Joysticks vs. Gamepads for Classic Gaming

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Matt Barton
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A lot of classic games, particularly Atari, Commodore, and arcade classics, were designed for use with a joystick. Nintendo ushered in the use of the gamepad, of course, and the (IMO) arguable superiority of the design made it the standard for pretty much everything.

So, when you're ready to go a few rounds of Poo-Yan or Satan's Hollow, are you content to hook up a USB gamepad, or do you demand a "proper" joystick? Do you think it really matters whether you're playing Pac-Man with a joystick or gamepad?

On the flip side, would you play Super Mario Bros. with a joystick?

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clok1966
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Matt Barton wrote:

I also use an Xbox 360 wired controller for my PC stuff. I wish I had a few extra units just to make it easier. I hate the wireless controllers, which drain batteries and always seem to take forever syncing up on my 360. The Wiimotes are actually quite superior in that regard (at least in my experience).

buy a play and charge kit, wirless is now wired :) dirt cheap too. I have a charge stand, and that littel plug in do dad MS makes that charges 2 batteries so mine are never dead, Have 6 MS pads.. 2 for each 360 and 2 for my PC gameing box.. I had to have rechargers..

Bill Loguidice
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Matt Barton wrote:

I really like how a lot of the modern remakes try to incorporate things to make you feel like you're making some kind of progression, such as achievements and statistics and such. I guess if Pac-Man were being made today, it'd be some sort of complicated Facebook social networking game..."Hey, your friend's maze has not been harvested in four days! Would you be a pal and go clear the level for him?" Hehehe.

Well, I don't think Pac-Man would have been designed from scratch today to be sure, but certainly we can look to the two Pac-Man modern re-imaginings for Pac-Man in the 21st century, Pac-Man CE and Pac-Man CE DX, the latter of which is a personal favorite of mine. Though it's hard to argue that the original Pac-Man is not best with a 4-way joystick, both Pac-Man CE games are wonderfully tuned for play with the Xbox 360's analog stick, even being incorporated into the play mechanic for quicker corner turns. Again, original intention for control is almost always key with this stuff. That's probably a big part of the reason why I was so dissapointed playing the PS3's Heavy Rain with the Move controls - the game was clearly designed with a gamepad in mind and the latter day DLC-style Move controls were just a tack-on.

Matt Barton wrote:

I also use an Xbox 360 wired controller for my PC stuff. I wish I had a few extra units just to make it easier. I hate the wireless controllers, which drain batteries and always seem to take forever syncing up on my 360. The Wiimotes are actually quite superior in that regard (at least in my experience).

Wii controllers are battery hogs. I find that the wireless Xbox 360 controllers are best with regular AA batteries, and you should always disconnect the battery pack when not playing. That prolongs the battery life significantly. It's more of a pain on the Wii controller, so I don't bother. I use the wireless Xbox 360 controller on my PCs and love it. Just the one wireless dongle supports up to four controllers, just like on the Xbox. It works out well for me considering all the Xbox controllers in my house due to the three consoles and their associated controllers and add-ons.

Matt Barton wrote:

Now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, I can't really think of many games that would be "ruined" by playing with a gamepad instead of a joystick. Sure, it's not "authentic," but I can't think of one that'd be reduced to an unplayable state by having to play it with a pad.

Well, again, it also depends on the type of gamepad, plus, playability is relative. Unless you only have the one controller, it's still undeniably best to use what the game was designed around whenever possible. Certainly to use my earlier example, depending on the type of digital d-pad, diagonals can be more of a chore than with a joystick.

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Matt Barton
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I bought an Xbox Dual Arcade

I bought an Xbox Dual Arcade so I could play the classics at home. Unfortunately, I found that I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would! I guess I'm just not into classic arcade games much anymore, though I admire them and enjoy them in short bursts. I can't imagine spending more than a few minutes playing any of them nowadays.

I really like how a lot of the modern remakes try to incorporate things to make you feel like you're making some kind of progression, such as achievements and statistics and such. I guess if Pac-Man were being made today, it'd be some sort of complicated Facebook social networking game..."Hey, your friend's maze has not been harvested in four days! Would you be a pal and go clear the level for him?" Hehehe.

I also use an Xbox 360 wired controller for my PC stuff. I wish I had a few extra units just to make it easier. I hate the wireless controllers, which drain batteries and always seem to take forever syncing up on my 360. The Wiimotes are actually quite superior in that regard (at least in my experience).

Now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, I can't really think of many games that would be "ruined" by playing with a gamepad instead of a joystick. Sure, it's not "authentic," but I can't think of one that'd be reduced to an unplayable state by having to play it with a pad.

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clok1966
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yes.. here i was being so

yes.. here i was being so smug.. SUPER... dang one word! I do believe Mario Brothers was one of the last "i will beat it" games i played (and was quite good).. the game that made mario a Plumber (instead of a carpenter that he was in Donky Kong, and still had a short identical twin in Luigi, not a taller version) I hit a wall at Disc Of Tron, the game was bloody hard to fast.. and patterns didnt work, it was pure reaction time. yet its still an all time favorite of mine would Kill fore na eviromental DOT.

Bill Loguidice
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clok1966 wrote:

As for Super Mario Brothers.. ehhehe the original was a STICK!.. hehe I know you are talking the NES games (or think you are).. but remeber the FIRST super Mario game was a singel screen platformer.

Mario Bros. was definitely designed for a stick and it worked great with it. Super Mario Bros. on the other hand was clearly designed for a gamepad. Trying to play the arcade version of Super Mario Bros. with that joystick is a comparative chore.

Side story I've told many times before... My FIRST exposure to Super Mario Bros. was the arcade version at a Laser Tag center. I remember the game being impressive on some levels to me, but I don't think I "got it" at the time.

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clok1966
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Well i believe in the right

Well i believe in the right controls. I built my mame machine for this reason. A joystick is fine, but a good old fashioned arcade stick i can slam around a bit .... heaven! I have purchased 2 of the ARCADE STICKS for the consoles (one was a STreetfighter one, the other i forget) both are cheap crap.. Both where around $90 new, but i picked up both on closeouts hopeing to get a ok experinace out of them.

I do agree it really depends on the game... A game pad (360 or PS3) is fine for almost any game made since the NES and Sega MS (that is not a arcade port of some kind or PC port).. But Streetfighter.. sure you can play on a gamepad .. but the 360 or PS3 ones are not ideal.. 3X3 button layout is missing and that is the first problem, then the "slam" of a joystick when doing specials.. a thumb pad has not feedback at all (no that end of trhow on a joystick is feedback, but its part of the skill of that game).

You mention PacMan.. HECK YES a 4 way stick is WAY better then a game pad with multipul directions.. I know in the past even an 8way joystick made it a bad experinace for us old hardcore pacman players.

As for Super Mario Brothers.. ehhehe the original was a STICK!.. hehe I know you are talking the NES games (or think you are).. but remeber the FIRST super Mario game was a singel screen platformer.

I will never be a fan of gamepads, im to rooted in my keyboard mouse combo and sadly my reflexes and learning ability are never going to get me into a comfort zone with two joystick for anything other then robotron or Smash TV.

Did you know the nes gamepad was designed based on a WATCH... you know back when watchs had games on um :) they got the thumb Dpad from those.

Bill Loguidice
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It's situational, as you

It's situational, as you imply. A game like Pooyan or Satan's Hollow screams out for a joystick because that's what they've been tuned for, unless of course you're playing a port on a system designed around a gamepad, like an NES, then it's more or less properly tuned for a gamepad. My generic game controller of choice is an Xbox 360 controller, which is more or less a high tec gamepad, and that's good in many situations, but not ideal. When I play on classic systems, I typically stick with a classic Atari 2600 joystick or Epyx 500xj joystick. In fact, there have been few situations where I've found a gamepad to be a superior option on a classic system (diagonals tend not to be great on d-pads), save for an Atari 7800, which had more or less dreadful stock joystick controllers. Even then the Atari gamepads are not necessarily a control panacea.

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