My recent purchases of Dreamcast shooters like Gigawing and the lunatic-fringe-styled Bangai-Oh suggested to me that it might be an idea to junk the standard controller and get one of the offical arcade sticks for a better 'arcade' feel while playing shooters. Good as the DC controller is, it just doesn't match the feel of a decent, steel-shafted joystick and prodding wee tiny buttons isn't as good as banging down on a big fat one! The Bristol store of Comet had one on display and I liked the feel of it despite the fact that the plate around the shaft appeared to be broken (or was it? - see later). Thirty Five Quid later I owned one and a couple of days later get round to plugging it in the noisy white box. Physically the unit is nice and heavy and sits well on your knees while playing it. There's a slot on the back for a VMU, the display of which is dwarfed by the sheer size of the unit. A tiny START button lurks at the top along with six big green buttons and a green spheroid-topped joystick. I don't know why they picked green when blue or orange would seem to be better DC colours. The first problem is the surround to the joystick shaft itself. On my old Megadrive arcade stick the stick was mounted in a sort of ball-turret arrangement. The DC one moves within a circular hole and to stop crud falling into the box, there is a round collar over the hole. This isn't connected to anything so it just slides with the shaft and can be lifted up the shaft. It works OK, but it seems broken even though it isn't. It just makes a £35 joystick look cheap. But that isn't the major problem. The major problem is this - there are no L or R triggers on the joystick. The fifth and sixth buttons are not as I had expected digital versions of L and R, but C & D. This means that if any game relies up L&R than it isn't going to work at all. So Gigawing is great with the stick, but Bangai-Oh just doesn't work.
Chu Chu Rocket does because it maps L & R to C & D but it seems to be the exception. So, generally speaking any game that relies upon the triggers isn't going to work unless the developers had the forethought to make their games run with C & D buttons that the average DC owner doesn't have. I never expected to play games that rely upon the analogue properties of the triggers such as every DC race title, but I did think I'd be able to use it for most of my other stuff. So, if you are a fanatic beat'em up or shoot'em up player then the arcade stick comes recommended (unless you only want to play Bangai-Oh of course). Otherwise forget it. This is a good quality stick, and it feels just like the controls on an arcade machine from the 80s, but it's poor compatibility with most Dreamcast games means that it might be a waste of £35. Check the back of your game boxes to see which of your collection works with it before splashing out.