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Arcade1Up Terminator 2 review – get ready to fight alongside John Connor, from the comfort of your home arcade

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of Arcade1Up and have been an advocate for the brand since its inception. I purchased my first Arcade1Up product, their Pac-Man arcade, at Wal-Mart during Black Friday 2018 and since then I have purchased eight more arcades along with their Pac-Man lights, tin signs, and even a couple of stools. It was always my dream to have a home arcade and I will forever be grateful to Arcade1Up for allowing that dream to become a reality. That said, just because I am a fan does not mean that I am unable to look at their products objectively and I take seriously the chance to review one of their releases. Having followed their brand since its inception to now, I’ve watched as they’ve grown, stumbled, and experimented. I’ve been both excited by and disappointed by a few of their releases over the years, but thankfully their Terminator 2 (T2) release is a glorious set piece for a home arcade, albeit with a rather steep price tag which may prove to be a barrier for entry for many.

For those unaware, T2 was a groundbreaking light-gun game released into arcades by Midway in 1991 before eventually being ported to consoles; although none of those console experiences could compare to feeling the rumble of the gun in your hand as your friends cheered you on. Aside from finding a retro based arcade (which thankfully there has been a resurgence of as of late), there’s been no real way to replicate that feeling – until now.

But before we continue, let’s back up and take a look at every aspect of Arcade1Up’s T2: the box and packaging, the assembly process, the aesthetics, the special features, and the gameplay experience.

Packaging and Assembly

Arcade1Up products arrive in a large box featuring images of the arcade which instantly touches on the purchaser’s nostalgia and perfectly encapsulates the product inside. Case in point: the man from UPS who dropped off my T2 arcade was so excited about it that he asked where to purchase one and, as he walked away, told whoever he was speaking with on the phone about it. Fair warning, the box is heavy – T2 weighs over 103 lbs., so having a second individual to help you drag in inside is a must to avoid injury. It also helps to have a second person for assembly.

The contents of the box are neatly packed with plenty of Styrofoam and smaller boxes. Despite the many arcades I have purchased, I’ve never had any issues with broken or missing pieces, scratched or damaged materials, or non-working components, and T2 was no different.

The assembly process seems daunting at first, but after building an arcade or two it becomes almost second nature. It helps that, despite the changes in design between arcades, nearly all Arcade1Up machines are built the same way with only minor changes when necessary. The instructions for T2 are detailed and specific, going so far as to make sure you have pieces turned the correct way via diagrams depicting the correct lining of all the hole placements on any board which could be placed incorrectly. For someone new to assembling these arcades it may take a while, but veterans of assembling will have T2 put together in 45 mins to an hour. T2 does feature brackets for connecting the side pieces which many other releases did not have, but that’s only due to the height of this particular unit (which stands nearly 5’5” tall!) and adds only a few more minutes of assembly time.

Design

Arcade1Up’s T2 design is nearly identical to the original, albeit slightly thinner and featuring red and blue wired guns, rather than the attached and massive black guns on the original unit. The side art is incredible looking and will catch any action fan or retro arcade fan’s eye as it instantly evokes nostalgia for the early 90s by featuring the perpetually cool Arnold Schwarzenegger in his iconic Terminator getup. That said, it does differ a bit from the original arcade, as Arnold is pushed down slighty and the Midway logo is not included, but I still think the design looks great for the unit and the space they had to work with.  The front is what threw me off the most, as it is plain black with only T2 near the bottom, and I kept wondering why it felt so off to me until I realized it was due to the lack of coin doors that the original had. While a little bare looking, I prefer it bare rather than the coin door art featured on the legacy Arcade1Up cabs; that said, mock plastic coin doors may look good for future releases to prevent this empty space. Also included is a riser which looks great and matches well with the aesthetic of the bezel.

 

Standing at 5’5” tall, this is easily the largest Arcade1Up product in my house and close to the largest they’ve produced, nearly matching the height of full-blown arcade machines. Standing next to an original Arcade1Up release, and even one of the original arcades sitting on a riser, it still towers above them and makes for an amazing centerpiece in a room full of Arcade1Ups.

The addition of a light-up marquee is nice, and the marquee gives off a nice – and not too bright – glow when playing in a darkened room. Currently it is the only Arcade1Up product that I own with a light-up marquee, and it makes me want to invest in more releases featuring light-up marquees in the future. While not necessary to enjoy the gameplay, it still helps push the release one step closer to recreating an authentic arcade experience.

The only real downfall to the arcade cabinet is the size of the screen, which is still 17” like previous Arcade1Up releases (although they have recently announced a Pro line of arcades with 19” screens, along with Golden Tee 3D and NBA Jam which were both recently released with 19” screens – a huge step in the right direction). While on side scrollers and fighting games the 17” screen size doesn’t bother me, with a light-gun game the size became instantly noticeable. That said, even with two players playing the screen size never became an enough of an issue to hamper gameplay, it just would feel more authentic to have a larger screen due to the nature of light-gun games.

Features, Settings, and Live

Upon bootup you’ll be presented with a screen which features a few choices: begin the game, watch the documentary, view the credits, and alter the game’s settings. There is also a live leaderboard, but we’ll get to that a little later.

The T2 arcade is the first time I’ve encountered special features in an Arcade1Up release, and while initially I’ll admit that I sort of scoffed at the idea of a documentary being included on the arcade, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the documentary and did not find it strange to watch on the arcade machine. The documentary, created by Arcade1Up and featuring the original creators of the Terminator 2 arcade, dives into how the team got involved, the secrecy behind the script since the movie wasn’t finished shooting at the time, how the team were allowed to be on set and film alongside the Director to obtain accurate shots for the game, and the process of capturing video performances from Arnold’s stuntman and Robert Patrick himself for the game. The documentary is short, interesting, and worth watching.

There are a slew of gameplay options to mess with within the settings menu, helping to make the game as easy (or as hard) as you may want. From the settings menu you can: change the game’s difficulty, alter your energy and bombs per play, update the time allowed per play, toggle the attract mode sound, decide whether your high score is recorded, toggle game continue options, mess with the smart rumble of the gun controllers, and choose which level you’d like to start on. Overall, the settings menu features a wide variety of helpful options for those who may want to switch up the gameplay occasionally.

Credits is well, the credits. Nothing fancy here, just a way to easily watch the credits if you wanted to.

When you first boot up the machine you will be asked if you would like to create a Live account and connect to Wi-Fi. This is entirely optional but doing so will allow you to download updates to the arcade, along with creating a username to track your high scores on a live enabled leaderboard of players throughout the world. There are a few privacy settings you can toggle, but as far as I can tell the only thing displayed on the Live leaderboard is your username and your position on the board. Only the top 19 players, for both arcade settings or any settings, are displayed on the menu screen but it does flash over to show your ranking and the players within the same ranking. It’s a neat addition that helps spur replays in hopes of perfecting your run as various things you do or don’t do during your playthrough will drastically alter your score.

Gameplay

Despite 31 years passing since its initial release, T2 is still a wildly enjoyable light-gun experience. Fast paced and action-packed, T2 ramps up quickly and never slows down until the credits roll. While the game is simple – essentially all you do is point your gun and shoot at nearly everything that moves aside from teammates – it is packed with replayability due to the Live scoreboard and just friendly competition between players at home.

You can tell T2, like other arcades of the era, were made to take your money. In the included documentary the developers joke about watching someone get a game over within 18 seconds. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about quarters anymore and can instead focus on enjoying the gameplay experience, but you will die – a lot.

T2 is on rails and you are constantly under attack by a barrage of futuristic murdering machines. Your energy bar will deplete with every hit you take and your gun power will decrease as you fire, which in turn slows down your gun. This slow down forces players to either strategically time breaks for their gun to regenerate power (which is rarely a choice due to the constant onslaught of enemies) or to constantly shoot item containers perilously close to their human teammates in hopes of finding refills for their energy, bombs, or gun power. There are other goodies hidden inside the containers as well, such as gun powerups, gigantic bombs which will clear the screen of all enemies for a moment, shields, and bonus points.

Your score is tallied based on the enemies defeated, special enemies destroyed (such as helicopters, etc.), bosses defeated, powerups gained, etc. and then you lose points based on the number of human casualties you caused. With the game being so chaotic, there is always room for improving your score, nearly ensuring that players will come back to T2 again and again in hopes of moving a bit further up the leaderboard.

Overall, T2 is a fun game that has stood the test of time, even if it may not be as impressive visually as it once was when we first stumbled upon it in a darkened arcade.

Pricing

The biggest barrier to entry, and more than likely the main complaint which could be lobbied at this release, is the $699.99 price tag. Many Arcade1Up releases have been inching up in pricing throughout the pandemic, and I’m not going to even guess as to what the actual cause of the price increase is, but with only one game on the arcade this will be a tough sell to all but the hardcore fans or those with disposable income. If there were additional games, say Revolution X, Area 51, or any other classic light gun titles, then the price may be a bit easier to swallow, but as a standalone it really is pushing the boundary of what consumers are willing to spend on a home arcade.

Do I think that the game is worth the price? That’s a hard question to answer, as I don’t know the intricacies of building an arcade of this caliber, gaining the rights to distribute the title, etc., but I do know that the initial price point of $300 for Arcade1Up releases was a huge selling point. Many consumers, myself included, were able to justify that price tag to slowly build up a home arcade, but now are holding off and purchasing only one or two arcades rather than nearly every release. I do think that this is a solid machine and well built, which also plays exceptionally well, has a great number of settings to toggle to switch up the gameplay experience, features Live leaderboard integration, the capability to update via Wi-Fi, looks amazing in a home game room, and is just a ton of fun – especially with a friend.

95

Excellent

Arcade1Up

Review Guidelines

Arcade1Up’s T2 is a stunning recreation of the original arcade in an easy to bring home capacity. I never thought I’d be able to have a light-gun arcade in my home, much less one of this size and quality, so for that alone I am immensely thankful for Arcade1Up. That said, there are a few gripes I have with the machine, such as the screen size being only 17” and the high price tag for an arcade with only one game, but T2 is still a high-quality release that will undoubtedly impress any visitor to your game room. Arcade purists may have more qualms than I do, but for someone who collects these arcades just for the thrill of having a home arcade with the classic titles that I grew up playing in mall arcades, I think T2 is well worth adding to your home arcade

Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. When not writing for Gaming Trend you can find him covering theatre for Broadway World, movies and TV for Fandomize, or working on original stories. An avid retro gamer, he is overly obsessed with Dragon's Lair. Chat with him via @thricetheartist on Twitter and @richardallenwrites on Facebook and Instagram.

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