‘Been a while! I’ve been quite busy lately, writing news and reviews for GameFocus.ca and then of course came the Christmas season. I’d hate to let my website gather dust though… Hell, I’d originally intended for my NES retrospective to receive one new review per day! Then it became everyday except weekends, then once a week… Seems I can never stick to my projects, it’s just a personal issue I have. In fact, I made it my new year’s resolution to stick more to my projects. To be fair though, we are celebrating the system’s 25th year anniversary, so I’ll review 25 games within a year. Anyway, Game Bushido is one project I absolutely don’t want to leave behind; it’s the one place where I can post whatever I want and still keep a journalistic approach. See, that’s the downside of being in the games industry: You can’t realistically be 100% honest at all times and still maintain a good relationship with companies, much in the same way that you probably wouldn’t tell a relative if they gave you a gift you didn’t like.
Before we move on, I’d just like to thank everyone who reads and follows Game Bushido; either the site’s statistics are broken or there’s far more people reading this than I’d expected. Alright, on to the review now!
I was at the mall the other day, randomly browsing a certain video game store. I wasn’t expecting to find much of anything, which is precisely how things usually go, but the store had a surprise in store (wah-wah-waaah) for me. Sitting beside the counter and strangely out of the clerks’ sight were two big boxes holding the above: Official Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom arcade sticks! It’s kinda funny actually, since I’d been looking to get a couple of arcade sticks for a while as part of a future project. Was it a sign of destiny? As much as I hate to admit it, I am superstitious. Then again, I also immediately became skeptical when I saw the familiar MadCatz logo…
Look, let’s be honest here. As someone who’s been gaming since he was about a year old, back in the NES days, I’ve seen my fair share of MadCatz controllers and accessories. Not a single one was worth anything. I mean, third party hardware is pretty much never as sturdy as first party stuff, but MadCatz in particular has stood out as manufacturing turbo controllers and such that don’t last or function well. A quick online search on my cellphone revealed interesting results, but the price tag is what really caught my attention. At about 20CAD, it had to be either a damn good deal or a piece of crap. There’s a bit more to that, but let’s leave the details for my next review which should follow this one shortly.
The most important part of an arcade stick is arguably its namesake, that is the actual joystick part. I should mention right now that I am by no means an arcade stick expert; the only times I ever got to use them were a few days every year when I was younger and traveled with my dad, since there simply were no arcades where I lived. Thanks to my recent growth of interest in them however, I’ve read quite a bit about what some of the best components and preferred builds are. While I can’t speak for anyone who truly knows this kind of stuff, I can tell you what it’s like and how it feels. The joystick itself is a typical Japanese ball style, as opposed to one of those longer, straighter shaft-like ones that get wider as they extend. Oh come on, stop snickering! How else am I supposed to describe it?! Whatever. It’s 8-way and produces a smooth, audible (but not loud) clicking sound when rotated. It feels sturdy and natural, even for a novice like myself.
The main buttons are aligned in two rows, as is to be expected, forming a slight curve that feels natural to use as your right hand should be at an angle. Speaking of which, the base also features a slant on which to rest your palms, and it’s angled just right; my wrists never once felt sore and hopefully it should be fine for most people. While the bottom of the stick’s ball (shut up) stands about an inch above the base and could probably be used by young children, the buttons are spread out over about 6 inches and as such are more appropriate for adult-sized hands. They’re convex (meaning that they pop out, not in) and offer a slight resistance that seems just right, but that is unfortunately kind of pointless. Why is that? Well, because they’re also very sensitive. No, I don’t mean that they’ll start crying if you call them fat (although I’ve yet to try that), but I have found myself accidentally “pressing” one of them without even realizing it, as it only takes a very slight touch to trigger them. I’ll gladly take that over unresponsive buttons, mind you, but it could be an issue. By the way, they’re not Sanwa, but from I hear, they’re very close to that.
Another potential issue is something that I’ve read a lot of people dislike; that is, the Start and Select (or + and -) buttons are on the front of the unit (I mean the side pointing away from the user). While not as easily accessible as if they were on the face of the pad, I for one certainly don’t see it as an issue. This way, accidentally hitting them and pausing the game is virtually impossible, although they’re not as easy to reach if you absolutely need to use them quickly.
Just above the stick is a control panel of sorts, offering a few different options and housing the Home button. Each of the 8 main face buttons can be set to two levels of turbo, which I’ve tested and confirmed to average at 20 and 10 presses per second. Of course, turbo is really only mildly useful in a few games nowadays, but it’s perfect for playing specific stuff like older shoot ‘em ups. The top switch is 3-way and lets the player choose if they want the joystick to act as a left analogue stick, directional pad or right analogue stick (although I can’t think of any game that would required the latter). It should be noted however that, being 8-way, it’s strictly digital no matter what setting is selected and thus doesn’t allow mechanics like walking slowly by tilting it slightly. Finally, the bottom switch allows you to lock the Turbo and Home buttons, disabling them in case the player accidentally hits them.
While the rest of the pad is solid white plastic and the top features beautiful artwork of the characters from Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars on a matte cover which I suspect is lined with some sort of metal, the bottom of the base is just a bland gray metal plate. It does feature four rubber feet though, and can actually be opened; indeed, you can switch the components with your own if you’re into modifying arcade sticks, or fix broken parts if the need arises. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but that thing’s actually fairly large, pretty heavy and feels durable; it also doesn’t really move around when in use. Frankly, I’m quite happy with its build and that’s something I never thought I’d say about a MadCatz product! I really hope that means that they decide to keep going in that direction and make more quality products.
Finally, the deal breaker. The Arcade FightStick really is a specially modified Classic Controller, and as such will only work with games supporting that; it also can’t be used for GameCube games due to it sporting a Wii Remote accessory plug and GC games not supporting those, even when played on a Wii console. Also, the cable isn’t very long, but that shouldn’t be an issue since it connects into Wii Remotes which are wireless anyway. So, can you think of many games to use it for, other than the excellent Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom? Neither can I, but keep in mind that every single Virtual Console game is compatible with this, and that opens a lot of doors. The point is, I was able to pull off special moves in Street Fighter, fatalities in Mortal Kombat, and do pretty good at Star Soldier R (in which I was one of the top ranking players in Canada, last time I checked).
[[While I lack the equipment needed to provide quality gameplay video, try to imagine there's a video here showing me being awesome at fighting games. Hah! See, I can write fiction too!]]
Again, I’m surprised at how good this thing is; I mean, it works great, feels great and seems to be built great! In fact, I went back to that store a couple hours later and bought the other stick as well. I then found out that they actually go for a little more online, so it really was a good deal. Now, the only real issue is its limited use… So why did I buy two of them? Look forward to my next review (which should come out soon, seriously) and you’ll see!