Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nerd-Stick Part Deux

I got the proper part in (thank you Gremlin Solutions in the UK) and finished off the modification of my Xbox 360 joystick, the HRAP EX. My daughter helped me on this part of the project, as she did with the buttons two weeks ago, proclaiming that snipping the wires to the old Sanwa stick was ‘cutting the nerves to the brain’.

The Hori Real Arcade Pro EX does NOT have a simple little molex connector that harnesses the wires for easy hookup. It has a ribbon cable with tiny fine wires all splayed apart and soldered individually to each lead and ground on the four individual switches of the Sanwa stick. So eight connections to have to account for. The kiddo helped me make up masking tape labels to stick on each wire, so we’d hook up the correct directions when the new part went in.

I really didn’t want to have to solder, especially since their was ten-year-old child I wanted to keep involved. The switches on the new Seimitsu stick have flat pegs (blade connectors if you will) that internet searching told me could take a certain type of flat connector. So I hunted all over town for some female quick-disconnect ends that I could crimp on to each wire and as luck would have it, after every other outlets items were all too big, Radio Shack came through.

The disconnect ends themselves fit the Seimitsu stick perfectly. The end you push the wire into for crimping was a bit problematic. The wires off the ribbon cable were just so small. You had to really crunch down on the connector ends to get them to hold onto them. It looked a bit odd to see the smallest quick-disconnects in town sticking off the end of each tiny gray filament, but it worked. I almost got everything screwed back together when I realized the stick seemed short sticking up from the top of the faceplate of the unit when I was testing it on a game to make sure it all worked and the directions were correct.

I then remembered something I’d read when researching this project in the first place. The flush-style mounting plate that comes on a Seimitsu LS-32 stick isn’t quite correct to go into a HRAP. The SS-style mounting plate that I needed (named for the curvy cross-section of each end) actually comes on the LS-32-01 stick that I originally bought… y’know the one with the useless connector (and PCB). So I was okay on having the right part, but if I didn’t know better I’d swear there was some sort of evil afoot with the makers of the HRAP. If you want to swap in a Seimitsu stick you need the body of one model with the mounting plate of another?

Anyway, the SS plate nestles the top of the Seimitsu stick right up where it is supposed to be, so all worked out. A green ball top added on, and my daughters small hands to help me close up the case. I’m glad I went back in and fixed the plate because the difference in height switching between the two HRAPs would’ve driven me nuts.

The green of the joystick top and the A button don’t exactly match Microsoft’s more leafy green that is the Xbox 360 hallmark, but that’s okay. Controls on Japanese candy cabs in arcades tend to have bright party colors, so that’s what this green is, but it is close enough.

As I said in the first part post, the big push for me to do this was because I was having assloads of trouble pulling off double-hadouken motions in Super Street Fighter IV. I was hoping the characteristics of this Seimitsu joystick would help me. While I was waiting for this new stick to arrive I happened to re-read one of the online tutorials at and happened upon a paragraph that I completely overlooked before. The author was swapping out his Sanwa for a Seimitsu (on a PS2 HRAP) for the exact same reason. I was inspired to try it by shooting game fans’ describing shorter, more precise movement capability. He got good results so that only made my waiting that much more difficult.

Now that it was all together, I didn’t waste any time testing it out. For STG/shmup games you can definitely notice a difference during quick direction changes. There is a lot less of a dead zone (virtually none really) when the stick is centered. For SSIV, I’m still not awesome at complicated command motions in the game, but I can get them out with at least twice the frequency after one short session. The flip side to this is that I have to be less sloppy or I’ll inadvertently move a way I don’t want to. A quarter circle for a hadouken is MUCH easier to accidentally turn into a forward jump if you push a little up past the 3 o’clock mark on the stick.

The new buttons are nice too. The original Hori buttons weren’t a problem, but these definitely feel less mushy.

All told, the whole thing, both joysticks, went well… and I’m pretty happy with the results. No glaring difference in appearances from the originals, but the play is the thing and that seems quite improved. It took a month from start to finish, but only two evenings and one afternoon were actual work. The rest was waiting on the mail. As I said in part one, I’m not actually enamored of this sort of work, so if I had to get another HRAP I’d probably get the EX-SE model that has all Seimitsu parts to begin with.

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