With permission from The Dreamcast Junkyard blog, I present you the article about the Twin Stick Controller for Dreamcast that is really unique. This product looks really fun to have and it looks as if it is inspired a lot of the Joysticks that is out for C64, Amiga and Atari etc. This article is written by Tom Charnock. Enjoy reading.
A Quick Look At The Dreamcast Twin Stick Controller
The Dreamcast’s peripheral lineup offers plenty of oddities for the discerning collector to pore over. From the karaoke unit and maracas, to the fishing rod and the Dreameye there’s something for everyone. One peripheral we’ve never really looked at in any real depth here at the Junkyard is the Dreamcast Twin Stick, an odd looking beast of a controller that always peaks the curiosity of the public whenever we wheel it out at live events and expos. The Twin Stick was never released outside of its native Japan, although that doesn’t stop it being compatible with both NTSC-U and PAL Dreamcast systems, but the incredibly small library of games that officially make use of it renders the Twin Stick something of a luxury.
Twinned with the relative high price these controllers command in the current climate, the Twin Stick is a device that still enjoys something of an enigmatic air. Like the Arcade Stick controller, the Twin Stick is one of those peripherals that greatly enhances the experience of playing games that make use of it, but outside that small selection is pretty redundant simply because of its fairly unorthodox design. Let’s take a more detailed look at the hardware itself, and some of the games that make use of the Twin Stick before investigating whether or not this is something you should consider adding to your collection…
The Twin Stick, like the Arcade Stick is a fairly robust and well-constructed peripheral. The base is made from metal, which gives it a decent feel of weight and quality. The bottom section is made from two different tones of grey plastic, as are the actual sticks themselves. The sticks themselves have 8 directions of travel and emit the same reassuring click of a micro switch that the Arcade Stick does when in operation. However, because there are two of them…you get twice the fun and twice the clicks! The only other buttons on the controller are the triggers on the from of the sticks, the buttons on top of the sticks and the pause and start buttons on the base. This in itself it a bit of a strange aspect of the Twin Stick when you think about it – why does it need both a start and pause button? Surely they would both be start? Hmm.
Naturally, there’s also a slot for a VMU and the Dreamcast recognises the Twin Stick in much the same way it does the Arcade Stick. For example, in the Dreamcast’s main menu/dashboard the left stick can be used for navigation and the right trigger is the A button, while the button on top of the right stick acts as the B button, cancelling out of menus and what not. The sticks themselves are fairly comfortable to hold and the way they are ergonomically contoured means your hands can grip them with relative comfort and your fingers naturally rest in the desired positions – the index fingers on the triggers and the thumbs on the buttons on the top of the sticks. There’s little else to say about the physical aesthetics of the Twin Stick, so here are some more lovely pictures – please ignore the tea and coffee rings on my table – I couldn’t be bothered to wipe it down before taking the pictures. Because I’m a lazy git.
Officially, the Twin Stick only supports one game – Cyber Troopers Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram. By ‘officially,’ I mean that that is the only game that was ever promoted as being compatible with the Twin Stick and on top of this the peripheral was only released in Japan. This is especially odd because Virtual On was given a US release so one would be forgiven for thinking a North American release for the peripheral would follow…but it didn’t.
Stranger still, Virtual On for the Dreamcast didn’t even get a PAL release, even though the Saturn game did and while I’m not 100% certain, I’m pretty sure that the Dreamcast did better in PAL territories than the Saturn did sales-wise. Whatever the reasons for Sega’s decision not to release the Twin Stick in the US or anything to do with Dreamcast Virtual On in PAL territories, the fact remains that in Japan the controller was only ever depicted as being for use with Virtual On. However, we now know that there are a couple of other games which will actually recognise the Twin Stick and these are discussed below.
Before we get to them though, I just wanted to express my disappointment at some startlingly obvious games that would be amazing with the Twin Stick, but for whatever reason just will not even register that the thing is plugged in to the Dreamcast console. Games like Star Lancer and Bang! Gunship Elite for example. First person space based shooters would be perfect for a contraption such as the Twin Stick but it’s as if the software doesn’t even realise there’s a controller plugged in. I might sound like a bit of a moron by writing this, but I always just assumed that with special controllers, it was simply a case of mapping standard controller button presses to a new form factor, so regardless of what the controller physically looked like, the Dreamcast ‘saw’ the peripheral as a standard controller and the inputs where just accepted as ‘button A’ or ‘right trigger,’ even though you might be standing on a dance mat or waggling a fishing rod. Does that make sense?
It appears this isn’t the case with the Twin Stick though, as plugging it in doesn’t even register with most games, and invariably a ‘please insert controller’ message pops up on the screen. Some other games I would have liked to have seen playable with the Twin Stick (but aren’t) include: (the aforementioned) Star Lancer, Bang! Gunship Elite, AeroWings and AeroWings 2 (although they can be played with the flight stick from Ascii). It’s not all bad though, because there are a ton of other games I tried that do indeed work just fine with the Twin Stick – some of them exceptionally well.
Games that work
- Virtual On (obviously)
- Frame Gride
- Virtua Tennis
- Rush Rush Rally Racing
- Sega Rally 2
- Soul Calibur
I did try Half-Life with it too, as I’d heard that worked, but I could only get the controls to register the forward/backwards and strafing motions so it’s hardly playable. I’m sure I read somewhere that Quake III: Arena works quite well too, but I didn’t try it. I also made a short video showing some of the above games in action, but seeing as I used the little flatscreen TV on my desk to record it out of convenience, the aspect ratio is set to 16:9 on the screen and I literally cannot be arsed with the comments that will undoubtedly zero in on that one tiny thing. Maybe I’ll re-record it at some point in the future on my 4:3 CRT. But I probably won’t. Gotta love the internet!
Anyway, I’m sure there are other games that use the Twin Stick just as well as those up there – if you know of more then please add them in the comments section and I’ll update the article list as and when. This is ‘A Quick Look At…’ after all.
Be sure to familiarise yourself with some other Dreamcast peripherals and add-ons by following the links to previous articles of varying quality below:
Last Words from Distrita
This product is so unique it seems. Its a really nice Joystick arcade stick controller that is obvious only sold in Japan! We must say its a really cool product. Its amazing what The Dreamcast Junkyard have found here. In some of the adverts, the Joysticks really looks like some kind of a duck. Its really amazing to see how different commercials are in all parts of the world.
The Dreamcast Junkyard