Product: Street Fighter X Tekken Arcade FightStick PRO
Manufacturer: Mad Catz
Arcade sticks are, for me, the ultimate gaming accessory. I own limited edition arcade sticks that are still in the box, and have never so much as carried out one Hadoken or Burning Knuckle, I am able to reminisce over the various sticks I have owned or used over the years in the same way that other people would fondly remember cars, or even pets. I will still never forget the feelings of sorrow and regret at parting with the Hori third party Neo Geo stick I once loved, with its metal base and ultra-responsive grey buttons. Why did I flog that awesome grey and yellow Namco Arcade Stick? Then there was the time I had actual Sanwa parts from Japan installed into my own arcade cabinet. You can’t go back in time, but what you can do is look with awe at how far we have come in terms of quality sticks readily available on these fair shores. Gone are the days when you would have to import something from Hori, at a huge cost, because the third party stuff we got offered was second rate by comparison. Indeed, we are spoiled now in a manner not seen since the halcyon days of the Official Dreamcast Arcade Stick.
The main reason for this? The sterling work put in by Mad Catz. If Namco or Capcom are involved in releasing a fighter (which, lets face it, is pretty bloody often these days), then you can bet that they will follow with a corking arcade stick peripheral. So when we heard that Street Fighter X Tekken was on the horizon, much excitement ensued over what our homies over at Mad Catz would come up with. Turns out that they just, to coin hip hop radio terminology, dropped the bomb.
Any arcade stick worth its onions is going to have to be composed of the finest parts. For “finest parts”, read: Sanwa Denshi. The Tokyo firm have, for many years now, been synonymous with providing the best arcade parts in existence. Most tournament fighters will not give any other sticks or buttons so much as a sideways glance in anger; Mad Catz now rely exclusively on these excellent components, which form the basis of this wonderful stick. Emblazoned with fantastic artwork, featuring Capcom stalwarts Ryu and Ken and Tekken favourites Nina and Kazuya, the unit looks amazing; even the box, which opens out satisfyingly to reveal the stick nestled within, is a treat.
With a gloriously responsive, clicky stick which rotates and carries out motions with ease, and top-drawer arcade buttons, this is as close as you will get to sitting down in front of a proper Japanese candy cab. The base of the unit is metal, sturdy and with a satisfyingly ergonomic slant which makes it very comfortable to deal with, whether it is balanced on your lap or sat on a hard surface, where the rubber feet ensure a steady grip. The eight buttons are arranged in the classic arcade formation, with the four colour coded X, Y, B and A buttons joined by corresponding grey ones for the bumpers and triggers. They feel wonderful and stand up to a fearful hammering, or a gentle, tippy tappy approach, and come with turbo options should you want to take that dark path.
There are some other nice features. 13ft of USB cable, for lag-free input, which can be handily tidied away in a compartment on the stick, means that you can be comfortable wherever you and your stick are positioned in the room. A handy headset input, and a function which allows you to lock the Xbox button and smaller turbo buttons, are also very useful; the latter to prevent any unwanted slips that may interrupt you during online play.
The ball-topped Sanwa stick also has a corresponding switch that allows it to be used as either analogue stick or the D-Pad itself, which, like Mad Catz’ superb Fightpad SD opens it up for use with other arcade style games. Personally speaking I played a lot of Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend, King of Fighters and, of course, Street Fighter X Tekken itself and found that I was able to perform any of the required inputs with absolute ease.
VERDICT: Having been away from sticks for a while in favour of using the Xbox analogue stick – tantamount to sacrilege in fighting circles – sitting down in front of this beauty was like stepping back in time. A stick truly is the only way to experience fighting games in their intended form. And whilst expensive, this one is truly worth every penny, and goes some way toward eradicating the bitter memories of my trusty Neo Stick.