Nearly all Arcade Cabinets came with 4:3 aspect ratio monitors, so the final output image had to be stretched to fit the 4:3 aspect, irrespective of native resolution.
I’m guessing a lot of pixel artists from that time maybe took this into account and the final 4:3 stretched image is what they imagined. Some probably didn’t think/see this because there are a lot of games that do look too stretched.
Bomb Jack, as you bring this up, perhaps was purposely designed with a squished aspect (224x256 v), so that when it’s displayed on a 4:3 vertical monitor it looks the intended way.
I think instead of the “right” way, it is more the “Intended” way. Or perhaps it’s simply the ONLY way due to the technical limitations of CRT hardware from that era. I grew up with the 4:3 aspect, so to me it always looks the right way.
I 100% agree. Mood is what makes it look and feel like the real thing. The flawed glass effects are really hard to pull off 100% convincingly without looking a bit fake. Reflection is also hard because you need to define what exactly you are reflecting, and getting that right is difficult. I tend to just reflect ceiling lights, or bright light sources that would exist in this environment.
When you see what can be done in 4k, then you will see what the next-gen overlay will truly look like. If you imagine the current 1080p overlay, pull slightly back from that fixed 1920x1080 area and you now have the same play area but also the full control panel and top cabinet Marquees all lit up and it looks amazing.
The next BIG leap could be animated overlays. So the background can have looped animated cabs running.