There are a number of classic arcade games that had 4-way joysticks, like Pacman, Donkey Kong, Burger Time, Frogger — what more could you want outside of up, down, left and right? This becomes an issue with 8-way sticks as those diagonals are now dead zones. If you’re emulating those old games, you’ll likely look for a MAME preference or .ini command to ignore those corners, but strangely I never found a solution.
I’ve been wanting to convert one of my lesser used console sticks to 4-way but kept thinking there must be an easier way, and a method that wouldn’t permanently change or disfigure it. I picked the Sega Virtua Stick since it gets the least amount of use, and seemed like a good 4-way candidate with its clunky stick and buttons and sexy arcade looks. I took off the bottom panel and pondered the level of difficulty required to swap the stick and add a 4-way restrictor gate. I noticed the stock gate was held on by four screws so I took them out and turned it 45 degrees, creating the diamond shape that should block diagonals, but there was no way to screw it back down once turned.
After searching around online — there’s surprisingly very little in the way of Virtua Stick mods — I found someone in a forum post who mentioned not just rotating it 45 degrees but also flipping it, as this realigns the screws. Could it be so easy? It certainly sounded like the switches were releasing before the next one was picked up. I screwed it down and then quickly realized out of all the adapters I have, that I didn’t have one for the Virtua Stick. So tonight an adapter arrived and I gave Ghouls ‘n Ghosts some 4-way action with much success. No dead zones, and it feels much closer to how it was intended.
I’m curious if Sega cleverly designed it this way, anticipating someone cracking open their Virtua Stick and flipping over the restrictor gate, or it was simply a manufacturing and geometrical coincidence. And if other stock sticks have the same ability.