It’s become an inevitable fact that the days of playing fighting video games in arcades are coming to an end. And the majority of fighting game players have now faced facts that they must adapt. Instead of the traditional stand-up coin op machines of yesteryear, the competitive gamer must now learn how to play on console. With systems like Xbox offering online functionality, it’s becoming crucial to the competitive player to have a level of control similar to that of the coin-op machines. It’s 2005, and so far three companies have stepped forward to introduce their peripherals to the fighting game enthusiast...
Hori Real Arcade Pro Stick
Availability: Japanese Only
Price: $79.99-$100, plus shipping
Usage: PS2 only
For those of you who haven’t heard of Hori, they are the name-brand in fighting game joysticks in Japan. They use parts from Sanwa, which is similar to the company Happs in the U.S., a name-brand parts maker with quality and precision response in their products. The Real Arcade Pro Stick for PS2 is Hori’s recent offering, and it comes in two flavors: the standard eight-button, metallic silver, or the newly released Capcom Fighting Jam Collector’s Edition. The CFJ edition comes with CFJ art on the stick, as well as a real game marquee and command list stickers for the game, as if you had ordered the actual coin-op machine. It’s a pretty nice touch. The joystick uses a smaller-style switch stick that is currently found in Japanese Coin-Op machines, and is very similar to a popular Agetec arcade stick that was available for the Dreamcast years ago. The joystick is short, with a round ball on top, as opposed to the taller style U.S. sticks that have become standard in the states. The buttons are all convex-style, and have excellent response. The joystick also features slow-motion and rapid-fire toggles above the joystick, which is a feature that is rare for joysticks these days, since said features are usually banned from competitive fighting game play.
The performance of the stick is excellent. Although it might take a little getting used to for American players expecting a taller, black joystick found commonly in arcades, after a little practice you’ll find that you will get your motions out consistently. I was able to get charge moves, rounded motions, and even 360s after a little practice. The buttons are also highly responsive, and I was able to get combos that included several repeated jabs and links that require precise timing. If you are looking for precision control, and don’t mind playing on a smaller Japanese-style layout, this is the joystick for you.
However, there are a few downsides to this stick. First and foremost, it’s only available in Japan, which means you’ll have to order from an Asian gaming website like Play-Asia or Lik-Sang. This means LOTS of shipping charges; for example, I bought one stick for $100 but shipping was around $15, and then later I bought another from a different website for $80 but shipping was $40, making the overall cost of the stick on average around $120. It’s too bad that Hori has not yet crossed overseas into U.S. territory, which would avoid the hassle of online ordering and shipping cost. Also, remember that the Real Arcade Pro is only available for the PS2, which means if you plan on using it for Xbox Live you’ll have to buy an additional PS2-to-Xbox converter. The only other negative about the Real Arcade Pro is the location of the rapid-fire and slow-motion switches. These small switches are located above the joystick itself, and are a bit close. I found myself accidentally touching some of these a bit after a few hours of play, until I trained myself not to overextend my motions on the smaller joystick.
Overall the Hori Real Arcade Pro Stick is an excellent buy, with precision control and some neat extras if you buy the Capcom Fighting Jam version. Just keep in mind that you might end up paying a sizable sum for shipping, and that you might have to buy an additional adapter to use the stick with your favorite non-PS2 system.
Rating: 4.5 out 5
NubyTech Street Fighter 15th Anniversary Edition Joystick
Availability: Exclusive to Electronics Boutique Stores Nationwide
Usage: PS2 and Xbox
In order to celebrate Street Fighter’s 15th Anniversary, NubyTech recently released their own version of an arcade fighting joystick in an exclusive partnership with Electronics Boutique. This Capcom-licensed stick has some really cool features, such as awesome joystick art featuring the entire cast of Hyper Street Fighter and the Alpha 3 series. The joystick also includes an exclusive three foot fold-out poster. The stick itself can be used with both the PS2 and Xbox, which is an added bonus right out of the box. On top of all this, the cord can be stored inside of the stick itself, and there’s also a slot for the Xbox communicator when you play over Live. Nothing was left out of this package.
Control-wise the stick is more than decent. The joystick is an American-style, with a taller black stick that is looser than a lot of sticks I’ve played on. The buttons are a bit odd: they are convex-style, but not the typical Happs convex. They’re a higher-type button that must have been made exclusively for this stick. There are no auto-fire or slow motion features, but that’s not a problem here. The stick gives solid performance for games which require all kinds of motions. However, I did find it extremely difficult to get my 360-motion throws out in both Hyper Street Fighter Anniversary Edition and Street Fighter III: Third Strike. This was probably due to the looseness of the joystick, because the controls are not name-brand Happs. I also found I had problems getting out combos that required several repeated jabs or precisely-timed button taps; sometimes I would get everything, and sometimes a button I tapped would not respond if pressed several times in a row. However I was able to get most of my rounded motions and charge moves out with no problems.
The best part about the NubyTech joystick is the price point. You can find this stick in most Electronics Boutique stores around the country right now for about $60, and you won’t have to worry about shipping. You also won’t have to buy an adapter to use this stick, since it works with both PS2 and Xbox. The artwork is also cool, albeit a little odd, considering that it features the cast of Street Fighter Alpha 3 who aren’t present anywhere in the Street Fighter 15th Anniversary game that this joystick was supposedly made to coincide with. The control isn’t bad, although I’m not sure I would want to use this joystick in a competitive tournament due to the fact that it isn’t always reliable for complex combos or moves. This is an excellent stick for casual play, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to have some fun with their friends, or over Xbox Live.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
MAS Systems Super Pro Stick
Availability: Via mail-Order only @ www.massystems.com
Price: Varies depending on features; Base price around $80
Usage: Buyer specific, optional compatibility with Dreamcast, PC, PS2, Xbox and/or Gamecube
If you’ve been to a competitive fighting game tournament in the past decade, you’ve probably heard of, if not used, a MAS stick. MAS sticks are custom-made joysticks produced by a very small company out of California. You get the opportunity to order exactly what you want: concave or convex buttons, different styles of joysticks, different system connections, and even customization of the colors of parts. Basically, you can build your own stick however you’d like, and MAS will make the stick to your specifications. It’s important to note that MAS uses only name-brand parts from Happs controls, the company that produces the parts for arcade machines in the United States.
For a while, MAS was the only console joystick available that could use a “Perfect 360” optical style joystick. The Perfect 360 is a joystick unlike any other, in that it does not use switches at all, but instead uses optical laser sensors to register your motions. The Perfect 360 joystick has become a standard in most competitive fighting game arcades over the past few years, and so there has been tremendous demand to get this joystick inside of a console setup. However, the official word from MAS is that they will no longer produce joysticks with the Perfect 360 joystick. Apparently, they ordered a large batch of around 100 of the sticks, which were quickly used to build joysticks and shipped out. Unfortunately, the majority of the sticks ended up being defective, and had to be shipped back for repair. After numerous complaints, MAS decided that the Perfect 360 is an inferior stick with too many problems, and the official word from the company is that they will no longer produce joysticks with the Perfect 360.
The advantage of getting a MAS joystick is the ability to customize it exactly to your own specifications. If you know you’re going to play on PS2, Xbox, and Dreamcast, you can specifically order those connections, and MAS will have wires for each of the systems on your custom-built stick. You can also order the looser-style Ultimate switch joystick, or the more traditional Competition fighting joysticks. Buttons can be concave or convex. You determine exactly how you want your stick to perform. Right now, the MAS stick is the closest you can get to playing on an actual American stand-up coin-op machine at home, because it uses the same exact parts.
Unfortunately, there are several negatives that must be mentioned. First, the MAS stick is pretty heavy, weighing in at around 10 pounds. Every MAS stick has a small yellow button in the upper right-hand corner called the “Analog button.” This button switches the joystick from digital control (i.e. the 8-direction gamepad on any console controller) to analog control (the thumb toggle on a PS2 pad, for example). This button serves next to no purpose, because by activating this within any fighting game, your joystick stops working completely. Perhaps if you were going to use your MAS stick with a non-fighting game this would come in handy, but for the most part, it’s just a useless button you can do without. The problem while playing, sometimes you can set off this analog button even if you don’t press it, causing you to lose control temporarily and leaving you wide open to attack.
Another large negative of the MAS stick is the fact that it’s basically a Frankenstein: MAS takes Happs parts and hot-wires them together to your specifications. With connections for Dreamcast, Gamecube, and PS2 all at once, the MAS stick can prove to be a bit flaky. Nothing can be worse than being in the middle of a serious match, than getting a notification on screen that “a controller has been removed from its port.” Unfortunately, since the MAS stick is made to be a multi-system unit, it can sometimes have problems interacting with different systems during highly competitive play. This can be easily fixed by simply removing the joystick from the system port and then plugging it back in again. But if the error happened in the middle of a competitive fighting game match, you may find yourself in a forfeit situation, having a faulty joystick that caused the match to be interrupted. Ironically, this is EXACTLY what happened at the Evolution 2004 Fighting Game Championships in California. The tournament was console-only, and so there were numerous cases of “controller removed” errors occurring during matches with MAS joysticks, as well as a few cases of the analog button being accidentally activated and players eating combos for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed way to fix this problem.
The MAS stick is a good choice for the gamer who demands to have precision control similar to an American coin-op machine. The ability to customize to your specifications cannot be overlooked, but remember that it can add up. I built a stick for use with PS2, Xbox, and DC, and the total price tag before shipping was $150! Also keep in mind that these are mail-order only, so you will have to pay for shipping from California. The problems with the analog button and “controller removed” issues are also a hassle, especially if they occur during competitive tournament play.
Rating: 4 out of 5