the machine taps into the popular cloud gaming industry, allowing you to play a limited variety of Neo-Geo games on a remote server. This functionality didn’t work well for me—my Wi-Fi stuttered so much that the games were unplayable, but you can still link via Ethernet cable for a wired link. I’m interested to see how the library extends or if the promised online gaming capabilities are introduced to ArcadeNet, which might make it a more appealing option.
You may also use the BYOG option to link to your gaming PC using Bluetooth, allowing you to stream games from there and monitor them with the joystick. This is a fun novelty, but it’s not anything I’d do too much. BYOG also allows you to insert AtGames USB dongles to extend the app collection.
The Legends Ultimate already has a vibrant fan group that is working to develop software that will enable users to convert their current lawfully owned ROMs into a format that the computer will understand. The onboard emulation recognizes a wide range of interesting hardware, like the Commodore Amiga and the Scumm adventure games from Lucasfilm.
Overall, the AtGames Ultimate Legends cabinet provides value for money. It’s a solid entry point into the home arcade hobby, with a few quickly fixed glitches and a lot of promise. It’s more expensive than the smaller Arcade1Up cabinets because it’s less exclusively designed for individual games, but it’s a full-size cabinet with a diverse range of titles that lets you play out your childhood home arcade fantasies.