Get it? Wreck room? Like rec room, only wreck?
Of course, the thing about Arcade1Up’s selection of games is they’re not really about the games. If it were about the games, their machines would be expandable and offer a wider variety of options. $499.99 for a thing that only plays three games, and can’t be made to include more games (well, without doing warranty-voiding moderation) is pretty dang steep. Honestly, they were off our radar until they announced they’d be doing pinball tables. While we don’t have dates or prices on their Star Wars or Attack from Mars 3/4 scale tables they’re partnering with Zen Studios for, it actually sparked excitement from our readers, who were curious if we’d be doing them. Then people said they wanted reviews for their arcade machines. It’s not pinball related, but if these machines are the focal point of family rec rooms the same way pinball tables are, then this is the perfect place for them. $500 later and we had Star Wars.
And really, this is so far the only 1up Arcade that kind of makes sense to get on its gameplay merits. Why? Because of this.
The famous yoke controller is along for the ride, and it feels amazing. The yoke, along with the crystal-clear screen and genuinely good gameplay that holds up today make the experience something I wasn’t expecting: genuinely immersive. Think about it: these games came out six years before I was born and I’m famous for not giving retro games a break because they’re old. I also wasn’t inexperienced with these titles: they were included as a pre-order bonus for Star Wars: Rebel Strike on GameCube back in the day. So many of those bonus discs were printed that Best Buy sold them for $0.49 each. But Star Wars 1983 didn’t hold my attention as a teenager. In fact, they didn’t hold my Dad’s (known here as Oscar) either. For him, it wasn’t the same without the Yoke.
So, Star Wars didn’t blow me away as a throwaway pre-order bonus that I probably played for like five minutes. But, it absolutely did blow me away as a 30-year-old sitting next to a Cathy-sized cabinet, with the proper controller. The yoke does make it feel like you’re piloting an X-Wing and attacking the Death Star. Okay, so the vector graphics aren’t totally convincing, BUT you can tell yourself you’re looking at the targeting computer inside the X-Wing instead of out the window. There, problem solved.
So, what does $500 get you? Well, it gets you this.
Unlike a lot of earlier cabinets, Star Wars comes with the riser that brings it to just over five feet tall. It’s not as big as a standard arcade cabinet, but not as cumbersome to move around either. 1ups are packed in huge boxes with all the components coming in smaller boxes. Much, much assembly is required. Think if IKEA made arcade games. Similar instructions, similar tools. It takes my Dad about an hour to put one together. If you’re not the type of person able to put together per-fabricated furniture, you’ll need help putting together Arcade1Up stuff.
But, you get a really super crisp screen that looks great, especially for the price. There’s options to give the game an old TV tube feel for Return of the Jedi, though you’ll not want it on since it’s annoying as hell. All the games have adjustable settings, which is nice. Most importantly, the vector graphics of Star Wars are bright, vibrant, and colorful. The music and voices are clear. Early on in Arcade1Up’s existence, I wasn’t a fan of their cabinets. In fact, the whole build quality has come a long ways since the ones I played on display around 2018. I gave the machine a good shake and it didn’t feel like it was going to collapse. It’s solid, and if you take good care of it and clean it regularly, it should look great in your man cave until the inevitable death by garage sale.
So, the cabinet is great and the controller is, I assume, arcade perfect. I sort of have to assume since I don’t happen to have access to the authentic 1983 machine. It doesn’t feel like a cheap replica even though, yeah, that’s technically what it is. Probably the best thing I can say about the yoke is it feels more expensive than it actually is. So really, it comes down to whether you like the games. $500 (only $450 on Amazon with free Prime delivery!) only nets you three games. I’m operating under the assumption nobody really buys Arcade1Ups expecting a long term gaming investment. The same price nets you any current console + the games for it, or you can save it and buy the PS5 or XBX this fall. No, you buy these to have them, because they’re cool.
Unlike with the pinball machines, The Pinball Chick won’t recommend or not recommend Arcade1Up’s arcade selection, because really, these cabinets are in the eye of the beholder. NOBODY is buying these just to play games. They’re conversation pieces. What people would want to know is how good is it made? The answer: very good, almost great. The screen is the highlight. The vector graphics look fantastic on it. As a cabinet, it’s mostly good. The thing I hate is how they have the logos stacked on top of each other where the coin door would have been. It looks rushed and low-rent. They could have gotten really creative in presenting them. The way they look now looks like an intern was given five minutes to whip up something to cover up the coin door space. The light-up marquee, the wonderful side art, and the control panel art look fantastic. Really, if you’re wanting a 1up Arcade game based on how it looks, this is probably the one get.
For those that do care about the games, continue below.
Star Wars: 1up Upright Arcade w/ Riser
Cost per Game: $166.66
And, it’s actually a little more difficult than simply talking about three games, because really, there’s two games, one of which was altered to be a “sequel” and sent to arcade operators as a conversion kit.
#3: Return of the Jedi
1984 Atari Coin-Op
Oscar’s Rating: Bad
Let me get the crap out of the way first: Return of the Jedi is a terrible game. The isometric view doesn’t serve the game at all. The yoke controller doesn’t work great with it. In fact, it doesn’t feel like it belongs to it at all. I’d prefer a track ball if you insist on isometric gameplay. Either way, this feels like a typical mid-80s gotcha-type quarter-stealer. Pretty much Zaxxon with a Star Wars theme, only cheaper. Even with the adjustable difficulty, I just couldn’t get into it. Just a series of short, repetitive stages where you dodge stuff (trees or pipes or logs) and shoot stuff. Return of the Jedi feels extremely uninspired and was a HUGE letdown after Star Wars.
On the plus side, they turned the engine from this game into Paperboy. Which is equally horrible. So are indies based on it.
Oscar’s Thoughts: I think Cathy quit on it too quickly, but I agree that Return of the Jedi is the weak link of the cabinet. The speeder-bike stage isn’t an exciting opening level. Weirdly, the Death Star run is the second stage, followed by another speeder-bike stage. I got excited when Chewbacca hopped into an AT-ST “Chicken Walker” in the fourth stage, but it was just a slower version of the same level. Then, without warning, it switches to the Millennium Falcon fighting Star Destroyers. Then back to the Chicken Walker to blow up the shield generator, then back to the Millennium Falcon to blow up the Death Star again. They kind of ruined the build-up to it. I guess it’s nice Atari tried something different, but Return of the Jedi is pretty boring.
#2: The Empire Strikes Back
1985 Atari Conversion Kit
Oscar’s Rating: Great
In the mid 80s, conversion kits were all the rage for arcades. But, apparently a lot of arcades opted to not convert their consistently-lucrative Star Wars cabinets or cockpits into Empire Strikes Back. Even two years later, it was a reliable quarter-earner. So a lot of people aren’t familiar with Empire Strikes Back. It’s really just the same as the 1983 Star Wars, only with different levels. Here the recreation is the opening Battle of Hoth from the film. First you have to take out probe droids, then you take on AT-ATs. The options are to fire tow-cables at them or to shoot vulnerable areas. The game then jarringly becomes a virtual clone of the original game with tie-fighters, only this time you recreate the asteroid field scene. If this sounds great, mind you, it takes about five minutes to see it all.
Despite looking amazing (I was blown away by a few random dots on the ground to signify snow, showing that I genuinely have grown soft in my old age), let’s face it: the Battle of Hoth isn’t the Death Star battle. It’s still fun, but gamers of the era really didn’t miss out if their arcade opted to not convert their existing Star Wars games. Also, the AT-ATs were a lot more flimsy to shoot at. The target on them is so small and you have so little time to aim it, while the tow-cables are in limited supply. I happily shot the probe bots. That part was fine. But then, I really just wanted the AT-AT section to end. It’s a shame that they crap the bed with Return of the Jedi because the second Death Star battle with Lando would be preferable to the isometric crap.
Oscar’s Thoughts: I think they should have either had you only take down the AT-ATs with tow cables or only by shooting them down. But, I love the variety of stages Empire offers, and unlike Catherine, I don’t think more of the same from Star Wars is a bad thing. It’s a shame that arcade operators in the 1980s didn’t have the technology to simply add these stages to their Star Wars cabinets instead of replacing the old ones. Empire has gameplay merit as its own entity and enough subtle changes to make this worth playing.
#1: Star Wars
1983 Atari Arcade Game
Oscar’s Rating: Masterpiece
I really did think of going all-the-way with Star Wars and saying it’s a masterpiece, but I don’t think it’s quite there. Don’t get me wrong: Star Wars holds up remarkably well for a nearly four-decade-old video game. The action is fast, white knuckle, and feels authentic. It’s probably one of the biggest shocks of my gaming life: it feels like you’re piloting an X-Wing. Even with the wire frame graphics. Even with the digitized voices. It just feels real. Still, thirty-seven-years later. More than any higher-tech game in the franchise that has come since. This is the only one where it feels like you’re really in the movie. Whoa.
Of course, once you get the hang of everything, it takes like three minutes to blow up the Death Star, but I sort of love that. Kids who paid their quarter back in the day didn’t have to spend a month’s worth of allowance getting to the memorable part. A long time ago I reviewed the Simpsons arcade game for PS3, and we counted how many quarters we would have needed to beat the game on the easiest setting. Answer: about $22 worth. Here, I needed two practice runs before I blew up the Death Star. On the easiest setting, but still.
And then everything repeats. That’s fine. That’s what old arcade games do. I was THIS CLOSE to going all the way with it, but I feel the game gets a tad too unfair after the first few waves. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s genuinely exhilarating to shoot down TIE-Fighters, and the transition from the surface of the Death Star to the trench legitimately put a big smile on my face. It looks JUST LIKE the targeting computer from the movie. It’s so cool. Of course, after a couple minutes when you blow it up and everything starts to repeat, you have to really love the game, because you’ve experienced the high of it. Here, the gameplay is fun, but not “get lost for hours” fun. Star Wars is a milestone in licensed game design and holds up, but it’s not quite pantheon level, even with the yoke.
Oscar’s Thoughts: I disown Cathy. Now and forever. How can she love something as boring as Defender but not show the same love to Star Wars? I’m kidding. If home games had played like this did in 1983, I’d been a gamer all along. Besides something like Tron, nothing from this era felt so much like the movie it was based on. Watching my daughters play Star Wars and enjoy it just as much in 2020 as I did in 1983 was worth the price alone. I don’t think a lot of games from that era are as timeless. I think even non-hardcore gamers would smile just as brightly playing Star Wars. You won’t get that from Cathy’s beloved Defender, will you? Not even with the fanciest arcade replica cabinet. Star Wars might not be the best playing early 80s arcade game, but I bet you it’s the most timeless.