The Optical Joystick Discussion


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:

  1. It was, after all, ASCII’s own “answer” to Sanwa’s optical joystick.
  2. 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:

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glad that some good came out of hunt, i approve of this thread 100%! Although now rare, let’s keep it alive and hope for a run of opticals, even if small, so that everyone can grab one ~


Im glad to be joining the club shortly ! good start on the info Ikagi !

for anyone new to opticals and was curious how much a chunk of cash is… its anywhere in the ball park of 90-130ish for an ASCII, and anywhere between 200.00 and beyond for a FLASH1. We are just talking about the joystick itself. not to mention money but you got to be ready to devote some time hunting one down too, cant be lazy if youre looking for one thats for sure…


Good shit Ikag nice job on the post thread.


Will the your Dust Disc for ASCII Optical be the Answer?

I just want to try out a Japanese Optical Joystick is all.
Since 2006, I have wanted to try.

I didn’t show to SRK of my interest in one.
But I really do want to experience.
Still wanting to.

I did get to play on Alex Valle’s Wico Perfect 360.
Housed in a Case from VOLTECH.
It was cool feeling.

But you know, it was circular.
I want to know square.


Thanks a ton for this thread. I needed to close out of the Trading Outlet and quit buying things.

I like “ASCII Answer.” It’s kind of corny but the name grows on you like the Wii. Maybe others have suggestions?

Someone should hook jdm714 up. I’d let him borrow my stick to play around on if it wasn’t the one I used. :smile:


As a proud owner of an Ascii Answer ((booyah)), I gotta say Ascii’s are great. I have one in one of my sticks and it’s just amazing how smooth and sensitive they are. The stock spring however was pretty balls, but having just a standard JLF spring made the stick too loose. You kinda have to fiddle with it to get your perfect tension. For me, it’s a LS-32 spring combined with a Home Depot spring.


I like the name, emphasizes the switchless nature of an optical joystick since an answer is instant ect. ect. Still thinking of whether I should ever get one but maybe in the future, I’ll attempt to hunt an optical down. Until then, good stuff.


Not liking the name of ascii answer so i’m just gonna stick with ascii optical.

but yeah, i gpt 2 ascii opticals and they are the best stick i’ve used so far. both of them are gutted from the ascii dreamcast stick but one of them feels looser than the other, maybe because of wear and tear.

i didn’t know that these sticks are getting rare and i bought them when they were still fairly cheap. nowadays, people charging $150 just for the stick alone is ridiculous.


People just call them “flash clones” or ascii optical. Why try to reinvent the wheel?

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of optic joysticks. I use LS-32 springs for a bit more tension. Of course in my ASCII’s everything is retrofitted w/ Sanwa parts where possible. (Shaft, actuator,spring holder etc.)


Honestly can’t figure out the big deal with these things. Is it just because of rarity? I purchased an Ascii optical last year and can honestly say that I couldn’t stand it. It was way too loose (yes I tried combining different springs etc). It seems much easier to feel the “corners” on an actual micro-switch stick than it does the optical.

Used the thing for about two weeks, and replaced it with a JLF. It is now sitting in the box the JLF came in one of my computer desk drawers. I won’t sell it though as I may give it another whirl some day.


Probably because the connotation of the word “clone” makes it seem like its of less quality than the counterpart its modeled after, which apparently is not the case


Just call it an ASCII optical then. I prefer the sanwa’s mainly for their forward thinking. How you can replace everything but the PCB. A gripe I have with the ASCII’s is how the wires are soldered to the board. I crimped on QD’s for easy swapping but its not the same storing a PCB with wires as opposed to one without.

I love how you can engage an optical effortlessly with no pressure, the light-ning fast response is great. It did take some time to get used to, but now its my preference. I can still use a normal JLF, but if I get a choice, optics all the way!


I’ve never played with a Flash, but I heard both the Ascii’s and the Flash’s are very similar in performances.

Can we get some actually confirmations and even some numbers ((engage distance mostly)) on both sticks? I think it would be interesting information to see.


I do own both types. However, no hard numbers. Ive used them side by side and could not feel a difference. I was very surprised that slagcoin had no info in optical other than the perfect 360.


There is no tactical or audible confirmation to know when the photodiodes register.
Is that right?

Jimmy up an LED Ball Top.
Then would know.


You are right JD on the no confirmation of input.

I am actually. Kaytrim is selling me a kit. Not actually needed b/c I usually hit the gates. more for fun and looks…lol


Anyone know the original retail pricing? Toodles said he paid $50 a few years back. I’m guessing that was the going rate.

Also, here’s a picture of the Flash1. Per may have a better one somewhere.


Yes, I saw that picture from too.

And yes, that is true what Toodles bought for.

Himura Amusement sold complete Sanwa JLHS-8Y FLASH1 for $58 in 2006.
Himura Amusement sold complete Sanwa HS-ASSY was $50 in 2006.

Since 2001, Sanwa sell FLASH1.
A Sanwa JLHS-8Y FLASH1 was 3,500? price.
A Sanwa JLHS-8YT FLASH1 was 3,800? for price.
A Sanwa JLHS-8S FLASH1 was 3,800? for the price.
A Sanwa HS-ASSY was 2,900? for the price being sold.

Went low stock in 2003, and said will be discontinued.
In 2004, it became discontinued.


Glad to know this thread is appreciated! :clapdos:

Honestly, although it’s been said for a long time now, I’m pretty sure that the reason the Sanwa HS-ASSY FLASH 1 hasn’t been brought back into production was due to the fact that those PCBs were built for Sanwa by Wico, the dudes who did the optics for the original Happ Perfect 360. As a side note, modern Perfect 360s just use Wico’s design. Happ is the one who manufactures them in China.

Although the design is owned by Sanwa, I think the issue is that Sanwa doesn’t find it worthwhile to make any more optical joysticks since all the arcade owners seem fine with the JLF and it was comparatively more expensive to produce than the JLF. It’s like the whole OBSF-30 vs. OBSF-30RG thing. Although the OBSF-30RG performs far better, it’s twice as costly to purchase, even if you don’t have to change it out as often. Arcade operators probably didn’t buy the FLASH 1 very often since it wasn’t deemed really that much better of a bargain and would’ve been a bit of an extra pain to wire up due to the +5V requirement. And if people don’t buy it, then eventually Sanwa will kill the product. Look at what happened with their old school legacy joysticks from the 1990-2000 era.

In summary, I think that the comparatively large price tag of the FLASH 1 to the JLF coupled with the fact that Wico went under were the reasons it went out of existence and the fact that it probably didn’t sell as well as they wanted before will make them apprehensive of making a new production run, considering the fact that they’ll have to charter a completely new company to make the PCBs for them and that takes a LOT of resources. Unfortunately, I doubt that even could convince Sanwa to make an exclusive run of their FLASH 1’s for them either for those same reasons. It’s not like the meshballs which are comparatively inexpensive to produce since they already have active balltop manufacturing.