Review by Ian McCarthy
Editor's Note: This is a bit of an unusual review, as it includes three products from three different manufacturers. Normally I'd put out three separate reviews, but the three products are so intertwined and co-dependent that it seemed better to review them as a gestalt whole, so to speak. -KS
Being a fan of fighters, I didn’t think much of the 49-way optical joysticks manufactured by Happ™/ Midway™/ Atari™ and Williams™. John St. Clair, the author of the book “Project Arcade” concluded on his extremely helpful Build Your Own Arcade Controls (BYOAC) website that “obviously, this (the 49-way joystick) is not an ideal joystick to use.”
Why would I be interested in an expensive joystick that was originally intended for only a few unique games, although that list included the revered Sinistar? And even that game had a rubber “spider” to enable more accurate control?
Then Randy Turner of Groovy Game Gear™ (GGG) developed his unique GP-Wiz49™ encoder with a Digital Restriction Selector™ (DRS™) that, as well as functioning in standard 49-way analog modes, allowed the low-resolution analog joystick to switch between several different digital modes, including 8-way mode for the majority of modern video games and 4-way mode for classics like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man and even 4-way diagonal mode for games like Q*Bert and Congo Bongo.
The announcement thread on the Build Your Own Arcade Controls (BYOAC) forum quickly became fifteen pages full of excited questions from arcade enthusiasts having one-joystick-to-play-them-all dreams. This seemed to be the solution to the cluttered control panel, one joystick that can act like many.
I followed the developments closely. Then the kicker came when Mark Oates, known as Floyd on the BYOAC forum member, posted his 12-position rotary interface hack for the Happ (Midway) 49-way joystick. These were the same rotary interfaces that were originally used for Ikari Warriors, Midnight Resistance and several other games.
Initial reviews were positive. I loved the idea of having one set of joysticks to play all my favorite games. I had to have one of these setups, regardless of cost. And this is one of the costliest setups for joysticks in the arcade controls world. Here are the estimated totals:
If these truly are the ultimate joysticks for accurate game play in the greatest variety of games, then that cost is validated just in the savings in space and the expense of buying alternate sets of controls for games that require different types of controls. Are the days of huge control panels with sets of all different types of joysticks numbered? Read on to find out.