One of my personal holy grails of my gaming life is to have a single machine that I can play a variety of games from different eras without having to get out of my chair. After reading that first sentence, you might think I’m lazy, but it really comes down to convenience and simplicity.
I’ve also had this same goal for my other digital entertainment such as my music, movies, and TV shows. A number of months ago, I bought a salvaged Dell desktop PC from my place of employment for $150, added a huge hard drive and a cheap graphics card to it and turned it into a Windows Media Center PC for my living room. Since then, my wife and I have been enjoying having out media library available at out fingertips instead of having to deal with discs and such.
Just recently, I found the time to complete the digital entertainment package by adding full emulation support to this wonderful machine. It is easy enough to find and install arcade and console emulators for Windows, but the real challenge is finding a way to start up the emulators and navigate the different systems and game with only a remote and/or a wireless gamepad. Having it look slick while doing all this would also be a bonus.
While I played around with some other pieces of software (known as front-ends), I settled on Maximus Arcade as perfect solution for my needs. On the surface Maximus Arcade seems to be a very simple piece of software, but if you have ever dealt with any other front-ends, you can appreciate the hard work the developers have put into it. Maximus is a combination of a slick and simplistic interface that is also highly configurable.
While Maximus Arcade won’t configure all your emulator’s settings for you, it is pre-configured with line commands to automatically launch your chosen game in its respective emulator.
You will still need to set up each individual emulator for your gamepad’s button layout and such, but if you already have emulators set up on your Windows machine, you should already be set in that department.
If you want true keyboard and mouse-free interaction, you will need a bit more tweaking to tell Maximus Arcade which buttons on your remote will exit out of the games and such (the gamepad isn’t as practical since you have a limited selection of buttons). I hope to create a full configuration guide for Maximus Arcade in the future so I can walk you through it all.
Maximus Arcade not only make navigating and launching your favorite classic games extremely easy, but it sports a Flash-based interface that is intuitive and looks good enough to eat.
Once you boot up Maximus Arcade, you are presented with a very straightforward menu that shows you a single console picture and name with arrows on the left and right. Use your remote or gamepad to tell it to scroll through your console options (you can configure the software to only display the systems of your choosing).
Once you select the console that you want to play, you are presented with a tidy list of the game available for the console. Simply highlight the title you want, press “Start” and your game is automatically launched in the proper emulator. The whole emulator process is virtually transparent to the end user.
Capabilities & Compatibility
I won’t bore you with all the details here, but Maximus Arcade will work with just about anything you can throw at it.
You can use a variety of controllers with it in addition to the Window Media Center remote for navigation. It also supports a number of display resolutions so it always looks good on a variety of displays. There are also a great deal of little features here and there to make the experience more enjoyable, but I encourage you to take a look at the official page for more details.
While, Maximus Arcade is mainly targeted for owners of MAME Arcade Cabinets, I personally think it is also the best solution for a Windows MCE PC. While I’m not aware of a way to give it its own Menu entry in the MCE menu, Maximus Arcade has an option to create a script to add it to the “More Programs” listing in MCE. It’s good enough for me.
Maximus Arcade does offer a free 30-day trial that includes all the features of the software. Once your 30 days are over, you are asked to pay a reasonable $20 to register. If you are seriously looking for a good front-end to use on a regular basis, $20 is well worth the investment. It is also worth mentioning that registering will get you free updates for the life of the project as well.
Maximus Arcade has been around for a while and has been polished and refined a great deal, resulting in an intuitive and customizable interface that will please the casual and expert gamer alike.
If you are serious about bringing your emulation experience to the living room, you can’t go wrong by investing $20 into this software. I have been using it for a few weeks now and have few complaints.