In my time here at Shacknews I’ve made no secret of my love for retro gaming and my passion for the arcade era and culture I grew up with. I still have vivid memories from my now long-gone childhood of day dreaming about owning my own arcade one day. But times change and so do dreams. Adult practicality and living in a small one-bedroom with limited space is just a fact of life. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for a single stand-alone cabinet in my life, but that’s really about all the space I have. That means if I’m going to have an arcade cab it needs to be an all-in-one machine with all the bells and whistles I could desire. That’s where the AtGames Legends Ultimate arcade cabinet comes along and basically answers all my prayers, or at least the ones that involve quality home arcade emulation.
Some assembly required
The Legends Ultimate is a full-size cab that’s 29.53 x 22.83 x 66.44 inches overall. Assembly is required, but it is super easy to put together and essentially only requires you to line everything up properly then screw it all in to make a functioning cab. With the help of a friend, my assembly only took about 15 minutes, which is much less time than it took me to set up a similar type of cab that I’d previously reviewed. From there it was just a matter of connecting the controls, power, internet, and what have you together, and I had a full-on working machine.
The cabinet features several control options for various types of games and has a trackball in the middle, two rotary controllers, and two joysticks each with a set of six buttons, that can play just about anything you could throw at it. There’s also two USB ports that can be used for thumb drives or external controllers as well as two HDMI inputs that are all located to the top left of the controller board. It’s clear that AtGames put a lot of thought into the various ways folks play classic arcade games and have made an effort to accommodate them. However, I do feel like they missed one thing, and that’s rotary joysticks.
The AtGames cab features a number of classic Data East games like Ikari Warriors and Heavy Barrel that featured joysticks with rotary capabilities on their original cabs. While they have mapped rotating the characters to two buttons, and you have the option of using the rotary wheel to turn as well. it’s still rather incommodious to use either setup. It’s not that the games are unplayable or anything like that, it’s just not as fluid as it could be.
Speaking of games, there’s a serious amount of included titles that run a gamut of genres. It’s worth noting that not all the games included are from the arcades. There are several games that I remember playing on the Sega Genesis and SNES as well as several Atari games. I felt like overall the 350 included games were a decent hodge podge of titles and I enjoyed most of them. While everyone may not recognize every game from the catalog, there’s a lot I enjoyed and remembered playing back in the day.
I’ve always been a fan of arcade games like Bad Dudes and EDF, and it was great to see some of the more rare and obscure titles that made the cut like the highly underrated Night Slashers. I was elated to finally be able to play Crystal Castles and Centipede using a trackball as nature intended. Even most of the home console games were a nice walk down memory lane like the Super Star Wars series, and they included the Genesis version of Aladdin, which is arguably the best version. Though there were a few titles that I could’ve done without too. Power Piggs Of The Dark Age is an example of a game that feels like it’s just taking up space, and I’m essentially over Atari games after having played so many greatest hits collections on just about every console of the last two decades.
With that said, it’s kind of hard to complain about not liking a game or two when the AtGames Legends Ultimate features so many ways to expand its library of playable titles. As I mentioned earlier, you can connect your cab directly to your network or via wifi. This allows you to play even more games via AtGames’ ArcadeNet library, which is hosted on a remote dedicated server. I tried out several SNK titles that happened to be available via the service and I did experience a little bit of lag, but overall it worked surprisingly well. I was able to play games like King of the Monsters with no real hiccups though. For now, while it’s in its beta, ArcadeNet does not cost anything, but there will be a subscription fee at some point.
AtGames Legends Ultimate network functions also allow players to take advantage of the BYOG (bring your own game) feature that lets you access your Steam library and other online game stores remotely. There is a fee though for the remote access of a dollar an hour, which may be a turn-off for some folks. Still, there are ways to access such things locally as well that won’t cost you anything. And having network access also means that the firmware can be updated on a regular basis, which to me is a big plus.
Free game mode
While it might not seem like much, the addition of the USB and HDMI add massive expansion options to the console, such as extra controllers (it supports Xbox One and PS4 controllers) or plugging in a couple of light guns. You can also plug in AtGames Blast! dongles to the HDMI ports for even more games. Additionally, AtGames has really gone above and beyond and released the SDK for the Legends Ultimate, so folks can make their own apps for the cab. There’s already some cool stuff out there, but I don’t want to get into too many details about it here since they're not part of the official overall package. You’ll just have to discover them for yourself, but I think that they're worth looking into, in my opinion. When you add in the support for Bluetooth it becomes even more apparent how well rounded the cab's features really are.
While some folks may see AtGames collection of games as a mishmash of titles, I have had more than enough fun discovering games I’d miss during the golden era of arcades and rediscovering classics that I loved as a kid to justify the cost. When I consider that I almost spent $350 just to buy a vintage Heavy Barrel cab a few years back, I think the price point of $600 is more than reasonable for what you get, especially when you factor in just how expansive the game library and capabilities are of the AtGames Legends Ultimate arcade cabinet. I honestly feel like this thing is close to perfect, but the lack of the rotary joystick when there are so many Data East games on here that could’ve utilized them seems like a bit of oversight, especially when it's obvious how much attention to detail went into making this an all-in-one machine. Still, beyond that personal, very nerdy gripe, the AtGames Legends Ultimate has just about everything you need in a home arcade cabinet and I’ll be playing games on it for years to come.
This review is based off a sample unit provided by the manufacturer. The AtGames Legends Ultimate is available now at various retailers at a MSRP of $599.99.
AtGames Legends Ultimate
- Easy assembly
- Lots of controller options
- 350 games on board
- An expandable library
- Genesis version of Aladdin
- USB, HDMI, and Bluetooth features
- Online functionality
- Open SDK
- Could've used rotary features on the joysticks
- Power Piggs Of The Dark Age
Blake Morse posted a new article, AtGames Legends Ultimate arcade cabinet review: Next-gen nostalgia
How did the trackball feel?
Good. I forgot to mention it in the review, but you can adjust the sensitivity of the trackball and the rotary controllers to meet your personal preferences.
I like them both to have some heft and inertia, Tempest and Centipede are my gold standards for each.
Nothing worse than a trackball the size of a billards ball