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I love arcades. I don't frequent them enough, anymore, but given time and a tenner in change, I can happily kill an hour or two in any of them. It's the playing, of course, that's the draw; but also the sounds. The buzz of the machines, the melodies of the attract screens, those digitised voices. Shrieks of aliens being exploded, dinosaurs chasing your jeep, and sports cars drifting impossibly around bends under perfect blue skies. Pac-Man just endlessly scoffing dots. It's escapism at its most sensorily overwhelming.
And it's the clicks, too. The buttons and the sticks, their spring-loaded stiffness and reassuring clack and snap and slaps. The difference between playing a game with an arcade-style stick and a home console control pad is night and day.
So what the Legends Gamer Pro is proposing - a two-player arcade stick of substantial heft, heavy and (hopefully) hard-wearing, pre-loaded with 150 games, which plugs right into your television - is hugely appealing on paper. And for an RRP of $250, it looks like a better-value option for plug-in arcade play than the Capcom Home Arcade, which sells for $200 but only comes with 16 games.
But then, you see the Legends Gamer Pro is made by AtGames - and a whole lot of you out there will associate that brand with dodgy third-party SEGA consoles where the Sonic music's all wonky and the d-pad squeaks worse than your old man getting out of his comfy chair. Not a gaming brand with the best reputation, basically - but perhaps this arcade stick will be the product to redeem them? Let's see.
The Legends Gamer Pro has two main components. The first, and the biggest, is the Arcade Fight Stick. With eight buttons per player, spread across a width of almost 30 inches, this is plenty big enough for you to go head to head with a pal (lockdown measures, appreciated) and not knock elbows. There's a trackball in the middle - great for first-person shooters - and pinball buttons on the side, which I've not tested due to there not being a pinball game amongst the built-in titles (I'll get to that, shortly).
Also on this beefy controller are P1 and P2 buttons, which serve as start buttons for certain games and are used to insert a virtual credit for others, as not everything here is from the arcades. And, very excellently, there's a Rewind button - so if you come a cropper with your last credit (assuming you neglect to appreciate they're infinite, here) you can simply rewind the game and try to avoid crashing and burning. It's a pretty common feature on many reissued retro gaming collections and mini-consoles, but nevertheless it's not something I was expecting.
The Arcade Fight Stick connects via bluetooth - not the easiest thing to do, when you first set this up, but mostly painless (and you can hardwire it with a USB lead, if you really want to) - to the hockey puck-shaped Legends Core unit. This small, green-glowing circular box is the console, basically, and it plugs into your TV with the shortest HDMI lead I've ever seen included with a product like this. Whether you let it just kind of hang off the side of your TV, or get a longer lead so it can rest on a flat surface, is up to you. Weirdly there's no power button, so you just yank out the lead to it to shut it off. But this Core is where your games are, basically - the stick is merely its controller.
Which does make the Legends Pro Gamer's mightily proportioned fight stick something you can use elsewhere, too. It's compatible with PCs, so if you've a collection of fighters and brawlers, shooters and scrappers in your Steam library, you might well be able to use this to play them, rather than a conventional control pad. There's further PC functionality, too - but I'll get to that, in a bit.
The Legends Gamer Pro's weight means that it'll comfortably sit still on a coffee table as you play - but it might also cut the blood off to your feet if you opt for a lap-rested layout. It's basically the same unit that's built into AtGames' full arcade cabinet, the Legends Ultimate. If you've a spare £800 in your pocket, that will give you this controller, 300 built-in games, and a full cab to stand next to as you play, with screen and speakers, the works. But it's a beast, so this standalone Fight Stick and Core arrangement is both a space-saver, and a lot easier on the wallet.
The 150 officially licensed games on the Legends Gamer Pro are a mixed bag, certainly, but when you're dealing with that kind of volume, it's no surprise. The licenses that AtGames has secured include big (old-school big, that is) arcade names like Taito, Data East and Jaleco, which means there's some bona-fide classics on show like Bubble Bobble, Midnight Resistance, Burger Time, Space Invaders, and Operation Wolf. But in my experience, the real fun of something like this is in the exploration, the digging into games that you've never played before... or, possibly, ever heard of.
So while there's no Street Fighter II out of the box, there is Karnov's Revenge by Data East, a perfectly satisfying one-on-one fighter that's not ripping up any rulebooks but delivers a decent slug of special-moves fun. There's no NBA Jam, but Street Slam (aka Dunk Dream), again by Data East, is a worthy substitute that throws fiery dunks into three-on-three arcade play - its chunky character models and approximation of a hip-hop soundtrack really are blasts from the mid-'90s arcade past.
Space Gun from Taito is an Operation Wolf-like on-rails shooter that liberally borrows aesthetic inspiration from both the Alien movie series and Space Hulk, and is probably better than its more famous predecessor (speaking of which, Operation Thunderbolt is here, too). The trackball really makes it shine. Jaleco's 64th Street: A Detective Story will scratch any Final Fight itches, while Taito's Football Champ is a Super Sidekicks-style kick-about that, while basic in the extreme, feels just how an arcade soccer 'sim' of the early 1990s should: fast, frenetic, and completely ridiculous.
Spend a little time looking into what's on offer amid these 150 games and you're sure to discover a generous amount of standout attractions. Amid the total count are a healthy number of console games, too, including Disney's Aladdin and The Lion King - the Mega Drive/Genesis versions - Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Tetris, Brutal Sports Football and a trio of Star Wars games from the SNES: Super Star Wars and its follow-ups The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
But the games don't end with what's pre-installed. Beyond what you can play right out of the box, AtGames is running a service called ArcadeNet, which streams further games to your Legends Gamer Pro, for a small fee (but while it's in beta, the service is offered as a free trial). This subscription model will, hopefully, eventually allow users to download their favourites and expand their offline library. Right now the ArcadeNet offerings are a little slim, but there's some SNK bangers in there, like Metal Slug, Shock Troopers and Fatal Fury Special, which may appeal if you don't have these on previously published Neo Geo collections (or, indeed, the Neo Geo Mini).
And then there's BYOG - Bring Your Own Game. This option allows users to stream games from your PC to the Legends Gamer Pro - so, you can take them off your computer and get them onto your bigger television. At the time of writing, there's a large number of games that are already compatible, including Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat 11, Cuphead, Valfaris and Sonic the Hedgehog. You can stream the games to the Gamer Pro over your home network, or pay AtGames a dollar per hour to use its own cloud servers. I can't see the latter option being popular, but it's there, if you want it, and deals are available based on how many hours of BYOG play you purchase up front. Recommended specs and a full list of games can be found on the AtGames website.
And then there's the wild world of ROMs to consider. A cursory mooch around YouTube reveals that plenty of Legends range owners have got many more arcade games running on their units. They're out there, if you want to watch them; and if you know your way around all things MAME, chances are you can turn the Legends Gamer Pro into a truly titanic arcade machine.
Personally, I don't know much about that, and haven't so much as hacked a mini-console in my time. But, it's an option, for those of you eyeing the price of this thing and wishing it had, I don't know, Punch-Out!! on it, or Marvel vs Capcom, or NBA Jam... Chances are, you can make that happen. There's no guarantee that all the functions of the Legends Gamer Pro will work with these games, or that they won't just break the thing. But it's your toy, and it's your choice.
Like I said before, the build quality of the Arcade Fight Stick feels really good. I've not subjected it to too many hours of hammering yet, but it's stood up to the over-zealous hands of a seven-year-old just fine. And if the provided buttons and sticks don't do it for you, the unit can be fairly easily dismantled, and new components swapped in - again, YouTube is your friend for a guide to this.
One slightly sore point is the battery that's inside the Fight Stick. You can plug the unit into the mains, but having it connect via Bluetooth sure does make its positioning around your room a lot more flexible. But the rechargeable battery only has a 2,000-milliamp capacity (as you can see in this Restalgia video), which means you'll need to plug the Stick in fairly often to keep its juice topped up. It's not all that much of a problem, but worth highlighting.
Initially I experienced some dramatic lag on inputs on the Legends Gamer Pro, but a firmware update fixed that right away - so do remember to check for said updates. Another neat feature of the product is that it can support a vertical screen display - so if you do play pinball games on it, via BYOG or ArcadeNet, you'll be able to get a good table view by flipping your TV or monitor 90 degrees - and it'll be a treat for fans of vertical shooters, too.
Having witnessed the horror of some of AtGames' SEGA consoles, I have to say that the Legends Gamer Pro really does improve upon them. It's not going to appeal to people who take arcade gaming at home incredibly seriously, but as an entry point for newcomers, it represents great value.
The build quality is good, the pre-installed games feature a decent percentage of winners, and because it connects to a TV, it can easily be moved around different room in your house, taken over to friends' places (after lockdown, of course), or stored away safely - unlike AtGames' behemoth Legends Ultimate cabinet, which really will eat up the square inches of any floor and represent a full-time fixture in your living space.
There's no doubt it would benefit from a few more killer licenses - Konami, Capcom, or Namco for example. Perhaps they'll come in time, as it's easy for further titles to be downloaded. But the Legends Gamer Pro is a lot of fun even as it is, and if you never look to expand its line-up of titles. Compared to the Capcom Home Arcade, there's loads more bang here for your buck (even with Alien vs Predator considered). And with full-sized, single-game arcade cabs costing a bomb, before you even consider the space they take up, this is a very attractive product for both arcade-at-home beginners (hi) and for gamers who enjoy checking out weird and wonderful releases from yesteryear that never made best-seller lists or received celebrated home-console conversions (again, hi).
It doesn't have the wow factor of a proper arcade cab, or the bigger names that are offered by Arcade1Up in their range of multi-game cabs, but the Legends Gamer Pro is a (relatively!) budget-friendly opportunity to click and clack your way through a compelling slice of arcade gaming history. I'm having a blast with it, and fingers crossed that AtGames do develop its services and library to allow the platform to really shine, in the near future.
A Legends Gamer Pro unit was provided by AtGames for this coverage.
Featured Image Credit: AtGames, Konami, JVC, SEGA
Topics: Retro Gaming
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