Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to go back in time and test out a cool video game of the past. Well, not really—there was no time machine involved, and nothing magic, just a very cool retro arcade gaming machine with 3 fun games built in. There are a few different options available for Arcade1UP gaming machines right now, but the one I received for testing is entirely devoted to basketball. It’s the Arcade1Up NBA JAM Arcade Machine with Riser, and it includes the old school NBA JAM game from all the way back in 1993. I actually remember playing this game back in the day. It also includes NBA JAM Tournament Edition and NBA HANG TIME. These latter 2 games were less familiar to me, but I’ve been having fun with them nevertheless. If you’d like to know what it’s like to have your very own old-fashioned arcade gaming machine, stick with me and I’ll tell you all about it. Read on!
But first, why not take a few minutes to watch my brief video overview of the Arcade1Up system? In it I show and discuss most of what you’ll see here in the written review, but you’ll also get to see some footage of one of the games in action. It’s NBA HANG TIME, and it’s really worth seeing:
NBA JAM & the Arcade1UP retro gaming console
The Arcade1Up retro gaming console features the classic basketball themed video games NBA JAM, NBA JAM Tournament Edition, and NBA HANG TIME. To the left you can see what the cabinet looks like sitting atop its custom riser. The cabinet has room enough for 4 players to play at once, and that’s actually perfect for 2 on 2 basketball games, which is what you get with this specific unit. But not only that, you can also use your retro gaming cabinet to connect to the Internet via your home Wi-Fi network and play other people online, which is a really cool option!
Other features of the Arcade1Up retro gaming console include its 17″ full-colour display, 4 real-feel joysticks, and control buttons for everything you need to be able to do in the games. There’s also a cool light-up marquee at the top of the cabinet, and the licenced riser allows you to boost your cabinet to a height that’s perfect for adults. Of course, you can also assemble your cabinet without the riser, which may be a better height for kids.
Special NBA JAM stool
I also received a special Arcade1Up NBA Jam Adjustable Height Arcade Stool to try as part of my testing. There’s not really much to be said about a stool, but I can tell you that it is very comfortable and also relatively easy to assemble. Other features include a chrome-plated steel frame, high-density foam padding, and height adjustability.
It also goes perfectly with the NBA JAM arcade machine, so if you want a matching stool with your machine, you won’t be disappointed. The dimensions of the stool are 34.29cm (13.5″) wide x 53.34cm (21″) high x 34.29cm (13.5″) deep, so it’s ideal for use with your Arcade1Up machine when the included riser is installed.
One thing I can definitely say about this stool is that as much time as I spent sitting on it, my posterior never got sore. It was thoroughly comfortable—even for longer gaming sessions. While it’s certainly not a necessary component of the Arcade1Up setup, it does enhance the experience when you’re more comfortable. And sitting is more comfortable than standing when it’s going to last a while.
Arcade1UP unboxing and assembly
Truth be told, the unboxing and assembly of these Arcade1UP gaming machines is a bit of a project. There are so many bits, pieces, bolts, and panels that it’s all just a little bit confusing at first. But I suppose it’s no worse than putting together any piece of pressed wood furniture. In fact, the instructions for this are really quite clear. After about 30 minutes or so, the whole thing is starting to take shape, and after about 90 minutes, the process is pretty much complete. You can set it up with or without the custom riser, but unless you’re building it for a very short person, I would advise using the riser.
I would also advise having an appropriate space picked out for your arcade machine to reside. Once it’s built, you won’t be taking this thing apart! It’s a fairly sizeable machine—pretty much standard arcade fare, and it won’t go unnoticed when it’s not in use. In other words, I don’t advise just having it sit in the middle of your living room. If you’ve got a proper home for it, you’ll enjoy it all the more!
Among the included bits and pieces you’ll receive in the extremely large box (which itself contains several more, smaller, boxes) are the pressed wood panels of the cabinet, the electronic components (including a large LCD screen, a light-up custom NBA JAM marquee, and the gaming console with all the buttons and joysticks), and numerous small pieces like screws of different sizes and wooden dowels. There are also 4 joysticks that you’ll later attach yourself.
You begin the project by laying one of the huge side panels on the floor and starting to attach various smaller panel pieces to it. Eventually you attach the LCD screen and light-up marquee and get to the point where you can maneuver the other side panel in place. After you wiggle it perfectly into place, it is held on by many long screws (technically bolts, I suppose) and the wooden dowels. Once this step is complete, you can stand the machine up and install the rest of the components.
With the machine standing upright, you can attach the gaming console (control board), screw on the joysticks, and attach the wiring at the back of the machine. The screen, obviously, connects electronically to the console, and the power cord runs out a hole in the machine’s backing panel. Honestly it’s a very straightforward process that really shouldn’t scare anyone off from getting their own arcade. When it’s all finished you may choose whether or not to build and attach the custom riser, which itself is maybe a 10 minute or so project.
One other note: The recommended age range for this machine is 14+. I don’t think that the machine is likely to fall over—and certainly not with normal use, but if a small child attempted to climb up the side of it, all bets are off. So, just be mindful of that.
Playing the games
Playing the games is a ton of fun. There are 3 of them included in the machine: NBA JAM, NBA JAM Tournament Edition, and NBA HANG TIME. I played NBA JAM a lot back in the day, so that one is what I spent the most time with—at first. Later, when I got into HANG TIME, I didn’t want to stop playing that one. It’s pretty similar to NBA JAM, but it feels more like a later/improved version.
The graphics on these games are certainly of their time, which may bother those with expectations based on today’s technology. But for me the 80s/90s graphics are what I love most about the games of that era. They actually look like cartoons rather than like watching a real basketball game, and who doesn’t love cartoons? For that matter, who wants their video games to look like real life when there’s already plenty of real life all around to look at? Certainly not me! If I want to see real life basketball graphics, I’ll watch an actual NBA game! But I know I am probably in the minority on that on.
Another thing I should probably mention is that back when I played these games in the 90s, I was using a standard hand held controller. Playing with arcade style controls is quite a bit different, and thus I’m still not entirely used to them. I kept making my player jump when what I really wanted to do was attempt a steal, and I kept doing boring layups when I actually wanted to dunk. I guess all I’m saying here is that compared to the old days, I really stink at video games now! And that’s putting it mildly.
The only thing I would change, given the opportunity, is to have a machine with games I like even better than the ones included here. These games are great if you’re a big basketball fan, but I always enjoyed games based on NHL hockey, WWE/F wrestling, and the classics like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario. Even so, this machine is a whole lot of fun, and I just love playing classic video games!
Whether I’d recommend an Arcade1Up classic gaming console to you or not depends more on you than it does on me.
If you have nostalgic memories of full arcade style video gaming cabinets, and if you love classic 80s and 90s games, then one of these machines may well be right for you. It doesn’t have to be the NBA themed one. There are others, like the Arcade1Up X-Men Vs. Street Fighter Arcade Machine with Riser or the Arcade1Up The Star Wars™ At-Home Arcade Machine with Custom Riser. There’s even an Arcade1Up 40th Anniversary Pac-Man Arcade Machine with Riser (shown above), and who knows what all else may come along in the future. If you’d like to create the feel of an 80s/90s arcade in your home, these machines really get the job done. In such a case, they’re highly recommended!