#01: If the game is more than 20 years old, how can I play it?

There are several options you can do. Here is a list from the cheapest to the most expensive:

MAME emulator $ 85% arcade perfect Operating System and emulator setup can affect the lag in the game. USB controllers or LCD screens add some small lag as well.
Console port on modern consoles + LCD $$ 80% arcade perfect All versions have big input lags and gameplay inaccuracies. The use of an LCD screen adds small lag as well.
Dreamcast version + CRT $$ 85% arcade perfect The most faithful console port to the arcade. High quality sticks are rare and stick adapters (like the PS360+ [mirror] pcb) add small lag as well.
Generic supergun + CPS2 + CRT screen $$$ 90% arcade perfect Sticks add no lag if they are modded to use DB-15 ports otherwise adapters (like UD-USB [mirror]) will add small lag.
Consolized CPS2 + CRT $$$ 90% arcade perfect Popularized by the UD-CPS2 [mirror], this is the most portable supergun as it's integrated in the A-Board. UD-CPS2 are not available anymore, but there will be a kit to build your own in 2017. Some similar versions exist on eBay built by other people.
Japanese Jamma superguns + CPS2 + CRT $$$$ 95% arcade perfect These are superguns with the controllers integrated in them which eliminates the small lag that USB controllers have in other superguns. The only problem is that they are very rare and very pricey.
Cabinet + CPS2 $$$$ 100% arcade perfect If you can afford one of these then you can rule the world. From this point, there are many other things you can do like connect two cabinets head-to-head, plug them into a stream, integrate it with Fightcade, and more importantly, invite friends over to play.

Most of the major tournaments are played on cabinets. Sometimes the supergun setup is used in America if the cabinets are not possible. There are really rare exceptions where the setup is a console, like the 25th capcom anniversary tournament which was played on the classic version of HDR.

#02: How does lag affect the actual gameplay? Is online and offline play that different?

Lag can affect different aspects of the gameplay. Some say they feel differences in their execution and precise combos. However, experts say that the real difference happens when it comes to things that depend on reaction like whiff punishing, anti-airing or bulldogging.

#03: What stick do I need to play the game?

Since 2008, most of the arcade sticks available mimic the Japanese controllers on the cabinets. You can buy a new one for $150 or more. But we recommend buying a second-hand one for $100 on eBay. As examples, these are two of the most popular sticks which are also very easy to modify: The Mad Catz Tournament Edition 1 and the Qanba Q4RAF.

#04: Do I really need a stick if I am used to playing on pad?

Arcade stick is always highly encouraged but not mandatory. One of the major advantage is that you will be able to play in tournaments that use cabinets or if you travel to Japan. But for all intents and purposes, a pad will work as well as an arcade stick.

#05: Is the button layout the same used in cabinets?

Most arcade sticks are based on the modern Vewlix cabinets. ST/2X players prefer the old Sega layout instead. However, the difference is very minor, so there is no problem when transferring from one to the other. There are people that customized their stick and have changed the faceplate to have the Sega layout.

#06: Do I need 8 buttons?

No, you can omit the extra buttons or use a button plug to cover them. There is no use for them in ST/2X.

#07: Is the joystick the same that is used in cabinets?

Most arcade sticks are based on the modern Vewlix cabinets which use Sanwa (JLF-TP-8YT) sticks and Sanwa buttons. Some ST/2X players prefer the traditional Japanese arcade setup with Seimitsu (LS-32-01) stick and Sanwa buttons. Seimitsu sticks have a shorter throw, a stiffer spring, and a smaller neutral dead zone, which allows for quick twitch movements that are necessary in Shmup games.

In fighting games, it's not that important. And the truth is that when both are well greased and maintained they feel very similar, and the transition is very easy from one to the other. Some Japanese players who play grappler characters have complained about getting unintended jumps when playing with Sanwa, but it's not a very common thing. The Seimitsu sticks are easily available at any online store. Check if your current stick is compatible with it.

#08: Do I need a specific grease for the stick?

Use a silicone-based grease. Do NOT use grease that is organic based. It will corrode the metal in the stick shaft and can dissolve plastic. An example of a grease to use is the Molykote 44. However, if you want to use the EXACT grease that arcade Japanese use then go for Shin-Etsu G-40M if you have a Sanwa stick and Shin-Etsu G-501 if you have a Seimitsu stick. There are some stores that sell the grease in small quantities [mirror1, mirror2] (more than enough) instead of the whole tube.

#09: I installed the MAME emulator. Where do I get the game ROMs?

It's not legal to provide the ROMs, so you will have to Google them yourselves. Just make sure you get the right size of the ROMs which will work both in Fightcade and in the latest versions of MAME. ROMs with other sizes might be meant for older versions of MAME:

  • ssf2.zip (~35.7 Mb)
  • ssf2t.zip (~11.9 Mb)
  • ssf2xj.zip (~1.3 Mb)

#10: Is there an optimal setup I should set up in the emulator?

This is still an ongoing discussion [mirror1, mirror2] in forums, but there is no straightforward tutorial for now. One of the conclusions is that Shmupmame v4.2 [mirror] comes with settings that can be tweaked to have the lowest lag possible. You might give it a try with the default settings and also try disabling Aero (on Windows 7) or Visual Effects (on Windows 10).

#11: Is there any training mode I can use?

When you are not playing against other players, we encourage you to spend that time in training mode instead of playing against the CPU. We recommend downloading the bundle [mirror] made by @pof which comes with the emulator and cheats integrated. In order to install it, follow these steps:

  • Download the zip and extract the files
  • Place your ROMs in the /roms folder
  • Run the file named 000_ST_Training_Windows.bat if you are on Windows or the other versions for other operating systems
  • If running the file gives an error, try to run it again.
  • The game will start with hitboxes and command viewer already enabled. To enable the training mode, press Tab and find the option cheat in the menu
  • If you want to assign a key to toggle between the hitboxes on and off, press Tab > Input (General) > User Interface > Lua Custom Hotkey 1

#12: How can I play the game online?

Fightcade is the recommended platform to play online nowadays. It barely needs any setup. Just register your username in the website, install Fightcade, place the ROMs in the /ROMs folder, and log in. You can view other matches or challenge other players. To chat in-game, press T and then your text. Just remember to say ggs after you have finished your games.

#13: What's the right resolution to play on Fightcade?

We encourage you to use the same 4:3 aspect ratio found in arcade cabinets. In order to do that, follow these steps:

  • Video > Stretch > Correct aspect ratio
  • Video > Monitor Properties > Widescreen LCD aspect ratio (16:10)

and if you want to play on fullscreen:

  • Video > Fullscreen resolution > [any resolution on the list EXCEPT 'Arcade (384x224)']

If you have done it correctly the face of the player should be inside a rectangle instead of a square (as seen in the picture)

#14: What is exactly a Supergun?

A Supergun is simply a device that converts the output format of old video, audio and joystick ports to modern ones. This way you are able to connect the games of old arcades to TV screens, speakers, and modern sticks. Examples of affordable Superguns are the MAK Strike Supergun [mirror] or Smallcab Supergun [mirror].

#15: Is there a way to convert my stick output to DB-15 to avoid input lag?

There is but it's a bit of a pain unless you are into modding, and it's only worth it if your Supergun accepts DB-15 as an input. Unless you are very good at soldering, we recommend getting a solderless DB-15 connection. In order to not lose the current compatibility of your stick with modern consoles, you will need to patch and join the wires inside, or build an external project box [mirror] which is an external box [mirror] with your joystick PCB in it.

#16: I have a Supergun, what monitor do you recommend playing on?

We recommend any non-panoramic CRT with a 4:3 aspect ratio. It can be a Sony Wega or Trinitron. Even a PVM monitor will be very good. There are few LCD monitors which are lagless. So unless you happen to have one of them, you can get a second-hand CRT for $20.

#16: What is the recommended setup for streaming?

If you are streaming from a Supergun, you will already have the S-Video or composite output. So you just need to get a Video Capture Dongle [mirror] and connect it to your computer through USB.

However, if you want to enhance the image quality and capture it in digital format then you would need an upscaler device, the most popular one being the XRGB [mirror] but there are cheaper options available [mirror]. You will also need a capture device [mirror] that accepts digital signal.

If you are streaming from a cabinet, you will need to extract the image from the jamma port. You can make a custom cable for it but we recommend a most practical solution [mirror] that converts jamma to scart.