Reliving the Past with MAME
So, what is MAME, exactly, and why are the X-Arcade Dual Joystick and MAME make such a good combination? Well, to begin we need a small history of what makes arcade games run. In 1974, Atari produced a game called Tank, which was the first video game which used ROM chips to store graphic data. ROM (Read Only Memory) chips are little pieces of silicon that contained data that cannot be changed, as the name suggests. The data in this case were game images. These images contained all of the necessary input and output functions that made the game work. In other words, when you pushed the joystick to the right on that old Frogger arcade system at the local pizza shop, that command was recognized and it made the frog jumped to the right in response.
In 1996, Nicola Salmoria began working on his single hardware emulators (for example Multi-Pac), which he merged into one program during January 1997. He named the accomplishment the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, or MAME for short. The ROM images that MAME utilizes were "dumped" from arcade games' original circuit-board ROM chips. In essence, the MAME emulator software becomes the "hardware" for the games, taking the place of their original processors and support chips. Therefore, these games are NOT ports or simulations, but the actual, original games that appeared in arcades.
Now, we've been playing arcade games with MAME for some time now, but up until now they never felt quite right. Keyboard commands just don't cut it, and gamepads like the Microsoft Sidewinder work, but the feeling is all wrong. The Ms. Pac-Man "shimmy" or the "clunk" of a correct move in Dragon's Lair just can't be replicated on anything but a true joystick. Into this void enters the X-Arcade Joystick.
You can't help but notice the authenticity of the X-Arcade joystick, from the arcade-style wood to the industrial grade materials used in the joystick and buttons. To complete the illusion, there's even 1 and 2 player buttons along the top, and side buttons for pinball aficionados. We really only came across a couple of detractions while testing. While two joysticks worked well in a stand up arcade system, the novelty is lost in the home. Two people almost need to be right on top of each other in order to play head-to-head games like Street Fighter. We really don't see any way around this without making the joystick even larger, so we really can't hold it against XGAMING. One other minor gripe was the square placement of the buttons in respect to the joystick. It required us to place both hands straight-forward to play games, which would cause us to cramp up a bit after a while. A much better idea would have been to place the buttons on a slight angle, similar to the slope found on ergonomic keyboards.