Archive for the ‘Controllers’ Category

Hori EX2 Fighting Stick

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Okay, confession time. The other day when I mentioned that I hadn’t bought a joystick from the 1995 to 2011 isn’t quite true. I actually did jump back into the fighting game arena a few months earlier than that, with the Hori EX2 fighting stick.

hp photosmart 720

I was still pretty new at the whole XBox 360 thing (I was a hardcore Nintendo guy for a long time), so I was a little bit behind the times when it came to games and controllers for the thing. But, when Street Fighter IV became a thing, I knew I had to have it. And since it played a lot like Street Fighter II in the arcades, a game I spent hundreds of hours on, I decided that I wanted to try and replicate that experience.

And finding them on clearance at my local Toys ‘R’ Us didn’t hurt, either.

So I had a controller that was better than the Super Advantage (by a long shot), and sort-of arcade-like, but I had a lot of problems with it. My biggest problem was with the ‘gate‘ that the joystick used. The ‘gate’ is the hole that the joystick goes through, and it can be square, circular, octagonal, or something else entirely, I guess. But this one is square, and for some reason, I couldn’t get the hang of it. I’d try to press ‘back’ and my hand would find ‘back-up’ and my character would jump, usually directly into a face-crushing combo. That kind of thing. That’s not too hard to get around. What is harder to get around is the breakaway cable.

This joystick, like a lot of joysticks, has a breakaway cable that keeps your Xbox on the table when someone walks through the room without paying attention and gets his foot wrapped around the cable. This is usually a good thing, but on this one for whatever reason, I had a lot of trouble keeping the thing plugged in. It kind of seemed like the cable would break away just from the weight of itself.

That’s bad.

I fought with it for a while (in every sense of the word) until I just kind of petered out with Street Fighter IV. Since the arcade scene here dried up, it’s tough to find folks who want to play fighting games, and the people on the Internet are way too good for me to have much fun there. So, after a few months, I put this away and didn’t think about it again until I moved a few months later.

Mad Catz Super Street Fighter IV Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition S

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

So, in the span of a few years, I went from the best home joystick ever made to the worst home joystick I’ve ever used (and yes, that includes the wacko joystick things that the TI-99/4a used). So, as a result, I kind of fell out of even caring at all about joysticks for home consoles. I would briefly toy around with the idea of building my own joystick out of wood and some arcade parts, but that always seemed to be too much work, and not enough video games.

But something happened in 2011. In 2011 I started trying to dig up some information about the upcoming Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (since I had already bought and really liked the first MvC3 game), and I saw a few videos where people were using this enormous fighting stick that looked like someone chopped off the front panel from an arcade cabinet and then jammed a USB cable on it.

Look at all of that arcadey goodness.

Look at all of that arcadey goodness.

Which, apparently, that’s exactly what it is. Which means two things:

  1. These things are kind of expensive. Around $100 or more. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone who’s kicked around the idea of having an arcade cabinet in their home (some day…). Equipment that needs to stand up to the rigors of arcade life aren’t cheap.
  2. You’re going to get as accurate an experience as possible if you’re trying to replicate the arcade experience at home. Which, apart from taking one more reason away from going to your local arcade (assuming one even exists), ensures that you’ll have very little trouble going from your home joystick to the arcade joystick since they’re exactly the same. Finally, I can keep my muscle memory!

Now all I need to do is to find an arcade version of either Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (since that’s what I mostly played with this thing) so that I can put my skills to use.

Some day…

Super Advantage

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The other day, I kind of gushed about the best controller ever made, the NES Advantage. So, it kind of stood to reason that when there was an Advantage controller that was for the Super NES, that I would have to have it. I mean, an updated version of my favorite controller ever for what was then my current favorite video game system? It’s got Super NES styling? Insta-sale!

Super Advantage

But, somehow, this controller ranks near the bottom for any controller I’ve ever used. How? Well, let’s see here.

The button layout is terrible. The two grey buttons on the stick are for the L and R buttons, a.k.a. the ‘shoulder buttons’, that are on the top of the controller. So, naturally, these were moved to the bottom of the control panel.

Even more aggravating is that fighting games were pretty popular around that time, and I would have loved to use this thing to replicate the arcade experience, but the buttons weren’t laid out in the classic ‘two rows of three’ layout that made fighting games work. I tried to make the ‘two rows of three’ happen by assigning the ‘L’ button to the top row and the ‘R’ button to the bottom row, but it was a fairly poor substitute.

The buttons themselves also seemed to stick in the ‘depressed’ position if you didn’t hit them dead-center, and since the controller is so huge, there’s a lot of travel between the buttons, and a lot of mis-hits.

The slowmo button is relocated to a giant button in the center of the controller where it’s super-easy to accidentally hit.

The LED’s that show how fast the autofire is firing have been removed, so it’s kind of a guess now. Sure, there are sliders, but they’re not particularly easy to gauge.

And, at least on mine, the stick doesn’t always recenter itself properly. Mine liked to hang out in the down-left position. That’s probably a defect in my controller, but I was so disappointed in every other aspect of this thing that I never bothered to replace it, and I wouldn’t buy another joystick until 2011, which we’ll get into another day.

About the only good thing I have to say about this controller is that it helped be to finish Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. Mostly because whoever made that game reversed the most common assignments for buttons, and I could only make anything resembling progress by using the stick’s bizarro layout.

Still, it’s a bad controller, one that I wouldn’t even wish on someone I didn’t like.

NES Advantage

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

I’ve mentioned a few times around the Internet that I like the NES Advantage. It’s true, it’s one of my favorite controllers of all time. I mean, just take a look at this thing.

Advantage, NES

It’s perfect in almost every way. It’s a good size, it fits my hands, it’s got a comfortable button layout, it’s got lights so I can see how fast the autofire is pushing the button for me, it can switch from player 1 to player 2 with the flick of a switch, and so on. It’s the next best thing to having an arcade stick in your home to play all of those arcade-quality games on your NES. I could go on, but then this would turn into some kind of gushing, fawning article, and I’m not sure I want to go down that path… again.

What’s pictured above is not my first NES Advantage. I’m actually on my second one. The first one I had lasted me through the end of the NES’s life, and then met an unfortunate end courtesy of the sharp legs of an easy chair some time in 1995.

I was so disappointed that I kind of stopped playing NES games for a while. I moved on to the Super NES and then to the N64, and then one day in 2000 I went to my local Toys R Us, and they had an entire aisle lined with NES Advantage controllers. I couldn’t believe my luck, so I grabbed one (rather shortsighted, I guess) and took it to the counter to pay. The lady looked at it and asked me with a hint of disbelief in her voice, “You know this is for the regular, old NES, right?”. I assured her that I knew that and that’s why I wanted it.