Padding the Joystick

In the beginning, there was the SNES pad & Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior. And things were… good. But not ideal. Only 4 face buttons was always a small issue. I developed a very odd “reach over” style to get do light-punch Sonic Booms as I had LP & LK mapped to the shoulder buttons. I still see some bad remnants of this non-ideal button layout in my gameplay even today. However, back then, the SNES pad had such a lovely d-pad, these small button issues were never a real problem.

I moved onto Street Fighter 2 Turbo (or ‘ Dash if you prefer): Hyper Fighting, and onto Super Street Fighter: The New Challengers, and still, no problems. I didn’t get to play in an arcade enough anyway, so the fact my joystick skills were incredibly poor at this point was no real problem.

But things moved on. I’ll gloss over the 3DO for now… and then came the Sega Saturn and the Sony Playstation. One came equipped with the worst joypad to ever disgrace the world of console gaming, and one was available in gleaming white with probably the ultimate joypad ever made. You can imagine which console I preferred. Sega Saturn-Shiro!

But despite this situation, I was now older and starting to get the chance to attempt to play in arcades, and also Capcom games were moving on to require a lot more multiple button presses and strings. Whilst you could usually map a Px3 and Kx3 onto the shoulder buttons, you started to find the need to hit any combination of Lights, Mediums or Heavy’s together too, or even 2 Kicks and a Punch at times… This was starting to prove difficult no matter the joypad, even one as good as the Sega Saturn’s. I was starting to waiver from a “pad player” into the world of joysticks already… A trip to arcades in Japan, Vampire Savior, and then the Dreamcast’s horrible gamepads sealed the deal. Pads could no longer compete in this fighting game world, I needed to get joysticks.

I’m now a full convert. Whilst I’ve still never to this day got as good at motion rolls and direction taps on a stick as I was once on a pad, my overall level of play is definitely much better today on a joystick than I ever was on a pad. However I’ve gotten more and more into the type and quality of sticks. I still can’t quite discuss the merits of Sanwa vs HAPP vs Seimitsu parts, but I’m only a few steps away from that. Experimenting & learning what I like has been an expensive business. I don’t have the tech savvy to do my own modifications unfortunately, but I’ve got all sorts of old joysticks lying around my house that didn’t do well enough for me.

Right now I pretty much know exactly what I’d like to go for joystick-wise, although I have a bit of a doubt about 4-way / 8-way gates as I’ve not truely had a chance to try out both. But all I’ve got for my fighting game fix at the moment on the XBox 360 is the Hori EX2. As most reviews state, it’s decent, but far from perfect. I also still have and use a very nice MAS Systems custom stick, which runs on all my consoles, but with the unfortunate exception of XBox 360, which is the one that really matters. I also slightly regret going for the optical ‘perfect 360’ stick. Whilst I can roll hadokens and Final-Atomic-Bastard’s far far better on this stick than any other, I find I really struggle with tap motions and the ‘bat style’ stick as it feels way too heavy for me. After lots of play, I realised that I have a huge preference for Japanese ‘ball’ style sticks.

Where most reviews of the Hori EX2 go ary is when they say “this is all we have on the 360”. This is completely wrong. There is a LOT more available, as I’ll link to in this post.

I want to get a new stick really badly for a few months now, but I’ve still not decided what to go for.

I’ve attempted to contact MAS Systems to see if they plan to do anything for the XBox 360, but I’ve heard nothing back, so I’ve pretty much given up on them as there doesn’t appear to have been any updates on their website for years now – I am not even sure if they are still in business. Although some threads and pictures suggest they must be.

Probably the easiest one to discover though that is XBox 360 compatible is Arcade-In-A-Box. Now this looks pretty great and has a full set of options. They also actually responded to my email enquiries. And not only responded but were extremely helpful. However, the main problem with them is although I do not mind spending an insane large amount of money on a joystick, ideally, mainly due to space concerns, I would like to buy a single stick that I can use on all my fighting games, not just on the XBox 360.

In my searches I also came across however they still don’t actually seem to offer anything yet.

Hori themselves will be offering a new stick, the EX Pro, but I really do not like the look of this due to the 8-button layout (rather than 6) and the close proximity of the stick to the buttons.

Thanks to help from the great people at Arcade-In-A-Box though, I discovered GoPodular who seem to be offering everything I am after really. However, like MAS they have failed to respond to any of my enquiries about international postage etc. Which makes me extremely nervous about ordering something so expensive from a place that can’t even respond to an email. 😦

But as all this was research was going on, Capcom went and threw a huge Street Fighter IV shaped spanner in the works for me:

“We’re working on stuff I can’t talk about yet on this front. Very cool stuff.”

“As I have said, at some point in the future, we will have news on a couple items we hope will make play “better” for all platforms.”

And then they went on to say more:

“We have something freakishly awesome in store along these lines, but they’re tied more to SF4 than to HD Remix. I have to keep things mum for a bit longer though. Stay tuned (and if you’re in the market for a fighting stick, don’t even think about buying anything until you hear what we’re doing).”

“Muhahaha.” – s-kill (who I have a lot of faith in!)

And it wasn’t just on Capcom Unity. You needed to dig a bit, but this news hit other sites too:

“Arcade purists will be happy to learn that Capcom plans to ship an “arcade perfect” controller in time with the console and PC versions. Ono revealed that they’re already in talks with a peripheral maker in the U.S. to release an arcade accurate stick with a steel base plate, steel shaft and arcade style buttons, possibly bundled with a copy of the game.”

So this leaves me here in my current state of Capcom and GoPodular induced paralysis. It’s really not fun as I really want a better stick for my 360 and while I can wait a while, once HD Remix hits this situation could very well drive me insane. And even now I’m much rather be practising on my preferential joystick. Of course Capcom’s official SF4 stick is highly unlikely (but not impossible) to be multi-format… so in theory I could just go for GoPodular right now. Yet my nervousness about their unresponsiveness puts me off, and also a large part of me just wants to know for sure what Capcom are doing. And I’m not the only one clamouring for this information. I’d also like to at least get to try out the difference between the different gate types before buying something really expensive.

The way forward from here is not clear. For now I’ve been trying to be patient with the Hori EX2 and have been experimenting with lap vs tabletop play.

If anyone reading this has any comments, or further info or links for joysticks though, please do chime in with your thoughts 🙂

EDIT 20/08/08:
And as if by magic some news comes out only a few hours after posting this. It’s going to be Mad Catz… which sounds awful. However they are still saying a lot of the right things so.. hmm. But still no solid info that really changes my awkward position.

10 thoughts on “Padding the Joystick

  1. can any body tell me when that sf 4 madcatz arcade stick is going to be released? also, if i ordered it from US/Japan (or any other 360 compatible arcarde stick) would it work for me since i’m from the UK?


  2. Hi Dani –

    When? No official news that I’ve heard but I believe it’s extremely unlikely to be released until Street Fighter 4 is out, which is looking like Spring 2009 at this point.

    The country of origin will not matter for a joystick, so feel free to order it from wherever. However Capcom have said it will get a European release.

    I expect that the best way to get the madcatz SF4 joysticks will be in a package “limited edition” stick+game pack for Street Fighter 4. I’m pretty convinced they will do something like that. I’m going to wait for it now, and live with Hori EX2 until this stick comes along.


  3. hey remy thanks alot that was very helpful, i guess il have to wait to spring. its a shame though because i dont have a stick for the 360, i was gonna get the ex2 a while back but was put off it by some reviews, and now im put off it again by not being able to find it for 40 quid or under and thats not including P+P lol! oh well, roll on spring! i dunno ive just got the feeling that new sf4 madcatz pad is gonna be awsome, looks like its got a good feel to it and looks like its gonna be durable and easy to grab a hold of one when it comes out too 😀


  4. Hey Dani, glad it was helpful – I feel your pain. I am really wanting to upgrade my 360 stick for months now, yet I’m going to end up waiting it out for one of these Madcatz ones for sure now too, as I agree, they do look really good & the man behind them is the right man for the job too.

    It’s a shame I can’t get one of these that’s also multi-console compatible.. but it looks more and more that the 360 is really becoming the home of online fighting (VF5, Tekken 6, HD Remix, KOF12, KOF98UM) so it should all be good.


  5. Lovely gaming stick for anyone. Weighs absolutely perfect; at 6lbs. Besides, on modding this stick can be a dream come true for the hardcore gamers. The joystick was born in one of the best stick manufacturers in Japan. Was out of stock a while ago, but recently got restocked! Yippee…I ordered one Hori Real Arcade Pro Ex a few mins ago from play-asia…woohoo!
    I am so excited about it, I just can’t wait for it to arrive.


  6. Good call Zaibatsu! 🙂 Thanks for the comment and the link. I have heard a lot of good stuff about “HRAPs”, but at the time of writing this article they were completely sold-out and for all practical purposes unavailable on the XBox 360. But good luck with your new HRAP, they do look very decent. I’m still extremely happy with my Madcatz TE stick though & won’t ever need another purchase other than to play on older consoles possibly. But as more and more stuff comes out on XBLA, it’s becoming an increasingly unnecessary concern.


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