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     " Solid, almost perfectly designed, and easy to use, it is everything my emulator-loving self has been waiting for. "

      Title: The Tankstick by X-Arcade

      Format: PC Arcade Stick

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: From the day the first arcade-style game hit the PC, gamers have clamored for the perfect arcade stick to play them with. Let's face it, keyboard and mouse sucks for platformers, joysticks stink for sports games, and nothing plays side-scrolling fighters right. So what's a gamer to do? Well, according to X-Arcade, your answer is the Tankstick. The Tankstick, they claim, is the last arcade stick you'll ever need...and at $200 it better be. But are they right? Read on to find out.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Ergonomics: Anyone who has ever spent time in an actual arcade will be instantly familiar with the layout of the Tankstick. Designed like a two-player standup console, it features two playing areas separated by a trackball in the center. In each of these areas it includes an arcade-style 8-direction stick, 8 play buttons organized into 2 rows of three and 1 row of two, and a set of side buttons that can be used to control the setup and emulate paddle buttons for pinball games.
           All in all, it is a positively superb design. Instantly recognizable, logically laid out, and featuring the benefit of the wisdom of twenty years worth of teenager feedback, it is exactly what you want in an arcade style controller--comfortable spacing, nice lay out, and enough buttons to get the job done. 5 out of 5

      Features: As mentioned above, the Tankstick is meant to be the last arcade stick you ever buy, and the features packed into it really make that a possibility. Designed, as the name implies, like a tank, the 20-pound stick is a wood, steel, and plastic monstrosity made entirely from professional-grade parts. That means it both looks and feels exactly like a real-life arcade console. The sticks are nicely balanced and "click" positively when moved, the buttons are meaty and seems as though they'll hold up to repeated whacking, and the trackball is both smooth to move and dense in texture. What's more, it features a lifetime warranty on everything, so even if something were to fail, X-Arcade claims they'll replace or repair it with a minimal fuss.
           The stick plugs into your PC through either two USB ports or both PS/2 inputs, and once there functions pretty well like a keyboard and mouse, with the buttons being assignable and the trackball controlling your cursor in case you really want to use it as your PC interface control as well. It also has adapters that make it usable for an Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, or Mac, but none were tested for this review. Sadly, there is not a 360 or PS3 adapter yet, which is a shame given how big arcade games are on both systems, but hopefully one will be coming shortly.
           Once installed and initialized (which XP did without a problem), the stick becomes something of an open canvas for you to manipulate. It is pre-equipped with some setup options, including a MIME control scheme, but is configurable to whatever you want it to be. There is also a set of switches that allow you to preset multiple configurations that can then be swapped between at will.
          Finally, if all that isn't enough customizability for you, it is also fairly simple to pop-open the stick and fine-tune the actual functionality of the controls themselves. You can adjust for stick tension, directional identification, and all manner of other goodies with fairly little effort.
          All together, it's undeniably impressive. 5 out of 5

      Performance: Though this is usually the point in a review where I wax endlessly about the fine tweaks of the product, the truth of the matter is it's just not necessary here. The Tankstick performs exactly as it should. End of discussion. The buttons work and feel solid, the sticks have great response and feedback, and the trackball is fluid (though, perhaps, just the slightest bit stiff). It is everything that an arcade stick should be.
            That experience is also, mostly, echoed in its setup and configuration, which is a fairly simple affair of keyboard emulation...though we weren't quite happy with how much time and effort it took to program. Though, granted, once setup it's good to go, it seemed as though a more advanced user interface could cut the time down quite a bit. But that's a small gripe in the bigger picture of classic gaming goodness. 4 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Though this review may seem a bit gushing, it's only because I was so damned impressed with this stick. Solid, almost perfectly designed, and easy to use, it is everything my emulator-loving self has been waiting for. It is so good, in fact, that I have already started working on building my own stand-up shell that I'll be putting an old AMD 450 into so that I'll have my own classic arcade multi-game console. How cool is that?
        Of course, that goodness comes at a price, and with a $200 retail this bad-boy won't be for everybody...but if you're an old-school game nut like I am, you should really consider it.

      The Good: It's your own arcade stick. Period.

      The Bad: It's frickin' expensive and could use better software.

      The Overall Ugly: Frickin' expensive, but worth it.

      What it's Worth: Market

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