Saturday, January 13, 2018

If You Got One, You Gotta Get One

image from YouTube
We interrupt this nostalgic look at my video game collection for this important message! The Mayflash Universal Adapter Ultimate is the best peripheral you can, but shouldn't have to, buy for the Xbox One.

Let me explain. Like most modern game systems, the Xbox One has universal serial bus ports which accept peripherals like keyboards, hard drives, and... no, not joysticks. Controllers have to be licensed by Microsoft to work on the Xbox One, so even if it plugs into the port, your favorite arcade fight stick probably won't work. You don't even get the legacy controller support most fighting games offer on the Playstation 4. 

This wasn't such a big deal back when the system was launched in 2013. However, now that Xbox One owners have three seasons of Killer Instinct, third-party releases like Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, and backward compatibility with the Xbox 360, the absence of a good arcade stick is a lot harder to forgive. How are you supposed to play Ms. Pac-Man or Ikaruga or Soul Calibur II or The King of Fighters without one?

image from Mayflash
Microsoft still hasn't adequately addressed this issue (GTFO with that overpriced Elite controller crap), but Mayflash has picked up the slack with its Universal Adapter Ultimate. You plug this little blue box into your Xbox One, and your system will suddenly recognize controllers it had once refused to acknowledge, like a bouncer who had a hundie stuffed into his shirt pocket by a tenacious night club patron. 

It opens the doors to a lot of controllers, actually... more than you might have been expecting. I tested the Mayflash with a dozen joysticks and game pads, first navigating the menu, then playing Killer Instinct, Ultra Street Fighter IV, King of Fighters 2002 UM, Maldita Castilla EX, Ms. Pac-Man, Radiant Silvergun, and Ikaruga. This extensive testing yielded the following results:

MadCatz TE2 for PS4: You remember that uber-stick I got from a pawn shop? You know, the one with Chun Li on the front that costs like a bazillion dollars on eBay? That works just fine. View and Menu are mapped to the front of this over-sized stick, and the joystick seems more sensitive when you set it to function as the left thumbstick, but past these quirks, it offers solid performance.

Custom Hori Fighting Stick PS: Frankly, I'm not hugely fond of Hori products... I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the Hori Fighting Stick 3 and the Tekken 5 arcade stick. They both hold the buttons over carbon pads rather than using microswitches, resulting in a mushy feel and unsure response. The Hori Fighting Stick PS was no different, but it wasn't tough to remedy that design flaw. I just threw out the old buttons and the PCB resting under them, then soldered some new Sanwa buttons to the control board resting under the turbo switches. (Okay, they were Chinese Sanwa knock-offs. I'm not made of money here!)

The finished product, which I call 'Ol Slappy, is great for casual play... I can be as rough with it as I please without worrying that I could damage something valuable. To my delight, I discovered that 'Ol Slappy not only works with Mayflash's adapter, but works wonderfully with Killer Instinct, a game that invites frantic button mashing. You lose the Home button, since this twenty year old joystick doesn't have one, but that's why you keep the stock Xbox One pad nearby.

Hori Fighting Stick 3: This disappointing and frustratingly picky joystick has the same issue as other Hori products... the buttons press down on carbon pads, making the controller feel cheap and fragile. Beyond that, the arching button layout is awkward and the Fighting Stick 3 actively resists functioning with systems other than the Playstation 3, adapters be damned. The Mayflash Universal Adapter Ultimate is the only product I've tried that forces the Fighting Stick 3 to cooperate with systems outside its comfort zone. The Home button doesn't work, but all the other buttons function as they should. Too bad it's still a Hori.

Custom Built Stick: The fight stick I built last year was a noble endeavor, but alas, it wasn't an entirely successful one. The buttons make a resonant "klong" from inside the hollow wooden frame whenever they're hit, and the joystick I used doesn't work especially well for fighting games... despite being called the "Roundhouse" by its manufacturer. Ahem.

The encoder I used in the stick has two connectors on the end of its cable; one for the Playstation 2 and another for more modern systems. Curiously, the USB end of the cable didn't work so well with the Mayflash, reversing the button order. The adapter was happier with the Playstation 2 end of the cable, but it didn't solve the problems the joystick already had, like the need for a light touch when entering quarter and half-circle motions. The stick seems to have an easier time with cardinal directions, making it great for Maldita Castilla EX and Ms. Pac-Man. If I'd known it would be a better fit for old-school arcade titles, I... er, probably wouldn't have given it so many buttons.

Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Twist: Moving on from fight sticks to flight sticks, we have the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Twist. I can't think of any Xbox One games that would be well suited to this, but luckily, the Pro Twist doesn't work especially well with the console anyway. It's twitchy in the system menu, often skipping over options, and while it can be used to play Maldita Castilla EX, the button arrangement is a mess and the analog stick isn't sensitive enough to do this ghoulish and ghostly platformer justice. I doubt any sane person would have considered using the Pro Twist with  the Xbox One anyway, but just in case, give this controller a pass.

image from Best Buy Canada
Hori Fighting Commander PS4: This specialized digital joypad is kind of chunky and the D-pad offers slightly less than crisp response, but it's nevertheless the closest thing to the legendary Sega Saturn MK-80313 you're going to find on the Playstation 4. It takes to the Mayflash adapter like a fish to water, with every button including Home working as intended. That's a big relief, as I wasn't looking forward to buying the controller's Xbox One counterpart.

Dual Shock 3: If you're stuck on the Shock, congratulations! The Mayflash adapter works great with the Playstation's iconic controller. You'll have to plug the Dual Shock 3 into the side of the adapter with a mini USB cable, but some games work so much better with Sony's controller that it's worth the minor hassle of being tethered to the Xbox One.

Dual Shock 2: Here we go again! The Dual Shock 2 offers roughly the same experience as its Playstation 3 counterpart, but you'll have to use the square Analog button recessed into the pad as a makeshift Home button. You won't be able to hold it down to turn off the system either, but the Home button built into the Mayflash will work for that purpose.

Xbox 360 wired pad: Why anyone would want to go back to the Xbox 360 controller when the superior Xbox One pad is right there in front of them is anyone's guess. However, you've got that option with the Mayflash. All the inputs function just as they did on the Xbox 360... unfortunately, that includes the D-pad, which didn't work worth a damn on that system and still doesn't on this one.

image from Satakore
SLS Darkstalkers pad for Playstation 2: Hoo hoo, now we've hit the jackpot! The Darkstalkers pad by Sega Logistics Service is nearly identical to the controller packaged with later models of the Sega Saturn, with the added benefit of a select button. It's perfect for fighting games, and I'm happy to report that it works perfectly well with the Mayflash adapter. The only thing it's missing is a Home button, and you can use the button on the adapter to make up for that. Alternately, you can just press the Home key on your Xbox One pad if you don't want to pull your sorry carcass off the couch.

Logitech Gamepad F310: This is an odd one. Logitech designed the F310 to mimic the feel of console gamepads, with the Xbox 360 controller's button layout and the Dual Shock's shape and parallel thumbsticks. The names and the colors of the action buttons are even the same as they were on the Xbox 360, giving players the impression that it will work on the system. (Logitech says "no," while gamers with early models of the Xbox 360 say "yes.")

Personally, I wasn't able to get my Xbox 360 E to recognize the F310. However, I can safely say that with the Mayflash adapter, Logitech's controller works with the Xbox One, and works extremely well. Every button is properly mapped, and the round (if slightly loose) D-pad is a blessing for fighting games. The fact that it has clickable thumbsticks means that it should adapt equally well to modern titles, like first person shooters and open world RPGs. There's even a Logitech-branded Home button in the center that offers a handy escape from whatever you're currently playing. The F310 isn't going to put your favorite controller into retirement, but a second player isn't going to grumble too much if he's stuck with it.

SLS Saturn pad for PC: Here's where we hit our first and only snag. Despite its similarities to the previously mentioned Darkstalkers pad, this controller will not work with the Mayflash adapter. I couldn't even get out of the menu with it... the cursor was magnetized to the top left of the screen, instantly snapping back to it once the D-pad was released. 

Several knock-offs of this controller exist, including the white Play Sega pad that was offered with Sega's short-lived download service. Unfortunately, since I don't have any of these, I can't say if they'll be any more cooperative with this adapter than the SLS joypad.

So there you have it. Out of the twelve controllers I tested, eleven worked at least partially with the Mayflash Universal Adapter Ultimate, and ten worked well enough to confidently use. I'd say that performance deserves an A, especially when you consider the diversity of the pads and sticks tested. 

It's worth mentioning that I didn't test any racing wheels, and that the Amazon users who did were disappointed with the results. The Mayflash adapter will recognize them, but they're not responsive enough to be worth the bother. I'd advise against using this adapter with those peripherals, but for fight sticks, digital game pads, and Sony's Dual Shock controllers, the Mayflash Universal Adapter Ultimate is a must. I question why such a device is even necessary for a system with universal serial bus ports, but I suppose I'll have to take that up with Microsoft.

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