Product: Street Fighter X Tekken FightPad SD
Manufacturer: Mad Catz
We truly live in a glorious age. Not only are one on one fighting games enjoying a golden run of form not seen since the late 1990′s, but now there are third party firms like Mad Catz working alongside the unusually busy game developers to produce exciting and technically adept peripherals with which to play these titles.
It is fair to say that most people struggle to play technical fighters using the poor D-Pad or analogue stick on the Xbox 360 control pad. I have never had an issue with the analogue stick personally, but this was more due to the fact I never bothered adopting an alternative control method once I abandoned my retro consoles in favour of Microsoft’s whirring behemoth.
In previous eras, I have always played fighters with a stick, mainly due to the fact that since the sublime SEGA Saturn pad, I never got on terrifically well with other joypads. There are ways of using other controllers on the Xbox 360 using adapters, but these can be plagued with lag as well as the fact that they lack features such as the ability to use a headset, and of course, press the Xbox button. Other companies, in particular Hori, have attempted to address the joypad dilemma with their own products, such as the Fight Commander Pro, but lately it has been the much-improved Mad Catz who have produced the finest handheld peripherals with which to give someone a good kicking.
To commemorate the landmark clash between Capcom and Namco, Mad Catz have produced a natty line of Street Fighter X Tekken FightPads, one of which I have been provided for review. For someone who has been surviving (and holding my own) using the trusty 360 analogue stick, how does this device perform?
My first impression was how small and light the controller is in comparison to the heavy, battery-laden first party controller. The pad fits snugly in your hands, and there is a lengthy three metres of USB cable that allows you to position yourself at your convenience between sofa and TV. The pad is subtitled “S.D.”, which apparently stands for “slim design/smaller dimensions”, however I like the fact that they also dub it “super deformed” as it really is a cute little fella. It looks terrific too, something like a cross between an original Saturn pad and the lovely old Neo Geo CD pad, only emblazoned with some corking Street Fighter X Tekken artwork. My version was adorned with the four “wrestling” themed characters from the game, meaning King, Marduk, Poison and Hugo, all in lovely lacquered technicolour.
Ergonomically the pad is great, the trigger buttons from the Xbox controller are positioned on the face of the controller, so there are a total of six face buttons that are positioned in the same way as the buttons would be placed on an arcade stick. This also means that they are perfectly set up to play the traditional six-button fighters that Capcom trade upon. The bumper buttons remain on the shoulder of the pad, and how comfortable they are to use really depends on how comfortable you are using a pad for fighters in general. For me, it was a boon having all of my regular attacks in one place, given that when playing in the Street Fighter style I am usually forced to map two of the attacks to the left shoulder and trigger buttons anyway. Hell, even since the days of the SNES I have always used the left shoulder button for medium kick.
The buttons themselves are of a decent size and feel great to press. The way they are set up and spaced meant I was able to carry out the cross/chain combo inputs of Street Fighter X Tekken and Blazblue with ease, whereas the way they are colour coded allowed me to psychologically set aside the innermost four face buttons for standard attacks when playing a non-Capcom game such as King of Fighters or Garou: Mark of the Wolves; the fighting nerd in me really does come to the forefront in these situations.
A fightPad lives and dies by its D-Pad, and the raised, floating, 8-way beauty Mad Catz have served up here does about as good a job as any pad I have ever used. Anything I threw at it was pretty much without issue; I ran through a succession of Trials in Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition with minimal fuss, for example. There are those who will still swear by the use of a stick, but as pads go, this one is as good as you are going to get. Handily, you can also flick a three way switch that enables the d-pad to function as the left or right analogue stick, so it can also be used with a plethora of other non-fighting titles. I found that it was particularly tasty for retro fare and had a good deal of success when playing the stellar recent subject of my attentions, Sine Mora, with the pad. There are also two turbo settings if you fancy cheating at games, which reminds me of back in the day, when friends would spam the Hundred Hand Slap using their tricked out SNES pads. Fall back, scrubs!
VERDICT: Small but perfectly formed, Mad Catz have once again delivered the goods in the pad department, following on from their excellent previous efforts in alignment with Capcom. Gone are the days where third party wares are an embarrassment, this looks and feels like a quality product. The 15% reduction in size makes it even more of a pleasure to use, and the versatility stretches beyond the one-on-one fighting world, offering a resounding old-school feel for use with all manner of games. There are still question marks over whether this offers the same tournament-level precision that a high-end stick would give, and it is true to say that a raised D-Pad will never out-perform a stick where top-class fight game pros are concerned, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t an excellent product that I would wholeheartedly recommend.