These days, I have been committing to a lot of things. Running for miles to raise my stamina. Reserving time for my wonderful ‘miles-away-but-oh-so-close’ girlfriend. Studying two different languages. Korean for my family, and Tagalog for hers. And just simply working hard in preparation for moving to College Station and starting my university career at Texas A&M. One thing that I have not been committing to anymore though, is Street Fighter IV. *gasp* Yes, that’s right. The game that I have unwisely played for an accumulated 23.2 days in an eight month period has been placed on the shelf. I’ll gladly play whenever I’m with friends but I just don’t have personal time for it anymore. But one thing I want to note: while in my Street Fighter prime, I had a small passion on the side for modifying MadCatz SFIV SE Arcade sticks. They were really fun to take apart and be creative with. I don’t think that I will see myself modifying anymore arcade sticks anytime soon. So with that said, below you’ll find all of the arcade sticks I’ve worked with in the past and a little bit about them. Consider this as a small tribute to the end(?) of my Street Fighter IV career.
This was my first arcade stick mod. After learning about how easy it was to modify, I decided to give it a shot. I wanted it to feature Crimson Viper, the main character that I fight with. Because Viper is a new character, finding decent artwork for her was tough. I chose this work of art primarily because the Viper work was very well done and also because it features every other female character in Street Fighter. If that’s not something good to look at on an arcade stick, then I don’t know what is! SFIV has a design concept of using brush strokes as a way of illustrating the art of ones moves. With this in mind, I added colored brush strokes to the buttons to place emphasis that the template is more focused on SFIV than Street Fighter in general. This was also my first time using Lami-labels from Fedex Office. Though the print quality was top-notch, the quality of the laminate was questionable. Cut it wrong, and you could end up tearing the paper that the laminate was supposed to protect. I ended up going back to the store three times to get it reprinted due to small mistakes while cutting it. All-in-all, it was a quick job and ended up looking great.
I quickly became tired of how the “Women of Street Fighter” stick looked. Giving it color seemed to be a good idea. For the template, I changed the color to black and used the official SFIV artwork for Viper. To have her match with the black environment, I inverted all of her neutral colors while retaining all of the rest. I didn’t change out any buttons so the brush strokes from the WoSF tempalte stayed. For this design, it was the first time I’ve painted an arcade stick. Though it was easy to do, I failed to do it perfectly and it was only moderately satisfied with the result. The paint began to peel after a few months. The print was also lami-labeled and revealed small air bubbles all over the print due to the black background.
This stick was was a large collaborate effort two months in the making for my friend Ray. Ray always talked about getting an arcade stick but could never afford one. My friends and I took the opportunity to buy him a stick and mod it for him. He envied the style of a Chun-Li themed stick concept that he found online. We took that into consideration and designed his new stick based on this concept. The arcade stick was painted red and then clear-coated to not only give it a nice gloss, but to also protect it during prolonged use. The template was printed using the same lami-label method. Applying the template was easier to do due to past experience and came out looking cleaner. For buttons, we focused on a red/white combination in order to give it a more personal statement. After the stick was done, everybody who contributed to the project signed the bottom of the stick and we presented it to Ray on his birthday. It was one of the best, if not the best gift he has ever received from his friends.
Getting tired of my stick wearing down easily from prolonged use, I decided to modify and restore my stick one final time so that I would never have to restore it again. It took me nearly an entire month to redo it and I paid attention to the finest of details. I wanted to create a template style that was never used or seen before. I wanted it to be unique, special, and one of a kind. But what color would I have to use? Viper has such limited artwork, how in the world am I going to find something unique and stylish? After hours of mindless searching, I found something that caught the corner of my eye. It was a pin-up style Viper, appeared to look 80’s style and Barbie doll-like. The artist gave Viper a very stylish vibe that I couldn’t find in other artwork that featured her. I liked how the curves, color scheme, and finished look were all on point. The only hesitation I had when it came to immediately picking this artwork was that it looked a little too… feminine. With lavender as the primary color, I was sure to turn my arcade stick into a Barbie lunchbox! But when the time came to really think about it, I decided to go for it. It was unique, stylish, and most of all, different. I sanded of the black finish that was on my stick, applied a lavender coat over it, and regrettably used a clear coat glaze for the finish. Let me warn you that glazes SUCK. Sure, it will give you a super-thick clear coat finish, but even after leaving it to cure for a week, the finish began to smudge over after only using the stick a few times. If you’re going to apply a clear coat, make sure it’s an actual top coat that is designed to take abuse, such as the coating we used for Ray’s stick. For the print, I decided to ditch the lami-labels and go for a polycarbonate laminate print. It’s supposedly the same material that is used in bulletproof glass, is scratch resistant, and designed to take abuse. Many people who use this swear by it and I can tell you that I do too. Nothing else compares to it. If you want the best, then this is it. Though the print is roughly about $30, I accidentally overpaid by $20. The owner, Scott Prior, agreed to give me a partial refund but never did it even after trying to follow up with emails. It’s a bad business practice, but I decided to eat this one up and move on. I may or may not order again in the future. I ordered twelve new buttons in white and indigo and swapped the colors. I also slapped down an extra $20 for an indigo meshball top. These are extremely rare and ridiculously priced higher than the price of a non-meshball balltop, but I wanted to get it so that it gave the stick a personal flare and matched with the micro-checkerboard pattern on the template. Other than the failed clear coat protectant, I achieved the perfect look for my stick. Unfortunately, the ridiculous amount of money and time I threw into the project was not worth it and I won’t do it again.
For the longest, my friend Anthony wanted to modify his stick and give it a custom look. His main character was Dhalsim, so he had a vision of painting the stick to match the red stripes on Dhalsim’s face. He used the same red spray that was used for Ray’s stick to color his. After it dried and cured, we used painters tape to create stripes and painted the rest of the stick with a copper finish. Anthony had trouble creating a template for his stick. Though we had started a bit the template, it was never finished. His birthday was coming up, so I decided to finish the template, print it, and finish the rest of his stick for him. Unfortunately everything did not go as planned. The day before Anthony’s birthday, I visited FedEx Office to have it lami-labeled but ended up being told by an employee that “they never even carried lami-labels and if they did, they shouldn’t have in the first place.” Kind of an odd thing to say, but it was pointless to argue against it. I checked all of the other print shops in the area to inquire about creating a laminate sticker only to be told that they cannot do it. I made one last call to a local signage shop and was surprisingly told that they could do it. Having no other option, I rushed down to have it done. The print was a vinyl laminate which felt weaker than the lami-labels but had a smoother finish and a stronger bond to the print. It costed $25 (nearly as much as the polycarbonate print!!) and I had to wait about four days to get it. The shop name is “Speedy Signs”, but it isn’t exactly as “speedy” or cost-effective as a $7, 5-minute lami-label. So after getting the print, I finished the stick when he came to visit and it became a belated (but highly appreciated) birthday present.