Arcade Stick Showcase
Two of my favorite video game genres are fighting games and shmups. As a long time fan of both, having an arcade stick was a necessary investment to get that genuine arcade feel without having to waltz over to the local arcade and have my elbows rocked by the huge guy on the other side of the cabinet. That’s … kind of a lie; arcades are dead in the U.S. and have been for some time due to the PC multiplayer gaming boom in the late 90s and earlier 2000s.
In the past, it was rather difficult to get a quality stick. Heck, the stick that I used for the first half of the 2000s was a custom-built stick by a hobbyist I came into contact with on the Shoryuken.com forums. There were a few retail options, but they were just as pricey and pretty hard to come across; you’d almost always have to order them online instead of shopping for it retail. It might come as a shock to some, but there once was a time when online purchasing was the oddity and not the norm.
When Street Fighter IV rolled along, it sparked a lot of interest in arcade sticks. People wanted authentic arcade parts, though I’d wager that most people were biting on the placebo’d idea that their gameplay would improve with a stick and not a pad. Regardless of the reason, there was a huge demand, and MadCatz was eager to fill the void with entry and enthusiast-level sticks for fans. Nowadays, sticks with 100% authentic Sanwa parts are available for under $100 during certain promotions, and an inexpensive stick can easily be modded to include high-quality parts for under $40.
For many stick users, however, a lot of the fun is designing a stick layout. I’m one of these people. While most of my sticks have a specific purpose, I love being able to ‘swag out’ my peripherals. With a bit of effort, you can do the same. If you love collector’s edition materials, posters, or any memorabilia in general for your media, why not give personalized customization a go? For reference, here’s my small collection of joysticks with a bit of background on each.
Type of Stick: Custom (by dreadedfist)
Compatibile with: PSOne, PS2 (uses original PSOne PCB)
Purpose: Stick for older PS2 and XBOX games (with converter) such as SF:AE, 3rd Strike, CvS2 and Guilty Gear XX
Interesting Facts and Notes on Layout: Kinomoto Sakura, my favorite anime character. The layout uses 6 buttons, the traditional number used on Capcom fighter cabinets, as opposed to the modern layout of retail sticks with 8 buttons. Back then, in most tournaments, the number of buttons you could use on a controller had to be the same as the number of buttons used on an arcade cabinet. Today, you are allowed to use all standard buttons and button-mapping. The lower-right button was supposed to be a light purple, but the builder ran out of stock. I was given a darker button instead and an extra balltop (pictured here — the original balltop was white).
Type of Stick: Hori Real Arcade Pro EX – Sanwa (HRAP EX-SA)
Compatible with: Xbox 360, PC (with PoV-hat mapping software)
Purpose: My original high-quality stick for Xbox 360. I decided to replace this stick recently due to a lot of fraying in the wire near the base of the stick (messy repair). The stick also uses an ungrounded PCB, making it difficult to replace the stick (would need soldering).
Interesting Facts and Notes on Layout: Cirno, the Touhou series’ resident baka-baka ice fairy. Originally part of a calendar collection by Sayori. This was my first attempt at using a lami-label to add art, and it went very well. I added plexiglass to protect the art; because the stick has no incline to rest my wrists, a lot of sweat would end up on the art laminate, which is not good.
Type of Stick: MadCatz Soul Calibur V Arcade Stick SOUL Edition
Compatible with: PS3, PC
Purpose: Primarily a stick for PS3. Also doubles as an excellent PC stick due to the MadCatz toggle between Left Analog, Right Analog and Directional Pad inputs. On PC, this is the stick I use for fighting games.
Interesting Facts and Notes on Layout: It’s Hatsune Miku! This was a pretty fun layout to design, though I originally had lyrics to Black Rock Shooter written on the stick emulating a command prompt. I grabbed this stick during a fighting game major using a promo code that dropped the price to $100 (from the original $160). The two distinguishing features on this are the spiky bezel (a Soul Calibur V exclusive) and the shades of blue and red plastic on the sides. When I was replacing the balltop and changing the layout, I ruined the cheap glue that held one of the nuts in place. I had to bore into the plastic with the screw to fasten it.
Type of Stick: Hori Soul Calibur V Arcade Stick
Compatible with: Xbox 360, PC (with PoV-hat mapping software)
Purpose: My primary Xbox 360 stick for fighters. I love the sturdiness (and weight) of the large Hori sticks since I have a tendency to move around a lot when playing. Can double as a PC stick, but the Hori line has the stick inputs mapped to the d-pad on the 360 PCB, which corresponds to PoV instead of directional inputs using Windows Plug n’ Play, making key remapping software a necessity.
Interesting Facts and Notes on Layout: The original art on this stick is pretty minimalist and well-designed. Plus, it has Pyrrha in it, so it took me a while to actually replace the art. But when I did, I at least made it count: Moriya Suwako, my absolute favorite Touhou character! This stunning artwork by ideolo (who forms NekoWorks along with Sayori) required no additional fiddling by me; it was just that good. In terms of both art and stick quality/design, this joystick is my favorite in the collection.
Type of Stick: MadCatz WWE BrawlStick
Compatible with: Xbox 360, PC
Purpose: Shmups and King of Fighters. The stock MadCatz stick was replaced with a Seimitsu LS-32, which is considered an upgrade over the Sanwa JLF when it comes to shmups. The tighter controls also make it a favorite for precision-heavy games such as King of Fighters.
Interesting Facts and Notes on Layout: I took the liberty of isolating Reimu and Yukari of Touhou fame from two separate pieces of artwork by ideolo, splicing the two together because … well … they’re the Border Team in Touhou: Imperishable Night. They’re also among my favorites individually, which is an added plus. The flavor text reads “Maidens who dwell on the border of life and death,” which is a throwback to Noir while referencing the Border Team’s unnaturally long death bomb window. In the background are translated lyrics to a rendition of Yukari’s theme, Necrofantasia.
Of course, you aren’t limited to just arcade sticks. With the right template, you can generate your own art laminates to affix to just about anything you like. Though it probably isn’t pertinent to those outside of the U.S., simply ask for a “Lami-Label” print at your local FedEX-Kinkos. It’s not a product that’s advertised, but they are done (though sometimes it feels a little ‘under the table’), and for a minimal price. My templates usually cost around $5 for the print and laminate.