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Tempest x RepliCade

Platform(s): Arcade
Genre: Casual
Publisher: New Wave Toys
Release Date: April 15, 2019

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Hardware Review - 'Tempest x RepliCade'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 20, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

New Wave Toy's PlayScale miniaturized sixth-scale arcade machines are fully playable using the original controls, run the original game ROMs, and are officially licensed by the original manufacturers.

Buy Tempest x RepliCade

Having an arcade machine at home was a pipe dream for pretty much any child of the '80s. The Coleco tabletop home "arcade" systems were a solid substitute, but they still couldn't replace the real deal. I eventually acquired a few systems during college, but every move to a new apartment meant getting rid of an arcade unit. Yes, they were awesome, but they're also pretty darn big. The RepliCade line of systems solves the size problem by shrinking down arcade machines to 1/6th scale, while keeping the original game ROM intact.

It sounds like a great idea, but I was a bit skeptical until I went hands-on with the second system in the lineup, Tempest x RepliCade. While it isn't a perfect re-creation of an arcade machine, it's close enough to please most fans.

The first thing you notice when opening up a Tempest x RepliCade (besides the odd name — yes "x RepliCade" is part of the official product name) is the build quality. This isn't a super-cheap toy that looks like it belongs in the bargain bin at a dollar store. New Wave Toys has done a great job at replicating the look and feel of the original Tempest cabinet. The original artwork is here, complete with the vinyl feel you remember from the arcade. The marquee lights up, as do the player start and coin door buttons. Even the text on the control panel is legible, if a bit on the small side.

Purely as a display piece, Tempest x RepliCade simply looks good. For a collector who is just looking to get a favorite cabinet for display on their shelf, this nails it. Thankfully, it also plays a pretty solid game of Tempest as well.

New Wave Toys tells you to charge the battery before your first play, but I couldn't wait. Immediately after unboxing the system, I peeled off the screen protector and fired it up. There was enough of a charge for a few games, so I dug in and started playing.


While RepliCade systems are officially 1/6th of the original scale, New Wave Toys does make a few concessions for playability reasons. For Tempest x RepliCade, that means having a spinner that is larger than it should be. There is a smaller, thinner spinner included in the package for you to swap out if you're a display purist, but for anyone planning on actually playing the game, you'll likely want to stick with the larger dial.

Unlike the original arcade system, Tempest x RepliCade doesn't use a free-spinning spinner. Instead, it's a dial with 24 fixed points of rotation. Each point has a distinct "click" as you spin past it. Admittedly, it's a compromise, but it is a compromise that works without a big impact on gameplay, especially since you can adjust the sensitivity. I found the default sensitivity level a bit sluggish, so I bumped it up a few notches, and my high score started to improve game after game — until the difficulty ramped up. A built-in battery preserves your high scores between gaming sessions.

Having fun is an important element of any game, but with Tempest, having a good approximation of the original control scheme is just as important because the entire game was designed around it. The game has been ported to the PC and various home consoles over the years, but playing Tempest with a keyboard or a controller just never captured the feel of the original. Tempest x RepliCade gets pretty close to that original Tempest feel.

Tempest used a vector graphics monitor in its original incarnation, which wouldn't have worked at such a small scale, so the Tempest x RepliCade uses a vertical four-inch, 800x480 LCD screen instead. New Wave Toys doesn't specify the exact model of screen, but it is crisp, clear, and completely free of ghosting. Contrast suffers somewhat if you view the screen at an angle (think over someone's shoulder), but it is solid when looking straight on.

Sound is mono, like the arcade original, but the volume surprised me. Tempest x RepliCade can get loud while staying clear. It doesn't have quite the tonal range of a full-size speaker, but it is impressive for its size. A headphone jack would have been a nice option, but there is a volume dial so you can turn it down for those late-night game sessions.

 


Tempest x RepliCade does have a coin door in the front, but the coin slots are not functional. Instead, the left slot acts as a credit button (just like dropping in a coin), while the right button serves double duty as a pause button and access to the system configuration menu. Unfortunately, that configuration menu is quite limited.

One of the joys of owning an arcade machine is being able to configure the operator settings. Sadly, this is one area where Tempest x RepliCade falls flat. The configuration menu only allows you to toggle the marquee light and adjust the sensitivity of the spinner. There is no access to the game dip switches, which means you're stuck with the default configuration. That's fine for most players, but for a collector who's likely going to be drawn to the RepliCade line of systems, it's a pretty big miss. It would be great to see this added in a firmware update.

When you're dropping $120 on a single game, knowing there is active support is a plus, so it's worth calling out that New Wave Toys has provided firmware updates for both of its released games so far. With Tempest x RepliCade, the original systems shipped with input lag on the spinners and a volume reset bug. That was fixed with a downloadable firmware update. No issues would be the ideal, but having solid support is a close second.

After spending a few hours with the Tempest x RepliCade, my biggest surprise was how playable it was. There is a difference between jumping in for a quick game and going at it with unlimited credits. I would've liked to have had a bit more depth between the fire button and the screen, but that is ultimately a minor nit. The important thing is that the game remained playable, and I didn't end up with nasty hand cramps.

Ultimately, the decision to buy Tempest x RepliCade really comes down to how much of a Tempest fan you are. While the re-creation is probably the most accurate way to play outside of an actual Tempest machine, Tempest isn't quite as friendly a game as other titles, so the cost becomes a bit harder to justify for a casual player. In short, if you're a retro fanatic, this is right up your alley. If you're a more modern gamer, you might want to wait for New Wave's Street Fighter II x RepliCade to drop this summer.

Score: 8.0/10

 



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