Round gates versus everything else & the relationship to grip (I know, its been discussed to death)

I’m an old timer from SFII days in the 90s, played on nothing but round gate HAPP’s, in USA arcades. I’ve logged the most hours on arcade cabinets with SFI (including the pressure button variant), SFII, Champion, Turbo, Hyper and New Challengers, during the now ancient, early, tournament scene. I did continue to go to arcades when Alpha and Third Strike came out, but honestly I don’t remember the gates being square, they felt like the same old HAPP’s to me (old cabinet conversions possibly, don’t know?), but memories fade and that was a long time ago, so I can’t be sure. After that, on consoles, I primarily used Sega Saturn pads and a few other 6 button controllers, with adapters. I haven’t used sticks for the last 15 years.

I just got a second hand joystick, for free that has a Sanwa stick in it, with a square gate and I can’t do any move consistently in USFIV, maybe 30% success (I know, I know, people will say, more practice). I just borrowed a friends modded, round gate stick, for a couple of days and I can do 80% of what I can do on a pad. So, it seems, most comments here, on the forum, say to use square gates and to get used to them. But I think most people here, have only logged hours on square gates and/or never put ANY time on the old round gate HAPP’s, that used to be in every arcade in USA. So, is the “square gate thing” only appropriate for people that never touched a square gate previously and don’t have old muscle memory from HAPP based cabinets? BTW, I’m a Shoto guy.

If you can do moves fine with circle gate and you like how it feels then keep using it. I grew up with a mix of square and circle in the arcades and prefer square.

Don’t worry about what other people think: Use the stick or pad that works for you. I’m not sure why you want to switch away from pad in the first place.

I was reading some earlier posts and it seems, the opinion is, that people comfortable with circle gates and HAPP’s style sticks, use more forearm in their movements, which translate poorly to square gate sticks. I only came here after I tried both and then read some articles about old arcade cabinets, in fact I didn’t know this forum existed until a few days ago.

It’s a preference thing. Octagon is an in-between option that you may like also, still lets you feel the corners. You can learn the square if you stick with it and change your approach, but I maintain it’s better to use what you like. The biggest benefit of learning a square gate is that it’s the default in every new Japanese parts stick, which allows you to use other people’s equipment without problems.

Personally, I prefer the octagon, but I can use a square just fine (albeit slightly less precise with SNK “pretzel motion” moves).

Possibly depends on the grip they use and how they hold the stick, HAPP sticks have bat tops most of the time so probably takes more arm movement because how they hold it, both bat and ball tops have a lot of different ways to hold it and use your fingers/wrist/elbow etc in movement though I don’t have much experience with bat tops anymore I only use ball tops.
Like for me I like the side of my palm resting on the top panel of the arcade stick and hold the ball with 2 fingers and a thumb so my arm doesn’t move just my wrist and fingers pretty much.

I got a free stick and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working. I didn’t realize the square gate thing and the differences compared to the old HAPP’s, that is, until I started reading articles about arcade cabinets.

Yes, I’ve logged thousands of hours on bat-tops, with lots of arm/forearm movement and also hadn’t really seen a ball-top in arcades until the early 2000’s. In contrast, the young players that I see in videos, seem to have virtually no forearm and elbow movement when they play.

I prefer circle myself, but I’ve learned to play on square.

for happs and the like I just use my arm for movement but when I play Jap style sticks I just use my wrist.

good to learn square just in case your stick breaks down and there’s no pads either.

I play on all 3 and I have no particular preference, I like them all. I started out as a ball top player, but I fell in love with bat with the Korean sticks. Right now I rock a Sanwa JLF with a 9 lb. spring and with an aluminum bat top; but, I handle the bat top like I do a ball top. I just like the better leverage and the shape of the bat top, but I don’t fully grip it in my hand nor use my whole arm/forearm to really move the lever. I just stick to making the most of using the least (amount of effort.) I use some of my wrist, but most of the lever movement is done by my fingers and slightly moving my wrist and arm to compensate certain angles of movement.

So if I back dash on P1 side (tapping left, left) it’s mainly all in my thumb. When I forward dash (right, right) it’s in my 2 or 3 fingers (index, middle, sometimes ring) and a slight bit of my wrist to push the bat top. Etc. etc. I never get tired when playing, I can go 7-10 hours straight playing something like Guilty Gear or KOF98 no problem. I just need to remember to stop playing and eat something.

But yeah, just use whatever gate you like. I kinda like the Sanwa 2-piece gates in which you can take out the square insert and quickly swap in a circle or octo insert on the fly, especially if you have a quick open stick.

My only reasoning that I stick with square gates to get used to them 100% is that if I ever want to go to Japan and play games that no one in the states play, the default will almost all likely be square gates. I can’t bring a pad or a custom stick to the arcade, but I want to play their best in stuff like KOF98 or Melty Blood or something. So I’ll have to learn the “standard.” Also for a smaller reason, if playing in tournaments/money matches in the US and you don’t have your stick on you for whatever reason (or your stick doesn’t work on a particular console), it’d be good to know how to play on square gate because more than likely a stick that you’d borrow from a person would have a square gate.

If none of these issues really affect you, then just get whatever gate you’d like on your stick and just play and have fun.

My Pros and Cons

Stock Square Gate
Standard for the whole arcade industry and much of the FGC, MAME and other scenes/communities
What the Pro players used most
Recommended to learn on for new players
Most common

Difficult for new players to do Semi circular motions (Pro tip: think in square or L shape movements)
Can not “feel out” cardinal directions
People mistake a square gate as only being 4 way when in reality the default configuration is 8 way.

Octagonal Gate
Pros: “feel out all 8 directions
"easier” semi circular motions

New players get too used to “feeling out” directions and get lazy, often lose reaction time and execution as you are feeling out for the directionals
New players must avoid riding the gate
Does not come stock, some Joysticks lack a Octagonal gate option.

Circle Gate
Great for circular motions, very easy to do full 360° movement

Can not “feel out directions at all” even square gates can feel out directions better.
Trouble with diagonal directions/ corners
If you ride the gate, you will grind away a ruin a joystick’s actuator
Easy to ruin the entire joystick if you are too rough.

I don’t get the whole riding the gate thing being a negative or a no-no. I always ride the gate. If I need to get a new actuator, I’ll get it for pennies on the dollar (which I never needed to do yet.)

Thanks for that insight. Funny you mention KOF98, thats a game that runs on the NeoGeo MVS. I don’t recall square gates on those old MVS cabinets either, back in the 90’s. In fact, I’m pretty sure they were HAPP’s too. I was really big into World Heroes then and the sticks felt no different than the SFII cabinets.

I have read some of those threads and definitely understand the reasons why people feel that there are pro’s and con’s to the various gates. But I have the feeling they are basing their experience on what is currently used and have no direct experience with the original HAPP sticks. I’m not saying they are better or worse, but if you haven’t spent any time on them, I think it would be hard to come up with comparisons outlining advantages or disadvantages. The last arcade original, HAPP stick, I used was probably in 1999, but up to that point, I had logged thousands of hours on those sticks. Fast forward 15 years, after playing on pads, I pick up a stick with a square gate and can’t do anything, yet, when I get a hold a a round gate stick, it feels like I could be up to speed in a couple of months.

My minds is definitely not playing tricks on me either because I didn’t consider the shape of the gates, until after I had tried both, only then, did I start reading about the different set ups, simply because it felt weird.

On a circle gate I don’t think I’m riding the gate, but on square, I’ll do a move and the stick will bump into something my reflexes are not expecting and the move/combo doesn’t happen. I know all the write-ups say you have more room in the diagonals, but do you really need it? Especially, if, you already have the muscle memory and don’t ride the gate anyway? Maybe I’m not used to the way the Sanwa stick makes contact with the switches.

Well besides destroying a part of your stick (the actuator), doing so creates this plastic dust that can get everywhere.
The Dust can ruin switches if it gets inside and fouls lubrication. it also looks really nasty if you have a stick with a clear bottom.
If that dust gets in the lubrication for the pivot, you could ruin the pivot or even the bowl/cam of the main body.
Ruin the main body, that is the whole joystick.

Its also one of the n00b-est things you could do (more so than being salty and complaining about online losings in SRK).
The gate is not a rail to grind as if you were some punk skateboarder, it is meant to be a guide, nothing more.

You can “hit it” (not too hard) you can move against it even, but don’t RIDE it. And yes there is a major difference.
Its the difference between handling a delicate instrument and grinding your stick shift.

With proper care, a joystick can last 20+ years (even without relubing), even playing on the competitive level.
I know this is so as there been joysticks out in the wild of dimly lit, noisy, smokey arcades that have last that long if not longer.

Treat your joystick like your sister not your girlfriend.

I guess that’s the difference. I do “tap” and move against the gate but I don’t “grind” it. Can’t really quantitatively measure that kind of thing, but I do see a bit of wear on my actuator. My very first stick had that dust you were talking about, but it was a hand me down from a friend. So I don’t know if it was due to my early playing style or if the main grinding was from him. So far from using a TE2 and etc., I don’t have those particulates in my case (during the time I had my stick) but yeah I did wear the soft, black JLF actuator. Notice no damage to the white silent JLF actuator that I used though.

Don’t know about the whole noobest thing though. If it turns out I’m super noob and I’m actually riding/grinding a gate, I’m a noob that can take top 8s at majors and almost take top 8 in GGXrd while drunk, yeahaz. See me in KOF and see what happens.

I don’t know how cabs are in Japan, but 98umFE and 02um on the Nesica cabs I’d think would run square gates. It’s all good though since I acclimated to square, circle, and octo.

In regards to gates, I guess if the player doesn’t really touch/ride gates, I guess they wouldn’t really need that extra room in the corners on a square gate. I noticed when using a Silent JLF (Omron microswitches) with an octogate, I’d miss my upper corners at times when trying to instant air dash though, and the extra space on a square allows me to actually hit the upper corners consistently. So I guess part of it depends on the kind of microswitches you have. On a normal JLF TP-MA, I can hit instant air dashes consistently with an octogate. So it really depends on the overall assembly. As a person that touches gates, it’s good to have a bit more space depending on the switches.

Another option with the Sanwa 2-piece gates is that you can just take out the insert and leave it like that and it acts like a huge circle gate/no gate. The thing is that the throw is huge especially if you gate ride/touch but otherwise gives you more room to not ride/touch gates and get used to it.

I wasn’t playing on those and in the ancient days you rarely saw import cabinets anyway. However, based your comment about “missing corners due to the kind of gate”, I have a feeling that the whole “which gate to use” argument is the wrong approach, rather, its about how someones instinctive “stick movements” interact with the microswitches. In fact, its almost like square gates was simply an arbitrary engineering decision, that people eventually adapted to out of necessity. Had it been designed for actual gameplay, perhaps, that square with rounded off corners, would be been even more round on the straight edges, IF, play testing had been more thorough and that player feedback was then considered during the engineering design phase.

I started with a square gate and I hated it as I was used to Happ sticks growing up. I switched to an octagon and things got a million times better but eventually I didn’t like the feel and thought circle would be the best way to go. I switched to circle and LOVED it. However, I had a serious issue with defense as you will sometimes downback but not actually be downbacking. I finally got fed up enough that I put in a square gate and spent a week in training mode learning it. Due to the muscle memory I had built up from the octagon/circle gates it was a much much easier transition and I could finally downback.

Long story short…go with what you like but I’d definitely recommend a square gate now that I’ve been around just about every block.

If you were used to HAPP’s why would that affect your downback? Don’t forget, I mentioned that I am not riding the gate and don’t use it as a gauge for any movements. As it stands now, some of my movements are bumping the straight edges of the square gate slightly. I think that is a completely different problem than perfecting a downback, without the help of a gate to guide the stick to right spot.

Just thinking out loud, it would seem to be easier, to practice a precise downback, without a guide, than to try and rewrite a over decades worth of combo and stick motion, muscle memory. In fact, its seems like there should be another gate design specifically for Street Fighter, a mostly round gate, except for the two bottom left and right diagonals, having sharp angles like the octagonal.

Because I went many years between playing SF2 in the arcades as a kid and then SF4, among others, as an adult. My mind kept going back to Happs when trying to execute and screwing the whole thing up with the square gate. Also, I wasn’t very good as a kid anyway so I probably sucked at downbacking then too.

And yes, I’ve even talked to @Moonchilde about exactly that type of gate. You can also modify a circular gate yourself as well but that will be hit and miss depending on the stick/gate type.

Oh, fun fact, Seismo chains with Viper are INCREDIBLY easier on a square gate. I would put it in the ballpark of a billion times easier if you want to attach a number to it.

Bottom line: use what you like, just don’t beat the shit out of your lever and expect it to be maintenance free. I suspect that what darksakul calls “riding the gate” is more akin to a friend of mine who seems to think he needs to use lots of force to do fireballs on my arcade cabinet.

Do race car drivers baby their cars in a race? Nope. They beat the shit out of them and drive them at their limits. Same concept here. If you are worried about grinding an actuator you probably are worried about the wrong things. Nothing is maintenance free. You gotta pay to play the game. One of those expenses is maintaining your gear. Are you successful in your game/s while grinding the gate and turning the actuator into dust? Then buy some backup actuators and grind on, tiny grinder.