Arcade1Up CLASSIC GOLDEN TEE Mini-Cabinet Review

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In the past, I researched and wrote about the early Arcade1Up product line. I will make no bones about how I found their products to be pretty problematic for the most part—questionable button layouts, fragile controls, poor quality build, and, in the case of Gauntlet on the Midway Arcade Classics cabinet, a bad ROM! For the Space Invaders machine, they were offering two versions of Space Invaders (the original and Color) for $299.99. What an awful value!

I had seen firsthand displays falling apart within a few weeks of use: some more moderate than others. Plastic parts and decals peeling apart. Sticks and buttons coming off. It was depressing. Keep in mind, this was regular wear and tear; the general public was just trying to play their Pac-man, Tempest, and Rampage. Nobody was taking a sledgehammer to the machines. From an optimistic viewpoint, you could say there was room for improvement with the next wave; from a cynic's viewpoint, they were plastic junk at a premium. I felt that '80s nostalgia was being exploited and people with too much money who didn't know any better were buying into it.

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A little history here: Golden Tee is Incredible Technologies' biggest game series. These golf games (and many imitators) are a popular sight at bars, casinos, and restaurants. They're broad enough to appeal to the layperson, surprisingly substantial enough to appeal to gamers. I have a soft spot for video games based on golf and am always looking for new ways to hit some digital links.

The Golden Tee games are known for their trackball controls. It's a calling card, of sorts. Arcade1Up totally dropped the ball on the Centipede machine that they made with the Atari license. At Houston Arcade Expo 2018, I had played the 1Up Atari Centipede and was able to do a live side-by-side comparison with one of the many restored original Centipede machines (along with dedicated Missile Command and Crystal Castles cabinets that were there—trackball games that also came pre-loaded into that mini-cabinet). There was no comparison. In spite of how good the Arcade1Up Atari machine looked, its trackball controls felt… off. Off enough to ruin the experience for me. In fact, one of my buddies who bought his own Arcade1Up Centipede cabinet was so dissatisfied with that trackball that he went out of his way to modify it.

Well, I guess someone at Arcade1Up is hearing the consumer feedback because, much to my surprise, their Golden Tee machine is pretty darn good.

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Arcade1Up's Classic Golden Tee cabinet comes with the decals, a 12-inch riser, and it’s about a third the size of a regular Golden Tee machine while being pre-loaded with four games: Golden Tee Classic, Golden Tee 2K, Golden Tee '98, and Golden Tee ‘99. While I don't care for the quality of the decals (they strike me as flimsy), the buttons have a better tactical response—a far cry from what they were using for the Midway, Street Fighter and Namco machines! And, most importantly, the trackball is nice and big and feels great! The overall build quality of the Classic Golden Tee cabinet and the riser feels much sturdier than past Arcade1Up efforts. The light-up marquee looks beautiful.

I admittedly do not have enough experience with the originals (they all kind of run together in my mind) to give an informed opinion of how faithful these recreations are, but, having tested all four games, I saw no technical problems.

With an MSRP of $499.99, the Classic Golden Tee cabinet is an expensive toy. And yet, it's the most economical reissue of Incredible Technologies' games, as the bigger versions can go for thousands of dollars.

The Golden Tee games are not really big with hardcore gamers, yet this product demonstrates to me that these Arcade1Up machines are starting to find their voice. The Classic Golden Tee is a BIG step up from what Arcade1Up rolled into stores last year! It should satisfy anyone's arcade golf game needs. I have seen people of all ages and genders enjoy this one. It could make a great gift for the (grand)dad in your life or be a fun way to introduce retro-gaming to your children in a casual way.

You can currently buy this one at Wal-Mart and some participating GameStop stores.