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Review: X-Arcade Tankstick + Trackball

The job of the professional reviewer is to provide a fair and balanced assessment of a product, even on the occasion when the examiner encounters an item that excels on every front, making it a tad difficult not to gush. The X-Arcade Tankstick + Trackball is one such item.

Measuring nearly 28 inches wide and tipping the scales at 15 pounds, the $200 X-Arcade Tankstick certainly lives up to its moniker. It’s a beast of an input device–calling it a controller is an insult–that simply oozes quality and excellence. Because of its girth, the Tankstick + Trackball is designed to be placed on a tabletop; it’s a little too heavy and wide for lap use. X-Arcade crafted the Tankstick + Trackball from authentic arcade parts, which you can feel; the stick resistance and tactile feedback from the buttons will take any gamer old enough to remember the bustling arcade scene of the ’80s and ’90s back to those golden years. I would’ve liked the joystick to be a bit stiffer–I like the stiff sticks–but it’s not bad by any means.

It’s more than just Tankstick + Trackball’s feel that elevates it over the competition. Between the twin joysticks (which brings the magic back to two-player fighting games), the abundance of buttons, and trackball, it resembles a mecha guidance system. There are eight buttons (six of which are in the familiar Street Fighter II layout–perfect for six button fighters) to the right of each joystick, two additional buttons south of those, a trackball in the middle, pinball buttons 0n the sides, a trackball lock button on the back, and 1P and 2P start buttons. Basically, you can use the Tankstick + Trackball with nearly any genre.

X-Arcade includes the Atari Anniversary Edition and Midway PC Game Bundle to get you started, and once you play Smash TV with this puppy, say night-night to your remaining waking hours. Pulling off combos and supers in Garou: Mark of the Wolves is absolutely effortless, and if you’re a GameTap user, you can program the beast to work with that service.

Also boxed with the Tankstick + Trackball are cables for connecting it to a Linux, Mac or PC computer, and its fully compatible with MAME. But don’t fret, the joystick works with consoles; you can purchase $20 adapters for the Dreamcast, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, and Wii. Very cool, as the X-Arcade suddenly becomes backwards compatible with older systems, and holds the promise of being compatible with the inevitable PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720. In other words, you investment goes a long, long way.

The X-Arcade Tankstick + Trackball is a man’s joystick that can withstand petty much any abuse you toss its way. After several days of using it, I can see it being an active part of my gaming universe, outlasting many of the consoles to come. There’s a high price of entry for sure, but the usability and quality is well worth every dollar.