I decided to try out four different games: Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig-Dug and Rampage. Even though Galaga is a 2-way and not 4-way game, since most people use 4-way joysticks with the classics, it would be good to see how it performed. I didn't have any formal testing procedure. I would load up a game and randomly switch joysticks during the play session, noting differences in play ability/feel. I then ranked the joysticks in order of preference from favorite to least-favorite.Ms. Pac-Man.
Ms. Pac-Man generally benefits from smooth, precise transitions in directions, particularly when cornering. There are not a lot of back-and-forth direction changes. Therefore a lot of movement is based around transitions from north/south to east/west. For this game, I found the Ultrastik 360 was the best. It's an extremely smooth stick and lacking switches, movement around corners felt extremely fluid.
The Leaf-Pro felt similar to the 360. Although I found the restrictor for the diagonals more pronounced on the Leaf-Pro, giving slightly less fluid movement than the 360. The use of leaf-switches, however, meant it had the a similar feel in hitting the 4-way directions.
The Seimitsu LS-32-02 and Sanwa JLW felt less smooth going around corners. The LS-32-02 wasn't bad, just not as fluid as either the Leaf-Pro or the 360. And the JLW in particular, with its heavy spring, actually felt like a chore maneuvering Ms. Pac-Man around the maze.
1) Ultrastik 360
3) Seimitsu LS-32-02
4) Sanwa JLWGalaga.
Galaga only requires horizontal motion and therefore benefits from quick, precise, back and forth movements. This is similar to motions in other shmups, so a stick like the LS-32-02 seemed like it would do well here. And indeed it did.
The LS-32-02 was easily my favorite stick for Galaga. I was able to precisely move my ship back and forth, dodging incoming baddies and projectiles. It's short-throw/engage distances meant it took very little effort to quickly change direction when and where I wanted.
The Ultrastik 360 was next in line. Its light spring meant it also moved easily back and forth. Although with a longer throw distance it seemed less precise than the LS-32-02. The Leaf-Pro was similar, although I found it a little stiffer than the 360, and as a result slower.
Last again was the Sanwa JLW; its heavy spring made for slower back-and-forth action and I did not find it as precise as the LS-32 or 360.
1) Seimitsu LS-32-02
2) Ultrastik 360
4) Sanwa JLWDig Dug
I expected Dig Dug to play similarly to Ms. Pac-Man. It's a game which requires you to navigate the underground, tunneling out a maze as you go. Unlike Ms. Pac-Man, however, I've always found Dig Dug harder to control. The game is "tile-based" meaning you have to fully enter an existing "tile" before you can turn in another direction. As a result, I find myself sometimes trying to change direction prematurely. This could just be my own poor playing style, as I don't have a whole lot of experience with this game.
Surprisingly my favorite stick for this game was the Sanwa JLW. It could be that its heavier spring resulted in slower reactions, thus my premature direction changes were less pronounced. The Leaf-Pro, was also a decent performed here, and feels a little heavier than the 360 or LS-32-02.
As the LS-32-02 and 360 are the lightest feeling sticks, they came in third and forth respectively. I found navigating the little miner with the 360 resulted in too many premature attempts to change direction and poorer play.
Granted, over time I could probably adapt to the game and develop better control but for now, the Sanwa JLW was my favorite stick.
1) Sanwa JLW
3) Seimitsu LS-32-02
4) Ultrastik 360Rampage
Loved Rampage when I was a kid, so I was eager to see how these sticks performed. Rampage benefits from short, precise, rapid changes in direction. This includes when attempting to climb buildings, as well as punching in various directions.
Again, the Sanwa JLW proved my favorite stick. I found that in Rampage, for whatever reason, I would move the stick less forcefully to change direction (compared to Ms. Pac-man). So the JLW seemed to handle these shorter movements to change direction better than the others.
The Leaf-Pro was the runner up here. Like the Sanwa, it benefits from quick changes to direction and being able to precisely transition. The LS-32-02 did well, but the Leaf-Pro seemed to hit the direction changes a bit better.
Surprisingly, the 360 was not as ideal here. Unlike a game like Ms.Pac-man, which benefits from a smooth transition from one direction to another, Rampage has more rapid back-and-forth changes in direction. So I feel the longer throw of the 360 impeded my ability to precisely punch in a given direction.
1) Sanwa JLW
3) Seimitsu LS-32-02
4) Ultrastik 360Overall
It's hard to pick a clear-cut winner. The Sanwa JLW did not feel ideal for some games, but exceled at others. The Leaf-Pro was a relatively solid performer. The LS-32-02 excelled at a shoot-em-up game, and was sufficient in the rest. And the 360 offered one of the most fluid experiences playing Ms. Pac-man I've had.
They are all decent sticks. I think choice will partially come down to personal preference; for example I'm not a huge fan of the heavier spring in the Sanwa JLW. It felt like it would be more fatiguing in the long run. I love the smooth feel of the 360 and the Leaf-Pro. And the LS-32-02 is a favorite of mine for all sorts of gaming.
But if I had to pick one, I'd probably go with the Leaf-Pro. While not the best nor least best, it was a good overall performer, suitable for a variety of games. But if I was targeting a specific subset of games/genres, I would likely choose another stick.