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Intro by Trouble Brewing 5 (with some additional edits by d3v 1).
Welcome to the world of arcade sticks!
Many fighting game fans, both casual and competitive, decide at some point to ditch the pad for an arcade stick. At one time, the options for American consumers were very limited, but following the release of Street Fighter 4 and subsequent revitalization of the fighting game scene, many new products are available on the market.
Why use a stick in the first place?
Simply put, most fighting game fans find them to be the superior control method. The stick itself is generally considered to be more precise and fluid than a d-pad. Having access to six (or eight) buttons on the control panel is also extremely useful for many advanced techniques in a variety of games. Some of the older, grizzled veterans also prefer them as they grew up playing on arcade parts. The ?authentic feel? is very important to them.
That being said, when most people first change to a stick from a pad, they find their execution suffers in the short-term. This is totally normal! It takes most people a few weeks of practice to get used to playing on a stick. Spend some time in training mode before considering going back to pad, or altering your stick in some manner. You will adjust.
What is the best stick?
The truth is there is no "best" stick. The answer is subjective. The important thing is understand the differences, so you can make good decisions for yourself.
What is the difference between Japanese and American parts?
In short, Japanese parts tend to be more sensitive and responsive. American parts typically require more effort to move and engage button commands. People generally view Japanese parts to be of higher build quality. That doesn't mean they are necessarily ?better.? Most of the top Japanese and American players use Japanese arcade parts.
On top of that, these days pretty much all of the commercially available off-the-shelf arcade sticks use Japanese arcade hardware, so they are easier to find.
What is the difference between Sanwa, Seimitsu, and other manufacturers?
Sanwa and Seimitsu are the two largest producers of Japanese arcade hardware. Which should you get? Ideally, try both out and decide which you prefer. If that isn't an option for you, just get a stick with Sanwa parts. The Madcatz TE stick is full Sanwa stick and buttons and most of the Hori Real Arcade Pro (HRAP) line has a Sanwa stick at minimum. Seimitsu parts also have a lot of fans, but really, you can?t go wrong with Sanwa.
As far as American parts go, ironically the best American parts currently come from a European company, "iL." If you?d like to know more about Sanwa, Seimitsu, and the other arcade part companies, consult the essentials thread.
What stick should I buy? As of October 2021, this is out of date and will be updated in the near future.
There are basically four price ranges sticks come in: around $50, around $120, around $150, and $250+.
Get the Mad Catz SE
In the $50 range, you first need to understand that these sticks do not have real arcade parts in them. They use knock off parts. If you want an entry level stick, or aren't sure how serious you are about fighting games as a hobby, they are good options.
Why the Mad Catz SE? It?s very easy to mod. If you ever decide you want to move on to real arcade hardware, Sanwa and Seimitsu parts more or less drop right in.
The around $120 range generally features sticks with arcade parts, full or partial. The big sticks to look out for here are from Mad Catz and Hori.
Mad Catz offers the TE stick, which features a Sanwa stick and buttons. Hori offers the Real Arcade Pro (HRAP) line, which comes in a few flavors. Normal HRAPs have a Sanwa stick, but have Hori (read: knockoff) buttons. HRAP SAs are full Sanwa, stick and buttons. HRAP SEs are full Seimitsu. Both the Mad Catz and Hori lines are easily modded with other parts, so those knockoff parts in the HRAP3 line can be easily dealt with. The HRAP and TE lines also have slightly different button layouts.
You can?t really go wrong with any of them. The one thing the Mad Catz TE has going against it is the lack of backwards compatibility with playing PS2 games on the PS3. Most people don?t use the PS3 for serious play of PS2 games anyway. Other than that, the TE is a solid choice. There are certain specialty mods (dual console modding) that are much easier to do on the TE than the Xbox 360 HRAP line.
The 150 and above price range is usually reserved for top of the line arcade sticks with premium features. These features may include dual console functionality (at the cost of official licensing from Sony or MS), ease of modding with swing open top panels, touch panels, LED lighting, metal construction, etc.
Examples of these include the Hori Fighting Edge, MadCatz Tournament Edition 2, Hori VLX, the various multi console Qanba sticks, and the Razer Atrox.
The $250+ range is generally reserved for custom builders. There are a number of excellent custom builders lurking around SRK.
Sticks in this price range are for people who aren't satisfied with off-the-shelf sticks, or want to have something unique. If you are just getting started in the arcade stick world, these might be more than you want to pay for. They are worth every penny though!