Arcade1Up Star Wars cabinet review: The Force is strong with this one

Between its stylish design and exhilarating gameplay, Arcade1Up's Star Wars cabinet deserves a spot in your collection.

10

When I was 12 and gainfully employed with a paper route, I asked my mom if I could save up to buy an arcade cabinet. To me, this was a huge request. Arcade cabinets were gigantic, weighed a ton, and would take up a lot of space. Astonishingly, Mom said yes right away. And why not? I suspect she knew her favorite paperboy was unlikely to muster the discipline necessary to save up approximately $3,000 for a Mortal Kombat II machine when he earned a measly $35 every two weeks.

My dream of owning an arcade cabinet—ideally a fleet of them, but just one would have been fine—never died. Arcade1Up's replica machines have enabled that dream to become a reality for many: Cabinets a fraction of the size of their originals, each packed with two or more games, and cheaper than home consoles. The irony, in my case, was that while I'd played and enjoyed several of the company's cabinets at trade shows, I'd been too busy to plunk down a few hundred bucks to bring any of them home. That, I think, is the greatest deception of adulthood. We may have the money for toys that were out of reach in childhood, but lack the time to enjoy them.

When a representative reached out to inform me they'd be sending a Star Wars cabinet to me (I'd made inroads earlier this year when I interviewed CEO Scott Bachrach about Arcade1Up's origins for a book), the path to realizing my boyhood pipe dream was as good as paved. However, I knew of the trilogy of Star Wars coin-op games only by reputation. I'd never played them as a kid. My tastes were more in the direction of one-on-one fighters, and brawlers like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After building the cabinet and playing all three games over the past two weeks, I can safely say I missed out. Arcade1Up's Star Wars machine is one of their best to date.

Stay on Target

Like all Arcade1Up cabinets, Star Wars rounds up several games. A retail price of $499 gets you three of Atari's coin-op titles: the original Star Wars from 1983, The Empire Strikes Back from '85, and Return of the Jedi, which Atari inexplicably produced between the games based on scenes from the first and second movies in the movie trilogy, respectively. All games contain scenes from the films on which they're based. Star Wars and Empire are vector-based games played from a first-person view, putting you in the cockpit of iconic vehicles such as Luke Skywalker's X-Wing and Han Solo's Millennium Falcon.

Return of the Jedi is a different beast. Instead of tripping up AT-AT walkers with tow cables or blasting asteroids, Jedi is displayed from a three-quarters, top-down angle. The game's use of raster-based pixel graphics is more colorful than Star Wars and Empire, which render enemies out of lines against black backdrops, but doesn't show as much of the field, giving you much less time to react to obstacles and enemies in the path ahead. Gameplay is often challenging in a way that feels cheap and frustrating. Consequently, I've played it the least of the three games on offer.

Empire, on the other hand, is the most enjoyable to me. Shooting down walkers or tying up their legs with the finite number of tow cables at my disposal is a literal blast. They don't make it easy. Enemy fire comes from all angles and at a greater frequency on higher difficulty levels, forcing you to react quickly—shooting enemy projectiles to blast them into bits, sending a tow cable at their legs for an instant takedown, or taking aim at the glowing-red weak spot on walkers when you're out of lines.

The game's other stages consist of navigating the Falcon through an asteroid field—the rocks take too many shots to blast apart, so I prefer weaving and dodging through the field—and shooting down TIE fighters. After that, the stages repeat, each cycle throwing more enemies and projectiles at you until your shield inevitably depletes and you get a game over. I've found myself spending 15 to 20 minutes on Empire every few hours, grinning as I work to best my previous top scores.

Star Wars puts you up against TIE fighters before giving you opportunities to speed through the trench of the Death Star. There are obstacles you can shoot or dodge. Like Empire's asteroid fields, I preferred to dodge rather than shoot, then drop a missile down an air vent—by shooting a telltale glowing red marker—and watching the station explode.

Both of the vector-based games are a rush no matter how often you play them. Despite their repetition, the action is always exhilarating. The cabinet's flight yoke is plastic, but holds up to the twists and tugs you'll inflict on it when the on-screen battles heat up.

Less Than 12 Parsecs

My only word of caution is that this 90-pound behemoth is the heaviest and most unwieldly of Arcade1Up's machines to assemble. My wife and I had to work together to build it, alternating between one of us holding pieces in place while the other hammered or screwed them into place. I'm notoriously inept at anything resembling construction, though. What ended up being a two-person job for me could be a solo job for you, especially if you have experience piecing Arcade1Up's products together.

Star Wars is Arcade1Up's priciest machine at around $500, but timeless gameplay and the company's steadfast adherence to the design of the original Atari cabinets make this a must-have for collectors as well as Star Wars fans.


Disclaimer: Arcade1Up sent me a Star Wars cabinet for review. The cabinet retails for $499 and is available online and at most major big-box retailers.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

Review for
Arcade1Up Star Wars
8
Pros
  • Arcade1Up's usual stunning adherence to reproducing cabinet design.
  • Endlessly replayable gameplay in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Sturdy flight yoke.
Cons
  • Return of the Jedi isn't as fun as the other two games.
  • Construction may be awkward as a solo effort.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    December 16, 2019 12:01 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, Arcade1Up Star Wars cabinet review: The Force is strong with this one

    • reply
      December 16, 2019 12:26 PM

      For clarity, these are displaying vector on raster screens?

      As a side note, did you ever achieve the "use the force" achievement when doing the trench run?

      • reply
        December 16, 2019 12:54 PM

        They’d have to be - the third game isn’t a vector based game and the interface has to be faster graphics. Plus the thing has to be cheap.

        Craddock can confirm but I can’t imagine they have an actual vector display in this thing.

        • reply
          December 16, 2019 1:25 PM

          yep, of course this doesn't have a vector display. (something something kids today)

          I wonder what the last game that used a vector display was?

          • reply
            December 16, 2019 1:27 PM

            I guess ESB

            There is that VEC9 thing that was going around a few years ago

      • reply
        December 16, 2019 5:23 PM

        Never did achieve that, no. But I'm still playing!

        • reply
          December 16, 2019 6:23 PM

          Simple, do the trench run without shooting.

          • reply
            December 16, 2019 7:33 PM

            Oh, I have done that! I heard Ben Kenobi say “Use the Force, Luke” and then I blew up the Death Star.

      • reply
        December 16, 2019 6:51 PM

        When I hit up the pinball museum in Asheville, NC earlier this year they had vector space invaders, tempest and the sit down Star Wars cabinet. Something about vector displays, they just feel like they are from an alternate reality and are awesome.

        • reply
          December 16, 2019 6:52 PM

          Vector space invaders? Wut?

          • reply
            December 16, 2019 6:53 PM

            I always appreciated the vector ones with overlays, like omega race and the sword fighting one

          • reply
            December 16, 2019 6:59 PM

            Whoops sorry meant vector Asteroids. They had an original space invaders cab too though.

        • reply
          December 16, 2019 6:54 PM

          The amount of quarters I dumped into Tail Gunner back in the day..

          • reply
            December 16, 2019 7:02 PM

            I think my top 5 arcade games for quarters consumed were:

            Tempest
            Scramble
            Vanguard
            Defender 2: Stargate
            Robotron

    • reply
      December 16, 2019 7:06 PM

      I played so much Star Wars at the local 7-11 as a kid. Loved that game so much. Anyone wanna buy me this for Xmas?

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