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Part 1: What is a SuperGun?

...and Why You May 'Need' One!

 

Quick Jump:

OK, don’t worry, this is RetroBlast, I’m not talking about real guns...I’m talking about arcade SuperGuns.

Never heard of them? Well then I’m sure you’re about to embark on an exciting new journey with me as you’re most likely going to want one by the time you finish reading this!

 

What is a Supergun?

According to Wikipedia’s definition a SuperGun is:

"... a mini-arcade system, usually used for home use on a television (like a home console system). A SuperGun contains the inner workings of a standard arcade videogame cabinet inside a small plastic or metal box. A SuperGun plugs in a JAMMA board and usually has several outputs (such as composite video, s-video and rgb) to a television or monitor.”

 

Starting to get the idea? Yep, it’s essentially the heart of a real arcade cabinet for use in your home. With one of these, you can literally plug/play most real arcade Jamma boards into the SuperGun allowing for you to use the original arcade hardware in your own living room on your TV.

 

What does JAMMA have to do with this?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with JAMMA -- the JAMMA wiring standard was introduced in the mid-1980s and was designed so that Arcade cabinets wired to the JAMMA standard can be made to play just about any game (essentially becoming plug/play for arcade operators).

In the past, just about all components were custom built for each arcade game (ex. Atari’s wiring harness, boards, power etc. wouldn’t be plug/play compatible with Nintendo’s). The advantage of Jamma for operators was that cabs could be cleaned out, a new PCB plugged into the Jamma wiring, new art installed etc. and voila!...a brand new game ready to eat up your quarters.

Again from Wikipedia:

JAMMA is an acronym, standing for Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturers' Association. This term represents three different things: a trade association, a trade show in Japan and a wiring standard for arcade machines.

The standard wiring harness allowed for two eight-way joysticks and up to three buttons per player. There were slight variations throughout the years (I’ll get into that later) that were called Jamma+ or Super Jamma, but essentially except for a few minor changes….Jamma PCB’s are essentially 100% compatible with any Jamma wired cab.

 

Ok, back to the topic

Have I peaked your interested yet?

By now you can see some of the appeal of what a SuperGun can do. If you’re like me, by now you’ve probably been playing with Mame™ for a while, or tried out an Xbox, PS2 (or other console) version of an arcade classic. But haven’t you always wondered what exactly a real piece of arcade hardware looks and feels like? Is the emulated version in Mame™ or other emulator really dead on?

Those questions are personally what led me to my purchase of a Great Western brand SuperGun and most recently to a MAS SuperNOVA.

I presently own 2 Mame™ cabinets running just about every game I could ever want; but the idea of having the actual hardware and trying it out at home fascinated me.

The Great Western SuperGun is one of the few that are readily available here easily in the United States. If you do some searching on the web you’ll find actually a lot of SuperGun variations in Japan and in the UK. There’s even a Sega branded one called the “Blast City” that is considered by many to be the “Rolls Royce” of the SuperGun world.

On average you can expect to pay between $300. to as much as a $1000. or more on a high end SuperGun.

I have come across a few websites that show how you can build your own as apparently, it’s not terribly difficult, but I was fortunate enough to come across mine for a reasonable price and decided to buy vs. build.

All right, you’re now convinced you’re going to buy a SuperGun but which one? I don’t own any of the import models but as stated above I do the two that are available domestically here in the U.S.

Below are my thoughts and impressions...

 

GW Trading - GW SuperGun

Great Western Supergun

 

Some of the features include:

Arcade controllers for player 1 and player 2

Main Control box

Jamma edge connector

Separate Sound outlets for stereo sound.

Totally compatible with Naomi, jamma plus and for Neo Geo there is no need for any modification nor any feature connector for 4th button is required.

Test button added for Diagnostic check for game board/PCB

Choice of RGB and Sync connections for Arcade monitor using RCA connectors

Options of adjusting sync comes with control pot/knob

Easy access to adjustable power supply. (Voltages can be increased or decreased)

Micro Exhaust Fan is provided in the main console

S video

Options Switch is provided for NTSC (USA) & PAL for Europe/Asia customers.

Color Saturation control

 

Great Western SuperGun Slideshow

 

How well does it work?

Video - Overall the GW SuperGun works exactly as promised. I have tried it out using composite standard RCA video out but the picture quality is passable at best. In order to get the best video out of it you really must use a TV with S Video. The quality is significantly better and very noticeable. I have read on various sites that this is a typical problem with SuperGuns in general, but I can’t say for sure if that is true. But connecting any of these SuperGuns are super easy to do via standard Svideo and standard RCA audio jacks to your TV.

 

Sound - The sound is actually quite good and sounds great through my home stereo. I have always really enjoyed the music from Metal Slug and you can be assured you’ll hear every gun blast clear as a bell.

 

Build - The initial appearance is one of quality. But, if you look closely (see photos) you’ll see some minor physical imperfections. It really looks a lot more like a product built by a very handy amateur than a professionally built item in my opinion.

While this is truly a nitpick, it overall feels fairly solid and substantial.

 

Joysticks - Personally I don’t care for them very much. It uses a brand of joystick and buttons that I don’t recognize (they’re not marked). If you have some basic soldering skills or wire crimping skills you can easily swap out the joys/buttons. I personally tried switching out the joystick with a Happs Super but the depth of the stick was just a hair too big for the box that the controller was built into. A router would could fix that problem if you wish to update the stick. Or of course a shorter stick like a candy cab Sanwa would be perfect and an easy fit.

Again, the controls work perfectly, but I found both the buttons and joystick to be a bit stiff for my taste. The joystick controller box itself is sturdily built and feels good when using it on a table or in your lap.

 

Hooking it up - Easy stuff. Everything is marked and even if it weren’t it’s all really obvious. The main control box has some additional settings so that you can tweak the VSync and color pots to your liking.

I have discovered that I need to slightly adjust these in particular when switching from my NEO JEO MVS 1 slot and my Sega ST-V boards. The VSync and colors are always just slightly off when I switch the boards.

I only have a few real Jamma boards and again, these all seem to require some minor tweaking as well.

 

Cost?

Approx. street cost - $299 to $395 depending on the upgrades.

 

Overall Thoughts?

I find the micro fan to be a bit noisy, but most people feel their PC fan is fairly noisy so it’s hard to fault the micro fan. When you’re playing a game I can assure you, you won’t notice the sound of the fan much, but I would have preferred a slightly larger less noisy one.

The power supply is very similar to a standard Happ power supply for arcade machines that works well and is adjustable in the event you have a board that needs more power.

Overall, the GW SuperGun is a solid choice and perfect for getting your feet wet if you want to dive into the world of SuperGuns.

It does exactly what it promises, it’s easy to use, and works exactly as it’s supposed to.

I would love to see better buttons/joys used from the get go. I would have even have preferred XArcade joys/buttons in this unit over what they’ve installed. But, again, that’s my personal preference. The sticks are responsive and do what they’re supposed to.

 

Go to Part 2: What is a SuperGun?