When it comes down to third-party peripherals in the console world, most consumers turn their heads to Nyko Technologies. This is partly because of a shoddy past from the company we've all come to shake our heads towards, Mad Catz. With a long line of products that would break with a slight amount of pressure, the accessory company has had to claw their way back into the spotlight within the console industry. Surprisingly enough, they've managed to do just that with their 2009 lineup of peripherals that should have any gamer drooling from the mouth.
It's no secret that Capcom has teamed up with the talented group of individuals from Mad Catz in order to create three different controller options for the upcoming title Street Fighter IV. Mad Catz has worked together closely with the developer to create the exemplary Tournament Edition Fight Sticks, Standard Fight Sticks, and the Sega Genesis-like FightPads. Thankfully, all three controllers are perfect renditions of the goals initially set forth by the company.
We've included mini-reviews of each product below so you can better choose which fighting pad is for you.
Mad Catz FightPads
The greatest innovation displayed within these models is without a doubt the floating eight-way directional pad. The pad allows users to sense when each direction has been pushed with a simple "click" that you can feel beneath your thumb. Due to the flotation of the device, users can also wheel their thumbs in a circular motion around the D-Pad, ensuring that they're able to hit each direction flawlessly. This is most apparent when performing Zangeif's pile driver with ease.
Unlike the 360 FightPad, the PlayStation 3's pad is 100% wireless. While some users may consider this a negative due to the possibility of delay between button presses and the on-screen action, I never once noticed this as a problem while playing Street Fighter IV. Such a delay, if one even exists, is negligible. The FightPad also includes a two-step turbo option for every individual button on the controller, though it's unlikely anyone utilizing this controller for Street Fighter IV will ever use this feature.
On the back of the FightPad is a tiny switch that allows you to change the functionality of the floating D-Pad. With the flick of a switch, you can transform the Pad into either your left or right analog stick, as the controller is absent of either. This feature intents to allow gamers to use the controller to play other title outside of SFIV. Unfortunately, since there is no practical way to simulate both sticks, chances are you'll end up swapping out controllers for different titles regardless.
The Mad Catz standard FightStick is undoubtedly the second best way to play Street Fighter IV. While the FightPad is great for people looking to conserve space or that just like having the controller in their hand, the FightStick itself is one of two ways to properly compete in online play.
The standard stick provided comes with full 8-directional input which felt natural, and should allow skilled fighters to perform any move desired so long as the motion of the stick is dead on. Unfortunately, the standard FightStick's "give" sometimes results in different maneuvers than the one intended. For example, when pressing back to block, I sometimes found my character jumping diagonally back instead. While this was a rare occurrence, when it did happen, it was quite annoying.
In total, there are eight face buttons on the front of this FightStick. The first six are your standard use face buttons, while the last two serve as a kind of "memory" button in order for players to perform moves that require simultaneous button presses. This convenient addition will allow casual gamers to pull off more difficult moves a tad easier.
The primary issue I had with the Standard FightStick was the fact that the pad itself wasn't big enough to really rest your hands on while playing. Sadly, my hands slipped off the edges frequently, resulting in negative on-screen results. This small annoyance is actually what may make the more expensive Tournament Edition FightStick the stick of choice for all players who can afford it.
Tournament Edition FightStick
Alright, I'm not going to lie to you guys here. The Tournament Edition FightStick, though expensive, is the "true" way to play Street Fighter IV. This is as close as you're going to get to arcade-style gaming outside of paying the outrageous price of importing an actual SFIV arcade machine from Japan. Everything about this product, from the Sanwa arcade guts to the responsiveness of the stick, is spot-on. This product is simply perfect for the hardcore fighter enthusiast.
The most convenient part of the T.E. FightStick is the ability to rest your hands on the controller while you play. This may seem like such a small commodity, but if you plan on gaming for hours on end with no intention of stopping, this is going to help prolong your play period substantially. Furthermore, everything on the stick is completely customizable. Don't like the color scheme being used for it? No worries: import some color choices to your liking and install them on the FightStick. Don't like the ball stick and prefer the bat format? Easy fix: buy one, screw that bad boy in, and prepare to let loose some Blanka rage unlike anyone before you.
Regardless of what you want to do with the T.E. FightStick, you're going to be able to do it. Mad Catz has also added in a sweet Turbo button on the top left which includes a nice light display to alert you of which buttons are set to Turbo. You couldn't ask for a better feature (outside of the whole resting your hands bit, that is).
In comparison to the standard FightStick, everything works pretty much the same outside of the superior stick and customizable options. If you're planning becoming a Street Fighter IV champ, you're going to want to invest in this product. When it comes down to it, anybody using this product online is going to have a distinct advantage over any player without one. If you're looking to compete at the highest level, this is how.
-The Final Word-
Any of these pads are great for recreational use, but fighting fanatics should without a doubt spring for the Tournament Edition FightStick.