Sanwa Denshi (‘Three Harmonies Electronics Company’) is a general electronics manufacturer, but is best known internationally as a leading manufacturer of arcade parts; i.e. joysticks, buttons, coin feeds etc.
Its parts are commonly used in Japanese arcade machines and held in high regard by custom builders (especially in the fighting game community).
Traditionally, there has been a divide between ‘American-style’ (Happ) and ‘Japanese-style’ (Sanwa) designs. American joysticks are generally made from hard plastic, with a tall, thick shaft shaped like a baseball bat (bat-top). Common grips for this type of stick utilize 4-5 fingers for pull and push, but all involve grabbing the stick from the side. The stick has a high resistance due to the amount of leverage that it gives to the user. American buttons have a long stroke, which is associated with a clicking action (which also adds to resistance) to let the player know when the switch has been activated. The buttons are generally concave and designed to be pressed with one or two fingers.
Japanese joysticks have a large spherical ball (ball-top) positioned at the top of a short, thin metal shaft. In contrast to the bat-top, a ball-top grip can be reasonably approached from almost any direction—the side, above, or below, and with different placements of the fingers, according to preference. This gives the stick more flexibility towards a general audience, however the ball itself may be considered awkward to hold. Also, because of the shaft’s low mounting height, users with large hands may find the setup to be uncomfortable and constricting. Because of the shorter shaft and lighter grips used with this type of stick, resistance is relatively low. Japanese button design is based on requiring less effort from the player to press, and as such they have short strokes and very little resistance. They do not click as there is usually no question as to whether the button has been pressed, however this also means that players may find them too sensitive, and resting fingers on buttons requires more care.