I’ve always wanted to own my own arcade machine. Ever since I saw the movie BIG. An apt title for sure – the idea that I could one day purchase a cabinet for personal use was big. Huge even, considering the cost and space needed to house such a machine. It’s safe to say that I didn’t get one for Christmas that year. Nowadays, things are a bit different though. And not just because I’m an adult with disposable income.There are several companies that specialize in producing licensed cabs on a smaller scale. A lot of them, as seen in our Best Arcade Cabinets list, provide solid experiences. Take SNK’s MVSX Arcade Machine – this nostalgia box offers 50 classic games, a decent sized screen, and authentic joystick/button placements. All in a machine that can sit comfortably on a countertop or coffee table.

SNK MVSX Home Arcade Review

SNK MVSX Home Arcade – Design and Features

SNK’s MVSX is a solidly built cabinet. The wood paneling feels sturdy enough to forgo any real damage aside from some chipped paint. Dropping it is still out of the question of course. I just don’t see it shattering if bumped or banged while being moved about.

Actually, I wouldn’t even worry about the paint. The exterior seems to have a glossy finish that’s somewhat scratch resistant; I might have bumped or banged the MVSX when I moved it to my office. It still looks great. The red paneling could’ve used a bit more flair though – I would have loved to see Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown or another classic character envelop a side or two. That said, the box art from multiple SNK games on the marquee was a nice touch.

Weighing 28lbs, with modest dimensions – the width, height, and diameter sit at 19.5, 25, and 15.8 inches respectfully – the cabinet isn’t as imposing as its full-sized counterparts. This makes finding a home for the machine that much easier. The same thing goes when you add the 32-inch, DIY base. Shipped alongside the MVSX for review, this base helps to complete the arcade aesthetic. It sports glossy red paint, left and right player arrows, and a cool makeshift coin door.

The idea is to mimic what it felt like to stand in front of these MVS (Multi Video System) arcade machines years ago without taking up too much space. And for the most part, it works. Sliding the MVSX into a corner behind my desk, it stays fairly out of the way. I can easily pull it from the wall, allowing two people to comfortably play together. And though your mileage may vary in terms of height – the arcade/base combo is around 5 feet tall – the average person shouldn’t have to bend very far to reach the sticks.

Speaking of controls, the MVSX sports the classic Neo Geo MVS joystick and buttons layout. Those of us who remember the old SNK arcade machines – or were lucky enough to own the console/AES (Advanced Entertainment System) version – should feel right at home. The buttons, moving from red at the bottom left to blue at the top right, slope upwards on the right side of each joystick. They all are positioned in a way that allows players to rest their hands on the base of the cabinet and still be able to easily hit all of the needed buttons.

Most of SNK’s games use this four-button setup, so it shouldn’t take fans long to get back into the swing of things. The controls should resonate with newcomers as well given how they’re customizable. By hitting the Options/Back button, housed at the top of the control panel, you’ll be able to bring up the required menus. Once there, you can change the color-coded A, B, C, and D buttons however you see fit. There are two extra white buttons, below the colorful ones, that can also be customized. This is rather helpful when playing one of SNK’s many fighters; there are times when I prefer my punches and kicks on opposite sides, for instance.

The spacing between first and second player’s controls can be a little tight. You might need to lean a bit so that both people can stand or sit comfortably in front of the machine. But the buttons aren’t close enough to restrict movement. The 17-inch 4:3 LCD display and stereo speakers also help in this regard as players won’t need to crowd each other in order to see or hear what’s going on.

Going back to the control panel, there are other buttons worth mentioning. Lining the top of the panel are the left and right Player Start buttons, Options, Start Game, and volume knob. The Start Game button acts as the insert coin function; you’d press that before hitting Player Start. The Options/Back button brings up an assortment of options, including the ability to swap between arcade and console modes, pick a preferred language, save game states and change image settings to emulate old CRT monitors.

SNK’s MVSX certainly looks the part. It has most of the arcade-like elements one would expect, just in a smaller package. And by utilizing modern software it can be upgraded; a USB port, sitting next to the power button on the back of the cabinet, facilitates firmware updates.

SNK MVSX Home Arcade – Performance

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the MVSX. Some of that can be attributed to nostalgia – a lot of these games play exactly like I remember. Which is one of the reasons I’m usually hesitant about purchasing a MAME arcade cabinet; the allure is the potential ability to play authentic arcade ROMs. Flaws and all. And that’s what we get with the MVSX. All of the games are licensed by SNK. And unless I’m mistaken, the arcade versions of the games presented here are, in fact, the actual arcade versions.

The MVSX does offer the console versions of their games as well. From what I can tell, most are near-identical gameplay-wise. This shouldn’t be surprising when one considers that SNK’s MVS and AES (arcade and console) games are more or less the same; the Neo Geo AES console was made to replicate the arcade experience as much as possible. So much so that the cartridges were interchangeable. History aside, what all of this amounts to is a collectible aspect. Fans who just want both versions of each game and/or enjoy picking out the little differences between versions – like KoF ’94 running and looking slightly better in MVS mode – should be ecstatic.

The other reason I had a great time was due to the games themselves. SNK has compiled a strong list. There are some questionable inclusions and we’re missing gems like King of the Monsters. The sheer number of fighting games on tap can feel redundant at times; do we really need both Samurai Shodown V and Samurai Shodown V Special? Still, there’s plenty of fan favorites here, with franchises ranging from King of Fighters to Metal Slug, and sports games like Super Sidekicks and 3 Count Bout. There’s even lesser known, yet ultra-rare games like Kizuna Encounter.

Returning to some of these old games was a real treat. All of them looked great, with the 1280×1024 LCD screen producing near pixel perfect images. I especially liked that I could toggle the CRT scan lines. My time with the MVSX wasn’t without its issues though. The main culprit being the buttons. To the touch, they feel great and don’t seem cheaply made. Most of the buttons give a solid “click” when pressed. That said, I did notice a few of them tend to stick more than I’d like. It wasn’t enough to ruin a match; they didn’t hinder my inputs during play. But it was enough to make me worry about their longevity. (Manufacturer Gstone says it hasn’t noticed this issue on any other units, but says it will replace the buttons if the problem does arise on new machines.)

At some point, you’re going to have to replace the buttons. It’s inevitable. That aspect of owning the MVSX (or any arcade machine) shouldn’t come up this early though. And while SNK provides a warranty of sorts, it doesn’t outright sell replacement parts. Meaning that if the buttons get stuck or need replacing after the warranty expires, you’ll have to look elsewhere for new buttons.

Thankfully, the joysticks fared a little better. There were times when a character wouldn’t behave the way I wanted if they had moves with similar inputs, such as Terry Bogard sending out a Power Wave instead of a Rising Tackle in KoF ‘96. The joysticks felt a little loose, which might have led to them misrecognizing my movements. This could also be chocked up to user error as I didn’t have trouble performing complicated moves in other some of the other games.

By tracy