It’s remarkable how fighting sticks have changed over the years. Gone are the days where you’d have to worry about the parts used for the buttons or other parts, because now it seems everyone uses high quality parts like the HORI Fighting Stick Alpha. HORI’s own Hayabusa buttons and joystick are included on the Alpha, and this offers a unique alternative to sticks that use Sanwa parts, offering a sensitivity to the buttons I haven’t experienced before.
So let’s start there, because it might be a bone of contention to some, but even as someone who is pretty heavy on a fightstick, the buttons feel durable yet incredibly responsive. I was a little concerned initially with how sensitive the buttons were, but my worries were unfounded, as these are a superb, and premium feeling component. Likewise, the stick (eight-directional) itself feels high end, and exactly how you imagine, or would want a stick to feel. I’d argue that at a lower price, the stick itself feels similar to more premium priced sticks, and only the buttons feel slightly different, though at the point where it’d become an issue, you’d be talking about competitive play and preference to a longer or shorter throw button.
The HORI Fighting Stick Alpha does actually feel premium, and very well made. A clasp on the back allows you to open the entire box up to make any adjustments or repairs you might need and it’s all colour coded for ease of access, and while I didn’t go deep into the internal customisation, it all seems fairly simple, even down to changing the artwork on the top of the fightstick.
The inside section also hides the cable when not in use. There isn’t a huge amount of space inside the Alpha, so you will need to wrap the cable around the prongs inside to keep it away from the components and allow you to shut it easily, and while I’d have preferred a detachable cable, it’s not the end of the world and a nice solution to keep things tidy. It’s a nitpick, too, but it’d be nice for there to be a “click” to the clasp holding the box shut, too.
Another boon to the Alpha is how customisable it is from a software perspective. If you fancy connecting the stick to a PC you can use the official software to customise it even further, swapping buttons around, etc. It’s a nice option, but I suspect most people would be happy with the stick out of the box, and won’t need to play around with any of these options.
The Xbox version of the stick I looked at has multiple additional buttons (perhaps more than I’ve seen on a stick anywhere), with no doubling up on standard controller buttons: everything has its own functionality here. From left to right you’ll find everything from stick buttons, screenshot, share, and in a seriously nice touch, even mic controls like the option to mute. These are all well away from the main Hayabusa buttons and there’s no chance you could hit them by mistake in the heat of the moment.
Speaking of headsets and audio, there’s a standard 3.5mm jack on the left side of the fighting stick if you want to connect a wired headset, but generally speaking, the combination of buttons and functionality means that if you’re using the Alpha on a console, you can do everything from the fight stick in front of you, without needed to take your hands away for anything else.
Having mostly tested the Alpha with Street Fighter 6, and being by no means an expert (I’m getting too old to be good), the most important thing about the stick is how well it actually plays. The sensitivity of the Hayabusa buttons was an issue at first, but after a while you realise it’s an intentional design choice. The Alpha wants your thoughts turned into actions instantly, and that’s definitely something it succeeds at. In terms of the stick, it really is a fantastic piece of kit, and I found it helped my consistency for pulling off moves thanks to how accurate and well made it is.
Elsewhere, the matte finish is just fine, but at the price point I’d maybe expect it to be a little less plastic-based. It’s also a lot lighter than most other sticks I’ve used. Now that’s neither a negative or a positive, but is worth noting because the size of it might make people think it’s a heavy unit, but it’s actually quite light, comparatively.
These are, however, minor issues with an otherwise stellar product. The HORI Fighting Stick Alpha isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than some of the competition out there, while retaining quality parts and a brand name you can trust. For fighting game fans, it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling let down with the Alpha, though depending on past experience with sticks, there may be a small adjustment period needed for the buttons. This really is a superb way to play your favourite fighting games.
Well made parts
Responsive and reliable
A bit too plastic-feeling
No detachable cable