X-Arcade Solo - PC - Review
X-Arcade’s Solo arcade joystick transports gamers back to the age of the quarter-sucking classics.
The rise of home console gaming systems has made dinosaurs of the classic stand-up arcade machines that dominated video arcades, laundromats, and mascot-infested pizza parlors of days past. Back in my day, the feel of an authentic arcade joystick and spring-loaded buttons were more addictive than crack. Even though I was allotted an allowance of a mere five dollars a week, much of it (and my lunch money, don’t tell my parents) went to the local 7-11, specifically into arcade classics like Ikari Warriors, Gauntlet, and Street Fighter II next to the Slurpee machine.
Then came the Atari 2600 and its pathetic excuse for a joystick. Intellivision had some weird dial thing, and the Commodore 64 used a standard computer keyboard. After the inception of the Nintendo Entertainment System and its winky-dinky controller, it was all downhill for proper joysticks.
Thankfully, retro is coming back with a fury. Mamma Mia! and its 70’s ABBA songs are dominating the playbill, throw-back jerseys are sported by Hip-Hop’s biggest stars, and vintage T-shirts are all the hooplah in the East Village. Now is the time for the joystick, and X-Gaming isn’t counting on this retro-thing to be just a fad.
X-Gaming released their first mass-market joystick controller last year, simply calling it the X-Arcade. The X-Arcade perfectly replicated the joystick panel atop stand-up arcade machines. With two controls side-by-side, superbly maneuverable joysticks, and spring-loaded buttons that brought back visions of rapid-fire on Asteroids, the X-Arcade was the ideal choice for replicating the days of classic gaming.
X-Gaming’s newest controller is a simplified version of last year’s dual controller. The X-Arcade solo cuts the original by half, meaning opponents don’t have to crowd up next to each other when battling head-to-head. While making it a more difficult to reconstruct a stand-up arcade machine, the X-Arcade Solo is a great alternative for gamers who want the arcade feel without the bulk of the original two-player X-Arcade.
The X-Arcade Solo fits nicely in laps, and because it weighs near a hefty ten pounds and is almost two feet wide, joystick leverage is not a problem. Its sturdy design is made from the same wood used in real arcade machines, and its finish is comparable to any stand-up. The face is slightly angled at about fifteen degrees for realistic feel and comfort.
Each controller has one joystick and a total of eleven buttons. Six buttons are placed Street Fighter II style (two horizontal rows of three buttons each), two more buttons sit beneath the initial six, a start button is in the upper right hand corner, and two pinball-style buttons are on each side of the controller for PC pinball games. On consoles, each button corresponds to another button on the controller. On PCs, each button is fully programmable and every X-Arcade has four button setups that are instantly memorized by the on-board memory in the controller.
The real authenticity of the X-Arcade clearly comes from its joystick and buttons. Both the joystick and the buttons have just the right amount of spring-loaded resistance that nostalgists pine for. The feel of both are so accurately recreated, those of us who remember Burgertime, Food Fight, and Moon Patrol will have a hard time telling the controllers of these joystick classics apart from the X-Arcade Solo.
The X-Arcade Solo comes with a PC adapter that plugs right into your keyboard port. To use the controller with a console or an Apple computer, a separate adapter must be purchased from the website. There are currently adapters for Playstation 1 and 2, Xbox, GameCube, Dreamcast, and Apple computers via USB. The console adapters cost about $30 and the USB adapters cost $50. The controller is ready to be used almost right out of the box, as there are no drivers to load and set-up takes only a few seconds.
The best use for the X-Arcade is clearly with arcade style games. Fighting games such as Virtua Fighter, Tekken, and Street Fighter II are a dream to play with the X-Arcade. PC games using keyboard controls are also a great fit for the controller, particularly old-school arcade emulators and pinball games. Even some sports games, such as the FIFA series, work well with the X-Arcade.
To really get an old-school feel for arcade classics, no controller bests the X-Arcade, it’s simply a dream. The feel is unparalleled, and its sturdy design is guaranteed for life. The joystick and buttons make fighting games a blast to play, and the pinball buttons are a great addition for anyone who loves playing computer pinball. Not only is the X-Arcade compatible with all next-gen consoles, Macs, and PCs, but X-Gaming is promising adapters for the next generation of consoles, meaning the X-Arcade will have a lifetime beyond our current wave of gaming machines.
The only real problem with the X-Arcade Solo is its ineffectiveness with every game. Any game exploiting both joysticks on console controllers is not going to be useful with the X-Arcade Solo. Additional adapters must be purchased separately.
For what it’s supposed to do, the X-Arcade does a fantastic job. Unfortunately, it can’t be used with every game. For any gamer who enjoys playing old arcade emulators or new arcade-style games like Maximo, the X-Arcade is the only peripheral choice for authentic feel.