Over the past couple of years, gamers have been witness to a rebirth of the fighting game genre. Thanks to the efforts of many companies, but perhaps most notably Capcom, the genre has quickly risen to the top once more. Titles such as (Super) Street Fighter IV, BlazBlue, Mortal Kombat, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are at the forefront of the industry as they were over a decade ago. In the fighting game world, there is one gleaming difference between the casual player and the seasoned veteran: the fight stick. A lot of gamers can hold their own using the standard console controllers but anyone looking to take their game to the next level needs to seriously consider getting a true arcade-style stick. Just take a look at the competitive scene; you won’t see a single player using a controller. All serious play is done using arcade controllers.
When it comes to picking an arcade stick for use at home, the market offers you a variety of options. Mad Catz in particular offers consumers a variety of options taking the step into the competitive fray regardless of their budget. Their latest release is aimed at the higher end of the market: the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Tournament Edition fight stick. The lower end offerings provide a nice alternative to the regular controller but if you are looking for a true arcade experience and quality, this is the level of fight stick that you need. What exactly sets the sticks apart other than price? well, I am glad that you asked...
The most noticeable difference in the MvC3 Tournament Edition FightStick over the lower end sticks is the quality of its build and the parts used in the design. This stick uses genuine Sanwa Denshi parts for both the pushbuttons and joystick; specifically it uses a ball-top joystick with 30MM standard buttons. In terms of layout, the stick utilizes the standard Vewlix cabinet configuration, which has become pretty standard for most 6-button fighting games. In comparison to the standard Mad Catz joystick (as shown in the pictures included in this article) all of the components feel a lot tighter (physically) and are much more responsive. These components are built to take a pounding and maintain their responsiveness after hours upon hours of usage. I have easily racked up well over 20 hours of play directly on this stick and it is still as responsive as it was when I first took it our of the box.
The entire controller case is incredibly solid in terms of its physical build. Weighing just over 9 pounds, the controller is made to stay secure when rested on a flat surface. You won’t have to worry about it slipping or sliding on the surface thanks to four rubber feet screwed into the bottom. The top surface is much larger than the standard edition controllers, making it a more comfortable place for players to rest their forearms during play. The striking black casing with red trim is topped off with a fantastic collage of the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 cast, giving nod to its pedigree. The whole package looks very slick and really stands out when placed next to other sticks; it looks like it means business and let me assure you, it does. Another nice feature of the Tournament Edition FightStick is the included storage compartment for the cord its decorative storage box. The stick is corded and not wireless, ensuring that no lag is visible in its input or performance. The cord, which measures roughly 13 feet, is enclosed behind a small door on the top edge of the controller. There isn’t a ton of extra space and it is occasionally a challenge to fit the cord back in after using it but it is a welcome feature to the standard sticks which require you to deal with a dangling cord with no place to go. The packaging that the stick comes is meant to be kept and doubles as a nice display case for the controller if you are into that sort of thing. The doors are magnetic, keeping it secured in a closed position during storage.
In addition to the standard joystick functions, the FightStick also features turbo abilities as well as a locking mechanism to ensure they aren’t triggered accidentally. Granted, these won’t be used in regulated competition, but it is a nice feature to have when using the stick for other games such as the various arcade / retro titles. The start and select buttons have been placed on the top of the case, well out of the way of the normal playing field. Mad Catz has used the same Sanwa Denchi pushbuttons that appear on the face of the stick for these functions on this controller in contrast to the smaller, plastic buttons used on the standard sticks. This makes them larger and easier to find blindly without have to physically turn the stick and locate them during gameplay.
This all sounds good but how does the stick perform? Three words: Like. A. Charm.
The controller is easily the best home controller that I have used yet, including a couple of Mad Catz’s other offerings and competitors such as Hori and X-Arcade’s various products. The joystick itself feels much tighter and has a great “spring” to it which restores it to a centered position quickly upon release. Each of the pushbuttons responds to even the slightest touch and their spacing is near perfect. This stick was designed for the serious player and will definitely suit their needs. I put the stick through a litany of trials on games such as Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat (2011 demo), Mortal Kombat 2, Puzzle Fighter (PSN), Street Fighter Alpha 2, and WWE All Stars. I walked away from almost every game vowing to never play them with a standard controller again. The only exception was WWE All Stars but that was due to the control setup of the game which was based purely on personal preference for the control scheme.
There are only two complaints that I have about the stick and both are simply personal gripes rather than performance issues. First off, the edges on the face of the stick should be rounded more than they are; instead of using the rounded edges of the standard stick, the Tournament Edition’s are sharper and less comfortable when resting your arm across them. This isn’t a huge deal and doesn’t hamper the performance in any manner but in trying them side by side, I prefer the rounded edges over the sharper ones hands down. The Tournament Edition stick isn’t exactly “lap friendly” either. This stick is meant to be played on a flat surface such as a table, which is evident from its size and weight. I can deal with both of those factors when placing it on my lap but the base is solid metal and doesn’t sit comfortably... then again, it isn’t supposed to be.
Long story short, the Mad Catz MvC3 Tournament Edition FightStick is arguably the best stick I have seen for the home market. It is perfectly sized to be portable while maintaining a solid build and feel that is unmatched by anything else on the market. I own quite a few other sticks including my own custom builds but don’t see myself using any of them now that I have this stick. If you are considering taking your fighting game “career” to the next level and contemplating making the push toward the competitive level, this stick is a must.