Fit And Finish
Immediately upon pulling the SNK unit out of the box, I noticed that the cabinet had been damaged during shipping. Not only had the right side panel come loose, but the front corner of the control panel appeared to have been crushed, and the T-molding did not fit well as a result. I’m not sure what could have occurred to damage the cabinet in such a way, but it certainly has this reviewer questioning its durability.
Upon closer inspection of BOTH units, I was dismayed to find that the artwork appeared to be pulling away slightly at the edges of the cabinet, and even had a few stray corners that weren’t trimmed properly to match the contour of the side panel.
The control panel overlay is a bit on the thin side, and the SNK unit’s overlay bubbled a bit near the joystick carriage bolts. Also, one of the wood screws appears to have not been tightened, and was about an eighth of an inch above the panel.
Overall, I’m not impressed with the attention to detail on these cabinets. Right out of the box they look like they’ve had a few years of use.
The cabinet uses standard microswitch buttons and joysticks and quick disconnects. While they all have the standard microswitch clickiness, the controls feel solid and authentic. As the HanaHo name is notably present in the marquee area, I have to assume that the controls are similar to what is used in their Hotrod product.
Inside the Taito Classics Cabinet Control Panel
One thing that immediately struck me on the SNK unit is how close the first- and second-player controls are to each other. This is understandable as the control panel is just over SIXTEEN INCHES wide, but it’s definitely an issue to keep in mind.
The SNK Cabinet Control Panel Layout
To test it out, my wife actually indulged me as I asked her to play a quick game on the second player controls. As a man of the 21st century, I have no problem saying that I usually enjoy holding hands with my wife while strolling through the park or at the mall, but it’s simply not appropriate during a game of King of Fighters ‘95. There is absolutely no way I’d be able to play any of the two-player fighting games on this cabinet next to another adult without feeling like I was flirting with them. I don’t mind when it’s my wife, but I think it might make me give tournaments with my friends a second thought.
The SNK Tabletop
On the Taito cabinet it didn’t seem to be as much of a problem, due to the simple two-button setup. In all honesty, I don’t know what could have been done about this problem, as the cabinet’s form factor simply would not allow for any other setup.
The Taito Classics Control Panel Layout
Curious to see what was running this unit (and ignoring the safety warning), I found my trusty screwdriver and removed the back panel. Inside, I found a small RF-shielded board and what appears to be a standard arcade monitor – an Irico 14” (37SX110Y22-DC05) CGA.
The SNK Monitor Revealed
Inside the Taito Cabinet
After removing the RF shield, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the PVG Tech cabinet runs off of a small JAMMA board! On the board is a standard Secure Digital/MMC card, which contains the games installed on each model of PVG Tech’s line of cabinets.
Secure Digital/MMC card
From a modder’s standpoint, all of the controls in the PVG Tech cabinet can be easily swapped out. As the control panel is made from a rectangular piece of MDF, the entire panel could be easily swapped for a custom layout.
According to our contact at PVG Tech, the cabinet runs off of a standard JAMMA board and a standard arcade monitor, and that their board can easily be swapped out for any other JAMMA game. Considering the JAMMA harness is what ties this cabinet together, I’m rather convinced that this cabinet could be converted to a MAME cabinet using an Ultimarc J-Pac with minimal effort, even with space being somewhat limited. I must say I’m quite excited to see what a willing modder could do with this bartop cabinet.
The games on these units seem to play faithfully to the original arcade versions, however I did see a just a tiny hint of slowdown in Metal Slug 2, which I must say is fairly surprising. It would likely go unnoticed to most who are unfamiliar with the game.
Metal Slug 2 (File Photo)
The monitor is bright and clear, and the sounds are nice and loud, especially for a unit of this size. I did notice that since the unit has a single mono speaker, that the stereo effects of the NEOGEO unit were affected. For those that are familiar with the NEOGEO startup sequence, it sounds like half of the jingle is missing. At the very least, the hardware should have done a simple stereo-to-mono down mix; adding a second speaker would have been better.
Minor issues aside, the games really do play very well, certainly due to the actual arcade hardware.
The unit only takes about 10 seconds to load the main menu upon powerup, after a quick memory check. The menu appears to be like many other arcade cabinet frontends; it displays a list of games and a screenshot or artwork from the selected game, the Taito cabinet’s menu screens were noticeably more polished than the SNK unit. The first-player joystick moves the cursor up and down; games are selected by pressing the first-player start button. In the main menu, the unit’s volume may be adjusted by pressing up or down on the second-player joystick. Other than that, that’s it for menu options.
Once a game is selected, a loading screen appears, which can take up to twenty seconds on the SNK unit – the Taito games load almost instantaneously. Once in a game, you add a credit by pressing the player’s start button once. Pressing it again starts the game. Additional credits may be added by pressing the start button a few more times. It’s an interesting interface, but seems a bit clunky. I would have liked to have seen a separate credit button or eliminate the use of adding credits altogether -- Just pressing the start button multiple times doesn’t seem to add to the experience.
One thing I’m really not a fan of is how easy it is to accidentally quit a game. On each unit is a menu button that IMMEDIATELY quits the current game and brings up the main menu. As close as it is to the player start buttons, I could certainly foresee pressing that menu button at an inopportune moment. Perhaps I’m just a bit too accustomed to my MAME cabinet, but I really prefer having to press two buttons at once to quit, or at least having a confirmation screen ask “Are You Sure?” – it’s a simple change that could likely avoid a great deal of frustration.
I was also a bit surprised that there doesn’t seem to be a way to adjust each game’s settings, especially on the SNK NEOGEO unit. As many of our readers are probably aware, each arcade game had settings that were adjusted either via dip switches inside the unit or a software menu. On the NEOGEO games, Metal Slug 2 in particular, settings such as the difficulty or blood level were adjustable. As confirmed by our contact, the end user is not permitted to access the game settings; however concerned parents should be aware that the blood level appears to be set to “OFF” in Metal Slug 2.
I also have to admit, for the price, I’d like to see a few more games on these units, or at least know that there was a possibility for software-only upgrades. I think it’s fantastic that these are fully-licensed units using actual arcade hardware, but I’d think that the primary cost in these units is the hardware itself, and even doubling the amount of games shouldn’t raise the overall price all that much, of course, that’s just one reviewer’s speculation.
PVG Tech Gameroom Classics cabinets appear to be well suited for anyone looking an out-of-the-box solution for that authentic arcade feel. Unlike the laughable Midway attempt, PVG Tech comes through with a more arcade-accurate product. Fit and finish details aside, this comes very, very close to what a consumer-level home arcade unit COULD be.
While the hardcore do-it-yourselfer crowd will likely go for other options, the potential for upgrades makes this product a good starting point for those looking to enter the hobby with minimal work upfront.
Tatio and SNK Bartops $375 each