Do I even need an arcade stick?
That really depends. How serious are you and how many games do you have that you can use this controller for? If you have a lot of games you would use your stick for then it's well worth the purchase of a quality joystick controller. Beat 'em ups (Final Fight Double Impact, Castle Crashers, etc.), fighters (Street Fighter 4, Marvel Versus Capcom 3, Tekken, BlazBlue, etc.), other arcade games (Pacman Championship Edition DX, Galaga, etc.) and more can all benefit from a good joystick no matter how seriously you take any of them at the competitive level.
If you want one because you heard it makes you better at fighters, or even any genre, well really think on this. I'm going to try and phrase this as well as it has been in threads before. Are you good enough at your game, and serious enough about your game, to understand why a joystick might
make you a better player? If the answer is no then you don't need one, not yet at least. If the answer is yes, you do understand why a joystick might
(might because plenty of people are good on pad at the competitive level for any genre) make you better, then a joystick is probably for you.
I now know I want an arcade stick, but there's so many options, where do I start?
The short answer is very easy, "Buy a God damned TE!"
Really? But there's so many options other than TEs...
The TE is normally the easiest stick to find that is on sale and comes stock with real arcade parts, both buttons and joy stick. Most people who have used a joystick will have used a TE and can tout it's quality, hence the above response you will hear over and over.
The slightly longer response is you want something that says Mad Catz FightStick Tournament Edition or Hori Real Arcade Pro on the box for your system of choice. These will have the best boxes to hold your PCB, stick, and buttons, the best build quality so it doesn't wear out, and the least hassle in terms of modding or replacing parts. All of this offers the most bang for your buck on your system of choice in the long term. If you're willing to shop around and plan you can get them for ~$90-$100, or less, when they go on sale making them cheaper than modding a stick that MSRPs for less. HRAP and TE sticks go on sale all the time!
How about some pictures? Show me what you're talking about.
Mad Catz Tournament Editions, or TEs for short, with various models pictured below.
Street Fighter IV FightStick (Round 1 Tournament Edition)
Street Fighter IV Round 2 FightStick Tournament Edition
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Fightstick Tournament Limited Edition (White 360)
Super Street Fighter IV Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition S - White
Hori Real Arcade Pro Special Additions and Special Editions, or HRAP-SA and HRAP-SE for short, with various models pictured below.
Xbox 360 Real Arcade Pro. EX-SE
Real Arcade Pro VX SA
Real Arcade Pro V3 SA
PS3 Real Arcade Pro. 3-SA
Real Arcade Pro: 3 Premium VLX
Real Arcade Pro: EX Premium VLX
Hori Real Arcade Pro, or HRAPs for short, with various models pictured below.
Xbox 360 Real Arcade Pro. EX
Playstation 3 Real Arcade Pro. 3 Fighting Stick
Wait, why do you have two listings for Hori's Real Arcade Pro line? They, mostly, look very similar to the pictures you have for the SA and SE models.
There is one major difference between a HRAP and HRAP SA/SE, hence the separate listing. One (The Hori Real Arcade Pro or HRAP) has a real arcade joystick, usually a Sanwa JLF, and Hori buttons. The other (Hori Real Arcade Pro Special Addition and Hori Real Arcade Pro Special Edition; HRAP SA and HRAP SE) comes with a real arcade stick and real arcade buttons. In the past it was usually easier and more cost effective to replace the HRAP's Hori buttons with Sanwa or Seimitsu buttons due to the scaricity of SA and SE lines outside of Japan. Currently you need to price a HRAP and how many buttons you want to replace against a HRAP SE or HRAP SA to see if a current sale saves you money. Thankfully the SA and SE lines go on sale quite often now to save you from needing to button mod, even though it is very easy to do.
But Mad Catz and Hori sell cheaper sticks, what about those? Why pay more?
As already mentioned you're buying for the long haul, not the short term. Reliability, replacement, modding, quality, everything is better on a HRAP or TE. Some sticks, like the Mad Catz Fightstick, also known as the SE or Standard Edition, are very easy to mod. However, without a very generous sale, if you ever want to change your joystick and push buttons to real arcade parts, like the TE already has, the price of your SE purchase, joystick purchase, and push button purchase will be very close to totaling the cost of a TE. The TE saves you the hassle of modding as well, easy or not. As often as TEs go on sale you can buy a TE cheaper than you can mod an SE if you're patient and proactive about sales. TEs have been on sale for as low as two Round 2 TE's for $100 ($50 per stick) for one, albeit extreme, example.
For the cheaper Horis not only are they impractical to mod for experienced joystick makers, the quality of the joystick and buttons are abysmal more often than not. You do not want these. The buttons will wear down over time becoming unresponsive, they will start to stick like you placed gum under them, the joystick will eventually stop registering inputs cleanly, if registering inputs at all. These parts cannot take a thorough thumping like a real arcade part can either leading to the aforementioned issues very quickly if you treat them like you would real arcade parts. Having to play delicately and in fear of breaking your stick is not fun, no matter the genre of game being played. Some Hori products are better than others, the Tekken wireless controller for example. Fewer issues are reported with these, but most people end up modding them or getting a HRAP or TE anyway after enjoying their joystick more than they thought they would similar to those who get a Mad Catz SE.
Barring very specific circumstances you may see pop up in threads from time to time, just buy a HRAP or TE. For every post you may see of someone saying they are happy with purchase X, ten more will say they are happier with their TE or HRAP. We're/They're not schills, we make nothing from Hori or Mad Catz, but these questions get asked on a daily basis and most people, here and other forums, will say they are happier with their TE and HRAP than they are/were with other products.
But there's all these sticks that aren't made by Hori or Mad Catz, what about them?
These range from SE quality to far, far, far below the worst arcade stick Hori has ever made. Feel free to ask if it's offering real arcade parts, but if it makes no claim to be offering real arcade parts, avoid it. The few diamonds in the rough do not outshine the cesspool of this market, at least currently, for the audience of this FAQ.
Sanwa, Seimitsu, Happ, iL, Saulabi? Balltop, battop, convex, concave? Square gate, octo gate, round gate, circle gate, circular gate? Japanese, American, Korean parts? What does this all mean?
Rather than make a whole 'nother FAQ about the above questions, I'm going to link you here to slagcoin's very informative website.
He doesn't cover Saulabi, a Korean arcade joystick and push button maker popular with some American and a lot of Korean players, especially for Tekken, but he covers everything else. Because of how detailed and thorough one can be with questions like this if you can't find it on slagcoin, ask. Someone should be nice enough to answer a question not easily covered here.
Where should I look for TE and HRAP sales?
Anywhere and everywhere that sells them or would use the product. Check. Everywhere. Constantly.
Amazon, the MadCatz store, front pages of Shoryuken, IPlayWinner, Eventhubs, SDTekken, Tekken Zaibatsu, MarkMan's Twitter account, websites for fighting game tournaments, cheapassgamer, fighting game related threads here and elsewhere, etc. etc. etc. If you are proactive you will not miss the excellent deals like Amazon offering a Hori Real Arcade Pro EX-SE MSRP of either $139.99 or $149.99 for $79.99, $89.99 and $99.99 as it has been offered in the past. Mad Catz sold Round 2 Tournament Edition Fightsticks two(!) for $100 during a fighting game tournament over the course of Firday through Sunday or Monday a few months ago. That is two TEs for $50 each. You can get these sticks as cheap or cheaper than modding other sticks, be proactive!
All of that is good and all, but I already have a joystick. I need a converter, so hook me up...
Depending on the system the joy stick is for and the system you want to use it on you're going to need specific converters. You want to make sure your converter is lag less first and foremost. Just like TVs can cause lag when playing, converters can add lag and render your joystick useless. The most common situation are people wanting to use their PS2 joystick on their 360 and PS3. These converters(PS2->PS3
) are the easiest to procure, have been tested by Kyle in SRK's TechTalk
and MarkMan of MadCatz
and SDTekken to be lag less
, and are very reasonably priced.