The best arcade sticks from 2007 to 2014
This article was originally found on Versus City Singapore and has been reposted with full permission of the writer, Lenn Yang. It has been edited in accordance with the Games in Asia style guide.
Before I commence this article, I would like to state that I am focusing on current Playstation 3 (PS3), PC, and Xbox 360 sticks: platforms that the games that matter are currently on.
This is just a short run-through as I cannot be bothered to explain ergonomics. These matters are subjective; to each his own.
I will be listing most prominent sticks on the market, and their pros and cons.
Hori Real Arcade Pro 3 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Get it if you can find one for S$50 to $60 (about $40 to $48). Take note that although the stock stick is a Sanwa JLF, its buttons are not. Factor in the costs of swapping buttons to OBSFs before you contemplate. I have two of them and I love them.
On the Xbox 360, there is a variant termed the EX-SE with Seimitsu LS-32 stick and PS-14 buttons which is excellent for the extensive shoot-em-up library on the Xbox Live Marketplace. If you happen to have one, for god’s sakes, please DO NOT modify it unless you have to replace a broken part.
Excellent PC compatibility with emulators and as a general Windows human interface device.
Easy to swap parts. I would like to think that the printed circuit board (PCB) is pretty godlike.
Inconsistencies in product design schematics. Some variants of the RAP3 (Tekken 5 faceplate, vanilla Street Fighter 4 faceplate, for example) come with a soldered-on PCB instead of quick disconnects.
Hori Fighting Edge (PS3, X360)
Relatively new product. It has a fancy LED touch panel for you to activate/deactivate functions and is good for deep-pocketed fighting game enthusiasts. Sports in-house product fabrication termed the Hayabusa stick and Kuro buttons.
As of January 2014, the Hayabusa Stick and Kuro buttons have made their way to another Hori stick variant which combines the style of the VX-SA’s enclosure with Hori’s proprietary Hayabusa stick and Kuro buttons, lessening costs by a considerable margin.
Veteran fighting game pro and master of execution, Sako, helped in the development of the Fighting Edge. Sako also plays professionally for Hori. Sako is a much respected figure in fighting game communities worldwide.
As far as I know, there is no place where you can order a Hayabusa stick or Kuro button as a general consumer, if you ever have a defect down the road that will need either replaced.
Hori Premium VLX (PS3, X360)
For all of you who require panache in your arcade sticks. All parts are Sanwa. In short it’s probably about 85 per cent similar to having a panel out of a Taito Vewlix cabinet.
Very close to an actual arcade cabinet. The VLX Premium comes with a red faceplate akin to the Taito Vewlix F. Another variant of the VLX, the Diamond, contains aluminium perimeters and a wrist rest area. Faceplate also accommodates the design of the Taito Vewlix Diamond.
If you want something which looks like someone ripped it off an arcade cabinet, this is it.
Impossible to be used on your lap effectively. Don’t tell me that you can. I don’t accept rebuttals on this aspect of my opinion.
Notable players under Hori: Haitani, Sako.
Mad Catz Fight Stick Tournament Edition (PS3, X360)
MCZ’s initial foray pertaining to the launch of Street Fighter 4 on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Great stick. One of my all-time favourites. Honourable mention goes to Mad Catz community manager Mark Julio for playing a pivotal part in the realization of this product. To date it is one of my favourite sticks, and it combines both weight and functionality into context. This is the first official stick released concurrently with Street Fighter 4 and it’s no wonder why they say that first love is the sweetest. Full Sanwa parts.
Top-notch build quality. Easy for template and part mods. Terrific product both in packaging and in use.
The first MCZ PS3 stick has inconsistencies with USB in most computer motherboards. This is listed because most PS3 and/or Xbox 360 sticks are 98 per cent compatible with PCs. This issue has since been rectified with later iterations of Mad Catz arcade sticks.
Mad Catz Fight Stick VS
A heavy duty stick that is still comfortable enough to use on your lap. It also comes with an attachment (available separately) to combine two sticks into an arcade style two player side-by-side layout. Full Sanwa parts. Fairly priced for what you are getting.
Large. Palm space aplenty. Has Daigo Umehara’s approval on the box with a significant preface written by the Beast himself. I don’t disagree.
Nothing worth mentioning, really.
Mad Catz Fight Stick Pro (PS3, X360)
This is, as of now, Mad Catz’s base model. Still highly usable and robust. Very comfortable on the lap and not a chore to carry around. EVO 2013 Street Fighter 4 champion Rzr.Xian won the Evo 2013 Championships using this stick.
This product is proven. Also does not cost an arm and a leg.
Heavy hitters might not like this design as it might move when used vigorously on your lap. I personally like it a lot.
Notable players under Mad Catz: Daigo, Tokido, Mago.
Razer Atrox (Xbox 360)
Razer, one of the most, if not the most, prominent names in PC gaming has surprised us with a foray into the fighting games market. This came out relatively late, in 2013. If they took this long to make a product everyone else already has, it has better be so darn good that it makes you contemplate getting just one more. Verdict: yes, it is definitely good.
Looks like a lot of research and development invested. Panel opens up with the push of a button. Full Sanwa parts. Free bat top and a mini tool to work with on it. Great packaging akin to Razer’s flagship mice and keyboards. This stick is idiot-proof. Pricing is fair for a premium product. You can also completely disengage the cord.
The grip at the bottom is pretty slick with Razer’s logo etched right in the middle. This is arguably the Oscar-winner of arcade sticks.
No PS3 version. I won’t explain the intricacies in licensing and exclusive contracts here, but let’s just say that more people in Asia have PS3s compared to Xbox 360s. Still, this move is relative to Razer’s ambitions as the Xbox 360 is the tournament platform of choice for fighting games.
Notable players under Razer: Xian, Gackt, Team Evil Geniuses (Momochi, PR Rog, Ricky Ortiz, Justin Wong), Fuudo, Itazan
Qanba Q4 RAF
From China. Check. Marketed as an all-in-one solution. Check. For the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Formerly endorsed by MOV, Kindevu, and RF. Currently endorsed by Xiao Hai and Dakou, two of the most prominent Street Fighter and King of Fighter players in China.
Compatibility for all three platforms out of the box. Some swear by it. Nice handle on top to hand carry. Full Sanwa parts. Serves its purpose.
No fancy licenses or premium brand awareness, if thats even a bother at all for all you fashionistas.
Notable players under Qanba: Xiaohai, Dakou.
I hope you all learned some new tech! And if you wish to know what my favourite sticks are; in no particular order: Hori RAP3 (after Sanwa buttons swap), Razer Atrox, Mad Catz Tournament Edition 1, Mad Catz Fight Stick Pro.
A special apology to Sega for not mentioning the Virtua Stick High Grade. It isn’t easy to get one now.
This post was written by Lenn Yang, co-owner of Versus City and arcade stick aficionado. He cannot believe he now loves his toddler more than his arcade sticks. Versus City is a general gaming hub located in Singapore.