Mad Catz Tatsunoko vs. Capcom FightStick Review (Wii)
Posted by Jim Cook, Feb 01, 2010 06:29
Know what you’re buying: This is an arcade stick, a form of specialized controller that is not meant to play all games. It is purpose-built for use with fighting games such as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Guilty Gear Accent Core, and Street Fighter II. Due to the fact its joystick (essentially a d-pad in a different shape) can only behave as a d-pad or one analog stick at a time and isn’t really suited to acting as an analog stick, this controller only works with certain games. Technically it’s a Classic Controller equivalent, and can be made to work with Virtual Console releases for the NES, Super Nintendo, Genesis, Arcade/Neo-Geo, and a few other systems just fine but don’t expect it to work well with N64 titles. Its real purpose is for use in various fighting games, and this review will primarily be concerned with how well it does that job.
It’s hard to find good arcade sticks for the Wii. There have been a few made, but they’re mostly out of production and thus hard to find on store shelves; and if you do track one down there’s a real possibility you’ll be charged a premium cost well above their original retail price. It’s no wonder they’re so rare since the Wii only has a few worthwhile fighting games, though with Tatsunoko vs. Capcom now available you might want a good stick to play it with. Unless you can find one of those older sticks or are skilled enough to build your own, your only real option is Mad Catz’ new licensed FightStick. It’s a Japanese style stick, emphasizing a short range of motion within a square gate (so you’ll feel the corners of its housing when you move the stick around) and short buttons that can be easily and rapidly pressed. This leaves it unsuitable for some games, but it works great as a fighting game controller.
Those of you already familiar with the Collector’s Edition (also known as "Standard Edition/SE" in some circles) style FightSticks on other systems should take note; this isn’t exactly the same as them. There are two major changes you should know about in terms of parts quality and the connector this stick uses. First, it’s not a USB stick like some previous FightSticks. It hooks up to your Wiimote as if it were a Classic Controller (and technically speaking it basically is one in a different housing and lacking true analog sticks). Second, the parts quality has improved and this FightStick uses new in-house parts developed by Mad Catz. They are not Sanwa parts like the Tournament Edition sticks use (which would have significantly raised the price), but these new buttons are definitely a step up from those on the Xbox 360 version of this arcade stick. They’re appreciably more solid in feel, and this is a welcome improvement. It also helps justify the price tag since this stick runs for about $80, putting it squarely in the ’upper mid-grade stick’ price range. This product otherwise follows the standard FightStick design, so if you’re already familiar with that design from other systems then you know what to expect here; it’s the same thing, but better.
That may answer all the questions some people have, but if you’re not familiar with Mad Catz’ FightStick design then a little more explanation is in order. As a Japanese style stick, it features a joystick within a square gate, using a very small range of motion. Once you adjust to it, this design lets you do special moves very quickly, often just a tiny bit faster than an equivalent American style stick; this is important at high level play. It also has eight buttons on the main panel, arranged in a slightly curved arrangement. These buttons are flat and short, far different from what you may be used to on an American arcade cabinet; once again the purpose is speed, enabling you to push the button just that tiny bit faster... and this time saving measure can easily add up in games that require rapid ’button mashing.’ These controls make the FightStick suitable for fighting games, as well as many Virtual Console titles that don’t require a fully functional analog stick. This means that even if you’re not interested in fighting games, it can have some value as a neat luxury toy for playing classic VC games with.
Another special feature worth noting is the control console on the upper left of the top panel. This console contains a way to set your buttons to turbo-fire, switch your joystick between acting as a d-pad or left or right analog stick (which it admittedly isn’t very good at; this is mostly for menu navigation and so on), and your Home button. There is also a lock switch that, when enabled, prevents you from changing most of these settings or accidentally pressing the Home button and thus pausing your game. The Plus and Minus buttons are on the back panel, where it will be hard to accidentally press them unless you push the stick against a wall or similar surface. This is all very smart design, showing that the folks at Mad Catz did their homework when making this FightStick.
As it’s designed to improve your quality of play with fighting games, it better hold up well when used for that. We’ve already established that this stick isn’t an absolute top of the line design, it uses substitutes for what would otherwise be more expensive but better Sanwa parts. Nonetheless, I never felt all that handicapped while using it. I put it through a variety of tests in Super Street Fighter II (Virtual Console SNES version), Guilty Gear Accent Core, and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, with no real problems. Most special moves came out just fine (including walk-up 360 throws with Alex in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Zangief in Super SF2; admittedly a gimmick but nonetheless a good test for the parts), my combos worked, and general input such as dashing, blocking cross-up attacks, and so forth behaved as they should. Likewise, multiple simultaneous button presses (three kicks or three punches, for example) worked without problems. It may not be a top-end stick but I don’t feel handicapped playing on it.
This is also a very nice stick to look at, it primarily uses white and blue parts along with a mostly white housing so it fits in when used near your Wii. The only thing that breaks this color scheme is the artwork on the top panel, which uses a textured finish and features licensed art of various characters from Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. I actually sat for a few minutes admiring all this while taking it out of the box, it looks really good. Admittedly looks don’t make a stick, but it’s still nice to have your controller be visually appealing.
Next: Comparisons with Hori Fighting Stick Wii, and Conclusion
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