An eclectic look at what I currently think is cool.
I get a lot of emails asking me "so, I've read the reviews, but what is your favorite (insert item here)?" Well, I've finally decided to just throw up a list of what I currently think is cool in the Retrogaming World.
These may be products I haven't even done a full review of yet, or just things that especially impressed me. I'm going to try and keep this page updated as my opinions change. As such, this page is going to be, by its very nature, a bit less objective than the RetroBlast reviews. This is my "opinion" page, my "raves and rants" page — it may even stray a bit from the "retrogaming" arena. Remember, this is all just my opinion.
You want to know what my favorites are? Here's the current list!
Last Updated 3/25/05
Favorite Arcade Joystick
Let's start with an easy one: my favorite joystick. This one's no contest: I absolutely love the Happ Perfect 360 Optical Joystick.
I can't imagine a better joystick, frankly. The only downside is that you need to wire up power for the joysticks to work, but once that's done I don't think there's a better gaming device made.
This one's a closer race than the joystick choice, but I have to go with the SlikStik Tornado. The ultra-smooth motion and unreal spin times just scream quality, and the highly accurate tracking doesn't hurt either.
That said, the Oscar Controls Vortex is a close second. It has a bit more of that authentic Tempest feel to it but the large installation footprint is a bit of a bummer. I'm looking forward to reviewing Kelsey's Vortex 2, which looks to have gained a bigger (and yet more slender) flywheel in a smaller frame. It should be exciting to see how the revised design handles.
Favorite Arcade Monitor
Don't have one right now. Sorry. I had some issues with my WG D9200, and my Betson Multisync (aka the Kortek KT–2914F) recently died after just six months. They're both really good displays when they work, but I'm really disappointed in the reliability of both monitors. Luckily, both companies have great technical support!
I can only hope that the industry improves the build quality as more and more consumers start to buy their products, because I firmly believe that there is no better way to enjoy retrogaming than on an genuine arcade monitor. No other display option even comes close.
Don't know yet. I've used Happ trackballs the most so far, but I haven't had the opportunity to really check out all of the other the available trackball options. Check back after I've had a chance to finish the RetroBlast Trackball Roundup. ;-)
Favorite MAME Control Panel
My favorite control panel for MAME is still my custom-layout SlikStik Classic. While I do have some small ideas on how to further improve my panel's layout, it's pretty close to my ideal layout as it is. (Believe it or not, there have actually been enough requests for my layout that SlikStik now stocks a "RetroBlast Layout"!)
Now my panel preference could be simply because the Classic is the control panel on my own arcade cabinet, and I use it every day (you know, familiarity and all that), but the honest fact is that the SlikStik Classic, aside from a few minor design nits, has a great layout and is built like a tank. My current Classic unit has been trouble-free from day one, and has stood up to incredible abuse from the neighboorhood kids. If that isn't "arcade perfect," I don't know what is.
Not enough data to pick one...at least not yet. I really haven't had the opportunity to review an "apples to apples" cabinet comparison. I'm working right now on making arrangements for new reviews of cabinets from MAMEroom, ArcadeGames4U, and Dream Authentics, so I may be able to pick a favorite after reviewing their cabinets.
That said, I realized I haven't yet reviewed a cabinet that I didn't like. Whether it was from Quasimoto, SlikStik, or Dream Arcades, it didn't matter: they were all great cabs, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them. I guess it just depends on what sort of gaming cab you want: Dream Arcades makes a great cocktail cab, the SlikStik 27" cab is great for MAME, and the Quasicade2 is definitely the ultmate console gaming station!
Best Place to Order Pinball Parts
Bay Area Amusements. They have super-fast service, a great selection of parts, and amazing customer service: (the owner once called to apologize over a small order mixup literally minutes after I emailed them about it, then shipped out a free replacement part via Priority Mail! I always go to them first these days for my pinball needs.
Best Place for Arcade Parts
This one's a bit of a toss-up, as I haven't had any problems with any of the places I've ordered parts from. Happ Controls has an extensive parts collection, and Betson Enterprises has extremely fast shipping. I'm also impressed with the speed that Ultimarc ships orders, especially since they're located in the UK and yet they still sometimes beat local orders!
I haven't had a bad experience with any of these companies, and they've all promptly sent my orders with reasonable shipping charges.
Current Game Favorites
What's Hot in the Steele Gameroom
Personally, these days I'm putting in some serious play time on my Attack From Mars pinball, interrupted only for occasional games of Millipede, Tempest, and Robotron on the MAMEframe (especially now that the monitor in the MAMEframe has been repaired and is looking better than ever!). I'm also playing some Mutant Storm on the Quasicade, thanks to the XBox's "Live Arcade" service. I'm also trying to play MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf, but either my reflexes have slowed or the game has too many darn button combos!
On my "Wish List" right now: I'm getting that urge to acquire a new pinball machine, and I'm therefore starting to look around for a nice Cirqus Voltaire, Twilight Zone, or Lord of the Rings. I'm in no rush, so I'm doing a bit of "bargain hunting" while I try to negotiate this pending pinball purchase with the wife.
My son Chris is currently addicted to "Crash Bandicoot and the Wrath of Cortex" on the Xbox/Quasicade, while my son Brendan is still a big fan of both Caveman Ninja and the arcade version of Lemmings on the MAMEframe. Neither one of my boys has touched either of my pinball machines in weeks (which is okay, since it leaves them available for me!)
Wrapping Things Up
And that, in a nutshell, is a not-quite-complete listing of my favorite things in the Retrogaming World. It's still very much a work in progress, and I'll keep adding to the list, so if you're still curious what my favorite whatever is, just email me and ask. I might even add a "least favorite" list as well. We'll have to see.