My brother decided to make a big purchase last week. He actually saved up to get enough cash to buy it but it was something that he’s wanted for a long time. That thing is a arcade stick purposefully designed for fighting games. It wasn’t just any old arcade stick, mind you. He got the Qanba Obsidian, an extremely beefy fight stick with a really sleek look to it. It’s even got lights on the sides of it! I have no idea how that would help anyone when using it to play fighting games but it sure looks cool!
Anyway, he always wanted one since he grew up playing Street Fighter and Tekken in the arcades. He’s always felt more comfortable playing fighting games using the arcade stick setup but the really good ones were always pricey so he always had second thoughts about getting one. He always played using the default pad whenever he plays them at home for this reason. However, he recently got a big bonus at his place of work so he decided to splurge and finally get one. Me, on the other hand? I didn’t grow up in the arcades so I’ve always played all my console games using the regular old controller that came with the system.
However, I have noticed that there are a lot of pro players that do use fight sticks so I’ve always been curious of trying them out. I know I could go to my local arcade and play there. But I want to really put in some considerable effort and time to see if fight sticks would make a significant improvement and I don’t think I’ll be able to do this if someone challenges me in the middle of a practice session. My brother’s new Qanba Obsidian gave me the perfect opportunity to test it out to see if playing on a fight stick would feel much better than the regular old game pad that I’m used to. Now that I’ve played both Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 on it extensively for the past week, I think I can relay my thoughts on the entire experience.
For this, I’m going to be breaking down my experience with playing on a fight stick into four categories: comfort of use, execution of motions on the joystick, access to buttons and price (just in case I would want one of my own). The first thing I’d like to discuss would be the last item: the price of a fight stick. When I said fight sticks are expensive, I meant it! The Qanba Obsidian my brother paid around $230 US dollars! This included getting the thing shipped from the United States to the Philippines but, even if you took out the shipping cost, the Qanba Obsidian is around $200!
You can get a whole lot of games on the PS4 with that! Better yet, you can get both the NES and SNES Classics and still have change left over! Of course, there are cheaper fight sticks available out there but, from what I’ve seen, they’re all rather expensive. I totally get why my brother had some second thoughts about getting a fight stick, but if it were me, I’d have second, third and fourth thoughts and I’d still not be too sure if I’d get one!
The next thing I like to talk about is the joystick. I’ve always felt that the regular direction pad was fine when it came to controlling my character in a game like Street Fighter or Tekken but there were definitely times when I wished it were easier to “feel” it when pushing down on the diagonal directions. I do think that the regular controller does a reliable job but there have been a few times when I could’ve swore I was pushing down-back to block and then get hit by a low attack. With a fight stick, I can definitely “feel” that I’m locked in the down-back direction. That’s because of the nice “click-y” feel when you push the joystick in a direction.
Also, when pushing on the diagonal direction on the stick, I could feel it just slide into a solid corner. This made it so easy to execute weird motions like a dragon punch, which ends in a down-forward direction. While I never really have that issue pulling off a dragon punch motion in Street Fighter V on a game pad, I can’t say the same for Tekken 7’s Electric Wind God Fist. But with the fight stick, I was able to do it much more regularly than on the standard pad. I also find doing charge motions faster. With Guile and other charge motion characters in Street Fighter, I know there’s a trick called “charge buffering,” which is to push the attack button not on the last motion noted for the move, but when you go back to the charge. The move will still come out even though the input is “late.” It’s the only way to do things like Guile’s new Trial #4, which I was able to do! I couldn’t do in on a pad but I was able to do it on the stick after several (actually around a dozen or so) attempts.
I was able to do dragon punch motions and charge motions much easier with the stick but I found it more difficult to do circular motions on it. I guess the need to feel the click on the corners was really distracting to me as the motion were more like I was moving the stick in jagged right angles instead of a nice, smooth curved motion. Even after playing on it for a week, it just felt strange and not intuitive to me.
The thing I didn’t have any problems with was the layout of the buttons on a fight stick. I love how responsive they feel! I sometimes have an issue when doing combos that rely on different attack strengths. For example, one combo I like doing with Vega, my main character in Street Fighter V, is to cancel a close standing heavy punch into his Crimson Terror, his rolling attack. Sometimes, however, when I try to do it, he cancels into his Switch Stance, even though I swear I’m not pressing a punch button. I think the game it detecting my pressing the heavy punch and not registering the kick or something like that. I don’t seem to have that issue on the fight stick. At least, the errant input isn’t as frequent.
But the thing I like about the button layout on a fight stick is you have easy access to the buttons! It’s much easier to do some of the weird button combinations that fighting games have. It’s practically impossible to push the light and medium punch buttons at the same time to execute some of the necessary EX moves in Street Fighter V on a pad. The same thing can be said in Tekken 7. That’s because those buttons are of the front panel of your standard pad and your fingers just aren’t meant to bend that way when holding a standard game pad. On a fight stick, this problem is non-existent because your fingers have easy access to all the buttons and you don’t have to curl them up into a misshapen claw to push successive button presses.
While the controls are good and the access to the buttons is excellent, the biggest problem I have with playing on a fight stick is I’m not comfortable with the thing on my lap as the base is too huge and it keeps falling off in the heat of battle! Part of the problem is I have skinny legs to begin with so there isn’t much of a base to lay the stick on when I put it on my lap. In order to get it more stable, I have to spread my legs quite a bit, which is something I don’t do when I’m sitting! I have tried playing with the stick flat on the floor but this means I have to lean forward, which isn’t comfortable for a marathon session as my lower back would cramp up after a while.
Essentially, while I love the button layout on a fight stick and I really like doing dragon punch and charge motions on the thing, the thing that kills the experience for me is that I can’t get into a comfortable enough spot to really get the most of it. Ultimately, I will be sticking to using a regular game pad for playing my fighting games. That’s a good thing because, hey, I just saved myself $200 with that decision!
Which to you prefer using for fighting games? Game pads or fight sticks? Let me know in the comments section below!