I thought it would be pretty cool to start a thread dedicated to the discussion of optical joysticks. These include:
- The Happ/WICO Perfect 360 joystick
- The Sanwa JLHS-8Y FLASH 1 joystick
- The ASCII Answer (Optical) joystick
as well as recent reproductions:
- Toodles’ Spark
- Rollie Electronics and Happ Controls’ reproduction FLASH 1
What is an optical joystick and why should I care?
What’s so great about optics? Well, the beauty of optical joysticks is that unlike their microswitch counterparts, there’s not a single component on the PCB that moves. That means as long as you’re not running these things out-of-spec, they’ll last a really long time. The optical joysticks invented thus far have required +5V power to power their sensors and LEDs. All 5 sticks listed above have however been successfully installed onto PlayStation 1 and 2 era sticks without much of a hitch. This would normally be an issue since PS1 and PS2 PCBs output at only +3.3V.
All of the original joysticks been out of production for a long time. The Sanwa HS-ASSY FLASH 1 PCB was discontinued in 2006; the old WICO Perfect 360s have been out of production for maybe a decade (someone fact check me on this) and the ASCII optical joysticks were just hard to find to begin with. So, needless to say, if you want an original, you’re going to have to prepare a chunk of cash to get it.
HOWEVER, do not be mistaken that just because they’re reproductions that Toodles’ Spark or Rolllie’s FLASH 1 are any worse. They are reproductions, but they are based on the same design principles and standards that original optical joystick PCBs work on. They will work the exact same.
Where can I buy an optical joystick?
As stated, if you’re looking to get an original optical joystick, be prepared to get some cash on hand because depending on which joystick you want, you’re going to have to spend a LOT of cash. Here are some figures regarding the average going rate I’ve seen for these joysticks here on SRK’s Trading Outlet:
WICO Perfect 360: $100.00 +/- $20.00
Sanwa JLHS-8Y FLASH 1: $200.00 (!) +/- $20.00
ASCII Answer (Optical): $120.00 +/- $20.00
And here’s the price for the reproduction optical PCBs:
Toodles’ Spark: $55.00 + shipping
Rollie’s FLASH 1: To be determined
Except for the newer production Happ Perfect 360s, which you can get commonly from LizardLick for $39.95 plus shipping and handling, every other optical joystick ever made is out of production. Go figure why they’re so sought after; the last time people were able to get an optical joystick for reasonable prices was around in 2006! :wasted:
If you are a fan of American parts you can still get a Happ Perfect 360 joystick from places like LizardLick. Just be aware that the newer Happ Perfect 360 joysticks are manufactured by Happ in their factories in China and the first batches of P360s have had issues with various aspects of the build; pivot grinding issues, diagonals not registering, and other issues have been noticed in the newer P360s (none of these reported issues have anything to do with the optics. If there were any optics issues, it’s because you’re not powering your joystick properly).
However, that was a few years ago when Happ first made the switch to their China factories. Today, their P360s are mostly issue free, though WICO P360 owners will tell you the new P360s “Just don’t feel the same.” You can get a newer Happ P360 for around $40.00 USD from LizardLick, but for a WICO P360, you’re going to need to do a bit of hunting for them and shell out some more cash. I’ve seen WICO P360s go for around $120.00 here on SRK. The easiest way to tell if it was made by WICO or Happ is to look at the bottom of the joystick. If it was made by WICO, it will have “WICO” written on the bottom. If Happ, it will say “HAPP P360.” There have been some cases where some people got a P360 without any writing on the bottom at all, and it’s mostly been assumed that these are WICO P360s, but just be sure to ask.
If you are fan of Japanese parts and are looking to use an optical joystick, looking for an ASCII Answer (Optical) is probably your best bet. They’re incredibly good in terms of build quality and you can find them for significantly cheaper than a Sanwa FLASH 1. Of course, you typically won’t find them sold as just the joystick. The ASCII Answer is pretty elusive only because when you look for any possible ASCII joystick that might have them, people are worried about whether the stick they’re buying actually has an optical joystick since ASCII did manufacture sticks with microswitch joysticks. This detailed post by jdm714 however helps us out a lot. It covers the 6 ASCII sticks ever produced that used an optical joystick along with giving us the Japanese katakana for the joystick so that if you’re feeling ambitious, you can hunt for them on Japanese auction sites.
Click to see images.
Wiring up the ASCII Answer is a bit odd since it does not use a standard connector for its directions, voltage line, or ground. All we get with it is the wires that were attached to the original ASCII PCB. But courtesy of our encyclopedic resource, jdm714, we have a diagram for those who want to wire one up into another stick.
The colors correspond to each of the wires on the ASCII Answer PCB. Depending on whether you are using a Dreamcast or PlayStation 1 era ASCII Answer, your wire coloring may vary. This post by jdm714 tells of all the known color schemes so far:
Alternatively, you can purchase a reproduction optical PCB to install into your Sanwa JLF in your stick of choice. The first contender is made by our resident PCB wizard, Toodles.
You might some PlayStation 1 era ASCII Answers had a purple wire (image courtesy of fujifilm, linked to by jdm714) instead of blue! But they wire up just the same. Bear in mind the diagram does not mean the ASCII Answer can exclusively be installed in a Mad Catz Arcade FightStick or with a Mad Catz PCB. It’s just a reference diagram. It can be easily installed in any stick you want.
What about those reproductions? Resident PCB wizard Toodles has himself designed and manufactured an optical PCB designed for use in a Sanwa JLF joystick called the Spark. You can order one of these from his site. These are very reliable PCBs and are a very cost-effective solution if you want to try out an optical joystick for yourself.
Recently as well, Rollie Electronics in partnership with Happ Controls has begun reproducing the original FLASH 1 optical PCB designed for the Sanwa JLF joystick. I won’t go into details, but you can find more information in their thread here:
Anyways, enough background information. I’d like to propose the following discussion question:
What should we dub the ASCII optical joystick?
The term “ASCII Optical” is certainly easy to remember and is definitely precise enough for people to understand what you’re talking about, but (it might be just me) I feel that it’s very boring sounding. Happ/Wico had their “Perfect 360” bit going, a name signifying the perfection in movement that their optical joystick gave to the player. Sanwa’s FLASH 1 had a reference to light in the name, and is almost synonymous with the phrase “High-Speed Response.”
So what about ASCII? I personally think that we should dub it the “ASCII Answer” for two reasons:
- It was, after all, ASCII’s own “answer” to Sanwa’s optical joystick.
- For the deep, psychological part of the name, the term “answer” refers to how the ASCII optical joystick shall always be there to “answer” to whatever request you may make of it.
I dunno though; I thought my own attempt was pretty lame so let’s get talking about the ASCII’s new name or anything else optical.
Have at it gentlemen! :tup: