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GameCube Arcade with Controls mapped to Arcade Buttons

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GameCube Arcade aka Cubecade


Use an old gaming console to make something new

Similarly to the design of the Playcade in my earlier articles, this Arcade uses an old Wii Console to play GameCube games. If you're like me and you have a large collection of older games, this is a great way to give these hardware components a second life, rather than collecting dust in storage somewhere.

One of the most interesting (and difficult) concepts of this design was getting the controller to work with Arcade buttons.


Mapped to a single controller

The wavebird controller is used for the second player, but in this case displays the button layout mapped identical to the board. Although this may not be obvious, the layout is for a single player and can now play GameCube games.

This design is very comfortable and the vinyl underlayment doesn't cause any arm strain. The control sticks are typically for robotics and in this case, as a set of gaming sticks. Please note that traditional arcade sticks will not work in this design, as 6 wires are required (not 4).


What you'll need

1. 2 analog control sticks ($16 on ebay) - $32

2. Arcade button kit (wires need to be separated) Amazon - $25

3. Arcade box, monitor and speakers - $200 +/-

4. Gamecube controller (unofficial embedded encoder) - $12


Joystick sensitivity

Before we go into the nuts and bolts, it's important to note that after working and trying arcade sticks over and over again, they did not function as intended. If you try to map the 6 wires to 4 it results in each analog only working in 2 to 3 directions, but never 4. I've tried this multiple ways, so you don't have to... simply saying, it won't work and is not worth the hassle. Without a custom encoder it won't work.

After playing a bit and having others test the machine, the feedback I've gotten is the control sticks are less sensitive than a typical GameCube joystick. In this case, the larger design might require over compensating on the levering in order to get the object on screen to move/shift faster. Take this into consideration when ordering the joysticks for this design.


Attaching wires

To attach the wires to the encoder (once this is disassembled and pulled out of the Gamecube controller casing), solder a wire to each of the buttons listed on the encoder. Once the single wire is soldered to the wire, use hot glue to keep in on there and prevent it from pulling away later.

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To be honest, this was the third encoder that was worked on, whereas the last two had multiple solder damage. By starting with my official controllers, I unfortunately burned out the encoder and things like the "a" and "b" button no longer worked, so be very careful and buy up some spare controllers from ebay, if needed.

This last encoder of my third attempt is not an official controller. Lots of trial and error occurred to get to this point, so plan this as a hobby project with a reasonable possibility of failure and starting over.

Since this was my third attempt, please know that at this point I was soldering wires and not caring about the color (unlike when I set out at the beginning). Just know that one wire to the button for signal, another wire to the negative and another wire for the lighting of the button... the colors of the wires used in these pictures doesn't indicate anything.


How to map the controller triggers

The triggers on a Gamecube controller have two button inputs each, so it's necessary to sit the trigger halfway and wire to the front and back of the encoder, then map to 2 separate trigger buttons.

Not many games use the pressure on the trigger, but in the case that they do, there is a left and right button on the controller pad and each of the analogs happened to have a button, so mapped/wired the "full pressure" click of the left and right triggers to the analog buttons. In doing this, all games can now be played.

See trigger on the top left


Arcade button mapping

There's a 5v on the GameCube encoder that will add light to the mapped buttons. Each arcade button should have 3 wires (2 black combined for negative terminal and individual light and button push wire).

Once all the single wires are mapped to the buttons on the encoder, you'll send all the black wires to the negative terminal on the controller (combined), then connect all "light" buttons to the 5v power output on the encoder.

By doing this, the lights will turn on.

I did glue the motor for the force feedback to the bottom of the arcade board, which is a nice touch. However, it's not a very long set of wiring, so will sit close to the encoder.

Wired an on/off button to the wii below...


Nice job when it works

There are some missing parts of this machine and there are some noticeable improvements that can be made. However, the most difficult part is getting that encoder working in an arcade fashion and opens up a lot of possibilities.

It would be nice to get the PS3 machine going with 2 encoders and arcade buttons, but that will be an adventure for another day.

I hope this helps in your home adventures and I wish you the best in getting this working. Once it is done, it's nice to relive old exclusive classics and in some ways gives these games new life for someone to walk up and enjoy, like any ordinary coin op machine.

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