Mad Catz Street Fighter IV Round 2 Arcade FightStick: Tournament Edition Review: My $150 FireballS

Friends don't let friends do foolhardy things, but sometimes an editor of a major gaming blog assigns his least Street-Fighter-savvy writer to review a Street Fighter arcade stick. That'd be me, the guy who allegedly can't throw a fireball.

Here's what I can be sure of. The Street Fighter IV Round 2 Tournament Edition FightStick is a fight stick for Street Fighter IV, one that you might be able to play at tournaments. Also: It's the second wave — or shall we say "round"? — of Mad Catz SFIV sticks. The change for round two? Black on the sides instead of white. A new image on the controller surface.

I pondered the stick and this thought popped into my head: "Nothing brings the arcade experience closer to home than the Street Fighter IV 'Round 2' Arcade FightStick: Tournament Edition. Featuring the same authentic Vewlix arcade configuration, robust build and genuine Sanwa Denshi Japanese style ball-handled joystick and 30mm Action Buttons embraced by gamers worldwide in the original range, the ‘Round 2' Arcade Fightstick Tournament Edition houses these premium components in a sleek, piano-black housing, featuring all new monochrome artwork taken directly from the game. The collectible packaging reflects the understated appearance of the Stick with approved artwork provided by Capcom and certain to be appreciated by fans of the franchise."

That's what the press release said, actually. On to my judgments:

Loved
Clicking To A Better Fireball: The MYTH that I can't throw a fireball comes from the pathetic video shot of me earlier this year playing Street Fighter II against rapper Soulja Boy Tell 'Em. We both played horribly and neither of us is seen throwing a fireball. I did throw some, I think, but the truth is that I haven't been able to throw them reliably since I had SFII on my Super Nintendo. The skill to throw one at will was lost to me until I tried the FightStick I'm reviewing here. At last, I understand why people shell out money for these things. Quarter-circle turns are so much easier with an actual arcade stick, as opposed to an Xbox 360 control stick or PlayStation 3 d-pad. I'm terrible with those controllers. The clicking feedback of winding an arcade stick from the 6 o'clock position to the 3 o'clock position was exactly what I needed. At home, with this stick, away from the cameras, I was throwing fireballs at will. It was like I went from being a doubles hitter to a homerun hitter, with the aid of a legal and metaphorical Mad Catz steroid. I was even able to throw Ryu's Shoryuken. I nailed the zigzag move to do it every time. To go from ineptitude on a 360 controller to perfect input execution on this FightStick was quite exciting.

Not So Garish: Thrilled as I was to feel like I'd gained some instant Street Fighter skills by using the Round 2 FightStick, I was concerned that it didn't quite fit into my life. First of all, it probably doesn't fit because it is big, about the size of my fat housecat. I don't think a game controller of that size is compatible with my marriage, and, truth be told, I had to go buy a copy of SFIV to even review this stick (GameStop only had it used. Weird.) So maybe I'm not the ideal customer. But. If I decided I needed a stick, I'd get this one due to the fact that its yellow-orange Street Fighter logo is the only major splash of color on the mostly black shell. This thing is nice and subdued and doesn't quite look like I'm covering my lap in Street Fighter IV art when I use it — unless you look closely, in which cast that's exactly what I'm doing.

Hated
The Wire: I'm sure there's a good reason for this FightStick to need to be plugged into a game console rather than working wirelesses. Maybe it's cost or latency. Hey, there's probably a good reason why this arcade stick has a headphone jack and why my headphones plug doesn't fit into it. And who am I, the guy who couldn't beat Soulja Boy to complain? But in a world of wireless controllers, I want a wireless controller.

So let's say you're on the fence about whether to buy this Round 2 FightStick. I would ask you to consider how much space you have, how much money you have and how much throwing fireballs means to you. If you're answers were "a lot," "a lot" and "a lot," then you're a potential customer. Or, if you're like me and your answers are slightly different, at least bear in mind that if you ever need to have a Street Fighter showdown and you can name the equipment, request an arcade stick. Don't use a game controller. Oh, and play with your arms crossed. The skilled players do that, or so I've seen.

The Mad Catz Street Fighter IV Round 2 Arcade Fight Stick: Tournament Edition was manufactured by Mad Catz and was made available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in the fall of 2009. Retails for $149.99 USD. An Xbox 360 edition of the stick was given to us by Mad Catz for reviewing purposes. Used it in Street Fighter IV matches and training sessions.

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