I like my Sega Saturn. I like the fighting games on it. I like arcade sticks. But I never had the Virtua Stick for the Saturn. So I decided to build one for myself.
Well, of course it’s not a Virtua Stick, but an arcade stick for the Saturn – which is exactly what the Virtua Stick is… Moving on.
I started off by finding a suitable arcade stick for the project. I found an old Hori arcade stick from a Finnish online auction. Hori Fighting Stick Multi to be precise. This stick is from the era of 16-bit consoles, but Hori is known for quality controllers, and it didn’t cost too much so I bought it. As the name suggests, it’s a multi-platform stick. It works with Megadrive, Super Nintendo and PC-Engine by changing the cord. That also suits the nature of my project very well! Sadly the SNES cable was missing. The Saturn compatibility will have to make up for it for now :)
Overall the controller is well built. The buttons are made with rubber pad switches which is typical for cheap arcade sticks. The stick mechanism is very good however, and after disassembling, cleaning and lubricating the parts if felt very nice and precise. One funny detail is that the casing of the stick is made entirely of plastic, so there are two metal bars inside the case to add some weight to it.
To make the stick work with Saturn the Saturn controller logic had to be implemented. At first I thought to just take and rewire the logic board from a Saturn controller but I did not want to butcher any of my working controllers. It turned out that the basic Saturn pad uses very simple logic that is easy to replicate and build, so I decided to build the logic myself.
Update in 2018: The corrected schematic according to which I built my board seems to have disappeared from GamesX forums, so I’m reposting the picture, found via Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
I designed a small proto-circuit board for pin array connectors and chip sockets. Made this way the board is quite small, so fitting it into project like this is not a problem. Without using chip sockets or connectors for the wires it could be made very small. I might add later some details of the board construction and connections in case someone is planning something similar.
I still needed the Saturn controller plug to get the stick connected. For this I went and bought a third party Saturn controller from eBay. The controller I got for this was called “Performance Super Pad”. This pad feels awful to play, but has a long cord and quality connector – perfect for the purpose. Sure, I could have rewired this contoller into the stick complete with its logic, but meh, I wanted to build the logic myself.
Now I had everything I needed for now, so here are some pictures of the process:
Connections wired for the buttons.
Complete board wiring. Also the joystick directions are taken from the circuit board instead of wiring the diy Saturn logic into the micro switches.
I will use a detachable cord for Saturn use as well. Here are both ends of the cord from the third party controller. The end cut off from the controller has now a standard D9 connector. Conveniently the Saturn controller port has nine wires.
Here I have everything connected together and I was able to test the setup. Works fine! The Saturn sees the controller as standard control pad.
I still have some things to do: The Saturn controller has eight action buttons, but this controller only has six. I chose to leave L and R trigger unconnected, but I found out that it will be very useful to have those buttons somehow available anyway. So I still need to mount the D9 connector and two extra buttons to the case.