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 Post subject: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:14 pm 


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This might be more of a subjective thing, but are 4 way joysticks worth the hassle of setting up? I'd like to play golden age arcade games and Makaimura on my MiSTer with a proper 4 way joystick, but the LS-56 in my current fightstick doesn't seem to support 4 way operation, I couldn't find a suitable surface to mount a separate suzo happ stick I bought awhile ago (shoe boxes were too wobbly), and it seems the next practical option would be to buy a fightstick with a sanwa clone and install a standard sanwa square gate which can be rotated to 4 way mode, but that seems far too expensive for just playing Donkey Kong and Pac-man optimally.

So, is it even worth it? Does playing golden age titles really feel any better with a 4 way stick? What's the cheapest way I could set up a dedicated USB 4 way stick?
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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:24 pm 


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It's not helping for a MiSTer of course, but I have both an LS-56 and a Sanwa stick permanently in my arcade CP primarily due to 4-way games. There are too many games that just need it.

Makaimura is really hellish to play without a 4-way joystick due to the way it handles (or doesn't handle) diagonals, trust me.

Pac-Man has a nice turning mechanic which IMO works very well with an 8-way, so I wouldn't go out of my way for that one, but I've never played that game at anything close at an expert level, so don't take my word for it. I'm sure 4-way is still ideal.

Donkey Kong is a little controversial. The original control panel was a forced 4-way, so a lot of people swear to that. Getting off ladders might be a little easier that way, but on the other hand an 8-way stick allows you to perform barrel control while climbing them, so there are definitely expert players who swear by those as well.

Other games that IMO work better (or straight up require) a 4-way orientation:

Tetris: The Grand Master series (specifically people will tell you a Sanwa stick is required due to the diamont shape allowing smooth direction transitions, compared to the LS-32 clover shaped gate, but IMO it's alright with a Seimitsu even if it's not ideal)
Mr. Driller (playable in 8-way, but you'll be cursing a lot of input mistakes you didn't have to)
Bomberman (Neo is kinda crap, and the first Irem one has crappy controls no matter how you approach it, but the second Irem one is fantastic, but nearly unplayable in 8-way)

There are of course a lot of other games that work better in 4-way, outside of just "golden age" stuff, but those are the ones I specifically care about. :)


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:33 pm 


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I've thought about this a lot. I believe it's worth the hassle, because IMO a dedicated 4-way is an absolute necessity to play any early 80s titles correctly (using an 8-way will genuinely ruin the experience, frustrate you, and destroy your scores), but the hassle itself never gets less annoying.
It doesn't help, in addition, that a lot of these early 80s games had unique sticks or buttons that people swear by are the "only way" to play certain games. But I feel like as long as you hit a happy medium you'll be totally fine, and that a lot of these statements can be kinda overblown.

Pac-Man, for example, feels fantastic with the original Midway leaf stick. Turning the corners is always smooth, and the stick just sort of pivots around in a very buttery, natural fashion that feels great and really makes the game play better. Donkey Kong used a 4-way Nintendo microswitch stick, and altho some people treat it as another "be all end all" case, DK plays totally fine with a leaf stick and I'd argue it even feels better (but that's because I think Nintendo sticks kinda suck).

For Pac-Man tho I highly suggest a 4-way leaf. I've played gargantuan amounts of Pac-Man (mostly fast Ms. Pac-Man) and without a leaf stick my scores shit the bed.

So my advice to you is to build some sort of simple wooden box and install a leaf switch joystick and some leaf buttons. It's gonna be a small investment tho.
https://groovygamegear.com/webstore/ind ... cts_id=407
The Dominux joystick from GroovyGameGear I hear is a really nice modern leaf stick. It has a 4-way option available.
https://groovygamegear.com/webstore/ind ... x&cPath=73
The Classx buttons I've personally used before and can vouch for, these feel really precise and fans of games like Galaga are typically really into leaf buttons like these.

I'd use one of those USB encoder kits you can get everywhere afterwards for this. If this is too much of a pain tho you could just try using a Sanwa JLW with the restrictor set to 4-way. It won't feel as good and you won't get those "smooth pac-man turns" like you would on a leaf but still, it'd cost less and still feel better than an 8-way.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:22 pm 


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Sumez wrote:
It's not helping for a MiSTer of course, but I have both an LS-56 and a Sanwa stick permanently in my arcade CP primarily due to 4-way games. There are too many games that just need it.


Wait, so the LS-56 does support 4 way? Do you have to buy a separate restrictor plate or something? I opened my stick up and it seemed like the plate would only fit one way.
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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:34 pm 



Joined: 14 Feb 2005
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I've been curious about this for a while - I just barely missed the era where I would have played any of these games in their original 4-way configuration - so can somebody clarify this for me? I don't understand why playing on an 8-way stick would hurt in any way. I mean, you get the full 4-way functionality, just with 4 more potential directions. So unless you're incredibly sloppy with your inputs - which I don't think anyone serious enough about this stuff to be looking to 4-way joysticks would be - you'd be able to perform the exact same commands on an 8-way without anything whatsoever getting in the way. I just can't see how this would be a major gameplay impediment at all.

What am I missing?


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:56 pm 


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bigbadboaz wrote:
I've been curious about this for a while - I just barely missed the era where I would have played any of these games in their original 4-way configuration - so can somebody clarify this for me? I don't understand why playing on an 8-way stick would hurt in any way. I mean, you get the full 4-way functionality, just with 4 more potential directions. So unless you're incredibly sloppy with your inputs - which I don't think anyone serious enough about this stuff to be looking to 4-way joysticks would be - you'd be able to perform the exact same commands on an 8-way without anything whatsoever getting in the way. I just can't see how this would be a major gameplay impediment at all.

What am I missing?

Basically it boils down to many 4-way games being designed with very tight cardinal directions in mind- they're meant to be played by "riding the gate" and pivoting the joystick around the actual diamond-shaped restrictor. Pac-Man especially. Riding the gate is a crucial part of turning in Pac games. Using an 8-way with Pac-Man, even with precise motions, will never be precise enough. You will, involuntarily, end up hitting an "up right" or an "up left" instead of just an "up" at some point during gameplay, especially during tense situations or during one of the speedup-hacked games. The game doesn't just ignore these inputs, it basically picks one or the other ("up" or "right" for example) and you'll end up either missing turns or making turns that are completely incorrect.

I wasn't alive to play any of these games in arcades either, I was born in '96. In recent years I've become super fascinated in "classic" arcade games tho and I've progressively run through the entire gamut of control configurations and ways to play these games. I've used 8-way sticks from IL, Seimitsu, and Zippy, I've used 4-way restrictor plates for the Seimitsus and Zippys, I've used the Happ "Ms. Pac-Man Reunion" 4-way stick (avoid that one like the plague), etc. I've used microswitch buttons, I've used leaf buttons.
All I have now is a dedicated Pac-Man cocktail cabinet from 1980 because it beats out the feel of every other stick or setup I've ever used.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:54 pm 



Joined: 12 Mar 2019
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Rolling Thunder, Daimakaimura are a couple of essentials which require 4-way and aren't from the Pac Man school (which are a ton).


How's Neo Bomberman kinda crap?


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 3:25 am 


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Bassa-Bassa wrote:
Rolling Thunder, Daimakaimura are a couple of essentials which require 4-way and aren't from the Pac Man school (which are a ton).


How's Neo Bomberman kinda crap?

Neo Bomberman I'd assume is more tolerant of 8-way sticks since it's a Neo Geo game, but I'm not sure how the Atomic Punks play with an 8-way.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 5:02 am 



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Your description totally explains to me why I sometimes get wonky turns playing Pac-Man with a D-pad on modern consoles.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 6:59 am 


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cave hermit wrote:
Wait, so the LS-56 does support 4 way? Do you have to buy a separate restrictor plate or something? I opened my stick up and it seemed like the plate would only fit one way.


No, I meant I kept the Sanwa in there alongside the Seimitsu, to make sure I can always play 4-way games.
I'm sure you could get a restrictor plate that fits the LS-56 though. People have made all sorts of stuff.


bigbadboaz wrote:
I don't understand why playing on an 8-way stick would hurt in any way. I mean, you get the full 4-way functionality, just with 4 more potential directions. So unless you're incredibly sloppy with your inputs - which I don't think anyone serious enough about this stuff to be looking to 4-way joysticks would be - you'd be able to perform the exact same commands on an 8-way without anything whatsoever getting in the way. I just can't see how this would be a major gameplay impediment at all.


That's a very understandable take. Outside of what umjammercammy already stated, you have to keep in mind that since these games were designed with a 4-way restrictor in mind, they usually weren't programmed to consider multiple simultaneous directions - or if they were, not the way you'd expect on a D-pad etc. Hitting a diagonal can cause the game to behave very oddly. Either one direction would override in the opposite way you wanted, or inputs are just ignored entirely, etc. It's similar to how some console titles designed for D-pads don't act well if you push both left and right at the same time, which you could do with a keyboard, playing it on emulator.

If you have Ghouls n Goblins/Daimakaimura on MegaDrive, it actually has a setting that allows it to switch between the original input handling, and one that considers the diagonal inputs of the D-pad and forces it to "simulate" a 4-way behavior.

That said, even if the games were designed to consider an 8-way input there are still games where a single erroneous direction within a series of quick precise inputs can prove fatal (like, consider anything fast and tile based), and the whole point in investing in good joysticks is keeping the controller abstraction completely out of the equation. :)


umjammercammy wrote:
but I'm not sure how the Atomic Punks play with an 8-way.

Like garbage, unfortunately.
They both have very wonky controls (though the first one moreso than the second), and without a 4-way joystick you'll get stuck in weird locations constantly.

When I said Neo Bomberman was kinda bad, I meant the game - not the controls. It's made by the same people that made the (excellent) Super Bomberman games, so the controls are spot-on, and they actually do work well with an 8-way controller. The reason I don't like it much is kinda subjective. It just has the issue most console Bombermans also has, where the game is centered around just getting the soft pass and remote trigger and go to town with very little that can threaten you. To counter that, there's a chain-based scoring system in place designed to create a new challenge that can only be performed when you have those two power-ups. But it's kinda... awful. It's still great for versus battles, of course.
But that's not really relevant for this thread. :) I've been playing every single Bomberman game recently, and was actually planning on starting a dedicated thread.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 way joysticks, is it worth the hassle?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:23 pm 



Joined: 26 Jan 2005
Posts: 7910
The classic Atari Games pcb of Klax from February of 1990 plays best with a dedicated 4-way digital joystick setup in both the full sized upright or the smaller mini cab setup...otherwise you'll end up flipping your tiles back on the conveyor belt during some heated Klax runs with an 8-way digital joystick setup. The fast tile waves demand your utmost attention & split timing decision making indeed.

PC Engine Fan X! ^_~


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