When it comes to interchangeable arcade games, carts are cooler. Here’s where and what to buy.
If you’re just starting in on the arcade collector scene, the wealth of great standalone arcade circuit boards can be daunting. Fortunately, it’s not as bad as it seems. Because these boards originally cost buyers well over four figures each, manufacturers in the ’80s had no problem replicating everything needed (CPU, graphics chipset, I/O chips, and so on) for each individual board, especially for games that used custom hardware. Thus, games such as Pac-Man were standalone computers that plugged into an arcade monitor and controls.
As the ’90s dawned, and arcade game companies discovered they used similar hardware models for their games, the idea of lower-cost, interchangeable cartridges started to gain some dominance. These carts plug into JAMMA-compatible motherboards mounted within the arcade cabinet, although the motherboards themselves are swappable like normal JAMMA boards ( [Hack #58] ).
You can play any one of several JAMMA cart-based systems on your JAMMA cabinet. In some cases (such as the Neo Geo MVS), these systems are identical to home systems of the era. Other systems, including the Sega ST-V, adapted solid-state versions of CD-based games. Still more, in the case of Taito’s F3 and Capcom’s CPS2, use systems completely different from any home console.
By far the best thing about these systems is that the secondhand market for them is relatively ...