We're going to be taking a dive into the gamelist and seeing what information we can get from it. It may give us some clues as to the hardware, if it's improved over the PB6 or not.
The Gamelist At First Glance
Let's skim through the gamelist a bit first and compare a bit against the 9D. The very first thing to note is that the 3D games from the 9D 2500 game version are all here in the first slots instead of the last as seen on most other 3A official boards. They denote that Mortal Kombat one is specifically the arcade version, which is a change of pace as well. They made a bit of effort to group up some of the more popular series together so you get all your Street Fighters all together, which is nice. Some of the lesser-known series are also grouped together such as Vampire/DarkStalkers.
Much like the 9D 2500 game version, there are a lot of game hacks included. I know most people aren't too happy about their inclusion, myself included but every once in a while, one of them does something so strange or unexpected that it makes things a bit more fun. Some of the random Street Fighter II hacks with crazy weird character changes can be a lot of fun to screw around with, but I could definitely do without the million KOF hacks that I know nothing about. I'm sure someone will be happy with some of them though. A particularlly fun one that I hope is included is a Cadillacs and Dinosaurs hack that throws hundreds of enemies at you constantly.
I understand that 3A wants to specifically call out games that they've added 3 and 4 player support for which is cool, but most of them are already in the gamelist, likely in 2 player form. I'm guessing they are doing this specifically so that games that have 2 player versions will allow you to select your character (Simpsons, TMNT, etc...)
One of the really common things I hear about the inclusion of home console games on something like the PBDX is "why would I want to play those at all"? I find it is mainly arcade purists that don't ever really mess with home games saying this kind of stuff. After seeing some of the inferior ports of some arcade games to home releases, I understand where they are coming from, but there are also a lot of really great arcade-style games that from consoles that would fit right in with the best arcades have to offer. I think you would be doing yourself a disservice by not at least exploring them.
The Streets of Rage series, Gunstar Heroes, Contra: Hard Corps/Contra 3 The Alien Wars, Batman Returns, Comix Zone, Gauntlet 4, Final Fight 2 and 3, Space Megaforce There are also some really good home ports of games we otherwise don't have on this box such as Super Smash TV and the SNES Turtles in Time port (which I like even more than the arcade version), NBA Hangtime on SNES (which is even better on PS1)... honestly, I could go on all night here. Don't get me wrong though - there's also a lot of crap here. For every Streets of Rage, there's a Wayne's World.
A particular cheap thing I should mention is that 3A is using the name Killer Instinct to advertise the box which leads a lot of users to believe they can finally play the arcade version and it's not the case as it's the extremely well-playing but ultimately cut down SNES version.
Also, I would be wrong to not mention that there are a lot of hacks here for the console games as well adding unlimited lives and that sort of thing. I could really do without all that, but thankfully we can add 5000 of our own games to this box as well. Also, a note here to say that there are some of the PS1 games late in the gamelist that they clearly forgot to call out as "3D games", such as the Megaman X series.
A Discovery and a Glimmer of Hope
The first thing I want to point out is that there are pictures of the motherboard and while the board markings suggest that this is an updated version of the PB6 board, the board itself looks quite different. Even the SD card is in a different position. This was making me wonder if maybe the specs are actually a bit better in this box.
It took a while for me to look through the gamelist one by one but I saw a game that took me by surprise. WWF Wrestlemania is listed here and from looking at its position in the list, it is an arcade game, not the PS1 or SNES port. From what I remember of our testing on the PB6, I don't remember it running fast enough or running at all so if this title is actually correct, that's pretty good news as it's a somewhat heavy game... but there is one game in particular that would signal better hardware.
I'm talking about 2 on 2 NHL Open Ice Challenge. This game only was in the arcades and had a very cut down PlayStation version that plays well. It appears to be the arcade version judging from its position in the gamelist and not the PS1 version. Open Ice is quite well known for being a bit heavier than most Midway games so if it is running well on this board, this means that we would likely be able to run the various arcade versions of Mortal Kombat at full speed as well. Another game on this list that pops out to me is Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder. From what I remember, it ran very sluggishly on the Pandora's Box 6, so I'm hoping that its official inclusion means that it's finally running full speed.
Ultimately, if these games are all running well, there's a chance that the horrible screen tearing issues the PB6 had due to bad performance are also fixed.
At this point, I'm a bit excited to see how this box turns out, but we could very easily find ourselves disappointed again. Perhaps the games I've singled out are mislabeled, for example. Maybe screen tearing is even worse? It's hard to say what we're going to get in the end until we have it in our hands for testing.
So don't go rushing out to buy this box yet on my speculation alone. I've already bought it and will be reviewing it as soon as I have it on hand. Keep an eye on this blog for more info.