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EMS LCD TopGun Review

Introduction


Three joysticks, two six button fighter arrays, a dedicated four-way red ball top joystick, spinner, trackball—all this on my Franken-panel was not enough. I needed a gun! Playing Area 51 with a mouse just isn’t right! So, get a light gun! But which one? One for a computer, arcade monitor, or one for a TV? MAME 107 supports around 80 light gun games so if you want to access every single game in the catalog, you definitely “gotta get a gun”!

I researched the light guns from Lik Sang and Act Labs and they were all specific to a display configuration, and I hate being locked into a configuration. What if I bought a CRT version light gun and then found a great deal on a 32” TV? What if I got one for a TV and I want to hook it up to my brother-in-law’s 62” projection TV? Or run it on the projector from work? Can you imagine Area 51 played on the wall 7 feet wide? I can! I want a light gun to do it all and take out the trash when it’s done!

Enter The EMS LCD TopGun (TopGun), a light gun with a twist—it can be used with any display you want to slap it on. That’s right! Arcade monitor, Flat Panel, TV, CRT, Projection, Plasma, even an image shot up on the wall with a presentation projector. Not only will the TopGun work with any screen, but the TopGun is a multi-platform light gun with connections for Playstation2, PC and XBOX. EMS LCD TopGun has also won the 2005 Hong Kong Awards for Industries: Consumer Product Design Award.

This is a review of the EMS LCD TopGun as connected to my home-built PC based Arcade system. For techies or the inquisitive, my arcade rig is built on an Athlon 3000+, GeForce 5500 AGP video, 1gig of RAM, 250gig HDD, XP Professional, MAME 107, GameEx front-end, 27” RCA TV with SVideo input, and Logitech 40w 5.1, housed in a home-built cab.

The TopGun comes in a full color box with instructions on the back, and contains;

  • A setup CD
  • The gun
  • 2 LED light stands
  • Connector for powering the LED light stands
  • Mounting clips for the LEDs


What makes the TopGun universal in application is that it uses a sensor to read the LEDs mounted on the sides of your target area. Once the TopGun is calibrated, it tracks your movements across the target area. It has a laser pointer you can turn on and off to see where you are shooting. The working range with the included LED stands is 5m, but an add-on LED light stand with super bright LEDs is available for up to 7m, and is recommended for 60” or wider displays with MSRP of US$6.99 (plus shipping).

Damages


The grand total for the gun was $52.80 from www.lik-sang.com. $34.90 for the TopGun, $17.90 for economy shipping from Hong Kong and 7 days from placing the order to arrival.

First Impressions


The included instructions are hard to follow. See the links section below for the manual, forum, official site, and an excellent setup guide by Silverfox (which I wish I had read before I tried to set mine up). There are over 40 pages of discussion over at the Build Your Own Arcade Controls forums. It took me an evening to setup the gun and get it all tweaked out.


The gun sculpt is nice, full-size “real gun” based on a Barreta Pietro, with a laser pointer in front of the trigger guard, sliding recoil, and lots of buttons. There is a D-pad, select, start, a, b,c, and d/trigger buttons, a laser pointer on/off switch and a single/burst/reload-continuous fire switch. The gun weighs in at 660g. There is a single 9ft. cord coming from the butt end of the gun, with an LED link, USB/PS2, XBOX, and recoil power connectors. The gun feels like a toy and the recoil action is a little cheesy as it shuttles back and forth and clicks—a cool feature, but I won’t use it permanently in my application.


Close up of laser pointer housing with adjustment wheels and select/back and Start Buttons

 

Close up of laser pointer switch and rate of fire slider


Trigger and C button—I programmed the C button for reload in Area 51, very nice!

 

Close up of D pad on top of gun

Close up of connectors: 4 on the left from the gun, the male to XBOX and USB on the right is for the recoil feature.

Issues in setup


I am a serious manual reader—I usually download a manual before I buy something so I can get a head start when (or if) I actually get an item. But I was so excited to get the TopGun up and shooting I rushed and tried to figure it out and quickly got irritated. I should have read the directions fully before setting up the TopGun. My initial reaction was frustration, but after sitting down (and calming down) I finally got it. Here are the problems I had in the setup.

After I plugged the gun into the USBs (both for now) and let the OS install it as a GunCon HID device, I switched on the laser and it didn’t work. The manual says to hold the A and B buttons (located on either side of the Topgun) for three seconds. I did this and nothing happened. I did it again, still nothing. I even tried looking at the laser—not good idea, but it was not working at all. It turns out that the Gun2Mouse v. 3.2 driver must be installed before the gun will calibrate. So I uninstalled the Guncon driver.

To install the proper driver, I unpacked the LCD TopGun drivers to a folder onto the C drive and plugged in the Topgun. At the “Install New Hardware” menu, I selected “Let me choose the driver to install” and clicked the LCD TopGun v. 3.2 drivers from the menu. After a required restart, I calibrated the gun with the laser and LEDs. It checked out fine. Then I ran Gun2Mouse.exe and it went into test mode where I could push all the buttons and see them move on a screen replica of the gun. Everything checked out great. I clicked the START radio button in the Gun2Mouse window and the app minimized to the system tray. The gun/mouse now tracks beautifully across the screen. The laser and mouse pointer are practically joined at the hip. There is only a small lag when darting across the screen, but the tracking is right on.

One cool thing I noticed was with the laser pointer: it shuts off when you point it anywhere except in the screen area. Aim at the wall behind you or even your hand, and the laser should be off, aim at the screen and the laser should be on.

 

Usage


I have used the LCD Topgun now for over a week, and I am happy with the performance. I played about half of the 80+ light gun games MAME 107 supports and all seem to work fine. I tried using WinGun instead of Gun2Mouse, but the tracking did not function as well as the supplied EMS driver, which works really well. I am very impressed.

Darker environments work better than lit ones and I think the laser pointer is a good addition to a light gun. In my arcade cabinet, I have a piece of Plexiglas in front of my screen and the plexi refracts the laser a little as it passes through to the TV screen. It is noticeable, but not overly distracting. At first I thought this may impede the tracking of the gun, but then I realized another beauty of the design of this little pixel blaster, it is not looking at the screen, or even the laser. It is sensing the LEDs on the stands. The more I think about it, the more impressed I am at the design.

You have to stand a fair bit away from the LED stands for the gun to function well. I found the sweet spot 6-8 feet away and directly in front of my cab, in a fairly dim room. Lights to the sides seem to be okay, but any lights from behind (aiming into the barrel of the gun) threw the sensor eye off. I have a 27” TV in my arcade box, so six feet back is not bad, but on a smaller monitor, the screen would be so small and so far back it may not feel like a good solution. Your mileage may vary.

The recoil action is a little cheesy. It is not a metal gun, and the plastic top shuttles back and forth with the trigger pull. One gripe I have is that the gun draws power from the USB connection for recoil, so a powered hub or a USB extension is in order to power the gun’s recoil feature. You may opt to eschew the recoil and blast away without it, just don’t plug in the additional USB connector—thereby also reducing your USB demands by one half.

The setup is cumbersome, but after a few times I got the hang of it and I can now calibrate it in less than a minute (and you must re-calibrate every time you plug/unplug ghte USB. I love that EMS did a comprehensive driver that installs the Topgun as a mouse in one fell swoop without having to use the Gun2Mouse 3.2 driver in addition to WinGun or GunCon2 steps. There is no white screen flash when pulling the trigger either!

The cord seems to be rather short for my application, but maybe for XBOX and PS2 it would work okay. I will use a long USB extension to get a little more cord length.

For both the recoil and the gun/LED power, the connections plug into two USB connections on your PC or hub, taking up two spots for one item—which bugs me but not enough to unplug it all and use it only occasionally. Most likely, I will leave the recoil unplugged. The documentation also says that the life of the LED’s is approx. 1000 hours, so they will eventually need to be replaced. You may want to pick up the optional super bright LED stands as a spare, and also to make it possible to use the gun with larger displays.

 

Overall


I love this gun. I like the price (at about half of some others), I like the full-size-for-adult-hands feel of the gun, and the fact that it can be used with any display and on PC/PS2 and XBOX is a real plus. For me, the ability to play almost every game in the MAME universe now, is very cool. It works well and there are some great free apps out there that let you blast away at the desktop with all kinds of neat little flash and java games.

 

Pros

  • Lots of screen types to work with!
  • Low price—about half that of other light guns
  • Laser pointer is a cool feature
  • LED Stands are unobtrusive—blend easily with arcade cab
  • Lovely tracking when using Gun2Mouse
  • No screen flashing

Cons

  • Cheesy recoil
  • Covers 2 powered USB slots for full functionality

 


Author Bio

 

 

Jeff is an ordained minister, writer, musician, and an avid video game hobbyist. He and his (very patient) wife Twyla live over a working arcade in New Jersey. His most recent arcade adventure was converting a salvaged arcade cabinet into a VH 5150 themed Jukebox/Game system with his nephew and brother-in-law.

Email: pastorjeffsmith@gmail.com
Arcade Blog: http://jeffysarcade.blogspot.com/

 

LCD Top Gun Website with Videos of the Gun in Action

Purchase the LCD Top Gun at Lik Sang

Download the Top Gun Manual

Silverfox's Setup Guide

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