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What do you consider the best vintage joystick for the Atari 2600/7800?


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The vintage joysticks that I own are the Wico Famous Red Ball, Wico bat handle, Wico Ergostick, Epyx 500XJ, The Arcade Joystick by Suzo, Captain Grant, Gemini Gemstick Pro, BP joystick, Atari CX40 and last but not least, the ZipStik. Out of all of these my favorite is the Europe only ZipStik. It's all mcroswitched, built like a tank and has the sweetest clicky short throw action. Number 2 is my all microswitched version of the Arcade Joystick by Suzo.

zipstik.jpg

arcade joystick suzo.jpg

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30 minutes ago, intellicolecovisonary said:

The worst Atari compatible joystick I own is hands down the Commodore Model 1311. After 15 minutes of play with this non responsive stick with a cruelly triangular shaped handle my hand hurt big time.

1311-joystick (1).jpg

I can second this.  It's awful.  In addition to bein unresponsive, the placement of that button is cruel.  

 

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Well I'm pretty partial to the Epyx 500xj myself. I do like the feel of the slick stick and the TAC-2, but the TAC-2 fire buttons needing constant cleaning really turns me off them. Most of my game playing now is using a modified NES controller but there are some games where I feel a joystick is still be to use. I also have one of those 'Industrial' looking controllers from Newport controls that I think were popular with the Atari 8-bit crowd in the 80s? I've two of them and they work okay but kinda unwieldy to hold onto when using them.

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The Epx 500xj is a great, albeit unusually shaped joystick, but I slightly prefer my Wico Ergostick that still has a nice soft rubbery feel to it, I heard some got rather sticky over the years. The actual control with both the Epyx 500xj and the Wico Ergostick functions exactly the same to me, possibly being the same stick rubberized and rebranded 

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19 minutes ago, intellicolecovisonary said:

I'd like to get a Competion Pro 5000 joystick but I want the microswitched version, not the leaf switched version and I don't know how to tell one from the other unless you open them up or get it NIB.

comp5000.jpg

While not a certainty, most leaf switches don't really made any sound when they are activated and also lack tactile feel compared to the positive detent and click you get from micro switches.

At least, that is how it is in the arcade world.

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Posted (edited)

It's the same in every joystick world but it still makes buying one on eBay risky. I could ask the seller if it sounds 'clicky' but that might be subjective as I can manage to make some mighty 'clicky' sounding sounds with a leaf switch joystick by banging it into restricter gate and I don't want to pay $50-100 and be stuck with leaf switches. I have more leaf switch joystick than anyone really needs.

25 minutes ago, CrossBow said:

While not a certainty, most leaf switches don't really made any sound when they are activated and also lack tactile feel compared to the positive detent and click you get from micro switches.

At least, that is how it is in the arcade world.

 

Edited by intellicolecovisonary
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Update: I bought 2 Competition Pro joysticks, one with a black balltop handle and 1 with a red handle. After opening them up for cleaning I discovered that the black one is the earlier leaf switch version and the red one is the later micro switched version. On all the teardown videos I've seen all the red ones are micro switches and the black ones leaf switches. Other than the color of the handles they look identical on the outside..

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Downdate: I just now saw a UK repair video on a black handled Competion Pro that has micro switches, yet the one I own that looks identical on the outside has leaf switches. Other than the red hand, my micro switched Competion Pro also looks looks identical on the outside. Other than having it in your hand I wonder if there are any other ways to identify the micro switch version from the leaf swich version.

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Back in the 80s and 90s, my favorite was the Wico Redball. I still have my original, one of the very few 80s items that I've managed to hold on to. I tried several others (Wico Bat stick, Wico Boss, Slik Stick, TAC-2, QuickShot, Kraft...) but none dethroned the Redball. I tried it again last year, but it has now been dethroned by 2600/7800 microswitch joysticks made by Retrogameboyz. Everything else feels mushy in comparison. It uses no-name parts, and the price reflects it, but I've had no issues so far (a year).

 

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Just yesterday I tuned up the leaf switches and replaced the grommets in both my Wico Red Ball and bat handle. I like both the Wico sticks but my preference is the bat handle. For some reason it just works better for me than the red ball but the red ball looks cooler.  https://www.arcadeshop.com/i/1061/robotron-joystick-centering-grommet.htm

Edited by intellicolecovisonary
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14 hours ago, socrates63 said:

Back in the 80s and 90s, my favorite was the Wico Redball. I still have my original, one of the very few 80s items that I've managed to hold on to. I tried several others (Wico Bat stick, Wico Boss, Slik Stick, TAC-2, QuickShot, Kraft...) but none dethroned the Redball. I tried it again last year, but it has now been dethroned by 2600/7800 microswitch joysticks made by Retrogameboyz. Everything else feels mushy in comparison. It uses no-name parts, and the price reflects it, but I've had no issues so far (a year).

 

I've been thinking about grabbing on of the Retrogameboyz sticks, but I have one concern.  It doesn't look like you can hold/use it with just two hands.  It has to be set down on a table or something.  I know that's not a huge problem, but in my current setup, I don't have a tabletop to play on.  What do you think, @socrates63?

PS - I have a retrogameboyz gamepad, and it is excellent.  I use that a lot. 

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I recently purchased one of the 7800 compatible controllers that Bratwurst over at AA was selling and for most arcade type games, it has been excellent! It is just a hair to large for most people to just hold it in their hand to play but it can be done and I've used it that way. I also have one of Retrogameboyz NES style controllers and use that for games that require very precise movement. Mainly most of the home brew releases, especially those from Vlad Zuniga.

 

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8 hours ago, RickR said:

I've been thinking about grabbing on of the Retrogameboyz sticks, but I have one concern.  It doesn't look like you can hold/use it with just two hands.  It has to be set down on a table or something.  I know that's not a huge problem, but in my current setup, I don't have a tabletop to play on.  What do you think, @socrates63?

PS - I have a retrogameboyz gamepad, and it is excellent.  I use that a lot. 

Rick, I hold the controller in my hands while playing, and I find it comfortable. I don't need to set it down on a surface. Initially, I was a little worried because it looks big and bulky. I found that it's not as big as it looks in the photo, and it's very light weight, and comfortably holding it in my hands during play was not an issue.

He also makes a joystick in a smaller base. Although this one has two buttons, they're both button1 as it's marketed as a 2600 joystick. I'd think he could wire them up to be button1 and 2 for 7800 compatibility. Take a look. Michael Tarallo is the owner, and you can find him on FB Messenger. He's very responsive.

https://retrogameboyz.com/products/atari-2600-joystick

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Very philosophical Socrates63, controllers are so subjective. I might feel more comfortable with the Wico bat handle, where another person is partial to the red ball. I recently started using my Kempston Competion Pro that I bought in the UK back in the late 1980's.  it's seemingly awkward shape I thought would need a table, but fits nicely in my hands. The Epyx 500JX and the Ergostick are strange to use for some, but I dig em. Right now I have 71 acrcade/joysticks in my collection, most of which are micro switched with a smattering of quality leaf switch sticks including 30 joysticks that are modified with authentic arcade parts. Is this OCD?

Edited by intellicolecovisonary
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OCD? Well, if it is, count me in 🙂 Yes, controllers are very subjective, and I love having the right controller especially game-specific ones. I have a 4-way joystick made by Retrogameboyz to play Pac-Man and other games. I also have an all-button controller (I forget the brand name) for Asteroids, and it works great for Decathlon.

I studied philosophy in college, so that's where the handle comes from.

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I have 2 Intellivision II consoles each with slightly different feeling controllers. On one the controller disc ls slightly concave with seemingly more tactile buttons, on the other it is completely flat with stiffer buttons. I like the slightly concave one but I'm not sure if the differences are by design or has one just been altered by years of use, like the grand Canyon starting from a drip of water?

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1 hour ago, intellicolecovisonary said:

I have 2 Intellivision II consoles each with slightly different feeling controllers. On one the controller disc ls slightly concave with seemingly more tactile buttons, on the other it is completely flat with stiffer buttons. I like the slightly concave one but I'm not sure if the differences are by design or has one just been altered by years of use, like the grand Canyon starting from a drip of water?

For the Intellivision 2, I use the controller from the Intellivision Flashback console (with an adapter cable).  It mostly feels the same, but the side buttons are much more "soft" and don't punish your thumb so much. 

Given the redesign of the entire console, I'm dumbfounded that Mattel didn't address the %!#$& controller.  They were so close -- if they'd just rotated it 90 degrees and put the side buttons on the front....

 

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3 hours ago, HDN said:

I love the stock CX 40, though I’ve used two in my life that were completely different feeling. One was stiff but had a nice clicky button, the other stick was looser and nicer to use but had a mushier button. I like the second one more.

Right now i own 4 CX 40 sticks, one working at optimum and 3 for parts.  For what it is, the CX 40 is a darn good joystick but I like this Ace joystick a tiny bit more. It's a bit looser but super accurate and the button is bigger and feels closer to an arcade button.

WIN_20210416_09_10_16_Pro.jpg

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I remember the ACE controllers. Aren't the Gemsticks also basically the same design? I can't recall. I went through lots of different controllers when I was kid. To me the originals were always the best to use (That we were able to afford anyway). But they never lasted me more than a few months at most before some part of the white ring would crack. I think the WORST controllers we ever got that I used back in the day were the Pointmasters from Discwasher. Had two of them and they both broken within a month in the exact same way. The center support that would provide the needed pressure for the board inside, would crack all around the center bottom of the controller. Once that happened, you wouldn't get good direction response anymore because the board inside wasn't making good contact anymore with the actuator inside the handle. Next would be the Amiga power sticks we had because I recall those also breaking within just a few months of owning them. So, yeah I can remember primarily using the Gemsticks and actual CX40s back then. 

Didn't know about or own any of the Wico controllers much less the suncom controllers until much later when I got back into collecting. I'm sure the Wico's were available but likely way more expensive than my parents were willing to spend at the time. It is funny to me how many different controller options existed back then but I only remember a small few actually being available for sale in the places I lived.

 

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23 minutes ago, CrossBow said:

Aren't the Gemsticks also basically the same design? I can't recall.

The Gemstick made by Gemini looks similar in form factor but the two sticks are night and day in feel. The Ace was made by Kraft and has an audible click when engaged as does the button. As for the Amiga Power Stick I've had the Colecovision version for 39 years and it still works great. This link I found on vintage joysticks seems to be very accurate.  https://www.atarimagazines.com/v7n8/joysticks.html

Edited by intellicolecovisonary
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