Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Bring a taste of the Saturn to the Xbox 360

Since all the other members of the Junkyard are posting, I might as well chip in a little information about my latest project. A few months ago, I modified a Sega Saturn controller to work with a handful of game systems, including the GameCube, Wii, Nintendo 64, and 3DO. For the Cube and Nintendo 64, it was mostly a matter of personal preference, but anyone who's actually played the 3DO knows that the system was begging for an alternative to its heinous stock joypads.

The only console that I wasn't able to persuade to play nice with my hacked Saturn controller was the Xbox 360. The system uses a security protocol to filter out input from any controllers not licensed by Microsoft, and many of the official joypads use multiple grounds, forcing you to connect two wires to each pad. It's a frustrating situation, because although the stock Xbox 360 controllers are very good for their intended purpose, playing old-school titles like Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting and Pac-Man Championship Edition is a complete chore with that kludgy D-pad.

Fortunately, there was a ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel of mushy, imprecise control. A post on the Digital Press web site revealed that the MadCatz Arcade Stick was the ideal candidate for a controller hack... it's relatively cheap, licensed by Microsoft, and has a single ground, greatly reducing the amount of wires necessary for the modification. Best of all, I actually had one of these sticks in my closet! I went right to work, grabbing some spare parts lying around the house and heating up the old soldering iron in preparation for the hack.

Several hours of careful soldering and testing later, this was the end result:

There were a few hiccups along the way... I had to resolder a couple of wires that had broken off during playtesting. After this happened several times, I used a hot glue gun to permanently hold the wires in place. A good solder connection will hold fast under some stress, but glue offers that extra insurance in case you get a little too involved in a game and give the controller a not-so-friendly tug.

After a shot of glue on all the connections, the controller worked consistently, and continues to perform well even after several days of thorough testing. The only major issue I've had is that there just aren't enough buttons on the Saturn controller to handle all of the Xbox 360's functions. L3 and R3 aren't much of a loss (who uses the buttons under the thumbsticks, anyway?), but the absence of Guide and Back buttons is greatly felt; especially in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night where Back is used to access the inventory screen.

Nevertheless, I'm really happy with this hack. It's already boosted my scores in Xbox Live Arcade games, but more importantly, it's made them a lot more fun to play. If you're interested in giving this controller mod a shot, first check out this earlier post, then use this schematic as a guide. You don't need to be an electronics engineer to make this work, but some experience with a soldering iron is a must.


マーティン said...

Great work! I just bought a USB Saturn pad for emulation and MAME. Is there any news of a new 360 pad on the horizon with SF IV on the way?

ArugulaZ said...

Not that I know of, although I think I heard about a Street Fighter IV joystick for the Xbox 360. I actually HAVE a joystick for that system, but it performed well under my expectations.

fatherkrishna said...

I'm full of admiration for you and your work Arugulaz. As someone who struggles with the technological know how for changing lightbulbs, my mind simply boggles at the thought processes involved in such a project.

What's great is that in the absence of any new Saturn news, it's great to know we have an expert who can regail us with news of Saturn modding (if that's the correct term...) Keep up the good work!