26 November 2010

Arcade gaming at home

I was playing Metal Slug on my Nintendo DS Lite the other day and my hands were dying from so much button pressing. I realized that what I really need is an arcade style joystick. Arcade style games aren't really made anymore, so I could install MAME emulation software on my PC to play retro games like 1942, Gauntlet, Street Fighter II, and Samurai Showdown. A good resource for anything related to building your own MAME arcade box is MAMEWorld. I found some cool stuff like playing Mahjong in MAME and even light guns for your Time Crisis fix!

I had no idea there are so much information about different types of joysticks and buttons. slagcoin has an extensive guide here. Apparently, there are three major joystick types: Happ (US), Sanwa (Japan), and Seimitsu (Japan). It's much easier to get high quality arcade parts from Japan because the arcade games are still popular there. Americans don't really play arcade games anymore. Many people buy parts and mod their own custom joysticks. That sounds like fun, but I'd like to play with some of the off-the-shelf stuff first so I can get a feel for what I like. Eventually, I'd like to do a complete arcade box build project as described in MaximumPC's article "How to Build a Kick-Ass MAME Arcade Cabinet from an Old PC."

There are few recommended off-the-shelf manufacturers.
  • Hori is the biggest game controller manufacturer and has a high quality Real Arcade Pro line.
  • MadCatz makes a Street Fighter IV FightStick Tournament Edition for PS3 and XBox 360.
  • X-Arcade makes US style arcade joysticks. They are lower quality than Hori or MadCatz but they are easy to mod and the PC board is supposedly 100% compatible with MAME.
After some cursory research, these joysticks seem good for a MAME setup:
  • Hori Real Arcade Pro VX-SA for Xbox 360. A top-of-the-line model which uses all real arcade parts and layout.
  • Hori Real Arcade Pro EX-SE for XBox 360. Another top-of-the-line model which uses all real arcade parts. It's unusual in that it uses Seimitsu parts, rather than Sanwa parts. All the other Hori and MadCatz joysticks are Sanwa.
  • X-Arcade Solo Joystick. A decent joystick but kind of pricey for the parts. I would get this one for doing some modding.
There are Hori sticks that are 1/3 cheaper, but they don't use authentic arcade buttons and the whole point was not to do any modding. I looked into MadCatz joysticks, but there wasn't much feedback on using them successfully for MAME emulation.

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