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  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] ASCII Stick Engine

    Posted on July 30th, 2009 keving No comments

    ASCII Stick Engine
    (アスキースティック・エンジン)

    Maker: ASCII
    Release Date: 12/10/88
    Price: 5980 yen

    You can buy this officially-licensed joystick (the last one released for the PCE, thank God) right now off National Console Support if you like. The price on it is pretty typical for a Japanese reseller, but it’s not completely outlandish considering how uncommon this sick actually is. The walls of every used-game shop in Japan are plastered with ASCII’s assorted sticks and pads for the Famicom and SFC, but this one I’ve only seen once or twice in real life. (You could say that NCS is testing the waters with this price — not in any major hurry to move them, but more than happy to sell if someone’s willing to pay that much.)

    It’s something of a surprise that ASCII released any officially-licensed PCE hardware, considering that they completely ignored the system after this. It being late 1988, and the PCE beginning to build up steam in the marketplace, they must’ve figured that getting in on the ground floor wouldn’t hurt. Like I mentioned before, the PC Engine at this time was seen as the best platform for hardcore gamers looking to recreate the arcade experience at home — something that would probably surprise most PCE owners that got started with the system during its girl-game era.

    Like NEC-HE’s own Turbo Stick, the ASCII Stick offers turbo on both buttons, as well as a slow-motion function that takes the turbo and applies it to the Run button. Slow-mo was beginning to become a big thing in consoles worldwide (how many people bought a NES Advantage — a recolored version of the Famicom ASCII Stick — for that function, I wonder?), so it’s little surprise to see it here. The stick itself is plastic and not quite up to arcade standard, but is good enough for most home use.

    The demand for joysticks like these definitely dropped once the PCE plunged into the CD-ROM era. During the fighting-game boom, Hori released an unlicensed, six-button, and extremely high-end stick (also compatible with the SFC and Mega Drive), but NEC stuck with pads for its Avenue Pad 6, not particularly interested in going down the stick route again. ASCII and other third parties weren’t interested in trying their luck either, and so the PCE slowly (very slowly) entered its twilight years.

    While rare and not all that terribly useful, the ASCII Stick Engine is still an interesting symbol of the age when the PCE was high-end, cutting-edge hardware.