A number of years ago, before turbografx.net had even seen the light of day, I decided to take it upon myself to refurbish an arcade cabinet. I bought it used from a pool table supply retailer and replaced a woeful tragedy of a jamma board with Street Fighter 2. Along with this, I slapped on a coat of paint, replaced the marquee, and refinished the control panel.
After collecting some dust in a corner for a number of years, I decided that it was time for a change for the old arcade cabinet. One of my primary motivating factors was the fact that I have young children that like to get into everything. As a result, it was time consuming for me to play a round of games on my beloved TurboGrafx, since I would have to pack it away safely after I was done playing. With this in mind, I decided to put an old computer of mine to use and convert my standard jamma cabinet into a multi-use emulator cabinet.
In terms of hardware, I feel fortunate by the fact that I did not have to purchase much. I already had a crusty old Windows XP PC powered by a nearly ten year old AMD Athlon XP processor. Additionally, as I previously mentioned, I already had a jamma cabinet just waiting to be converted. In order to get myself up and running, I also purchased to items manufactured by Ultimarc.
First, I bought an ArcadeVGA video card so that I could output a video signal properly from my PC to my arcade monitor. I actually snagged an old AGP version of this (my motherboard didn't support the new PCI Express model) off of eBay. Much to my joy, it worked like a charm, and only at a fraction of the price of a new one. I did have to play with the settings and my monitor a bit to avoid a vertically rolling screen image. However, adjusting the v-hold proved to be the trick and had me well on my way.
Second, I bought a J-Pac PC to Jamma adapter. I first tried to purchase a cheaper version of this (the PC2Jamma adapter) from an eBay vendor, but that proved to be a big mistake. After following the vendor's advice, I got nowhere with that initial adapter. Thankfully, at the suggestion of a forum poster, I purchased the J-Pac and it worked for me right out of the box. This adapter enabled me to map my arcade buttons to the PC motherboard's PS2 port.
Once I had the PC running the way that I liked, I made some custom shelves and mounted them inside my cabinet. I happened to have some boards from an old computer desk, so I cut them down to size and they worked like a charm. Once the first shelf was done, I ripped everything out of my PC case and mounted everything to the shelf. I used the second shelf for additional storage inside the cabinet.
Software configuration proved to be the most time consuming aspect of the project. For my menuing system, I looked at several options, but decided on HyperSpin. My older system did require me to disable some of the animations, but I was pleased with the overall responsiveness. Within HyperSpin, I had to make sure to do custom configuration of each emulator that I would enable, including setting the video mode, hiding menus, setting up key mappings to my joysticks, and turning off unwanted shortcut keys.
For the TurboGrafx emulator, I tried out several options, but landed on Magic Engine. Mednafen proved to be much too slow for any kind of serious consideration. Ootake worked decently enough, but I couldn't get it to work quite as smoothly with HyperSpin as I could Magic Engine, so that was the deciding factor. The only negative that I ran into with Magic Engine was that you couldn't mount an ISO for a CD game. As a result, I am using an easily accessible CD-ROM inside my cabinet and can only play one CD game at a time.
As the final touch, I followed several tutorials to help me hide my Windows operating system and general signs that a computer was inside the cabinet. I was successful in hiding everything except for the BIOS screen. From what I understand, this can be replaced with a custom image on many motherboards, but based on my research, it looked like it could not be done with my motherboard.
All in all, I am very pleased with the end result of my project. I can now easily play my TurboGrafx favorites without having to worry about hiding everything away out of the reach of sticky fingers. This definitely proved to be time and money well spent.