It always used to be fairly common to take your games to your friend’s house to play on their console, providing you all had the same machine (and you weren’t that one kid who went Nintendo, bleurgh). To a lesser extent this still happens now, although more often I find it just involves signing into your digital account to download your games straight onto their console.
What used to also be fairly common though, was owning joysticks and other controllers that were multi-format. As far as I can remember, my first experience of this was owning the superb Quickshot Maverick. Possibly the origin of my arcade stick love, I got this for my SEGA Master System and hammered R-Type, Fantasy Zone and Transbot(!) with it. Well I say hammered, but I was young and probably shite/even worse than I am now. The multi-format capability was a real bonus, I frequently took it to my friend’s house for C64 gaming, it was a joy for Sheep in Space, Arnie, Slicks and Silkworm, and later it became controller of choice for my next door neighbour’s Amiga and hours of Sensible Soccer.
In the Saturn era (my Golden Age of gaming) this phenomenon would help me out again. I owned the delightful looking (!) Madcatz Fazor lightgun, compatible with both the Saturn and PSX. As well as benefiting my ownership of each machine in turn, it also regularly travelled to friend’s houses for ‘player 2’ experiences on Virtua Cop and Die Hard Trilogy etc. Sadly it wasn’t ‘Guncon’ compatible, but later multi-platform lightguns were released that were.
At this time I also had the VRF1 Steering Wheel. Again it was pretty funky looking, not entirely dissimilar from the official Saturn one. This also worked on both Saturn and PSX, but with added N64 support into the mix. This device and I spent hours on Sega Rally, Wipeout 2097, Ridge Racer and Porsche Challenge. I remember devices of this kind being fairly common, although obviously varying wildly in quality, as has always been the nature of third party accessories.
Fast forward to present day, and things get a bit different. As discussed in my previous post, I embraced multi-format gaming in a big way once I was old enough to finance/justify to myself owning a range of machines. However the perils of being an adult also involve balancing budgets and apartment space. I find it impossible to justify buying controllers such as steering wheels, when they’ll only work on one platform and I want to play racing games on three or more. They are simply too expensive and take up too much space to get involved with owning multiple devices.
I did buy myself a HORI arcade stick for my 360 since it at least also worked on PC. This worked out well for my love affair with Street Fighter 4, and the vast array of shmups I played on both 360 and PC. Unfortunately this meant I was less inclined to enjoy fighters and (non-twinstick) shmups on my PS3 where I only had the standard pads. Periodically I looked into either modding my existing stick or purchasing a custom one, utilising a multi-pcb like the MC Cthulhu board, but costs (and effort) kept putting me off.
Enter the CronusMax Plus. (Update for 2020 – I now have the newer model, Cronus Zen. Does much the same but more polished. Also works perfectly with my Switch and Xbox Series S, and has a built in hub solution for the problems described later in this paragraph so you don’t need an extra one). I stumbled across this little gem on a friends FaceBook post, and it presented the ideal solution to my first world problem. My existing Hori stick had exclusively been used with my PC since I traded in my 360, but after handing over my £45 for the cronus, I found I could now also use it on my PS3 (hello Gradius V and Tekken Tag 2), Xbox One (Killer Instinct!) and, with a little effort involving a ‘pass-thru’ setup with the PC in my lounge, also on PS4 (Jamestown+ and Injustice already getting play, and setting me up nicely for Street Fighter V). I understand the device will do some other fancy stuff too, but just for this purpose it has already paid for itself. A couple of weeks after my purchase a firmware update resolved the need for a pass-thru on PS4, and now even that is straight-forward using a simple usb hub. I understand there are similar devices available, but so far as I’m aware it is the only one so far to resolve the PS4 issue properly, and thus the one I’d recommend.
I’m excited by the possibility now that if I want to upgrade my arcade stick I can stay cross-platform easily and still have a broad selection to choose from. I may even investigate a steering wheel setup, or get one of those Xbox One Elite Controllers. £120 seems marginally more reasonable when I’d be able to use it on PS4 as well as Xbox One and PC. I could even use the PC ‘pass-thru’ arrangement to use Keyboard & Mouse on console FPS games, although I think that might be a step too far.
Part of me does wish they’d just standardise controllers, but at least there is an affordable workaround, and the open nature of the device for ‘tweaking’ does appeal. Now I just have to deal with my other modern, multi-platform gamer problem. How do I decide which group of friends I want to play online with? I’m looking at you Destiny, if only there were shared servers for that. (Another 2020 update, there has at least been some progress in these areas!)