These overlays (sometimes known as bezels) display art on top of the game you're playing. To use them, you need a PC or Raspberry Pi (or other compatible system) running some version of MAME and the associated game software, as well as a widescreen (16x9) monitor mounted vertically. To display the overlay while playing a game, download the artwork file for that game overlay (it must have the same filename as the game), place it in the Artwork folder within your MAME directory and launch the game. (For instance, the software for the game Magic Sword is called msword.zip, so it requires a file in the Artwork directory also called msword.zip.)
All overlays are 4K resolution (2160 x 3840), and listed dimensions are for the game screen, relative to a 4K vertical monitor. The actual game screen size will depend on the resolution of your monitor.
Most of the overlays include multiple presets that let you choose the size of the game screen, access a "dark" version designed to look more like a dark arcade, and sometimes other options. To choose a preset, press Tab while running the game to bring up the MAME menu, select Video Options, and select a preset from the list.
Some overlays include Curved presets designed with a curved screen port, to better simulate the look of a CRT monitor. These presets work best if you are using a geometry shader that adds a curved look to the game screen. For an optimal experience, you may need to adjust your shaders to match the curvature of the screen shape in the overlay. If you are not using a geometry shader, you are using a shader that adds a curved bezel, or if you prefer a rectangular screen port, choose a Straight preset where applicable.
Blood Brothers takes the gameplay mechanics of Cabal and transports them to the Wild West, charging a cowboy and Indian team with hunting down outlaw Big Bad John. The core mechanic combines a simplified over-the-shoulder run-and-gun style mechanic with shooting gallery controls – players aim with an on-screen reticle which moves while firing, allowing both character movement and aiming. Additional buttons throw dynamite and perform a rolling dodge to avoid an increasing volley of enemy shots. Though simple, the enjoyable gameplay loop and little touches like the player's end-of-stage victory dance give Blood Brothers an enduring charm.
The final game released by the short-lived TAD Corporation, Heated Barrel is a frenetic Western shooter (sheer chaos with four players) that feels like a bit of a hybrid between a typical run-and-gun game and a side-scrolling shooter. Players have more vertical freedom of movement than in some similar games (such as Sunset Riders), which opens up considerably more tactical depth as enemies appear fast and furiously from all directions. The visuals are simpler and more cartoony than in many run-and-gun games, with an emphasis more on action and movement than on pretty stages, which gives Heated Barrel its own niche that's worth a few runs.
At some point in the 90s, it seems that arcade game developers needed a reason not to jump on the beat-em-up bandwagon, something TAD Corporation was unable to provide before releasing Legionnaire. A relatively by-the-numbers brawler in the vein of Final Fight, it lacks weapons or an especially interesting move set, and instead gets by on quirky enemy designs and a few interesting additions such as a dash attack and a grenade-throwing special move (OK, it has one weapon). It may not be your first beat-em-up choice, but if you just have to beat em all, Legionnaire will give you a bunch of new enemies to beat on.
Appearing at a time when vertically-scrolling shoot-em-ups had been around for years, and new games typically needed some kind of gimmick to continue to bring in quarters, Raiden ("thunder and lightning" in Japanese) didn't necessarily seem like anything special at first glance. What it brought to the genre was solid shooter mechanics, a straightforward but effective weapons system and challenging gameplay that is considered a forebear to the "bullet hell" or danmaku shooters that became popular a decade later. The storyline is somewhat muddled depending on the source (Are you fighting the alien Crystals? Or is the Crassanian Empire? Does it matter?), but whatever the case, the game's balance and satisfying feel make it a standout in a crowded field.
Raiden II was a breakout game for creator Seibu Kaihatsu, and Raiden DX is essentially an extended remix of its big hit, adding a variety of new levels and challenges while retaining the original's core concept, gameplay and visuals. The new content consists of three game modes: an Alpha course considered a "training" level that gauges your overall skill, a Bravo course that recaps the first five levels of Raiden II, and a Charlie course that remixes the entire game with new levels and enemy types. Overall, Raiden DX brings more of what makes Raiden II a great middle ground in the shmup world, a sophisticated shooter that is challenging without putting players through (bullet) hell.
If Seibu's earlier Raiden games had a somewhat more measured pace compared to the rest of the genre in the mid-90s, Raiden Fighters was designed to catapult the series forward, with a fleet of fighters to choose from and more frenetic gameplay. The ships on offer here vary more dramatically in their weaponry, giving players a true choice in play style, with the enemies, bosses and graphics all upping the ante alongside them. With driving techno music and a more complicated scoring system, Raiden Fighters succeeds in pushing the series forward without abandoning its roots.
Subtitled "Operation Hell Dive," Raiden Fighters 2 follows Seibu's usual "don't fix what ain't broke" philosophy and doubles down on what made its predecessor work. The sequel increases the fighter roster to a whopping 14 fighters (plus two hidden fighters) featuring a wide range of attack styles, including one fighter that is, in fact, a slow but cute dragon with a very powerful flame weapon. The rest of the game continues the higher intensity of the original, with some additions such as a cooperative attack that syncs the two players to unleash a devastating barrage. If you liked the first one, you'll certainly want to play the second.
The final release of the Raiden Fighters series and considered by some to be one of the greatest arcade shmups of all time, Raiden Fighters Jet continues the splashy visual style and diverse gameplay styles of the first two games. It includes 14 fighters, introducing one new craft into the roster carried over from its predecessors, and its primary difference from the previous games is a branching stage structure based on your score (which is in turn driven by a variety of factors, including medals and enemy kills). Doing better sends you to different levels, while doing poorly (but still continuing) can send you all the way back to the beginning. Raiden Fighters Jet refines the series to a sheen, and offers considerable challenges and rewards to dedicated players.
Raiden II isn't a dramatic departure from the original – not only the premise, but the shooting mechanics, the enemy types and behaviors, most of the weapons and the overall feel are very similar. It does feature new level designs and upgraded graphics, with upgrades like more detailed shadows, enemies that disintegrate into flying debris upon destruction and an overall more sophisticated look, plus the ability to continue the action immediately upon dying. But its primary difference is the addition of a new weapon, a purple energy ribbon (referred to by some as the "toothpaste laser") that locks onto a primary enemy while snaking around the screen to damage others. It's a novel weapon that's very satisfying to use, and along with the game's other improvements, it was enough to make the slightly old seem new again, and breathe new life into a genre that had started to lose its luster in the early 90s.
TAD Corporation's Toki is a curious platformer that casts players as a Tarzan-like tribesman pursuing an evil witch doctor, who has kidnapped princess and love interest Miho and also turned him into a shrunken ape-like creature. The transformation has given Toki the ability to shoot deadly projectiles from his mouth, for some reason, which are of great help in navigating the creature-filled caverns that lie between him and his beloved. Toki was a popular game for its time, and it's easy to see why, with its character-filled presentation and complex platforming challenges – it even spawned a recent remake, but you can relive the original here in its arcade cabinet glory.