posted 5/29/2003 by John Yan
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I’ve been playing with MAME for a while now and reliving some old arcade games. Who would think that retro arcade games can be so much fun given the lifelike graphics of many of the games today? Playing Joust or Galaga with a gamepad is fun, but don’t you wish you could run your blue wizard through the dungeon in Gauntlet with an arcade stick? There are a few arcade setups for sale and today I take a look at X-Gaming’s X-Arcade Kit, a device to give you that arcade experience at home.

The X-Arcade stick features two joysticks, eight buttons for each controller, a pair of pinball flipper buttons, and two start buttons. There’s also an LED in the upper right of to let you know the stick is active. The button layout for each player has six Street Fighter layouts with two three-button rows. Two more buttons are positioned underneath and a little to the left of the second row. The two start buttons have that familiar picture for one or two players that you see in the arcades. If you play pinball games, a button is located on each side of the unit so you can grasp the sides and make it feel like you’re at a pinball machine. The only thing I can think of that’s missing from the unit would be a trackball to play some oldies like Centipede or Crystal Castles. Oh, and a rotating handle on the joystick would’ve been really cool to play Ikari Warriors or Midnight Resistance. Other than that you have a setup that should satisfy 90% of the MAME games out there.

The unit is rather big but I feel that it’s not wide enough. In terms of the layout, you’ll be sitting close you friend if you use the unit together. It’s a minor inconvenience and sometimes it does work by sitting at a minor angle to the X-Arcade.

On the back of the machine are the connectors, a load button, and a mode switch. Connection to your PC is through the PS2 keyboard port. You plug your keyboard into the unit and a serial cable connects to a converter to plug into your PC. Why did X-Gaming choose to have a serial cable that plugs into a converter you ask? Well, one of the great features of this unit is that because it terminates to a serial plug, all X-Gaming does is produce a converter for any console or PC interface so that you won’t have to purchase an entirely new unit if you want to use it with a future gaming machine. As of this writing, X-Gaming has a USB, PS2/PSone, and Dreamcast adapters. They also have beta versions of GameCube and XBOX adapters for you to try out. I was sent the PS2 adapter to test out with my Playstation 2. I really applaud X-Gaming to design the unit to be compatible with any future gaming unit.

The mode switch allows you to program three different configurations into the unit with the fourth one being an unchangeable default setting. Sliding the mode switch to a programmable position, you press the load button twice to select that mode. Now if you have experienced the Strategic Commander from Microsoft, you know that you can program that controller on the fly without having to exit out of your current game. The same can be done with the X-Gaming Arcade Kit and it’s a very convenient and awesome feature that should be used by more controllers today. Say you’re in the middle of a game and you are not comfortable with your setup. Press the load button once, hold the arcade button you want to program, hold the keyboard key you want it to emulate and wait for the LED to signal to you that it’s done. Program the others and when you are finished just hit the load button once and your commands will be saved even if you unplug the unit. It’s simple, effective, and you can reprogram the keys as many times as you like.

Every part is arcade quality, which means arcade toughness. You know how rough kids can be in arcades playing Street Fighter 2 and trying to torque the stick off the wood doing the Zangief spinning pile driver. Well, the X-Gaming stick features the durable parts that are specifically designed for the unit. From the manual, it states that the joystick, buttons, and switches were designed especially for the X-Gaming unit to provide a high level of quality and maintain performance over a long period of time. While I have to play with the unit a lot longer to test out whether this is true, I can say that the movements of the stick and the button responses feel exactly like an arcade stick. Given that’s what you would want in the first place, the higher quality parts is just icing on the cake and if they work as advertised then you have one quality gaming device that should last you a while. So does that mean you have to call up X-Gaming to replace any broken part? The answer is that you can replace any of the buttons or switches with any arcade part from a store that sells them. So you don’t have to replace the broken parts with X-Gaming’s own parts but you can if you want to. If you live by a store that sells arcade parts, you can easily repair your X-Gaming unit with those and have it working without having to wait on X-Gaming to send you a replacement. If you want to add some color to your buttons or use a different joystick handle, just replace it with a part from a dealer. The unit comes with a one year warranty so if it does fail in that time limit, you can get replacements at no charge. If you need someone else to replace the parts for you, X-Gaming includes a 90-day labor policy.

The wood that the unit is made of feels very durable so it should take a good amount of pounding for when you lose that NBA Jam game on a last second half court shot. The bottom of the unit allows you access to the switches by unscrewing a wood board. Since the unit is made of wood, it is a little heavy but the weight should also keep the unit from moving around when playing with others. It’s finished in a nice black paint with the X-Gaming Logo on top. It’s another aspect of the X-Arcade that gives it the true arcade feel.
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