CES 09: Hands On With Mad Catz's SFIV FightStick & FightPadS

If a $150 arcade stick is too rich for your blood, accessory maker Mad Catz has a few other options for the fighting game fan not content with the standard Xbox 360 or PS3 controller.

Frankly, neither option is as quite as magical as the Street Fighter IV-branded Tournament Edition Arcade FightStick controller, but for those with shallower pockets, they'll get the job done.

The standard Arcade FightStick controller, seen above, inherits nearly all of the smart design decisions featured on the Tournament Edition version — buttons on the back, turbo functions, an Xbox 360 guide button lock switch — minus the cord cozy that lets the player store the USB cord within.

It's not easy stepping down from the Tournament Edition stick, which just radiates quality, but the standard version — much cheaper at $69.99 USD — isn't too shabby. It has a much smaller footprint than its big brother, weighing considerably less but still feeling sturdy.

The standard edition doesn't carry over the same Sanwa parts that make the Tournament Edition feel so arcade accurate. The joystick itself feels chunkier, less elegant, but still serviceable. Same for the eight face buttons. All in all, not a bad stick for the money.

CES 09: Hands On With Mad Catz's SFIV FightStick & FightPadS

If you'd like to go even cheaper, the Mad Catz FightPad might be what you're looking for. It too features a programmable turbo function as seen in the arcade sticks, but, as you can see for yourself, keeps the button layout to a pad-sensible six.

The FightPad's d-pad is sort of a hybrid between an analog stick and digital pad, with the cross floating in a circular space. That makes it much easier to pull of fireball or dragon punch motions than it would be on a DualShock or Xbox 360 controller d-pad. It feels mostly accurate, much easier on the thumb, even if jumping diagonally with the pad felt more difficult because of its positioning. That may just require some getting used to, but the trade-off of upgrading from a standard pad makes it worth it.

It's worth noting that the Xbox 360 version of the FightPad controller will be wired, with the PlayStation 3 version wireless.

Overall, we were pretty pleased with the Mad Catz offerings at CES and look forward to spending more time with them for proper hardware reviews.