I’m an occasional pad player, and I think it’s great that Hori introduced a redundant set of R1/R2. People that are used to playing SF on regular PlayStation controllers have always had to use R1/R2 for 3P/3K, and that’s been the default as far back as the Alpha series. Other people have gotten used to arcades and Genesis-style controllers, and thus prefer to have all six buttons on the face. Hori thought it best to just cater to both styles.
There’s no fighting game out there that absolutely requires 8 face buttons, and even most PS3 games that don’t have the SF-style R1/R2 mapping by default (e.g. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2) can accept custom mappings. The only unnecessary buttons are L1/L2, but they’re still present on the controller for non-fighting game purposes, and for all those people out there that have issues hitting three face buttons simultaneously. MadCatz has the same layout with their FightPad, except that there’s only one set of R1/R2 buttons.
It sounds awfully ridiculous that one would have to physically reroute the traces on the buttons in order to make PPP/KKK easier. Firstly, since they operate on physically separate nerves and muscles, the movements of your thumbs don’t have any effect on your index and middle fingers, and so there shouldn’t be any confusion on your left hand as to whether you can actually operate the D-pad and press shoulder buttons at the same time. It’s really not that difficult to do, and just like anything else you’ll get better with practice. Secondly it’s also perfectly acceptable to set the controller on your lap, position your palm over top of the controller, and then use the first three fingers on your right hand to press all three buttons simultaneously. No matter how silly you think you look while doing it, you won’t get kicked out of a tournament for treating your pad like a stick, and if anything you’ll save your thumb from just a little bit less wear and tear.
@powerincarnate: Take pictures of the PCB. It’s pretty hard to spot a soldering problem when we don’t know what it looks like.