Didn’t play a lot of this during September, but just enough to make sure I caught all the fish and bugs that were new for the month.
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 – PS4 / PS5
Stumbled across this in my PS4 games while browsing the PS5 library for something to play, put a couple of hours in. It’s great fun but a bit overwhelming with the content which seems a bit wrong for pac-man. Think I preferred the more streamlined original Championship Edition.
Everybody’s Golf – PS5
Visited my mate for a week at the end of the month, we mostly played card & board games, but we did get in the obligatory couple of rounds of Everybody’s Golf.
What’s been on the arcade?
My patience for the Ten Pence Arcade monthly game change was rewarded, and this month we were playing the Williams classic from 1982, Joust. Love that game so have played a fair bit of it. Might keep playing for a while though, I’m so close to cracking 60k points (I’d really like to put up more than 100k).
Castlevania Advance Collection – Switch
A bit of a surprise release when this came out, it’s a collection of the three Gameboy Advance Castlevania games, and the adequate SNES version of Dracula X. It’s very much worth the cost of entry just for Aria of Sorrow, but as I have never completed any of the GBA games I thought now could be the time. I have at least played them all before, and discussed on the Castlevania episode of the Maximum Power Up podcast.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 – PS5
More of the same from one of the greatest puzzle games of all time. I had intended to get this on Xbox as it’s the only platform I don’t own the original game on, but it was 1/4 of the price on PS5 for a physical copy. Some new multiplayer stuff though so was happy to pick it up. Also amused me that this is my first physical PS5 game. Wonder if it has ray-tracing…
Not particularly cheap on Amazon atm, but you can get it here*. The do have it cheap on Xbox* at time of writing.
*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.
Late with my update again, partly because there was quite a bit to post. Nothing completed, but played a few games this month, including a good amount of multiplayer with friends in the same room. How our ancestors used to do it. Also picked up a few bits while I was at it.
Games played during August
Animal Crossing New Horizons – Switch
Ticking along in Animal Crossing. A couple more of my friends are playing now so I’ve been playing a bit with them, while still working on completing my collections of fish and bugs with the new months.
Metro Exodus – PS5
Still playing this, it looks incredible on the PS5 and I’ve gotten over most of the open world stuff I don’t like. I do tend to play it in smaller bursts though so it may take me a while to get through.
I grabbed this digitally in a sale, but you can get the complete edition is available physically from Amazon*
Black Ops 4 – PS5
Had a mate come to stay for a few days during August, and Call of Duty has long being a staple game for us. I usually skip the Black Ops line though, and I just noticed I had this one in my library from PS Plus, so we installed it for a blast online. Had good fun with it for what it was, but I doubt I’ll play any on my own.
Worms WMD – PS5
We were playing multiplayer so of course this came out. Always a good time.
Everybody’s Golf – PS5
Another essential game for our multiplayer sessions, although we played it all that weekend thinking how good it looked on PS5, and it was a couple of days later I discovered the “4k” and “HDR” settings in the menus. Looks even better now. I’ve been getting back into the single player again, and realising how much of a better game it is than Mario Golf on Switch.
Wipeout Omega Collection – PS5
Rounding out the games played that weekend, we jumped into some Wipeout. Again it seemed to look great on the PS5 but not sure it was doing anything more than just upscaling.
Team Flicky Games Day
Also this month I had a week in Scotland, I took my Switch but the only game I played on that was Picross (see the pick ups section). I was staying near to a couple of friends though, so we met up and had a day of gaming together. There was a good amount of gaming on many platforms, even an N64 *shudder*. We played Puyo Puyo Tetris, Everybody’s Golf, Puzzle Bobble, Dungeon Explorer, Rival Megagun, Bomberman, which are the ones I remember anyway. One of my friends has an arcade cabinet sort of like mine, in that it plays emulated games, but unlike mine, is set up for driving games. It’s a converted Super Monaco GP cabinet, complete with wheel, gear shift and pedals. Was incredible to play some of the big Sega titles. Sega Rally and Daytona obviously, but a rare treat to be able to play Scud Racer and Crazy Taxi on a cabinet.
I also got to play a bit of Returnal on his PS5 which was helpful as I had been considering it for mine. It feels good to play, and looks amazing, but the gameplay loop of roguelike elements definitely put me off. I may pick it up when it drops below £20 but I’m in no hurry.
Was a solid day all round though, so nice to just enjoy games with friends.
Quake – PC & Xbox (GamePass)
This month saw the release of a sort of ‘polished’ version of the original Quake. Not quite a full remake, but adding lots of modern elements to the engine to make it a much better experience to play in 2021. It also came to the current consoles with cross play for the online multiplayer which was definitely a nice touch. The controls felt a bit ‘off’ to me when I tried it on the Xbox, but it is still great on the PC played (as it should be) with a keyboard and mouse. Quake remains my second favourite game of all time and this is a delight. It even includes expansion content from Machine Games. One pack which was previously released in 2016, Dimensions of the Past and the brand new Dimension of the Machine which was developed for this release.
What’s been on the arcade?
This month we played some NBA Jam TE on the cabinet while my mate was over. Such a great game, but I don’t remember it being so as challenging. Perhaps as my main memories of it are the Mega Drive version. May need to revisit that and see if it was much easier, or if I’ve just become terrible. The tenpencearcade game for the month was Gorf, which I played a little bit of but couldn’t get into the groove with. I’m hoping for something better next month!
These could have gone in the pick ups section, but as it’s directly arcade related I’ll include it here. I got these fantastic dust covers for my cabinet from this etsy store. They look great.
PlayStation 5 Dual Charger
After buying the PS5 I traded my PS4 in at game and got a decent amount of store credit, much as I did with my Xbox One when I got the Series S. I mostly put the store credit towards funds for the digital storefronts on the consoles, but I did use some to grab this charger. It is a pretty handy purchase as the battery life on the controllers doesn’t seem great, helpful to have one charging while I’m playing.
Stardew Valley – Switch
Finally got round to grabbing the Switch version of this while it was on sale. Still haven’t properly got into it, but it does suit the console nicely. Hoping that this is the time it clicks.
Picross S Mega Drive & Master System Edition – Switch
Never played a Picross game before, but with this SEGA theme I couldn’t resist trying it. There is a free demo to try on the store which sealed the deal. The puzzles themselves are logic based and very addictive. As I mentioned above I ended up playing this quite a bit while on my holiday.
Forza 7 – Xbox Series S
This was on sale due to it being about to be removed from GamePass. Forza 7 was one of the few physical games I still owned when I got rid of my Xbox One for the digital only Series S. Was quite happy to pay a few quid to just keep it in my library, I don’t enjoy it as much as the Forza Horizon games, but there is still plenty of fun to be had when I fancy a more serious race.
Pre-orders This Month
Forza Horizon 5 Add-ons Bundle
Used some of that credit I got from my PS4 to pre-order this. Since the game will be on GamePass anyway it didn’t make sense to buy the whole game like I usually do. However I really enjoyed having all the extra VIP content and DLC on Horizon 3 and 4 so was happy to put the money down for this.
*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.
Following my previous post, helpfully referred to as Part 1, I thought I’d just run through the build process. The assembly was partly done in order of when items arrived, and partly what I felt up to doing. Realistically, this could be all done in a day if you had all the parts to hand. I spread it out over a few weeks.
The first thing I did was start to configure the RaspberryPi 3b+* I already owned for use inside the cab. After I’d ordered the bulk of my parts from Arcade World*, the flat pack kits had a 5 day lead time while they were being cut to order, I was excited and wanted to make a start. The RaspberryPi was all I had to hand while I was waiting.
I took the Pi out of the arcade stick housing it was in before and took a couple of minutes to adjust the cabling of the stick so that it is now just a usable USB arcade controller to use with my PC or whatever. I used this stick for the initial config, and also later when it came to testing the monitor I picked up.
In choosing the front end for my system, I had a bit of a look around all the pre-built images on Arcade Punks etc. to see if I could find one with a suitable collection of mostly arcade games along with a theme that wasn’t ridiculous. I could not.
I chose to just build my own setup, with a basic install and curate my own game selection. A few people were suggesting alternatives to the RetroPie software for me to consider, namely Recalbox, Lakka, and Batocera. Fortunately this comparison article was handy for just running through the differences, and after a bit of reading, I decided RetroPie was still the most appropriate for me. I did a fresh install of the latest version of RetroPie as the one already on my SD card was a couple of years old.
I’d only got it hooked up to my working from home monitor, but knew I would be putting a 4:3 or 5:4 ratio screen in the machine, so I played a bit with the shaders in the setup to find something suitable for that screen. It looks a bit silly in the pictures below, but I’m really happy with it in the finished system. Scanlines and a bit of a curve to the display, to get it looking close to how the games would have looked on an original cabinet.
After copying over a starter collection of ROMs, mostly just my favourite shmups and brawlers, and a complete set of NEOGEO games, there wasn’t much else to do except play Neo Turf Masters, and wait for parts to arrive.
Start and Coin Buttons
Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long, my Arcade World* delivery arrived about a week later. All the buttons and joysticks arrived a day before the flatpack kit, along with the button decals I’d ordered from eBay. So first up, adding the art to the buttons. Fairly simple to do, just be patient prising the button caps off and try to line the decals up where you want them. Happy with how they turned out, even if Player 1 is slightly losing his head.
Once the kit had all arrived, I decided a sensible place to start was the separate riser. Nice small parts, easily done on my own sitting on the floor. Also the joins are all done using modesty blocks, which is the same for the full cabinet. Was a bit of a practice before the main event. With the ongoing vertigo symptoms I was not in a hurry to work with the bigger panels of the cabinet.
Next up, and one of the most fun parts, putting the buttons and joysticks in. This was also the only part I needed to break out my drill. The control panel has holes pre-drilled for the buttons and joysticks, but when the mounting screws go for the joysticks are only part drilled as there are different fittings available. I just had to line up the correct ones for my mounting plates, and finish the drilling through. Was straight-forward, and I had a spare piece of wood handy that I put under panel while I drilled to reduce the likelihood of damage to the control panel surface.
I also played around with configuring the IPAC2 interface before I attached it to the panel. Didn’t entirely register what I was doing though, but once it was all assembled I hooked the Pi back up to my work monitor and figured it out. Quick shout out to my good buddy Ross here, for sharing the below image before I started, using this I managed to orientate both sticks the right way up first time (up, down, left and right aren’t labelled but each need a wire connecting to the IPAC2.
Initially hated doing this, but after I’d got used to it I quite enjoyed myself. I did the riser box first then the control panel, and gradually some of the panels for the cab itself over the course of a few days. It wasn’t too bad, but I did need to buy a rubber mallet. If anything it is nice to now own a rubber mallet. It was also fortunate that I owned a hot glue gun. As much as all the guides say you don’t need glue, and the t-molding will just stay in place, they’re wrong. (Likely that’s true working with ‘proper’ cabinets, but with the grooves cut in this board, it just popped back out when you went near a bend). A bit of hot glue in the trouble spots soon sorted it though.
Now we’re talking. I was still held up waiting for the monitor to arrive, but with the drama in getting that I mentioned on the last post I decided to make a start without it anyway, and assembled the basic frame over a couple of days. Again it was probably only an hour or two of work, I was just taking it steady.
When the screen finally arrived, I first set it up on the table, using the Pi and Arcade Stick mentioned above. Wanted to do a bit of testing before I went through the process of mounting it inside the cabinet. Was delighted that the HDMI to DVI cable I already had just worked and required no extra effort. At this point I settled on the “Arcade 1Up” 5:4 theme for Emulation Station. I was also testing the speakers from PC, I know a lot of people complain about “hiss” using the 3.5mm audio output on the pi, but there was no sign of that here so I decided to stick with these.
The monitor has a built in USB hub, so I moved the flash drive with my games up to that, immediately solving the problem of it running hot and raising the temperature of the Pi. Also provides convenient power for the marquee light (and also the Pacman lamp that now sits on top of the cab). Both lights now switch on when I power up the cab, and switch off when I shutdown RetroPie and the monitor goes into standby. Perfect.
That done, I took the screen and mounted it to the backing panel to fit into the cabinet. Again this was easy just standard VESA fittings. I also moved the cabinet out into the lounge as we approached the final stretch. Knew I wasn’t going to feel up to lifting it onto the riser on my own, so I gave it a temporary home till I had help. The T-molding on the base of the cabinet means it also slides easily so I didn’t need to lift it at all.
The real fun, putting it all together, and everything working. There was a bit of a delay while I waited for the art for the marquee to arrive, so it was in place for a couple of days without the art, but playable. I’ve since taken the top off the little Raspberry Pi case to help keep it cooler, haven’t had any temperature issues anyway. Once the art was added I was able to get it lifted in place onto the riser and get on with the business of playing it.
The one bit I’ve done since writing the last post, my friends were kind enough to pick up a few sheets of this heavy black card from The Range. I may have another go and do it a bit neater, but my first attempt at cutting out a screen surround / bezel went well and I am pleased with the results.
The machine is pretty much ‘done’ although I’m sure I’ll continue to tinker with bits here and there. I’ve been investigating the Raspberry Pi 4 models, and it seems that the 8GB version doesn’t offer any benefits for RetroPie so I may upgrade to the cheaper 4GB model sooner rather than later. Mostly as it is able to run a few later games than my current system.
So during February I fulfilled a bit of a personal goal. I have wanted to put MAME into an arcade cabinet for around 20 years, and have simply wanted my own arcade machine since I was about 10. (A little longer than 20 years). A while back I built my “RetroPie joystick in a box” which was a bit of a proof of concept to see if I thought I could do the full thing. Fast-forward to Lockdown 2021, of which I’ve spent most of the year suffering with Labyrinthitis and ongoing vertigo symptoms. As mentioned in my January Games post, I decided to divert the funds I was holding for my PS5 into this project. Largely because they’re still difficult to get hold of, and the vertigo is keeping me from playing most modern games anyway.
Thankfully, the procrastination really paid off. This process is relatively straight-forward now, compared to what was involved 20 years ago. To be honest, I probably could have done the entire build in a day, but being unwell it was nice to have something to work on over a couple of weeks when I felt up to it. As you can see from the image, it’s complete apart from needing a surround for the monitor, to cover the insides (and the DELL logo).
The main issue that has always put me building one of these, is the woodwork. I’m fairly confident about the wiring etc involved, but not the crafting out of wood. Fortunately, there are a number of providers who sell kits for this very thing. If you can assemble IKEA flat pack furniture, you’re most of the way there.
One of the first considerations, is what size machine to build. While there are lots of nice setups using modern widescreen TVs, these are more useful if you’re going the PC route and are going to play newer games that support higher resolutions and widescreen images. However, as I was going to use a RaspberryPi for the processing, and limit myself for gaming up to the late 1990s, a smaller 5:4 ratio screen was a better option. I found a kit for a 3/4 size cabinet, along with an addon for a riser box to lift it up so it is comfortable to play standing up.
You’ll see I had a few bits already, but I’ve listed all the components of my build below with links. As usual, those marked with a * are affiliate links. For the bulk of the build I returned to Arcade World UK*, where I picked up the parts for my previous RetroPie project, and also my PS4 Arcade Stick mod. As you’ll see from the photos, my colour scheme is loosely based on Bubble Bobble, green for player 1, and blue for player 2, with green for the T-Molding (trim).
When I first thought about doing this, I was going to just buy the minimum amount of stuff I needed to get something up and running and playable for just 1 player, using some parts I already had. I probably would have saved about £150 off the initial cost, but it would have remained a work in progress for the foreseeable future. I made the decision to buy everything I wanted to make a cabinet I really liked.
This is the riser* to lift the cabinet higher. If you just intend to play seated (or for some reason you’re building one for children, you probably won’t need one of these)
I took the same approach to buttons on the cabinet as I did when I did the RetroPie joystick. The 6 “action” buttons for each player are Sanwa OBSN-30 Screw In Arcade Buttons*. Admittedly I haven’t tried a lot of buttons to compare, but all the parts on my PS4 fight stick are Sanwa too, and I love that.
When I did my RetroPie joystick, I just got a basic USB encoder* from Amazon, you could probably use 2 of these to accomplish the same control setup. However, with this build I wanted something better regarded. I went with this bundle of an IPAC2 complete with all the wiring* I’d need for my buttons. The IPAC2 has more than enough connections for me to do a 2 player system with 8 buttons each.
I had intended to get 2 of the same sanwa stick* I previously used in my other 2 projects, but at the time of ordering they were out of stock. I didn’t want to wait though so I had a read up on what else was available. I eventually settled on this Seimitsu LS-38-01 stick*, it’s basically the same as their LS-32-01 joystick, with a modification to make it much stiffer. I read a few positive reports from people who like similar games to me, and was convinced. I definitely prefer it to my sanwa stick for 2D Shmups, but I think I prefer the sanwa for games like Street Fighter. I am not good enough at either for it to really matter though…
In order for this stick to fit the control panel in the kit I purchased, I needed to select the SE Mounting plate option. I also added the H5P cable, which easily wires to the IPAC2.
This is the green trim* around the edges of the cabinet. Arcade World helpfully tells you how much to order for each of their kits, I added the 2 amounts together for both the cabinet and riser, and ordered 35 feet. I didn’t waste very much when I was installing it, and probably have 1 or 2′ leftover. Happy to report that their estimates are a good measure.
I already had two of this RaspberryPi 3b+ model*, otherwise I’d suggest a bundle like this one. It’s definitely worth having an official PSU as variations in quality of USB power supplies have been known to cause issues with gaming on the Pi. I took the Pi out of my RetroPie joystick as I don’t expect to use that any more now I have a cabinet. (I’ve just converted that into an extra USB fight stick for my PC).
At some point I may upgrade my machine with an 8GB RaspberryPi 4*, but shelling out another £80 when I already had one that would do most of what I wanted seemed a waste. Maybe there will be another revision or something that makes more sense.
For the marquee (the Bubble Symphony picture at the top) I was originally looking at various options on etsy. Once I realised all the sellers were in the USA, would cost me the same again in shipping fees and take forever to arrive, I started looking elsewhere. I found the very helpful team at Arcade Art Shop who had a huge selection of art, and were more than happy to print my preferred design to the dimensions I supplied for my cabinet. I went for this Bubble Symphony design, printed on the flexi-film, and it just popped in behind the plexi that came in my kit.
I had also been thinking about getting vinyl art for the sides and control panel as well, but now I’ve assembled the system I think I like the plain black panels with just the marquee.
As mentioned above, I wanted art for my Start and Coin buttons. I got the arcade button decals with the COIN design from this account on eBay. Very happy with how they turned out.
For the light at the top behind the marquee panel, I picked up a little 5V USB LED strip. Not sure how long this link will last, but I went for this one, with the options White, Clear and 35 cm. Looks great installed, and draws power from a USB slot on the monitor.
I originally purchased a DELL 1917S from eBay, but this was the one spot of drama where the seller said it was shipped, then when it still hadn’t turned up a week after delivery, I contacted them and three days later they just refunded me without a word. Then relisted the item. There is always one…
I then found a DELL 1914S from someone else for £20 cheaper which arrived next day, so it worked out anyway. The only really issue with this screen over the other, was that it didn’t have HDMI input, so I had to use one of these cables* to connect via DVI. I had one of them handy anyway.
I briefly looked at a variety of options for amps and separate speakers that could be wired to the top of the cabinet. However this was likely to cost around £50 by the time I’d factored in powering them, and given the quality of audio you can expect from 90s arcade games, I wasn’t keen to spend that. What I did instead was chuck these speakers from my PC* inside the cabinet (where I’m very happy with how it sounds for now) and spent £35 on a nicer 2.1 set for my PC. I generally limit how carried away I get with sound, out of respect for my neighbours. If I do decide to go the amp & speaker route, it’ll probably be something like this bundle*.
I already had the one that I was using with my RetroPie Joystick, and it conveniently sits unobtrusively on top of my cabinet. It is very handy to have a keyboard for tinkering with the software. Couldn’t find the exact model, but it’s sort of like this tecknet keyboard*, and I imagine it would be just as effective.
*update* I have now made up a surround from heavy back card, and will include photos in the part 2 blog post. The card was £1.50 a sheet from the local “The Range” and friends kindly picked some up for me given my continuing inability to walk that far. I have a few more sheets of it, and think I could do a neater job, but I’m pleased with it already and it now looks much more like a finished project.
For the moment, I’ve just got a fairly heavy duty extension cable in the cab. Mostly because it was what I had to hand, but also because I needed quite a long cable to get to the socket in my office, and I needed something I could easily take the plug off and put back on, to run it through the hole on the back panel. I will replace this with something a bit lower profile later.
I think that’s all the components. Build post is now up here as Part 2.
I recently undertook a minor project to acquire a new arcade stick and mod it with SANWA arcade components. This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, but has always been held up by costs or the need for additional tools for the processes involved.
I still have 2x Dreamcast Agetec sticks that I would like to adapt, but the need to widen the holes for buttons and cut spacing for changing the PCB etc has enabled my natural tendency towards procrastination. However, a desire to replace my current 6 button Xbox 360 stick & cronusmax combo with a new 8 button model for my PS4 sent me to Google.
A little research found that this “budget” stick from venom was fairly well regarded, and even better all of the parts are compatible with standard SANWA arcade components. As a bonus, it even has easily replaceable art. The stick itself I picked up from my local GAME, it was pretty much the same price as everywhere online, and I had a bunch of trade-in credit that made it extra cheap. The Venom PS4 arcade stick is available from Amazon here*.
There are various guides for this mod around, but I found this one most useful. I used Arcade World UK for all the components, and purchased these:
Some people also suggest getting an octagonal gate, but once I found out what they were talking about, I decided I was happy with the standard square one…
Street Fighter V was the primary motivation for getting involved in this, and I decided straight away that I would be going for a “Ken” theme. I found this artwork online that someone else had shared to use for now. I have asked a friend to look at maybe making a new custom design for me, so hopefully I’ll be changing to something new later. Cutting the artwork wasn’t as bad as expected, I had it printed onto A3 and with patience and a decent blade it was pretty painless:
Changing the components over and fitting the art was all straight-forward, no messing at all!
I am really pleased with the results, and very much enjoying using the controller online. I intend to re-purpose at least the original buttons from the Venom Stick, putting them into one of the Dreamcast sticks once I get my hands on a dremel…
*These are affiliate links, I’ll get a small commission if you use them and buy something. Thanks!