Recently, I just happened upon a new board called “The King of Air 2”. This board is essentially a Pandora Box DX that has been re-configured for vertical game support, and only supports that with about 500 some games loaded on at the start.
Now, I’m not sure what you guys think about Pandora Box itself, but my experience in having owned a Pandora Box 6 is that it is a mixed experience.
First of all, the Jamma is actually Chamma, so you need a converter if you want to wire a kick harness to this thing. Secondly, the emulation on the Pandora Box 6 is “OK”. It is good enough to play the games, but it has some input lag and lots of screen tearing. They have this mode called “quality optimization” which actually is just a blitter filter that makes the quality somewhat worse on smaller displays. There are definitely some slowdowns in some of the games as well. On the positive side, I like it because I don’t have to spend time configuring emulator settings or booting up windows and the like. So it is definitely a lot more convenient than busting out the real board or hooking up my arcade PC.
The King of Air 2 Board somewhat solves some of the issues that plagued the original Pandora 6 I described above, but isn’t a fantastic experience.
First off, the quality optimization thing… there’s no turning that off, but it at least looks a lot better this time compared to the 6. The makers probably realized that the quality optimization thing was the way to go with respect to the screen tearing issues and just forced that on people.
I like that you can also connect a USB arcade stick or gamepad directly instead of using the jamma harness. I don’t like to bust out a kick harness, but at the same time I also don’t really intend to play more than 4 button games on this thing.
In addition, I found out by accident that this unit is BOTH the King of Air 2 AND a Pandora Box DX, though not at the same time. There’s this small button that you press upon bootup that controls the resolution of the device – highest being 720p, and I think it does more of a 480p. But, one of the modes is a low res mode that is 240p, but it loads a horizontal Pandora Box DX menu that features more games, plus the games in the king of air, though without the vertical orientation.
Why they decided to do this weird thing is beyond me, but to me, since I go through an OSSC anyway, I find it is a much welcome addition. Strangely enough, in this mode, quality optimization is off, and you can’t turn it on? It’s very strange to say the least, but it is fine.
Now, onto the gameplay itself. Well, I got this device originally to play boards I can’t acquire such as Batrider or Esprade (though I have the PS4 and Switch of this one). Does it serve a good purpose for that?
Well, one thing I noticed was that the emulation seems to have these weird slowdowns in places there really shouldn’t be. In Esprade in particular, the first stage has a slower framerate in one of the beginning parts whereas it should not. Secondly, in Batrider there are weird and unexplained slowdowns that don’t seem to be related to number of sprites or other objects on the screen. Funny enough, the DX mode on this (although horizontal) seems to play just fine with no slowdown or slowdown in the right places.
There are some games missing from this for some unknown reason. First of all, there is Ketsui. I’m not sure why that’s missing, but presumably if the DX side has all these neo geo games, and CPS3, I wonder why they couldn’t have PGM games on there? Ok, fair enough, but why is Guwange missing? That ran on the same hardware ad Esprade. I am not sure if you can add games on this thing like you can for the 6, but I guess it’s worth a try. I just find it weird that for a unit marketed as a vertical shooting board, it would be missing these critical entries.
So, is this unit worth the price and should you buy it? Well, I guess for the one or two games I bought it for, I think the answer is yes. It’s very convenient to start up and use. It works well enough and though it doesn’t look or play as “perfect” as the emulation on my PC, it is a good deal.
I just wonder though, why didn’t they bother to upgrade the CPU or memory just a bit? The emulation could be perfect with just a small hardware increase.