ESG Review: Mad Catz SFXT FightStick Pro
The journey of video game peripheral maker Mad Catz has been quite an interesting one throughout the years. Initially releasing peripherals for the consoles of the day (most notably for the original Xbox and PlayStation 2), their products were of a rather questionable quality, and this led to the company having a reputation for releasing shoddy products that most gamers would be better off avoiding. Due to this poor general reception from the public, Mad Catz sought to drastically improve their overall image, and looked for the perfect opportunity to re-introduce the Mad Catz brand to the gaming world. This perfect opportunity presented itself when Capcom had commissioned Mad Catz to produce a line of controllers and arcade sticks for their fighting game Street Fighter IV; what resulted was what many fighting game enthusiasts consider to be the best arcade stick a person could own outside of a genuine arcade cabinet, the Street Fighter IV FightStick Tournament Edition.
As time has passed, Mad Catz has become a name that is now synonymous with the ever-increasing fighting game community, with their products being the de-facto standard for many players who use them at home, as well as in fighting game tournaments. With the recent release of Capcom’s highly anticipated brawler Street Fighter X Tekken, Mad Catz has decided to do away with the “Tournament Edition” handle that has previously graced their premium arcade sticks, and have now rebranded them as the FightStick Pro – does this rebranding indicate a major shift for their arcade sticks, and should fighting game fans be worried about this?
Design: 4.5 out of 5
Going away from the traditional Viewlix arcade cabinet design seen in most previous Tournament Edition FightSticks, the Street Fighter X Tekken FightStick Pro instead opts for its own slimmer design, which more closely resembles that seen in the Super Street Fighter IV Tournament Edition S FightSticks. Graced with a matted black frame, this is one stick that is certainly a looker, while also preventing any fingerprint smudges from ruining the look of the stick itself. One thing that is curious to note is the bottom of the stick, which has a few ridges on the left and right sides of the stick; I personally experienced some minor discomfort, as well as shifting the stick around on my lap periodically, while playing with the stick on my lap. This may not apply to everyone, but perhaps the ridges on the sides of the stick may not sit well with your lap, and is likely due to the bottom of the stick not having a uniform shape. This problem can be completely avoided if one decides to use the stick on a table or a flat surface, although not everyone will have that luxury available to them. This is a minor quibble, although it is one that needs to be mentioned regardless – perhaps it’s just a result of being used to the shape of the Viewlix-inspired Tournament Edition sticks from using those for so long.
Artwork-wise, the SFXT FightStick Pro has two variants, the CROSS and LINE editions, which are only different in regards to the artwork that is shown on the stick’s face. The CROSS variant has artwork which has the left side showing off Street Fighter mainstays Ryu and Ken, with the right side of the art showcasing Tekken characters Kazuya Mishima and Nina Williams. Alternatively, the LINE variant has an equally nice design showing off various characters from the game in a tile-based fashion. It really boils down to personal preference regarding which artwork variant is better, though both designs are nice and you really can’t go wrong with either one.
Outside of these differences, the layout of the FightStick Pro is rather identical to past sticks, with the same 8-button layout (which is slightly curved, based off the traditional Japanese button design), ball-top joystick, as well as turbo functions and d-pad/analog stick configuration switches for those games that require it nestled on the top of the stick. Conveniently, there is also a headphone jack located towards the bottom side of the stick for those who want to talk smack while playing their favorite fighter. Finally, and most importantly, Mad Catz has decided to keep the Start and Select/Back buttons relegated to the top side of the stick, thus avoiding any accidental presses in the heat of a fight.
Overall, this is one nice-looking stick, and outside of some minor discomfort when played on the lap (again, your mileage may vary on this one), this is one sturdy design that is also heavy enough to feel like the real deal, thus keeping it in line with the previously excellent sticks from Mad Catz.
Features: 5 out of 5
In regards to features, the new Street Fighter X Tekken FightStick Pro doesn’t bring anything new to the table in regards to functionality, although that most certainly isn’t a bad thing – after all, there’s no need to fix what is not broken. For those who may not have used a FightStick before, here are the features you can expect to find with this stick:
- 8-button layout with additional multi-speed Turbo functionality
- Premium-quality components with genuine arcade layout
- Authentic Japanese-style Sanwa Denshi joystick & buttons
- 3-way switch enables joystick to function as left or right analog stick or D-Pad
- Controller lock/unlock switch prevents accidental button presses
- Storage compartment for efficient cable management
- Connects to console via USB (13-Foot cable; wired stick means lag-free gameplay)
- Integrated headset port for use with Xbox LIVE (PS3 does not use wired headsets, so that’s not an issue for PS3 users)
All in all, this stick has essentially everything you’re looking for in regards to features that will enhance your playtime with the various fighting games out there. Best of all, these features lend themselves well for tournament play, which is why these sticks from Mad Catz are so commonly seen in the fighting game circuit. Even if you’re not aspiring to be a professional player, you have everything you need here to improve your overall game. You may have noticed that I didn’t get into too much detail regarding the nuts and bolts of this stick, but that’s what the next section is for!
Performance: 5 out of 5
There really is no other way of putting this: this FightStick handles like a dream. Owners of previous FightSticks will be right at home here, and new adopters will instantly notice the difference in quality and performance one experiences when switching from a standard controller. It’s a cliché saying, but nothing beats the arcade experience when it comes to fighting games.
Mad Catz’s sticks previous sticks have been built to last, and the new FightStick Pro is no different in that regard. From the sturdy design that can take punishment, to the Sanwa buttons and joystick that can also take whatever you can dish out, and will be as responsive as it was on day one. Speaking of responsiveness, the Sanwa Denshi buttons are much more sensitive than your standard buttons, and this may be a bit jarring for those new to this style of button. In other words, you don’t need to slam on the buttons in order to get a response from them; rather, you need only slightly tap the buttons to get what you need out of them. For those used to playing in arcades, this is perhaps a stark contrast to what you may be accustomed to, as arcade cabinets of the past (such as the various Street Fighter II games, and the “Versus” series of games such as X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, etc.) mainly used the HAPP concave buttons, which were usually meant for hard button mashing. It does take some getting used to, but once you get into the groove of things, you’ll notice that the sensitive convex Sanwa buttons lend themselves greatly to games such as Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter X Tekken and The King of Fighters XIII, which require precise and strategic inputs.
On the joystick side of things, the SFXT FightStick Pro has the usual Sanwa ball-top joystick, which is the Japanese standard for most arcade games. Again, for those who have used it before with previous TE sticks, this is nothing new and will be easy to use. For those who have not used a stick before, however, you may find that, as with the buttons, it will take some getting used to. Traditionally, most U.S. arcade machines used a bat-style joystick and a round gate configuration (gates are what contain the joystick in its place, and depending on the shape of the gate, you can perform movements with the joystick easier), whereas the Japanese went with the ball-top and square gate setup. The latter is what you will find with the Mad Catz sticks, and the FightStick Pro is no different; initially, it feels odd, but you will find that the square gate for the joystick lends itself well for games that use charge inputs for their characters. Of course, you can also perform quarter-circle and 360-degree motions as well, though some fans prefer an octagonal gate for those particular instances.
The beautiful thing here is these sticks allow you the chance to swap out parts and customize them to your liking. Mad Catz has made it rather easy to open up the sticks and replace the buttons and joystick, if that is what you want to do. While the Sanwa parts housed within are of high quality, sometimes people want to try something new, and the ability to swap out parts on the fly is a great cost-saving method for many players out there. From the initial release of the first Tournament Edition FightStick, these products have been created with the fighting game enthusiast in mind, and the latest release of the Street Fighter X Tekken FightStick Pro continues this proud tradition. Chances are you may not ever swap or modify anything on the stick itself, but the fact that the option is there grants a great service to both the fighting community and modders alike.
Value: 4.5 out of 5
Let us get to the price of the SFXT FightStick Pro: the stick retails for the price of $159.99. The pricing is a bit of an odd one, as previous sticks have usually retailed for $149.99, so the fact that it is a bit more expensive while not offering anything new in regards to features or functionality can be seen as a detriment. That being said, the FightStick Pro is still an amazing value, especially for the fighting game enthusiast; outside of shelling out near a thousand dollars, this is as close as you can get to the authentic arcade experience for most.
In-between games such as Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter X Tekken and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the FightStick Pro never faltered, giving out the same amount of precise movement and authentic arcade feel that these products are known for. Never at any point did I feel the stick was unresponsive, and from my first Hadouken to my one-hundredth, the stick remained faithful to its arcade origins. Pulling off advanced tactics like FADC (Focus Attack Dash Cancel), air combos, and even parrying (such as in Street Fighter III) felt completely natural and flowed very well when using the FightStick; the same cannot be said when attempting these techniques on a controller. The sticks are built to last, and last they will, for many years to come – if that doesn’t scream out value, then I don’t know what does.
The ESG Verdict: 4.75 out of 5
At the end of the day, Mad Catz’s Street Fighter X Tekken FightStick Pro delivers exactly on what it sets out to do, and that is bring the authentic arcade experience home while also greatly improving your level of play in fighting games. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the stick can only be used with fighting games; in fact, the stick can be used on just about any game that uses a controller. Using the FightStick Pro is a great alternative to a standard controller when playing classic arcade games that are available on either the Xbox LIVE Arcade or PlayStation Network – personally, I had a blast playing coin-op classics such as The Simpsons Arcade Game and X-Men with the stick, as it brought me back to the days of dimly-lit, smoke-filled arcades.
While the Tournament Edition moniker is gone, the FightStick Pro certainly continues the proud tradition of being top quality, mod-friendly, and fighting fan-centric. While it doesn’t offer anything new from past sticks outside of a slimmer profile, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Should owners of previous sticks consider getting this one? That really boils down to the individual – your current stick will last you for quite a good while, though some collectors out there may find it tempting to collect them all, so to speak. Of course, this doesn’t apply to new adopters, and this is a rather easy recommendation for people who have not owned an arcade stick before. Regardless of if you pick this up solely to use with Street Fighter X Tekken or with any other fighting game out there, you can rest assured that you will be getting your money’s worth, and even more so in the amount of hours spent having fun with the peripheral. The days of arcade glory may be nothing but a distant memory nowadays, but it is products like these that help keep the dream of the arcades and their legacy alive.
**Our review of the Street Fighter X Tekken FightStick Pro is based off the Xbox 360 model, with a review unit supplied by Mad Catz. The FightStick Pro is available for purchase at various retailers, and can be purchased online via the official Mad Catz store**