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Analogue Interactive CMVS Black Label Review

With a three-month waiting list, Analogue’s CMVS is a highly desirable item with a premium price tag. The price reflects the quality and high level of support on offer, and on arrival, it’s immediately clear why this product has been earmarked as the ‘Bentley of video-game systems” by Classic Game Room

Quality permeates right through its DNA, from design to execution. It is beautiful and an item that comfortably integrates in the modern home.

The Black Label purchase includes:

– Analogue CMVS Slim.
– x2 Analogue Arcade Sticks.
– Brass ‘Black Label’ product tags.
– Universal power supply.

Video leads and joystick connectors are purchased as extras and not included. Additional extras selectable from their store include:

– Virtual Memory Card.
– Component Cables.
– SCART cables.
– Neo Geo Extension Cables
– Dust Covers.

For a surcharge the set can be constructed from a suggested range of exotic woods, listed within the wood database. You also have the freedom to customise specific parts at your request, expanding upon an already beautifully crafted system.

The design of the unit is sublime, and it’s true to say nothing else compares in aesthetics in the CMVS range currently on offer. Using natural materials with classic hardware may have seemed like a strange decision on paper, but going against the trend of plastic mould manufacturing processes is one of the greatest strengths for Analogue’s console, giving it a strong brand identity and a definable marketable selling point. There’s a clear ethos and philosophy being followed here and I say with great positivity it echoes the sentiments of Apple’s own resurrection, when Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive conceived the iMac.

Hardware

The hardware in the system comprises of the original SNK 1 Slot PCB MV-1C motherboard. Outputs on rear as standard accept A/V cables with 13 DIN connectors and a universal power supply socket that is compatible worldwide.

This simplistic approach is welcome with further aesthetic compliments, such as the stylish blue LED power light, from the front.

The power supply unit packaged is a two pin and will require converting for some countries without the need for step-down conversion. A travel plug would suffice for this.

Our purchase was personal and we made small changes, including coloured buttons to the joysticks, but maintained the standard black ash ebonized wood. Seimitsu parts are used for both joystick and buttons as standard unless requested otherwise, and each joystick is completely cross compatible with other Neo Geo hardware such as the AES and NEO-GEO CD. All joysticks and game pads can be used on Analogue’s system.

Playing the game

The system is very simple to use. Place an MVS cartridge in the slot, and turn on the power button. You can access the region settings via the UNI BIOS 3.2 by holding down the A, B, C buttons on the controller, giving you menu access to region selection (Japan, USA, Europe) and hardware state. Changing the state of the MVS from arcade to console (AES)
mode, allowing the system to play as an AES Neo Geo would.

Holding the B, C, and D buttons while the system boots opens up the soft dip settings menu. Difficulty, blood, life count, time – all specific to each game can be altered here.

While the game is loaded you are again free to access the UNI BIOS any time by pressing, both, start and credit buttons on the rear of the control stick.

Each game responded perfectly to the controls, just as it would from a coin operated machine. The ergonomics of the control stick are identical to the arcades. Micro switches sound off on every direction change and the weight of the wood, when laid on a flat surface, provides a quality experience.

The experience is less authentic when playing from a sofa and the unit sits on your lap, but then, you wouldn’t have purchased a CMVS if this was a concern?

It’s all about image

The picture produced from the SCART lead on an HD television provided interesting results. The edges of the graphics are very defined, even when we tested it on the 50 inch HD flat screen. This was unexpected yet impressive.

My viewing preference and recommendation is on a 4:3 CRT using the SCART lead. It looks amazing and I got an emotionally giddy feeling when we fired up games that I hadn’t played for over 20 years. It was the experience I longed for and the package that carried it was more than worthy. Our CRT playthroughs were tested on our Bang and Olufsen MX4000.

As someone who never owned an AES, comparing the cables which connect the joysticks to the console is difficult.

The leads available feel of less quality when compared to the hardware, and although there has never been any connection issues, they felt to ‘sit in place’, rather than securely connect. This is especially in comparison with commercial products like the Super Nintendo or Mega Drive.

The lead itself was quite airy and rigid, which was against my expectations of what the lead would be. I had a pre-conceived notion it would be more like the traditional 4th/5th generation console.

As each piece of equipment was throughly examined there were a few points that we questioned. These points were addressed right away by Analogue, reinforcing their customer support and reputation.

In fact, they emailed me before I could contact them as my concern was picked up over our Twitter feed. This kind of attention deserves recognition and I wish other companies were as attentive.

First, they addressed the question that the stripped screws belonging to the base of the joysticks, and offered to fix the issue at no cost, covering any shipping charges.

This point isn’t a concern for me personally, as if I had any issues I’d send the unit back, but it was a great response and much appreciated.

The second issue was linked to the rear connection port. A screw was loose/missing and
Analogue sent replacements straight away.

The product commands a high price, and with that comes expectations. Sure enough, there will be customers that might find this unacceptable given the high quality of every other aspect, and Analogue happily shares that sentiment.

In conclusion

Analogue’s CMVS is a great product that well justifies its cost. It looks beautiful and sets the bar high with its level of craftsmanship and playing this consolised arcade unit delivered in all areas. The games, the functionality, the aesthetics and company support all make this a reasonable purchase, not for only NEO GEO fans, but to those who appreciate retro gaming in general.

The introduction to Analogue Interactive’s Black Label CMVS Slim makes their future products in development an exciting prospect because the product they produced here genuinely feels fresh and unexpected, even in 2015.

We are in a time where technology is pushing the envelope with realism and immersive
content captured in V.R worlds, yet this eloquently designed console retains the core importance of gaming. Fun.

And it has it in spades.

Visit Analogue Interactive’s website for more details on their available products.

Music by @disyman

Drone footage by Danny Cooke

Analogue Interactive CMVS Slim by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

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Bringing The Arcade Back

arcade

Ah, the joy of the arcade scene. If you’re old enough now, you were very privileged to experience something unique and special to gaming that lost its way toward the end of the 90s.

Today they are all but extinct. But is there no profit and life in the future of the arcade?

I believe the future is bright.

My full-time job sees me create businesses and strategy plans for their longevity, I also handle marketing, create video content and promote businesses and at this time I work for one in the private health sector. It’s so painful to see one of my life long passions, the arcade gaming scene, fall by the wayside with little to no input from big companies who could now exploit this potential goldmine.

Perhaps this has been investigated? But I felt the need to at least talk about it and my interpretation of how the arcade scene could, and should dominate the gaming world of today.

How?

Do you have a drink? Sit back, relax, and let me unravel my pitch.

Yes, the arcade scene could easily thrive if you create a culture around it, and could offer a different experience to the ‘alone at home’ despite the lack of graphical fidelity.

For this to happen it needs everyone to work in unison, a collaboration with rules set between all competitors and developers – together they could resurrect the arcade scene. Not only create a culture, but it’s very existence could change gaming and profitability forever.

So where to start?

Personalisation.

Something which has been lost from the gaming halls and reserved at home for the consoles. Create an elite experience, cultivate a vibrant culture where only the greatest and serious competitors go. And these players will not only be recognised, they’ll have something to play for – the true immersive, nail biting, real time experience with rewards.

Think about it, what do current arcades offer other than a high score?

Arcades need to be perceived as a status symbol for the best of the best, for people who are acknowledged for their blood, sweat, tears and dedication. And it can all start with an A.G.C (Arcade Gamers Card)

Again, back in the day the reward was a high-score on the hall of fame but that means nothing in the world of today if others don’t see and hear about it.

An A.G.C would be unique between people – that could be personalised at home, branded by the player, allowing them to customize their gamer colors and provide an avatar.

Data on the card holding high score data and B.P (Bank Points) used to unlock specific bonuses across a multitude of platforms and games. B.P is valuable and could be used in world-wide competitions against opponents, even used as a wager, or, an entrance fee.

This immediately changes the experience and creates stakes, straight away it gives the player something valuable to lose making it unique only to the arcade. The weigh up of skill and risk.

It’s creating an ecosystem and currency that can’t be increased with real world cash – only gaming skill. This is the ecosystem in which trade happens and that earns the player with self reward and respect from others. That is the hook.

How would the A.G.C work?

Cards are purchased and then put on a subscription plan, either monthly or annually. This subscription keeps the card active and it’s this that grants you access to play games. No machine would work without it.

If a card loses its subscription, all profile data, credits, high scores and B.P are retained. Only access to the machines are off.

Real world money is added and translated into credits, these credits are then used to play the machine instead of cash. The game will reward you with your high score, B.P earned on every game and offer the announcement via social networks.

B.P is used in wagers between players, to enter competitions or used to make enhancements to the game character/ship – it can buy you better weapon and armor enhancements. This purchasing would again be a trade-off, to improve your chances in the game against a trade-off in entering bigger matches that require B.P to enter.

B.P is at heart used as a strategy between games to get better scores and increase rewards. playing into the 3 step cycle of ‘Obstacle – Risk – Reward’.

Gamers could purchase an adapter for their home computer which allows them to update their profile, add their email, customise their colours, link their game session to twitter, Facebook and live stream channel. Or this could be handled via an online account.

The Hardware

Arcade cabinets will be fitted with online capability, with cameras and microphones – no exception.

Gamers are free to select opponents from any region around the world at any time. With camera enabled you’re able to view and hear your opponent – but the feature, as with audio, is optional. Should the player disable this, their profile avatar is used in replacement.

The A.G.C can also update users and twitter followers on the progression, as well as activate the live streaming channel of their choice.

The Games

Arcade games do need to change, but not to compete with the home users. These games should only be exclusive to arcades and never released on any other platform. This brings value, experience and exclusivity to the arcade, in only one place. This increases its value.

I’m going to use the X-Box game Steel Battalion as a reference to this concept and dramatization.

Steel

You stand outside the Mech Wars cabinet, a player comes out, upset they just lost. You pull your A.G.C out from your pocket, you’ve spent months earning enough B.P for better weapons and to gain entrance fee into an elite online battle that could either cripple your points, or triple them.

You slide the door back – presented with an array of buttons, a throttle and flight stick with the dim glow of the CRT illuminating the interior. You sit and slide the door shut.

You insert the A.G.C into the slot, the red glow around it rolls over to green. Your stats come up, you authenticate the use of 1500 B.P in an 8 vs 8 competition with the reward being 4500 B.P. The HUD flies up with your teams stats. With camera and audio enabled you see their faces and country flag. A message asks if you would like to live stream the game to your twitch channel, you say yes. Mission is annihilate the enemy, another 8 manned team. You know they have also have spent hours getting to the level of skill you have. Twitch viewer count starts racking up, your followers know this is a big game for you.

You spend all your B.P on arming your mech with improved weapons.

The counter resets, the lights flicker, the cockpit around you hums into life. You have visual – a plane hanger, your team in front of you. Team leader speaks real-time and waves on the camera wishing you all luck. The door of a transporter plane opens, the wind whistling and a 300 ft drop to the LZ.

The mechs in front launch, you push hard on the throttle stick, you’re out.

You rotate the flight stick, you see your team-mate.

You ignite the boosters for a soft landing – touchdown. You’re surrounded by jungle.

You all move forward.

The sound of every mech footprint vibrates to the cockpit via surround sound speakers. With all your other bank points spent on arming your mech with shields and missiles you know it’s all or nothing. Only your skill will see you through this.

You’re in the clearing, you see your first target, you pull the flight stick aiming the vulcan cannon at the enemy, you open fire…

It’s the stakes of losing that make the arcade experience enthralling and it’s this that I believe has been lost from older arcade games, with the home experience now capitalizing and surpassing this.

Business Model

With a monthly subscription and the use of credits this will keep currency coming in making a sustainable business.

Any tampering or cheating results in life ban, no exceptions.

Further exposure can be through the use of arcade conventions, competitions exclusive to the group. Competition winners could earn items exclusive to the game made in limited supply as a trophy.

I never saw gaming as a sport. E-Sport or otherwise. This could make gaming its own competition – instead of tagging the idea on to other sports arenas who earned that on their own merit.

The arcade used to be a great experience and it has lost out due to a lack of innovation and focus. Why focus on gimmicky games?

It is the experience that counts, and the show of skill that rewards. Give people a platform to showcase their skill not just within the arcade, but to the world.

Give them a forum to come together face to face.

Bring the arcade back to its rightful glory.

 

Opinion piece by Ash @RGB_RetroBlog RetroGamingBlog’s Twitch

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