Buy 'X-ARCADE CONTROLLER': Multi-platform
Ever since the very first arcade machine was introduced to the masses, gamers have craved the ability to bring that experience to their homes, and ever since the very first home game console, manufacturers have been trying to reproduce the feel of the arcades by releasing various controllers that mimicked the arcade experience. There have been many decent controllers over the years, but none have fully managed to recapture the exact feel of the arcades … until now.
Enter X-Gaming, manufacturers of the X-Arcade controller, the first real arcade controller for home use. The one we were sent to review is the two-player version, which features two joysticks with eight buttons for each player. They also have a single-player version that features one joystick and the eight main face buttons.
My test platforms were an Xbox and PC. On the PC, I had the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) software installed, featuring games ranging from Pac-Man to the Street Fighter series to Killer Instinct. On the Xbox, I put the controller through its paces with more modern brawlers such as Dead or Alive Ultimate and Mortal Kombat Deception. While these are the only platforms I tested, the X-Arcade actually has adapters for Dreamcast, PlayStations 1 and 2 and GameCube. The X-Arcade controller will work with any of those platforms just by changing the adapter that attaches to the unit's serial cable.
The first thing I noticed when I removed the controller from its packaging was just how big this thing is – it is literally the size of an actual arcade control unit. The whole controller weighs in at roughly 10 pounds but fits comfortably in your lap, even after long gaming sessions. Hooking it up to my Xbox was a piece of cake; all that was involved was connecting the Xbox adapter to the controller's serial cable, and then plugging the other end of the adapter into the console controller ports. Once I got everything hooked up, it was game time!
The controller features the classic arcade layout of six main buttons in two rows of three, with two more buttons under that group in an easy-to-reach location, just in case the game requires eight. The Xbox controller buttons are pre-mapped to X-Arcade in a logical way, with the four main face buttons mapped to the first four buttons on the X-Arcade controller. The Xbox's black and white buttons are mapped to the other two remaining buttons, with the L and R buttons mapped to the last two buttons. If this layout does not work for you, the X-Arcade is fully programmable and has a memory bank that allows you to save your custom layouts.
The X-Arcade feels like the finest arcade cabinet out there, right down to the actual arcade buttons and joystick. According to X-Gaming, the controller is actually bulletproof, and this claim is backed up with a full lifetime warranty. It doesn't get much better than that.
When I actually started to play some games with the controller, I had some problems with the controls, but they were not the X-Arcade's fault. While I grew up in the arcades, it has been a good seven years since I had actually used a joystick, so I was a bit rusty, to say the least. Everything from Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat performed beautifully with the X-Arcade, and once I got back in the swing of things, I was pulling off fireballs and complex combos with ease.
When I hooked up the X-Arcade to my PC, I had no problems getting Windows to recognize the controller via the USB port, and the drivers loaded perfectly fine. I then loaded MAME and started playing through my roms, and the controller performed flawlessly. A cool feature of this controller when used with MAME is that a button on each side acts as the coin input slot on the arcade machine. When you load a rom, you press this button to insert coins into the "machine." Although this doesn't really have much value on its own, it's still really cool and helps convey the feeling of being in a real arcade.
When all is said and done, the X-Arcade controller is by far the best arcade controller I have ever used. X-Gaming did not make an arcade controller; they took an actual arcade unit and put it into a well-crafted box that fits nicely in your lap. This is how arcade games are meant to be played, and there is no better piece of hardware out there. At the time of this review, you can get the two-player X-Arcade controller we tested for roughly $150 USD, while the single-player unit clocks in at roughly $99. The X-Arcade works on all current-gen game consoles and PC, and adapters for the PS3 and Xbox 360 are in the works. If you spend lots of time playing the arcade classics on MAME, or if you simply want the best possible control in fighting games, the X-Arcade is a perfect fit.