A Peek At The Retro FightStick Scene


I have an odd problem right now. A lot of people track down arcade sticks for today’s consoles for fighting games and sometimes other kinds of games too. I’m trying to find one for my Super NES, initially having no idea what the stick scene was like 20 years ago.

Today the arcade stick scene is a big enough deal to be featured at Killer Instinct’s E3 presentation and for every new fighting game, even a WWE game, to incorporate a stick into its marketing scheme. Publishers know there’s a dedicated audience for these things, but what was it like back in the early 90’s?

One thing I do remember from those days is that console manufacturers were actually keen on selling official arcade sticks. That made sense, seeing as a large chunk of console gaming back then was really just arcade gaming in your house — many of the biggest console games were really home versions of arcade games. This is actually what led me to track down an SNES stick today.

For starters I can’t even play Street Fighter with a normal controller anymore, and that includes my old SNES copy of Turbo. Then I realized at least half the games I have on NES and SNES are basically arcade games and would potentially play better with a stick — Darius Twin, NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat II, Turtles In Time, Super Double Dragon, etc. I was pretty easily able to find Nintendo’s official NES Advantage stick for $5 which I think works well, but SNES is a bit more complicated.

People say you should avoid Nintendo’s Super Advantage for the SNES, but most of the alternatives are, like many of today’s sticks, expensive. The clear winner from what I’ve seen is Hori’s HSJ-12, but it rarely pops up on the usual Amazon/eBay channels and it’s usually near $100 (including shipping) when it does. I think the common choice tends to be Capcom’s Power Fighter which I think they released specifically for the home version of Street Fighter II back in the day. It’s usually in the $40 range from what I can tell. To find the few other choices I had to ask around the Shoryuken forums which gave me some obscure options from people like MAS and Arcadia.

Lastly there’s the option of simply modding one of my existing sticks. A popular device called the Cthulhu board costs around $35 but seems to require soldering for legacy consoles. It’d be great to get more use out of my $130 PS3 stick though.

Part of the problem is that these sticks are too expensive for people to have to buy one for each individual platform. Hardcore fighter fans are still pretty mad they’re gonna have to buy new ones for the PS4 and Xbox One. And then there’s my problem with playing PC games with arcade sticks. I guess if I’d spent that $130 on an Xbox 360 stick (for PC compatibility) I wouldn’t be having this problem. Thank God the PC versions of Skullgirls and King of Fighters XIII accept DirectInput controllers (including my PS3 stick).

Maybe this is the price of how relatively niche the audience for arcade sticks is, but I still feel like something has to be done about their cost and lack of inter-compatibility.


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