It's weird, having so many rants in my head and so little time to write them. I have at least two half-written rants in our little MT database (when I say "little" I don't mean it, we have about 850 rants in here or so), and none of them have gotten past the first paragraph before I get pulled away by work or weekend plans.
However, this is a subject that I need to clear up before too long, so this one gets out of the gates first. It's a matter of gamepads.
It's been about four years since my last fighting game obsession, Guilty Gear XX. That means the time has been ripe for me to take up strange numerical notations and frame counts for some time now. Dead or Alive 4 scratched the itch for maybe a week, but it just didn't do it for me.
Leave it to Japanese H game fans to give me something to latch on to, though - NRF is coming out with a fighting game using characters from Daibanchou (a game you may remember from my 2003-2004 Japan trip) called Big Bang Beat (this isn't QUITE as silly a name as it seems, given that Daibanchou was called Big Bang Age for no discernible reason). The demo's out now, and I've been toying with for a couple days. I think it's great fun - an easy-to-learn system, simple combos that can be expanded with practice, smooth animation, and best of all, I've managed to suck my friends into playing it too, so I know I'll have people to play against.
There's just one problem so far, and it will hopefully be fixed soon: since Big Bang Beat a PC game, I need to find a good game controller before the full version is released at the end of the month. I tried using my Xbox 360 arcade stick, which is designed perfectly for fighting games AND has a USB cable. Alas, the joystick on the Hori stick seems to be mapped to the second thumbstick of the 360 controller. This means that it's absolutely useless on a PC unless I can figure out how to switch the wiring on the arcade stick to have it output as a left stick.
So, with that option closed, I tried the Xbox 360 controller instead, and discovered that I'm absolutely terrible at controlling 2D fighting games on a thumbstick. I mean, I can get by, but rapid changes in direction take a proportionally huge amount of effort on a thumbstick compared to a D-pad or an arcade joystick. With a d-pad, a flick of your thumb and a button press can reverse your direction easily (handy when you're, say, going from a 214 motion to a 63214 or something similar), while a flick of the wrist does the same for an arcade joystick. With a thumbstick, that flick of the thumb becomes a process of dragging a stick with you, and while I could probably get used to that in time, I would infinitely prefer to stay inside my comfort zone.
With that said, I'd like some help in researching USB game pads. I've looked at a few of the standards, and they tend to mimic the PS2 or 360 controller too closely to be useful for a PC fighting game. I've also looked at the X-Arcade, which would be perfect except for the high price tag and the sheer hugeness of the rig.
This is what I'm looking for in a game pad:
1: The primary directional input is either a d-pad or an arcade joystick - I've seen a few gamepads which can switch their primary input between an analog thumb stick and the d-pad, so this would work too. The d-pad also has to be relatively firm - I've played some d-pads that are essentially mush, and that's not very good when you want precise inputs (IE you want to do a 236 without hitting 9, otherwise you jump forward and look like an idiot). Arcade joysticks, well, those are the best way to fly.
2: It has buttons in a decent fighting layout - The old-fashioned Street Fighter configuration is ideal here. However, the Xbox 360 controller actually works pretty well for Big Bang Beat. The game has three attack buttons, a super button, and two buttons that aren't used very frequently, so just four buttons on the face works alright. I do prefer the 360 controller if I have to resort to shoulder triggers because I like the feel of the left and right buttons, but I'm trying not to be overly picky here.
3: The product description does not include the words "friggin' tank" - That X Arcade is mighty tempting, but I'm working with limited space, here. I don't have a giant computer desk, so on top of the cost of the X-Arcade, I'd probably end up having to buy a new desk. That's a little too much money to spend on a fighting game that costs 2500 yen.
So, with that in mind, anybody have suggestions?