Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Make Your Own Arcade Machine!

When I was growing up I spent a lot of time playing video games. I've personally owned all of the following gaming systems: Atari, Nintendo, Sega Game Gear, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Virtual Boy, Sony PSP, Nintendo Wii and a Playstation 3. I think it's important to mention that I've had a Commodore 64 and probably about 10 other computers as well. I've always liked my consoles but some of the best gaming experiences have been on the computer. When I think back about the great memories I had with gaming, the new games almost never pop up, it's the vintage games that stand out. I'm talking about Lode Runner, Commander Keen, Mach3, Mechwarrior, Alone in the Dark, Myst, Wolfenstein 3D, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Brothers, Sonic, Leisure Suit Larry, Double Dragon, Street Fighter 2, Doom, The Legend of Zelda, Bomberman, Rad Racer and Marvel Super Heroes. I could sit here and type hundreds of classic games from tons of systems, even ones that I didn't own, but I think you get the gist of it. 

Do you have an itch to dust off your Super Nintendo and load up Donkey Kong Country yet? Well you should! You're probably a lot like me and you sold these old systems years ago to save space or make enough money to upgrade. If that is the case, what are your options? Well you'll find that the world of vintage gaming is very popular and comes with some twists. If you want to find and buy back your SNES you'll need to consider that a lot of people are collecting them now, and they know that the desirability is high, so be ready to spend some dollars. You could also use Google to search for system "emulator" software that allow your computer to act as your favorite game console. Once you've gotten the appropriate software, you'll need to locate some games, otherwise known as "roms". Keep in mind that this practice is considered legal, only if your preserving the true nature of the game and not distributing it (much like how downloading music in Canada is legal). The problem you can run into with this approach is that your stuck browsing shady websites that just love to give you viruses, and you need to use your keyboard or joystick to play. Obviously a lot of you may be able to use other resources, but try to follow my lead here.

A more unique, and possibly more rewarding method might be to look into re-creating the retro experience with a custom made, or homemade arcade machine. Tell me, who hasn't wanted their own arcade machine at one point or another. Imagine having your favorite 3 friends over to play a full run of Gauntlet Legends on your very own arcade machine. I'm salivating just thinking about it! I'd like to mention that this whole idea has been spawned off my cousins homemade arcade system. He managed to find a partially completed custom machine that required some software editing to get working. He's harnessed the Hyperspin arcade interface and a batch of emulators to create a full suite of almost every game, for every major console that was ever made. We are talking thousands of games, that all appear in a very fluent menu system. You just select the game console, and scroll through the games and press the start button and off you go. I'd be lieing if I said I hadn't thought of buying an arcade machine before, but I had never thought of combining the fun retro aspect of an arcade machine, with the delivery system of emulators and roms. 

Now some of you might be thinking about building your own arcade machine. I recommend looking around on Google as you will find a wide variety of people selling them in all stages of completion. You can also find plans to make them and companies that will sell them fully assembled and ready to go. My cousin referred me to Northcoast Custom Arcades as a good supplier of plans, parts and pre-mades. Some of their machines are amazing, but come with a hefty price tag. Just make sure to look around online, learn about how the custom machines work so that you don't go head first into a project that will burn your bank account. If anyone builds, or has built a custom machine, feel free to email me pictures as I'd love to see your designs.


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