CES 09: Hands On With Mad Catz's Street Fighter IV Tournament SticksS

Get ready to change your opinion about Mad Catz. The third-party controller maker may have made one of the best arcade sticks to ever grace these shores, thanks to its Tournament Edition Arcade FightStick.

Not only does this stick have authentic Sanwa arcade parts, sturdy construction and an arcade-perfect button layout, it comes loaded with smart design decisions. There's a panel on the back side that pops open, letting you tuck away the USB cord for storage or transport. Right next to that panel are the start and select buttons, relocated to prevent errant pausing during frantic button mashing.

And to the upper left on the top panel, just above the joystick is the unit's control panel. It's neat!

CES 09: Hands On With Mad Catz's Street Fighter IV Tournament SticksS

Mad Catz have included a Turbo switch, letting the player assign two-speeds of rapid-fire functionality to any button. Perfect for pulling off Blanka's electro-shock attack or Chun Li's hurricane kick, the Turbo button option is easy to turn on and off — and a row of LEDs shows which buttons are currently taking advantage of the cheat.

They've also added a switch that chooses which function the joystick will replicate, a controller's left analog stick, its D-pad or its right analog stick. This thing isn't just intended to be used for Street Fighter IV, despite its decoration.

Finally, that little lock and unlock switch turns the Xbox 360's guide button — and, we assume, PlayStation 3's PS button — on or off, preventing any unintended game interruptions.

Yes, but how does it feel? Solid as a rock. The highest compliment we can pay to it is that it just feels right, like we were playing Street Fighter IV on a Vewlix arcade cabinet.

And while the Tournament Edition Arcade FightStick feels hefty, it's not obese. If you're going to be really violent with the stick, it will move, for better or worse. Thankfully, if you're going to be playing fighting games seriously, you may want to take advantage of the bolting screws on the bottom of the controller. And if you're going to take it further than that, you may want to swap out the Sanwa manufactured buttons for a different color scheme — it's moddable, should you be non-plussed about invalidating your warranty.

What else can we say, other than "Sold." The Tournament Edition stick, although a bit pricey at $150 USD, oozes value and attention to detail. We definitely look forward to spending more time with the Mad Catz stick for, you know, review purposes when it ships in February.