X-Arcade

Review

posted 5/29/2003 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
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You can adjust the sensitivity of the buttons and the joystick by removing the bottom panel and making minor adjustments to the switches or springs. Say you don’t play many fighting games but more of the retro Q-Bert, Pac Man, or Donkey Kong games. You really only need four directions as the diagonals aren’t used. Just pop open the bottom, move the arms away from the control stick, then you’re ready to go. But if you’re into fighting games and need that high sensitivity for diagonals, then just move the arms towards the control stick and it’ll be more sensitive to those directions. I made the changes and I could really tell the differences. I didn’t need to be as precise in the diagonals for the unit to register that direction. It’ll really help all the fighting games, which depend on eight directions. The buttons can also be changed to feel looser by adjusting the springs.

Since the X-Arcade Kit emulates a keyboard, there are no drivers to install. Just plug the unit into your computer or console and you’re ready to go. Because programming is done through the hardware, you don’t even have to install any software to get it running. There’s not much more you can do to make the X-Arcade kit easier to get working.

Being that this thing emulates an arcade setup, what better program to test it out with than MAME? MAME v.60 actually has native support for the X-Arcade. In the default options and controllers tab, you can select the X-Arcade setup in the drop down box in the keyboard area. If you use an older version of MAME, the Hot Rod selection in the controllers tab will also work fine. You can probably play most games without having to program the buttons once you do this so you can get right into the game without too much time trying to set it up. So after plugging into my laptop with MAME installed, I took it through a test run of Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition, Mortal Kombat 2, and Smash T.V. extensively along with a few of the other games in my library.

If you play Smash T.V. you know the arcade setup had two joysticks to control your character: one for firing and one for moving. The default setup is for the X-Arcade is to allow one player use both of the joysticks to play the game. Now you can program it so that if you are playing with someone else, each person can use a joystick and the buttons to control, but if you want to true feel of Smash T.V. or Robotron, you can use both joysticks to play. Does it feel exactly like you’re playing at the arcade? You bet your ass it does. The X-Arcade Kit completes the setup for a true Smash T.V. experience and I must say that it was a blast to play with the two arcade feeling joysticks. Controlling the character and aim was accurate and responsive. That familiar click feel when you push a direction on a stick really adds to the arcade at home experience. It’s too bad only one person can experience the game this way.

Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition was up next and I decided to play Zangief, Ryu, and Balrog to give me a feel for how well the joystick works with characters that rely on the rotational movement to perform their special moves with Balrog being the representative for the straight charge moves. If I could pull off spinning pile drivers and dragon uppercuts like I used to back in the old days then we got ourselves a real winner here. Needless to say that playing Street Fighter 2 with the X-Arcade was a dream. Again, the characters were responsive and I dragon punched my way across the screen with ease. Playing Zangief, I was amazed at how well I was pulling off the spinning pile drivers. You don’t really appreciate how much you miss arcade sticks with fighters until you play one on a gamepad for a while and move to an arcade stick. As with Smash T.V., the X-Arcade makes playing fighting games a real experience. I don’t think I can go back to playing it any other way.

I’ve always been a fan of Mortal Kombat 2 and I was pretty ecstatic to play it on MAME with the X-Arcade. There’s no substitute for playing the game with an arcade style stick. With the X-Arcade, I was waxing nostalgic when playing the game remembering all the time and quarters I spent in the arcade. There were no problems pulling off moves with various characters and the stick helps make some of the charge fatalities a lot easier to pull off. I even pulled off a few friendships and bablities within a short amount of time. When playing all the games I used to play in the arcades with the X-Arcade instead of a gamepad, I found that I quickly become proficient again with the game.

The X-Arcade also works well with the Playstation 2. Each button is mapped to a PS2 button, which can be seen from the instructions that X-Gaming supplies you with. Since the Playstation 2 gamepad has two analog sticks and a D-Pad, you can switch the function of the joystick between the three. Attaching the adapter and plugging it into both of the joystick ports, I loaded up Virtua Fighter 4. After mapping the three buttons to mimic the same setup as the arcade, I proceeded to play a few rounds. The stick worked as well on the PS2 as it did on the PC. All movements and button presses responded flawlessly and I had a lot easier time playing VF4 with a stick than a gamepad. It was also a lot more fun to use a full size arcade setup rather than a hand held gamepad for that game. While I don’t think the X-Arcade will be suited for a lot of games on the PS2, all the fighter games and some of the arcade sports game should benefit from using an arcade setup. And of course, if you play a few arcade ports on the Playstation 2, the X-Arcade kit should provide a better experience if you want that arcade feel.

At $150 right now for the PC version, you get a true arcade feel for two people. Besides giving you that arcade experience at home, the versatile X-Arcade Kit is compatible with all the major consoles and features on the fly button programmability. You can replace worn out parts from any arcade part supplier. It’s truly one of the best arcade setups I’ve played with. The X-Arcade just screams quality the moment you take it out of the box. And you’ll notice the great feel immediately on any game you play. It does a wonderful job at mimicking the real thing. In actuality, it is the real thing given that it uses arcade quality parts. If you plan on building a MAME cabinet, don’t hesitate to go out and purchase the X-Arcade Kit.



A-
A great recreation of the arcade style controller with plenty of buttons, programmability, and adapters for consoles.



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