Rediscovering: Old joysticks

| #arcade | #joystick | #neogeo | #seimitsu | #SNK |

I’m a fan of Seimitsu joysticks. The Japanese company manufactures some of my favourite sticks in a factory very near the place I lived in Japan for five years. I had no idea.

But, that’s probably not a big deal because Seimitsu’s reinvented themselves a few times, and when I was in Japan, 2000-2005, they weren’t doing much. They weren’t doing so much that I thought they might stop doing anything at all, and in 2018 I placed a big order of sticks and accessories, just in case they did cease operations.

But in 2019 they re-invented themselves again, cranking out new designs and colours and making it easier to order their products online.

But this story is about their past. If we go back too far, to 1983, Seimitsu was manufacturing stuff and Sanwa Electronics (三和エレクトロニクス) was doing the sales. But then Seimitsu absorbed Sanwa, leaving only Seimitsu. Now, in 2024, their biggest competitor is Sanwa Electronics (Sanwa Denshi, 三和電子), so that’s sort of interesting.

Most of the above came from Seimitsu’s company history page.

Anyway, this post is about an old Seimitsu joystick.

I’ve long assumed that Seimitsu made the joystick mechanism for SNK’s Neo Geo game system. Both the cartridge and CD systems used the same mechanism, which had a more or less identical base as this mech I’d yanked from a Sigma Σ-2200 stick. It’s the same base used in the Seimitsu LS-30 loop lever, a rotating stick most known for its use in SNK’s Ikari Warriors.

Seimitsu uses an LS- prefix for all their sticks, starting with LS-32. They go up to LS-60, and sort of up to 70 if their newest SELS-70X counts.

So, I knew Seimitsu made a stick identical to the one used in the Neo Geo systems, and I knew about the LS-30, but today I noticed the stick I pulled from the Sigma had a part number.

This is the Seimitsu LS-22, a device that the internet seems to know absolutely nothing about.

Seimitsu LS-22

It’s clearly marked, and I’ll try to be accurate with this: SEIMITS UCo„LTD and TYPE LS-22. It’s also Made in Japan, Pat.pend.

This stick definitely came out before 1993, when Seimitsu Co. Ltd changed their name to Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd. Their working relationship with SNK continued, in 1995 the manual for the Super Neo 29 Candy arcade cabinet listed Seimitsu Kogyo as one of two official makers of buttons and sticks. If the Neo Geo unit was a clone, I’d love to know how the relationship moved on from there.

So, yeah. This is the sort of thing I find interesting.

There are some differences between this unit and the one used in Neo Geo sticks, but they’re mostly cosmetic. The Neo Geo sticks are unmarked, no model or manufacturer details, which is why I have to allow for the possibility that they’re clones. In more recent history, cloned Seimitsu sticks from China were a common problem.

Seimitsu LS-22 (left) and Neo Geo stick

The shaft is 4mm longer on the LS-22, from the base of the ball to the c-clip. It’s 2mm longer overall, and the Neo Geo shaft has a notch for a screwdriver, to allow for easier ball removal. But they’re totally interchangeable, the difference is all above the mechanism, extending the distance between mechanism and ball, for a slightly longer throw.

The plastic is a different type, the LS-22 is a tiny bit translucent, the Neo Geo stick is not. There are more counter-sunk screw holes in the Neo Geo unit, and obviously the metal plate is a different size and shape. Whether this is unique to the Sigma stick I pulled it from, I cannot say. ASCII sticks that used this mechanism did have the same plate as the Neo Geo version.

The only functional differences are the slightly raised ring around the central fulcrum. The Neo Geo stick is perfectly flat across the top, the LS-22 has a ring that must be accommodated by whatever panel it’s mounted to. And finally, the four main mounting holes, at 40mm around the centre, are 3mm diameter on the LS-22. The Neo Geo holes are 2mm.

Schematics and mounting patterns can be found on the GameSX wiki.

[ Jun 21 2024 ]

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