When I was young, I loved arcades. There was something magical about going to one of those dingy rooms, inserting your pocket change into a slot and playing games that were far beyond anything home computers and consoles offered. The arcade experience was all the more “special” here in the UK, as traditional game arcades tended to only be found at the seaside. As a resident of a landlocked county growing up, a trip to the seaside was typically a sign that it was “holiday time” — and, consequently, “arcade time.”
I liked the arcade experience so much I regularly tried to recreate it at home. I liked playing games that specifically called the feeling of playing an arcade game to mind — I recall Stratos on the Atari 8-bit being one of the earliest examples, later followed by the (rather poor) Atari ST ports of titles like Turbo OutRun and After Burner. I also loved the original Starfox/Starwing for how much it felt like it could have been an arcade machine — everything about its presentation called to mind a “50p a go” sit-down machine that was actually hooked up to my television. Especially the noise it made when you pressed Start on the title screen. (Seriously. I loved that game almost entirely for how arcadey that noise was.)
For some reason, though, I’ve never owned an arcade stick — the ultimate accessory in making your home gaming systems feel authentically arcadey. I think it’s been partly due to the fact that I’ve never been particularly good at fighting games — the primary reason most people get such a peripheral. But with Persona 4 Arena and Dead or Alive 5 coming soon, I figured it was time to take the plunge and give one a try, particularly as it would also likely prove to be a fun addition to the “bullet hell” shmups I like playing, too.
The stick I eventually settled on — after the whole CeX/PS3 Street Fighter IV stick debacle, now thankfully resolved – was the catchily-named Qanba Q4RAF. I can pretend to know what I’m talking about when I say that this stick has Sanwa components and is dual-modded out of the box to allow compatibility with PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. The latter feature is the primary reason I chose this stick — it’s not the cheapest, but given that I wouldn’t have to buy additional sticks for the other systems if I found myself enjoying the more authentic “arcade” experience, it seemed like a sensible option. I have it on the good authority of the Internet that Sanwa components in an arcade stick are A Good Thing, too, so there’s that.
I spent a bit of time trying it out today. In Street Fighter IV on the PC, it performed admirably, and allowed me to reliably perform a Shoryuken motion without any difficulty whatsoever — something I have always had trouble doing on a pad, and particularly on the Xbox 360′s dreadful D-pad. Just the positioning of the buttons made a lot of moves significantly more comfortable to perform, too. So while I am no expert at virtual fisticuffs as yet, I feel that using the stick will certainly help me to get better.
I also tried it out with Deathsmiles on the 360, one of my favourite shmups. Here, the stick really came into its own, allowing easy shooting in both directions as well as access to the game’s other functions. The digital stick proved a lot more sensitive and accurate than I expected, too, allowing for very precise movement amid the hails of bullets. I’m looking forward to trying it out with titles like DoDonPachi Resurrection, Akai Katana and Gundemonium Recollection.
Finally, I tried it with Scott Pilgrim on the PS3. Again, it worked well, with the chunky controls and clicky stick feeling very much like the way this game was intended to be played. A successful test all round, then — and absolutely no issues in switching between the three different platforms.
I’m a total convert, then — and now very much looking forward to the experience of playing Persona 4 Arena properly arcade-style. Hell, just looking forward to playing Persona 4 Arena. Damn, I miss those characters.