I’ve spent the last decade trying to re-experience classic 80s arcade games the way I remember them. Plenty of ‘compilation’ discs have been released for everything from the first Playstation to the Wii, but with these consoles, you’re stuck using a gamepad. And let’s face it, those dang thumb sticks absolutely SUCK when you’re simply trying to get a yellow circle with a mouth to move swiftly around a maze.
With every generation of systems comes new compilations that have like 20 games that were already on last generation’s compilations, but with another 10 to 20 previously unavailable games included so that you have to rebuy a bunch of the same old stuff just to get the new. I must have Pac Man on twenty different game discs at this point. Anyway, as a result of this continuing stream of compilations, I’ve gone and bought an ‘arcade stick’ for every system (Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Wii) or adapters so that I can use arcade sticks designed for one system on another system (Xbox, Gamecube). How many arcade sticks does a guy really need in one house???
The answer came to me—in an e-mail. Conveniently, on the day of my birthday, I got an e-mail from X-Gaming announcing that their genuine arcade style joystick panel was being sold at a drastic discount for one time only—for one day only. MY birthday. Come on. Even with me being unemployed, this was a sign. And heck. I’m a Gen-Xer. We’re notorious for being completely irresponsible individuals forever trapped in our childhood (maybe that’s why they call it the ‘X’ Arcade Stick?). I HAD to give myself this gift, this ultimate solution to all my problems. See, X-Gaming has designed their X-Arcade arcade stick so that it will always be ready to plug into future generations of gaming systems thanks to the adapters they develop for each system. All I can say is “Used console arcade stick sale at Dan’s house!”
I ordered myself an X-Arcade, which is designed specifically for PC gaming, plus a 5-in-1 adapter that covers Dreamcast, PS2, PS1, Gamecube and Wii, a 2-in-1 adapter that covers Xbox and PS3, and finally a single adapter for Xbox 360. The X-Arcade might have been drastically reduced in price, but they get you on the adapters!
It was TOTALLY worth it. I took one full night of my unemployment to check out my X-Arcade and all my adapters. Now here’s the deal. I strictly use my arcade sticks for classic games. For instance, I won’t hook the X-Arcade up to my PS3 expecting to use it for Resident Evil 5. And I have no interest in every arcade fighting game that has been released since Mortal Kombat in the 1990s, so I can not report how the X-Arcade works for those types of games (I know fighting game lovers are very particular about their fighting sticks). All I know is, the X-Arcade controls a little Italian man dodging a monkey’s barrels perfectly.
I tried a little Asteroids from a Playstation 1 collection. Space Invaders awaited on Playstation 2. The list goes on and on. Wires were crossed, plugs were inserted and pulled out, but in the end, the adapters rocked my console world. NO lag at all on any system, and a total arcade experience in every case. The biggest challenge was trying to sometimes figure out which buttons to press on the X-Arcade to navigate the menus of each game on each system. The adapters come with button mapping diagrams, but I found that they weren’t always accurate, and I also didn’t really feel like sitting there looking at diagrams, so I did what any ADHD Gen-Xer would do…I button mashed. And I got things up and going fine that way. And I can report that once you’re in the game, you are IN the game.
The X-Arcade is flawless for all arcade games that were originally joystick based, including dual joystick games like Robotron, in which one player uses BOTH joysticks: one to move, the other to shoot in a direction independent of movement. Plus, the arcade plugs into both ports in each game system, so it acts as TWO controllers, meaning it’s all ready to play two player games. Previously, I would have to buy TWO arcade sticks for EACH console if I wanted to play two player games—and I STILL couldn’t experience Robotron the way it was meant to be played.
The X-Arcade also work great with compilations of Atari 2600 and Intellivision games, but if you are a purist, the experience won’t be exactly how you remember. Of course, to solve that problem for the Atari 2600, you can refer to my blog post on the Stelladapter, that brilliant adapter that lets you plug your actual old Atari joystick or paddles into your PC via USB for the original Atari 2600 experience on an emulator.
Some things to note. I did NOT try the X-Arcade with my Dreamcast, mostly because I don’t actually have any compilations for that system. Even so, it would still be great to use the X-Arcade for some of the Space Invaders-like SHMUPS I have for Dreamcast. BUT, don’t forget, on the Dreamcast, the memory cards are inserted into the controllers. Well, the X-Arcade doesn’t provide a slot for the Dreamcast memory cards! See the dilemma….?
Next, there’s a catch with the Xbox 360 adapter. Microsoft has opted to block as many 3rd party companies as possible from creating any kind of peripherals for the 360. X-Gaming is one of those companies blocked. That SUX! However, I don’t quite get this, but X-Gaming discovered a workaround. They provide you with a licensed Playstation 2 to Xbox 360 controller adapter. So, that means you have to use TWO adapters to get the X-Arcade to work on your 360. Weird, right? Even so, the chain of adapters does not affect the controls negatively—no lag at all when I played a hot game of that supped up version of Pac Man called Championship Edition. X-Arcade warns that Microsoft continues to try to block third party peripherals, so at ANY time, a firmware upgrade to your Xbox 360 might cause your X-Arcade 360 adapter to no longer work! Microsoft absolutely sux (he says as he types away in Microsoft Office).
Finally, let’s not forget that X-Arcade is designed to be completely plug-n-play with MAME, the heavenly emulator for PC that can bring home pretty much every game you ever played in the arcade. And with the X-Arcade, it’s like you’ve brought home the arcade cabinet as well. Wrap one hand around each of the joysticks on the X-Arcade and not only will you feel you are about to be the cream filling in the middle of a really hot three-way (black joysticks, I might add), but you will also have this urge to play every 80s arcade game you ever loved: Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Super Pac Man, Jr. Pac Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Space Invaders, Defender, Frogger, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, Phoenix, Q-bert…. Don’t the names alone get your fingers twitching?