I don’t know when fight sticks took off as a competitive cottage industry and small-mass-market company that Mad Catz became. I guess Mad Catz is RIP. Now Hori is the big joystick multi-console maker.
But before there was a Mad Catz, even before Street Fighter 2, there was a company promising the competitive edge. They aligned themselves as the Official Joystick of the US National Video Game Team.
The were Beeshu. They promised better scores or your money back. Why?
Pads are cheap, and there is a reason why the saying “being all thumbs” means “clumsy” not being dexterous. I remember the Intellivision joystick being one I wouldn’t want to play with. The Coleocvision was better than the INTV, because I found a technique for that that works well. Enough people assume it’s a thumbstick based on cursory non-specific Colecovision searches. You will not get good reflexes thinking of it as a thumbstick. I pinch the joystick with my thumb holding the south rim, and the index finger holding the north rim, and moved the joystick decently in a 2 finger claw. Atari 5200 had a misunderstood innovation, an analog stick. Unfortunately the game design of those arcade conversions made more games suffered from the analog than benefit by it, and Nintendo learned on their N64 pad to offer a digital option built in, because they read about 5200 joystick complaints, including it’s non-self-centering (which did play well in the analog 5200 games at the time, like Missile Command, Super Breakout, Kaboom, and Star Wars: The Arcade Game).
Then the NES came along and reinvented the Home Market. It used a d-pad. I, doing what comes naturally, put the NES pad on the floor, and used my index and middle fingers on both the D-Pad, and had the index finger on the B button, and middle on the A button. I never knew you were supposed to hold it. And the way I “held” the controller I was fairly accurate.
Then came the Genesis controller. The cardnials were less defined and if you see your fingers tend to “roll” into the diagonals, so with the pad, I was making unintentional Diagonals. The final straw for the way I held it was the SNES controllers which had the audacity to make you reach in front of your controller (my perspective on shoulder buttons) I tried to rearrange the controllers so I don’t need to press them in a dire situation.
During the NES days, Dad went to a local video store, (which had a fire within 24 hours of Blockbuster breaking ground in our neighborhood.) and rented NES games. That was the only place we saw Tengen Tetris. (Unfortunate that had to go up in smoke.) They had NES Pac-Land, which I did decently at but said I’d do better with a Joystick. So next time, he rented a Beeshu Jazz. I played it and had my best score.
I did not know that Tengen Tetris, Pac-Land and a Beeshu Jazz were all unauthroized accessories. Remember I was used to the Colecovision, where there was no such thing as licensing, and Nintendo was marketing their hysteria about all 3 will break your console. Based on what happened, my score improved and I played games that were better than 75% of the NES authorized games.
This thing is only tangentially dealt with licensing, but I noticed the Joystick gave me power. Dad saw it and decided to buy an NES advantage. We tried it at the store, the turbo and slo-mo were not displayed well with Super MArio Brothers as the demo game for the Advantage. The worst part was it was Left Handed. At the time, before the NES, most games offered mirrored buttons on both sides. The arcade scene was competitive, and even though there were longer credits, those longer credits were exhibitions to increase sales in the game. So despite having longer games, the showing of a great game generated more quarters and made the arcade more social.
This was before Jamma, this beofre the deliberate left-hanidng of joysticks as a standard> The quesiotn is why do that? Who is the arcade game’s direct customer, the player, or the operator? Since Operators pay for a machine and make money back in proportion to credits played, the Operator would usually want to shortened credits, especially on a new game, (Cleveland arcades didn’t do that until the NES games, when NIntendo had their own cabinets) S o beciuase the operator pays the biilll, and most places notice higher revenue from left-hand only machine than right-hand-only or ambidextrous machines of the same title, plus Donkey Kong being the first big game to cement that idea. (their reason was not calculated. It was they werer recycling Radarscope machines, and Radarscope was a shooter, so the fire button was more emphasized, hence on the right.) The funny thing about Donkey Kong was that most of the playesr I witnessed in the top 10 for the local location crossed their wrists. It may be anecdotal, but that’s what I saw. Maybe it’s a Cleveland thing.
Beeshu realizing this made a bold claim. Better scores or your money back. How could they make that claim? 3 reasons.
- The wrist/arm movements on stick and fw2 independnet fingers on 2 separate fcire buttons were quicker and more exact than a thumb on the stick, and a thumb shared between 2 buttons.
- Compared to the NES advantage, which has a circular restrictor and a rocker stick, Beeshu had square restrictors, and higher quality “clicky joysticks”.
- Most of their models were right-hand exclusive, except for one model, which was Ambidextrous, the Superstck
They had to get noticed, especially in the licensing hysteria of Nintendo asking for their “protection money” almost guaranteeing your nintendo will break if you don’t use official Nintendo stuff, (plus the fact they were looking for ways to actively “shut out” games and controllers that weren’t licensed to the point of causing a fire if you dare buy a NON-official NES game, so it seems apporporiate) so they put an “Official Seal” on it, but not the Official Nintendo seal. Instead they had US National Gaming Team, and after my experience I believe that a real good video game player gets better scores on a Beeshu.
I never owned a Beeshu in the day, (remember Advantage) but I have a story in the Street Fighter New Challengers era for SNES and Genesis that is believable. I was one of the worst at Street Fighter. But I played pretty well when they had the “lefty vs righty” machines, and I chose the right handed side. I knew what to do, but was all thumbs in pressing it on a pad. Then I was all thumbs trying to press a Dragon Punch command on a left-handed stick in the Arcade. My will-to-execution ration was less than 5%, and the few times I was able to will myself to a dragon punch, it was telegraphed, blocked and countered.
True story where right makes might
Since there were no 6-button right handed sticks for the SNES or Genesis, I decided why not. I worte to Nintendo and Sega. Nintendo told me just to practice and beat the left-handed people. Sega actually offered a solution: KY Enterpirises as a custom Joystick maker. I thought they were col because they were recommended by Sega.
First KY Enterprises is not Beeshu, the buttons were in right hand countour, despite being left-hand buttons, and the joystick broke down after 2 weeks.
But despite that I went from Zero to Hero when playing new challengers on the Genesis. There were two 6-button pads. But I brought my own stick. I was beating everyone. I got so bored I quit, I was perfect that day.
One of my friends asked why I did so well, I said it was my right handed joystick that made the difference. he didn’t believe it. So I asked other firends if they’d like to try my joystick. Seeing that I improved, they were glad to try.
He said a joystick might give someone an improvement, but not a right handed one. So I asked tem to sometimes play rigth handed, sometimes left. You think a left handed person would improve people… not as much as you think. My cocky friend shut out a few people, and some of the better people were about the same left stick vs left pad, maybe slightly better.
But give the non-bragging friend a right handed stick, despite the wrong contour, they all beat mny bragging friend 100% of the time, even those who went 0-for against hi with a left stick were perfect when right handed.
The proof that one of my friends that we all beat later became a gaming pro / star
And the funniest thing is that braggy friend went on the become a 2-time all-around televised gaming competitor. Winning Life to the Power of X on Spike TV, and he parlayed that victory into an appearance on WCG Ultimate Gamer. He came in 3rd, and there is a possible conspiracy theory that they wanted him to be eliminated as soon as possible for the first nationally televised teabagging of Dante. Lisa Leslie made him the last place dunker by giving him terrible marks. Thankfully he tied for first among 7 in NBA Live to avoid an elimination game. He lost because there was a surprise elimination in the game of 4 Halo players, where he came in third. This was a strange surprise. In the second year, after the round of 4, there is was a round of 3 of playing a never-released-yet game and seeing who is best in figuring out a new game.
He is Jamal “Zophar321” Nickens. A firend of mine since before high school, and a neighbor in my old neighborhood. One time he signed up on Shoryuken just to deny this story. I asked why he said I was lying, he said “that never happened”, a bold face lie, that all my friends know he’s lying about.
I’m not accusing my friend of being a bad player. He explains that big loss, and I agree with the reasons.
So we talked in private, and I asked him, and he told me in privately that he knows that happened, but has a reputation in the fighting game community, and doesn’t want to be trashed. So I asked, what caveats do you want me to add that will explain it better and make it sound like he wasn’t a scrub player.
I told him the exact reason why I tell this story is because it’s a great sales pitch of the advocacy of an ambidextrous stick. I want him to even sponsor it if a company wants to use my story to sell sticks. The fact that the only thing separating a champ from becoming a chump was the equipment is a great sales pitch for the equipment. He probably couldn’t remember each individual win because they were so frequent that the losses stick out.
So He told me to say that was a moment in time. If we try to recreate it, he’d probably do better. I agree. I admit he’d no longer take a knife to a gun fight. He knows if he’s competing in fighting games bring your own fight stick. He won’t use a default Sega Genesis 6-button pad.
Remember this was New Challengers days, where the internet wasn’t big, so there was not much news of people buying custom sticks. I did something considered radical back then.
He has said I’d be most competitive in Street Fighter 2 era games, where the special moves did lots of damage compared to standard moves, and combos weren’t as important as hitting specials at will and as a surprise, except if you have a combo that ends in a special.
Games since then weakened the specials, and instead of small natural combos that were a side effect of the game engine, games were built, nay, engineered, with ridiculous combos, so much so that games since SF IV tell you the combos, you just have to execute them, with no guides on timing issues, so you have no idea how the combo works until you discover it, and then you “just get it”, with Marvel games being hilariously combo-centric games.
And on a personal level, Jamal was 3 years younger, and got better at games, so much so that he later appeared on TV, while I went to a psychiatric hospital and got a medicine which slows down my reflexes. And never got my competitive yen back until Pepsi Max. My SNES Smash TV performance went WAY down after my medicine, and that’s when I realized I lost my skills, at least until Pepsi Max came out.
Finally, Jamal wasn’t a scrub even them. Among our 8 friends, we played a multi-game all around tournament, we played about 50 some games, and he LITERALLY NEVER got worse than 3rd out of 8 in 50 Plus titles. Guaranteed Bronze or better. That’s probably why he shines best in multi-game tournaments and surprise tournaments. The funny was the best I ever got was second, and each of the times I was second, Jamal is the one who gets first, so I have never in 50 games been better than Jamal. A few other people got first in some games. So Jamal is not unbeatable, just unbeatable by me.
And you see why I remember my rIght-handed fight stick story so well… “Dog Bites Man” is not news. “Man Bites Dog” is front page headlines.
Back to Beeshu, Nintendo was unwilling to license a Beeshu stick, despite the fact they were high quality sticks. Nintendo didn’t want hep making third party accessories when the Beeshu came out. They were rightly concerned. Does anyone actually prefer an off-the-shelf joystick that was neither the NES advantage nor a Beeshu model? And anyone without using google NAME such a stick? They thought scare tactics would discourage sales.
But Beeshu stuck around. They made a Master System and Turbo Grafx version of a Beeshu Superstick. Sega didn’t have a licensing program in the Master System days, and Beeshu got the NEC license. Later Beeshu made the Gizmo, a 3-button ambidextrous joystick, and because Sega had a licensing program, got a Genesis license. Originally Nintendo wanted to protect the market against cheap knockoffs of inferior quality. But calling Beeshu inferior quality when it passed NEC and Sega’s quality controls made them look greedy and hypocritical. So the NES-licensed Supersticks were made.
A couple questions. I have a Beeshu Jazz as well as a SMS and TG16 Superstick. I may consider buying an NES Superstick. Like it matters at this point, but is there a way you can tell the difference between an NES-licensed Superstick, and a NES-non-licensed Superstick? Were all Beesh controller considered retroactively licensed and approved by Nintendo, or only the models with an NES seal on the box didn’t violate licensing?
I believe that there are 3 reasons that make a Beeshu joystick a performance enhancement: better joystick, square gate, and ambidextrous/right-handed.
But Beeshu had a problem: With an ambidextrous design, if they followed the logic of the Superstick and Gizmo design, they’d have to have 12 buttons on a 6 button stick. Plus there’s an issue that’s rarely discussed in right handed sticks: Mirror mapping vs Shadow mapping. The buttons on the right side are easy, but the left leaves a couple of questions. If the right hand button arrangement is ABC, what should be the left handed one?
For most games, I’d say CBA. This is what I call an Index-to-index mapping. If A is the trigger you have to hit rapidly, then you want your index finger to do it, hence CBA with the left hand. Sega didn’t realize that an when their right buttons on the pad were mapped 1 2 their left hand buttrons were also 1 2, so if you need instant access to the 2 button, you’d have to rapid pump your middle finger to rapid fire 1. I know why Sega made a right handed fight stick, but not why they didn’t mirror map the buttons.
However there are 3 games I can think of (maybe more, let me know) where the eography of a left and right action are more dominant than the concept of main and aux. Tutankham for Colecovision has left and right fire. 2 Turbo rafx games also have this geography based layout, Side Arms and Pac Land. In the TG16, when use the Beeshu and I play with a right stick, I have to flip my thinking, always thinking right to fire left and left to fire right, but moving is left to go left and right to go right. Becuase the stic is normal but thebuttons are
II I S i II
R L S L R
This confusion would have anyone double guessing their moves. And focus is vital, and double guessing takes you out of the game. If the controls aren’t intuitive, then that’s an extra layer of brain cells taken off watching the TV and concentrating on your arms in space.
That’s one of the secrets, with moves coming naturally when using a right handed stick, I use less brain power in controlling the stick. It’s more instinctive. With less brain power going to my arms trying (and usually failing) to do dragon punches, more brain power could be used to watching the TV and formulating a strategy. Also specials in addition to being more accurate, are pulled off a lot quicker with less telegraphing and more surprises.
And when your specials are as natural as thinking in less than a frame you want a special, in a Street Fighter 2 era game, that goes a long way. It’s less powerful in newer games for the reasons in one of the spoilers.
When a joystick becomes as natural as thinking and reacting, that’s when you get your best moments. Ever notice why no one replicates the “Defender Layout”, except those trtying to world record Arcade defender and Stargate, and most emulators and home versions use instead of thrust and reverse buttons, use left and right on the stick, even back in the 2600 and 5200 days at home. That was a good looking game, that part fo the challenge was learning the exotic control scheme. I don’t know if that game did well BECAUSE if its controls, or DESPITE its controls. Also would Twin Galaxies consider the Arcade version a separate score and home and emulator versions, and for that game would the original layout be a requirement for the Arcade score.