Sticks in the fighting game community are like bowling balls in the PBA. To the untrained eye a pile of tournament player fighting sticks may look the same, but each one has likely been modified and tweaked to fit each competitor’s preference. These can be personal chunks of equipment that have seen serious time and monetary investment.
Which is why when Evolution, the fighting game world’s largest championship event, announced that Ultra Street Fighter IV would officially be played on PlayStation 4 consoles — you could hear a collective groan among the community.
It sucked having to think about dumping a piece of equipment that had seen a ton of modifications to get “just right,” just to have to restart the process all over again with a new base stick (which in itself would also cost considerable money). Then last week, Capcom confirmed something many of us wish they had mentioned a lot earlier: They are using Lab Zero Games’ (developer of SkullGirls) PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 compatibility driver.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had the chance to play around with the PlayStation 4 version of Ultra Street Fighter IV and use a couple of my own modified sticks to see how the experience plays out. I realized that, although it works perfectly fine, that I found a few “pro tips” that people should keep in mind about PlayStation 3 stick compatibility on the PlayStation 4.
Make sure you’re using a PlayStation 3-compatible stick
Image Credit: Capcom
I understand that this is a “no duh” concept, but some people who invested in Xbox 360 hardware may get a little desperate to use their stick on the PlayStation 4. If you’re in this camp, I’m afraid you only have three options and they all require spending money.
Buy a PlayStation 3 compatible stick.
Buy a PlayStation 4 stick.
Purchase the parts and modify the stick to work on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (or pay someone to do that for you).
Those of us that have dual-modified sticks just need to make sure to have it flipped to PlayStation 3 compatibility. Having the stick plugged in before the game launches isn’t necessary, but I’ve found that I avoid the occasional minor hang up revolving around hardware detection when I do so. If you done goofed and plugged the stick in while in 360 mode, you have to unplug it, switch to PlayStation 3 mode, and then plug it back in. Just hitting the switch while plugged into the PlayStation 4 won’t work.
You still need to turn on the PlayStation 4 controller
Above: Yoshinori Ono: “So as you can see on this piece of paper, Step 1 is to announce USF4 for PS4. 2, Convince EVO to announce they are running USF4 PS4. 3. Don’t tell anyone about PS3 compatibility till week before USF4 PS4 launch.” Stick manufacturers, “Where exactly do you want us to sign?”
Image Credit: Xbox, Facebook
The reality about Lab Zero Games’ driver is that, although it has backing from major entities such as Capcom, it is still a workaround of Sony’s refusal to support last-generation peripherals.
This means that your PlayStation 3 compatible stick is only going to work within the game environment; this is not going to be a system-wide fix. Individual players still have to log into the console with their own PlayStation 4 controller. So if you want to play local versus in Ultra Street Fighter IV, you’re going to need two PlayStation 4 controllers active on the machine.
If you’re going to someone’s house or a tournament that is running PlayStation 4, I recommend just making a PlayStation 4 controller an obligatory piece of equipment you pack along with your stick. It will save your host from having to spend an extra 60 bucks on a second controller.
Get an external PlayStation 4 controller charger
Above: Like this one!
Image Credit: Hori
Here’s a realistic scenario: You’re having your local fighting game crew over to your house for an Ultra Street Fighter IV practice session on the PlayStation 4. It’s likely going to take all night, and your controllers are going to run out of power before the session is over. The PlayStation 4 only has two USB ports in the front, which are going to be taken up by everyone’s sticks. How do you keep those controllers from dying early?
I highly recommend getting yourself an external controller charger just for this problem. These are not difficult to find and most can be had for $20. I use a Hori “Dual Drop and Charge” unit that I found at Fry’s for about 17 bucks. I activate my controllers, log them into the PlayStation 4, launch the game, and then simply plug the controller back into the charging cradle.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that, no matter what external charging unit you buy, it features charging via a wall socket and not through the PlayStation 4’s USB. Remember, you want those precious PlayStation 4 USB slots clear for fighting sticks.
System-based functions still need the PlayStation 4 controller
Above: This f’ing scrub didn’t just lay down and let me win. Here comes some hate mail … wait … why isn’t my stick working?
Image Credit: Sony/Capcom
As I mentioned earlier, the Lab Zero Games’ driver only affects the game itself. It does not make your PlayStation 3 peripheral compatible with the PlayStation 4 on a system-wide basis. Several options inside these games use the driver that activates system-wide menus and options that require input from a PlayStation 4 controller.
A good example is when you are sitting in an Endless game lobby in Ultra Street Fighter IV. In the lobby menu there is an option to check out another player’s profile. When you select this, the PlayStation 4’s profile menu will overlay on top of the game. From this point forward, all inputs on the stick are only going to be caught by the game sitting underneath. In order to back out of the profile view, you’re going to have to back out using the PlayStation 4 controller.
The golden rule for figuring out if you’re in a system-wide menu is if you’re moving the stick around and hitting buttons, but you don’t see anything happening on the screen (or you only hear things being selected in game). It’s quirky and unintuitive at first, but it’s a small price to pay for PlayStation 3 stick compatibility.
There’s also a slight bonus to this set up, in that rage quitters have to do an extra, physical step to leave the game. Since the quickest way out of an online match is to exit via the PlayStation 4 system button, they’ll have to set their stick aside, get up, and grab their controller.
Mic is still tied to the PlayStation 4 controller
Above: No one denies Yellow Man the mic. …
Image Credit: Yellow Man
Since the mic service is a system-side feature on the PlayStation 4, this means you’re going to have to hook your mic up to the PlayStation 4 controller. Luckily, the Hori charger I am using makes the microphone port on the pad accessible. If talking to people while you’re getting your ass kicked is super important, microphone port accessibility may be another selling point when looking for a charger.
Beyond Ultra Street Fighter IV
I’m a tad biased in that I am a Street Fighter man. So Lab Zero Games’ driver, and figuring out how to set up my stick on the PlayStation 4, only became a priority for me when I received a copy of Ultra Street Fighter IV. With that said, NetherRealm Studios has also added PlayStation 3 stick support in Mortal Kombat X. Obviously, Lab Zero Games’ indie fighting game darling, Skullgirls, also uses the driver.
Hopefully, the list of fighting games using this driver will grow. Or … and I’m not holding my breath … until Sony does us a solid and creates a system-wide driver that works with last-generation peripherals.