Ars dives into the pricey-but-fancy world of miniature arcade cabinets

Enlarge / 20 oz. soda bottle for scale.

Sam Machkovech

The category of miniaturized classic arcade cabinets has exploded in recent years, and I’ve found that I’m in its target demographic. My struggle to juggle raging arcade-era nostalgia with limited apartment space means I’m not quite to the point of opening my own luxurious basement arcadelet alone purchasing every “small but still bulky” cabinet made by the likes of Arcade1Up.

Instead, I’ve compromised with a few space-saving options. In addition to a virtualized pinball machine, which condenses a mix of pinball and arcade games into one “full-size” unit, I’ve also appreciated the Sega Astro City Mini as a bookshelf decoration. Today, let’s check out a few more options in the latter category.

If you’re willing to shell out $ 140- $ 160 per game, a few companies offer decent (but not perfect) replica arcade cabinets that measure no taller than 17 inches and come with built-in screens, buttons, and batteries. None of these are highly recommended ways to play the games in question, but if you like the party trick of powering-on junior-size arcade cabs and sharing them with gamers of all ages, they get the job done.

Hands-on

New Wave Toys’ two newest miniaturized cabinets arrived recently and are still on sale. The company’s one-sixth-scale replica cabinets are usually pre-sold in limited batches, so if you do not strike while the iron is hot, you could miss out. But with prices exceeding $ 100, they’re not cheap, so we’re glad we can offer our recommendations before the stock is all gone.

New Wave Toys ‘newest machines, based on the early’ 80s classics Q * bert (originally from Gottlieb, priced at $ 160) and 1942 (originally from Capcom, priced at $ 150), provide mostly fantastic physical reproductions for the sake of shelf decoration. These cabs use real wood in an economical-yet-attractive way; they’re not solid-oak constructions that weigh 60 pounds (closer to 2.4 pounds), but their exteriors match their source material. 1942 comes with a factory-pressed grain effect that includes carved streak lines, and the resulting color and texture look quite handsome. The Q * bert cab’s body has an authentically solid, mildly dimpled texture that’s treated with an even coat of arcade-perfect yellow paint.

The rest of the units’ bodies have been modeled after official spec sheets and design documents, and the best stuff comes thanks to a pipeline of high-resolution assets and immaculate sticker work. Massive stickers on the sides of the cabs are a one-to-one match for the original arcade versions, and they’re affixed and aligned with precision. The around-the-screen arrangements of art and game instructions stand up to scrutiny. New Wave emphasizes its use of original art assets; nothing looks like it has been badly blown up or cheaply reproduced.

These cabs also reproduce elements like CRT door mounts, light-up marquees, and coin slots, but the latter are made of painted plastic, and both machines have a single cheap-looking element as a result (the locks on Q * bert‘s coin doors and the “metal” coin apparatus on 1942). Neither is a dealbreaker, but they stand out as issues on otherwise impeccable reproductions. My biggest issue comes from a misaligned sticker on the 1942 cab (see above, final image in the 1942 gallery). Its placement is only off by a hair, yet the resulting “fold” noticeably stands out.

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