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CustomCade Arcade Joystick Shell

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Written by Daniel Malito on Tuesday, April 07 2009

Today, we have a very interesting item on the review block. Our friends over at ModChipMan sent us a CustomCade Arcade Joystick Box to check out. The CustomCade is basically a wood, MDF (medium density fiberboard), and plexiglass shell that houses parts for an arcade joystick. You obtain the parts you want and then put it together yourself. How does it hold up? Let's find out.

The CustomCade is made of Poplar wood and MDF (medium density fiberboard). The corners are solid, and the top MDF is anchored snugly. When ordering the CustomCade Arcade Joystick Box, you can choose from several options. You can choose a plywood or plexiglass covering for the bottom. You can also choose from two separate layouts for the buttons on top. You can even choose to order the CustomCade with a totally blank top, if you are daring enough to try to drill through plexiglass without cracking it. Any style you order comes with three button holes on the left of the front wall for the Xbox/PS Button, Start and Select. They are smaller than the regular button holes in order to accommodate the smaller size pushbuttons.

The type of parts you are using to build your joystick is what determines what type of shell you will need. The basic shell comes ready for a HAPP style joystick, which is the standard American arcade stick that most of you who play in the USA are used to. You can also mount the Sanwa JLF stick or the Seimitsu LS-32 stick from the bottom or the top. Top mounting will take a bit of modification, but it is possible, I did it myself, but I like a high standing stick. For those who do not know, the Sanwa and Seimitsu sticks are the Japanese style joysticks, with a shorter shaft and a ball top. They also have a bit smoother action, and can be fitted with different "restrictor plates." These plates can restrict motion so that the sticks only move in 2, 4, or the full 8 directions. Most players use the 8-way gate or even the octagonal gate, which basically allows the stick to move in 360 degrees without any indication that you have hit a corner. Again, we are talking personal preference. The ball top can be changed for a "bat" top (teardrop shape) if you purchase an adapter and the new top. The button holes are sized for use with Sanwa arcade pushbuttons, which are the higher-quality pushbuttons that come from Japan. They are not concave, like USA players may be used to, they are convex, and have a bit bigger diameter. They are also much more sensitive to the touch, so brushing over one of them will activate the switch. Some players prefer this, some do not. The USA HAPP style buttons can be used if you order a top which will accommodate them, HAPP makes both convex and concave buttons. The front 3 buttons fit the Sanwa 24mm button style, and they will be countersunk so that players do not hit start, select, or Xbox/PS button by accident. The Sanwa 24mm buttons are the only choice for the front three. This may change at a later date, but as for now, ModChipMan has no plans to offer a different size for these front buttons. This is fine though, the Sanwa front buttons are great, and just about everything else is customizable. The button and joystick holes are even routered on the inside of the box so that the buttons will sit correctly, and the joystick will be high enough. The holes on the top that are used to bolt the joystick one are countersunk so that any artwork will lay flat. They have thought of everything, and if they have not, you can always email ModChipMan and ask for something else. Chances are they will work with you.

Once you have decided the parts you are going to use, ordered and received them from ModChipMan (or elsewhere), and installed them in the CustomCade shell, you have to wire up the stick. You can use the Cthulhu board for PS3, and for Xbox360, you will have to solder wires to the guts of an existing Xbox360 pad since Microsoft does not license their lockout technology to many other vendors. If you are weary of this step, have no fear, I am told ModChipMan will soon offer pre-wired Xbox360 PCBs. They will even offer fully wired sticks, if you are so inclined. Once you have the stick wired, tested, and the inside wires have been feng-shuied to your liking, you can close the bottom with the plexiglass or wood. ModChipMan even thought to include rubber feet and the screws to install them. These guys thought of everything!

Now the real question comes, how does it work when it is finally built? I am happy to say that the stick, even with my ghetto JLF mod that went slightly awry, works extremely well. The box is heavy, so that it does not slide around during use, and it even works for lap play. Some have complained that the buttons are a bit funky in terms of layout, but now that they are offering official arcade layouts to choose from, that is no longer an issue. I put the stick through the motions, and when I play, I rip the hell outta that stick. It did not even budge. You will have to paint and/or sand the box sides if you do not get it pre-finished, which I am told is yet another option ModChipMan will offer very soon. To finish it all off with a great look, you can make artwork using the PSD Photoshop files offer for download on the ModChipMan website, and then get it printed at Kinkos or a similar store. Since it is a bit bigger than legal size, you will likely not be able to print it yourself, but once you get it cut to size and inserted, it looks fantastic, as you can see in the image. I have yet to paint the sides of my stick white and add Chinese Kanji artwork in black to finish it off, but I wanted to get this review up now. The Poplar wood, as I mentioned earlier, will even take stain well, if you decide to go that route. I want a more modern look, personally.

The CustomCade Arcade Joystick shell is a fantastic way to build your own arcade stick that does not cost very much (comparatively). It can be prepared with any layout that you choose in order to facilitate the use of whatever parts you feel most comfortable with. It can also be built up as much or as little as you like, so that you can either build it from scratch yourself, or basically put a few parts together and plug and play. I have assurances that ModChipMan will continue to add layouts and options to their CustomCade shells, so that just about anything you can think of will be possible. Since this is only the first week or two they have been offered, and they have been sold out pretty much constantly, you can see how much they are wanted even at this early stage. You simply cannot beat what you get for the price you are paying, and the website has everything you need to put together your own custom stick for use with Street Fighter IV or any of the past or upcoming fighters. As always, we thank ModChipMan for the review sample, and look forward to seeing what other options the future will hold for the CustomCade. We may have even heard a rumor that a bigger box size might appear somewhere down the road....


1x CustomCade Arcade Stick Shell
1x Sanwa JLF Joystick With Ball Top
1x Sanwa JLF-H Wiring Harness
1x Sanwa JLF-P1 Mounting Plate
50x .110 Solderless Quick Connects
8x Blue Sanwa OBSN-30 Pushbuttons
3x Green Sanwa OBSN-24 Pushbuttons
1x Cthulhu PS3 PCB
1x 12 Position Euro Terminal Strip
1x 6 Position Euro Terminal Strip
1x Spool Red 22 AWG Hook Up Wire
Various Soldering Items And Wire Ties

ModChipMan CustomCade Box & Other Arcade Parts


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