Real arcade gaming is a tactile, social experience that goes beyond what happens on a screen. It is about standing at a cabinet, hands on a robust, noisy joystick, shoulder-to-shoulder with a rival as you physically jostle for presence in a clash of skill. That is rather hard to replicate at home.
You can invest a great deal of money and space into setting up original arcade hardware in your living room. Or you can settle for the legally murky world of “emulation”, running old games on a modern computer with considerable effort.
Now the veteran arcade games publisher Capcom has endeavoured to provide a new way to bring an authentic arcade experience into your home. The hefty Capcom Home Arcade is a lavish dedicated console preloaded with classic games in a similar approach to the acclaimed SNES and Mega Drive mini consoles. Each of those offered a charmingly miniaturised version of a fondly remembered vintage machine, that could be plugged straight into a modern TV. The Capcom Home Arcade though, is a lot bigger – and at £200, more costly – than those.
It reproduces the control panel of a traditional arcade cabinet at 1:1 scale, meaning two full-size sticks and a spread of buttons side-by-side. Deep in its guts sits all the code needed to run 16 different games. Plug it straight into your TV via an included HDMI cable, and you are ready to play.
Fortunately, the Capcom Home Arcade is built from suitably high-quality parts. The sticks and buttons are made by Sanwa; a brand with cult status among arcade devotees. That means you get something extremely durable, highly responsive, and very rewarding to use. The unit’s unusual looks are bound to be divisive, but with eyes on the screen and hands at the controls, it is comfortable and ergonomic.
Most significantly, the Capcom Home Arcade brings dazzling recreations of these classic titles via astonishingly capable emulation. Testing the system alongside original arcade hardware, they run responsively, with graceful accuracy.
The 16 included titles bring a diverse feast of genres and experiences, including riches such as Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Final Fight, Strider and Ghouls ’n Ghosts. Lesser known greats such as fighting game Mega Man: The Power Battle and 2D shooter Giga Wing demonstrate the system’s ability to serve both multiplayer and solitary sessions. And then there are masterpieces never before released to home formats: the profoundly intricate shoot-em-up Progear, and the immensely fun co-op brawler Alien Vs Predator.
The home arcade can be placed on your lap, but it’s somewhat ungainly – the ideal solution is to place it on a table, which might not be feasible for many. While it makes old games look great on a present-day screen, the display options are sadly limited. Equally, many settings available in the games’ original hardware, such as customisable button layout and autofire aren’t available.
All those things could be fixed over the internet with a future update. It may even be possible for Capcom to add extra games the same way. The £200 price tag remains high, but then a two-player arcade stick of this quality with no preloaded games could cost close to that amount, and securing an arcade original of just one of the featured titles would cost you much more than a couple of hundred pounds. A few nights with good friends, a big TV and several richly preserved arcade classics from the 1980s and 90s may well be worth the asking price.