With the release of Marvel vs Capcom 3 looming and Mortal Kombat a few months later, some of you may be thinking about buying an arcade stick to authenticate the experience. Let’s take a look at Hori’s latest model.
Since the release of Street Fighter IV and subsequently, Super Street Fighter IV, the Mad Catz Tournament Edition Fightstick has been the quality standard for arcade sticks with slightly cheaper sticks like the Hori Real Arcade Pro EX being a more ideal choice for casual players. Hori intends to compete with the Mad Catz TE stick by introducing the Hori Real Arcade Pro VX SA for players who want the authentic arcade experience. The Playstation 3 version (HRAP V3 SA) has been available in Japan for over a year now and could be imported but both sticks are only now available in North America.
Like just about every stick on the market, the HRAP VX SA is a Japanese stick which entails a few things if you’re not familiar with these peripherals. It uses all authentic Sanwa arcade parts, which is the most popular manufacturer in Japan. There are eight face buttons and since this stick mimics the Taito Viewlix arcade cabinets, the buttons are arranged with a bit of a slanted arc, which may take some getting used to if you’ve been using some other sticks.
Also, being Japanese style and using Sanwa buttons, the buttons are convex and are a little mushy, though they are ultra responsive. This is in contrast to American style buttons that are usually concave and have distinct clicks when depressed.
Again, being Japanese style, the joystick has a square restrictor-gate. This means that if you move the joystick around its edges, you’ll feel a square whereas most American cabinets use octagon-gates, making quarter-circle motions easier as you can just roll the stick. This can definitely be jarring at first but can easily be adjusted to with some practice. Square-gates are standard on just about all retail arcade sticks so this should be no shock to you if you’re familiar with them.
Luckily, if either the buttons, the stick or the gate-restrictor really bothers you, just like the Mad Catz sticks, Hori allows their sticks to be modified very easily. There are quick connects for the wires of each of the buttons and the Sanwa buttons themselves are snap-ins. The gate restrictor is also easily replaceable if you prefer an octagon gate over square. However other than a preference for the American style or a dislike for the colors, I honestly can’t see many people wanting to swap out parts since these are already authentic arcade parts. I should note however that while the Mad Catz TE sticks have six screws on the top to remove the faceplate and gain access to the inner-workings of the stick, the HRAP VX SA’s screws are on the bottom of the box, making modding slightly less convenient but definitely not difficult by any means.
The stick includes all the necessary buttons for the Xbox 360 to function normally in menus or on the dashboard. You have all four face buttons, triggers and bumpers, though real arcade cabinets usually only have six buttons. It also includes an Xbox Guide button and Back button at the top (Playstation button and Select respectively on PS3) and a mic jack on the front so you can talk smack to your buddies when you pull off those victories. The only things that are missing from a standard controller are the right joystick and the R3 and L3 buttons, though it’s extremely rare for arcade games and fighters to use those buttons.
Notably, the Start button is placed to the right of the eight primary buttons. I know some have stated that this is too close and they find themselves occassionally hitting the Start button by accident but I personally didn’t find this to be a problem at all. It’s well out of the reach of the arcade-accurate six buttons and I can only see hitting Start by accident if you are a button masher and flail wildly to hit the two custom buttons on the right. I personally didn’t have any issues with this but it should be noted that some might.
This stick also comes with individual turbo switches for each of the eight buttons allowing three different speeds (off, 10x/second, 20x/second). I don’t find turbo very useful in most fighters but this is invaluable when playing old-school arcade shooters like Galaga and R-type. Having turbo will save your wrist and fingers from falling off.
Conveniently, there is a storage compartment at the back to hide the 10 foot USB cable allowing for cleaner storage and easier mobility if you want to bring it around to a friend’s place or a tournament. It also has wings on either side allowing you to lift and carry the stick much easier than any other stick on the market. These are small but welcome features as most sticks do not offer these luxuries.
The stick is pretty big but fairly light, especially when compared to the beefy Mad Catz TE stick. Nevertheless, it won’t slide around when placed on a table thanks to the four rubber feet. Or if you’re a lap player like me, it’s also heavy and big enough that it shouldn’t move too much.
The build quality is excellent thanks to the sturdy outer case and the authentic Sanwa arcade parts, which allows it to take a beating from even the roughest player. Suffice to say, this product will definitely last a long time.
I should also note that these sticks are not limited to use on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Both the VX SA and the V3 SA sticks (Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively) are fully compatible with PCs and MACs. This is very useful for playing arcade games through emulators that may not be available as retail, XBLA or PSN downloadable games.
The stick retails for $140, which is in the same price range as the Mad Catz TE stick and other premium sticks. Just like the Mad Catz TE stick, the HRAP VX SA also uses official Sanwa parts with similarly excellent build quality and both replicate the Viewlix arcade cabinets so between these two, the decision is almost entirely based on preference in the artwork or brand loyalty (or disloyalty in the case of Mad Catz’ past reputation). Nevertheless, the HRAP VX SA is a fantastic stick and if you’re looking for an authentic arcade stick then look no further. The Hori Real Arcade Pro VX SA is one of the best choices out there.