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Author Topic: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?  (Read 896 times)

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thorr

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Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« on: December 30, 2017, 08:54:04 pm »
I built my own custom joystick that I am quite happy with except, the Pac-Pro from GroovyGameGear (see picture).  I don't think I can return the Pac-Pro, but am waiting to hear from Randy for confirmation, so if anyone wants it, let me know. 

About my joystick...

My joystick was made to be mostly portable (not built into a cabinet) and flexible in its use and I use it with RetroPie.  It has an 8-way Dominux8 configured with a short shaft with a short throw circular restrictor and it is perfect for what I want for 8-way games: it is smooth as butter and doesn't travel too far.  Only occasionally I accidentally hit diagonals which is most noticeable when navigating the menus of RetroPie, but I can easily live with this.  I can use it left or right handed, so for example on Atari 2600 games, I use one of the buttons on the left and hold either stick with my right hand.  For the electronics, I used a Teensy 3.2 and I programmed it so that I can use either stick and turn rapid-fire on and off on the fly for each button by pressing button combinations on the joystick.

To my question...

The Pac-Pro from GroovyGameGear (based on the reunion stick) is considerably smaller than the Dominux8 and it is very hard to move compared to the Dominux8.  I need to move the stick pretty far before it registers a direction and going between directions along the diamond restrictor gate has a considerable deadzone where the joystick reads as centered.   When trying to use this stick with Donkey Kong, there is a delay between moving right and moving up the ladder because of this deadzone.  I assume I can move the leaf switches to fix this somewhat, but it won't fix the feel of how hard I need to push on the stick.  The short stick with the small ball also contributes to this because there is less leverage.  I thought about buying the Versa-Ball 2 shaft, but with the additional cost, I could go with a Dominux8 and 4-way restrictor.

So before I do anything further, I wanted to ask what 4-way joystick you would recommend based on these ideal requirements:
- Smooth feel without taking a lot of strength to move the stick (similar to a Dominux8 with short-throw circular restrictor)
- Short throw distance for both initial switch engagement and total throw distance (by the way I have a Sanwa JLF and the total throw distance is further than I would like, and I don't like the clicking noises - do they have a short-throw 4-way gate available?)
- No clicking noises (I can swap out microswitches with micro-leaf switches from GGG if needed and if it is compatible - do these work with Sanwa joysticks?)
- Ideally the mounting pattern will be the same as the Pac-Pro since I already drilled my holes and any bigger won't fit
- New (I am not sure I can find a good used Wico 4-way, but otherwise that might be perfect)
- Not too long/tall (I have a metal panel, and the Dominux8 is already as tall as I would want at the most)

Sticks I am thinking about currently in order of most interested to least:
- GGG Dominux 8 with 4-way restrictor - not sure about the clover leaf gate, but it would probably work fine since it allows short throw and prevents diagonals
- U360 with front mounted switchable 4/8-way restrictor - this would also allow me to play Robotron on my joystick when configured as an 8-way;  The big downside to this option is cost and most likely eliminates the option
- GGG Leaf-Pro with 4-way restrictor - I am assuming this would work better and be less stiff for me than the Pac-Pro, but I don't really know
- Adjust the leaf switches on the Pac-pro to make the throw engage distance shorter.  This could solve most of my issues.  Is there a way to replace the spring?  I heard you can compress it and heat it, but I don't have a blow torch.
- In addition to the line above get a Versa-ball 2 shaft to help with the stiffness/leverage issue

My Sanwa JLF could work well if it had a much smaller 4-way gate and didn't click.  It is nice and easy to move around.  I would need to adapt the mounting to the holes already drilled in my joystick.  Maybe I could make a mounting plate with a smaller hole restricting the joystick movement at the top.  There's an idea...  I will look into this plus GGG microleaf switches if they are compatible.

I am totally open to other recommendations besides the list above.  I am basically will to spend as much as $60 to get a good joystick that works, and would like to get most of my money back for the Pac-Pro.  I haven't bent the leaf switches yet in the hopes of being able to return it.

Thanks for your help.
Mike

Just an update, after writing this, I did more research and am also considering a Seimitsu LS-40.  I guess they are very loud with the clicking, but otherwise may meet my requirements of soft movement and a short throw.  I would need a mounting plate adapter ($10.58 shipped) and the joystick is $20 plus shipping (say $35 total).  I also found affordable Korean Wico clones, but not sure if they are any good because the way to change the restrictor seems to be different than a normal Wico.  A Dominux8 would be about $50-$60.


« Last Edit: December 31, 2017, 12:43:19 am by thorr »

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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2017, 11:46:18 am »
Welcome to the forum!


Kinda funny I just received an order of a pacpro and a pair of Dominux8 from Groovy Game Gear.   I too wish I could trade that pacpro in for another Dominux8, much of the same reasons as yourself. The dominux8 seems to be a quality stick, the other I'm not the happiest with.
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thorr

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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2017, 01:21:02 pm »
Thanks Donkey Kong.  At least we are not alone in our feelings.   :)   I wish there were more posts about these sticks so we could make more informed decisions before purchasing.  I played with the stick more last night and found it to be not too bad with Frogger.  It was tiresome to use because of the tension, but it worked pretty well.  I also use it more in my RetroPie menus to avoid going sideways by accident. 

I did more research and found that the LS-40's 4-way gate isn't getting the greatest reviews and I assume it is because on one end of the gate, it is not rounded like the other three sides.  The LS-32 seems to be better in this regard but has more travel and is stiffer.  Both of them have cloverleaf shapes.  At Paradise Arcade, they have an upgrade kit to quieter Zippy microswitches for the LS-32.  It doesn't work well with corners, but since this is for a 4-way that wouldn't matter.  This might be a good solution.  Another solution could be there is a Kowal actuator at Focus Attack for the JLF that makes the shaft thicker and would reduce both the travel and engage distance.  Since the JLF is well regarded and I like mine except for the travel and engage, that might be a good option.  Also this would have a diamond restrictor instead of a cloverleaf.  I would buy a new JLF since my existing one is in a Hori fight stick.  I just don't know with the actuator if it would work well in 4-way mode.  I assume so because my current JLF has an octogate and the corner travel distance is less than the square gate and it is supposed to work well with an octogate.  That is the one major drawback about the JLF idea is that the square gate has even further travel than the octogate which is already too far so the actuator may still not be big enough.  I may just end up with a second Dominux8 despite the additional cost.  I was trying to keep it around $30 if I couldn't return the Pac Pro.

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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2017, 01:36:01 pm »
Personally, I like the Pac-Pro, but I had tried other options as well before I got to it.

Never tried a Dominux.
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thorr

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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2017, 08:18:08 pm »
I too wish I could trade that pacpro in for another Dominux8, much of the same reasons as yourself. The dominux8 seems to be a quality stick, the other I'm not the happiest with.

I bit the bullet and compressed and heated the spring using my gas stove.  It took several tries to get it right.  It was not straight initially, so be careful when you compress it so it is not bent.  To fix the curve, I inserted thick washers in the coil of the spring on the side where it was tightest and re-heated it.  It also took quite a few tries to squish it enough to where I like it.  Man, what a difference!  I had to compress the spring considerably to get it so the tension wasn't too bad, but after doing so, I can now say the joystick is actually quite usable.  I highly recommend doing this for anyone who owns a Pac-Pro.  Now, I don't find my self wanting another stick, just a longer shaft and a larger ball.  What I used initially to compress the spring was a hole saw inserted into my drill with the spring compressed between the two.  This got it close, but it was still too long.  Then I put some large washers on the ends of the spring to compress it even more since I couldn't push the holesaw in any further.  Initially, the spring pushes on the bottom of the plastic box, so when you remove the corner screws it pops up.  After compressing it enough, it doesn't push on the box bottom anymore, but it still has compression when putting the clip on the joystick shaft.

As a side note, I noticed the leaf switches had the same mounting pattern as micro-switches.  The LS-32 has the same pattern so theoretically I could get an LS-32 and move the leaf switches to it and have a silent LS-32.  The actuator may or may not be the right size but the leaf switches could be adjusted.  The downside of this is the cloverleaf gate.  I quite like the diamond gate, now that the joystick is softer, so most likely I will eventually just get a new shaft and ball for this joystick and be done with it.

I played Ms. Pacman and immediately noticed a huge improvement.  I also played Donkey Kong and it was better than before, but I feel the stick is too small.  I played Donkey Kong Jr. and got to a level I never had before, so it works well in that game.  Frogger works well like before without hurting my hand as much.  I still want it to be a little looser even still, but I am leaving it as is so if I get a new shaft and ball, it won't be too loose with the extra leverage.    Hope this helps.

yotsuya, thanks for sharing.  I actually saw that you liked it before in old posts which played a part in me initially choosing this stick.  If you haven't already, you should heat and compress your spring to loosen it up and you may like it even more.

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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2017, 09:27:17 pm »
Itís cool you got the spring where you like it. Quite honestly, I donít see anything wrong with the stick and donít feel like I need to modify it any, but thanks for sharing. Thatís good to know.
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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2018, 12:33:15 am »
I like the Reunion stick and the Suzo-Happ universal (which you can rotate in the mounting hole for QBert if you dont tighten to mounting bolt too hard). For old hardware I like the Midway pac sticks. I don't like the Wico 4-ways as an overall, as I feel they underperform in fast maze games.
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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2018, 03:23:54 am »
Ok, I found a solution to the rest of my issues: http://www.arcadeshop.com/i/1104/blue-bubbly-4-way-joystick.htm

I am 99% sure I can use the joystick ball and shaft in my Pac-Pro and it has a much larger ball and has two height options.  Also, since this is a complete joystick, I may find that it is naturally less stiff than my current one, and I am pretty sure I can move my leaf switches over to this joystick.  I will have lots of options.  I ordered the red one, but I linked the blue one above because it shows the ball size and two shaft lengths better.  The cost of this joystick is $1 more than a Versa-Ball 2 shaft which seems like it would be way too long.  After I get the joystick, I will report back with the configuration I end up with (which joystick body with leaf switches and short/long shaft configuration). 

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Re: Best all-around 4-way Joystick for 4-way games besides Pac-Pro?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2018, 01:13:04 am »
I got my new joystick from arcadeshop.com and it totally solved all of my problems.  The red version of the joystick is a reunion stick except the joystick ball and handle is much bigger (even bigger than the Dominux8).  This is probably why the picture of the joystick body on the website is different for the red ball and it is $3 more than the other colors.  At first I was worried that it might be too big, but it actually feels really great.  The bottom of the ball is roughly the same height as the bottom of the Dominux8.  The spring in this joystick was not nearly as stiff as the Pac-Pro but still stiffer than my heated and compressed version I made from the Pac-Pro, so I kept the Pac Pro joystick body in there and only used the handle from the new joystick.  I put the smaller original Pac-Pro handle in the new joystick body and it was much easier to move around with the default spring in there than the original way the Pac Pro came (ie. the spring is better).  Had I not already modified the Pac Pro spring, what I would have done was move the leaf switches from the Pac Pro to the new joystick and left the spring unmodified.  It would have been slightly harder to move around, but it would have been fine.  With my modified spring, if I move the stick to the side and let go, it has a lot of bouncing before it stabilizes, but it doesn't affect my gameplay since I normally am not letting go of the stick.  The new spring probably would have helped reduce the bounce at the expense of being slightly stiffer to move.  Right now it is very similar in mushiness to the Dominux 8 so I like it this way.

Now with the bigger ball and longer joystick shaft, the joystick is very easy to move around and feels GREAT with every game I have thrown at it (Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Ms. Pacman, Frogger, etc.).  I dare to say I like it just as much as the Dominux 8 and they both feel very similar at this point.  I also tried adjusting the leaf switches inward on the Pac Pro, but it ended up turning it into an 8-way, so I would advise anyone else not to bother to try to tighten up the responsiveness of the 4-way as it seems impossible.  It is definitely good enough as is, but I wanted to try it since I have leaf switches and it was something I could attempt.  I am now completely happy with my new joystick build except for a few cosmetic things: I want to replace the screws around the joysticks with black ones that are counter sunk and add a 6mm rubber grommet to the dust washer on the 4-way.  Eventually I may put some artwork on the joystick.  Also, I am happy that I now have matching dust washers, so that was a perk of buying the second 4-way joystick also.  These dust washers match the color and texture of my metal enclosure almost perfectly. 

  
 

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