Another year, another big name fighter returns (Soul Calibur V), and Mad Catz has yet another licensed arcade stick ready for players whose souls are still burning. To coincide with the release of Soul Calibur V (SCV), Mad Catz has prepared a special SCV themed fighting stick for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I have had the pleasure of spending the past couple of weeks with the Xbox 360 version of the product and while the Soul Calibur V Arcade Fightstick Soul Edition looks a little bit different than the company’s other tournament edition releases
, the results are more of the same.
Just like the Tournament Edition line of sticks for both Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the SCV stick is crafted using high quality Sanwa Denshi parts directly from Japan. Featuring 30mm OBSF-30 buttons and a ball-top joystick, the responsiveness and quality of the main components is about as good as you can get with a retail fightstick. I do find that the buttons and the stick, in general, feel a tad bit looser than I care for them to be. While this doesn’t effect their performance in any way, it gives them a loose feel and that “clicky” sound when using, which some people actually prefer.
The stick is designed to recreate the arcade experience for Namco’s recently release Soul Calibur V. The buttons are laid out in conjuction with the standard arcade / Namco Noir format traditionally used for the arcade entries in the series. What this means is that the attack buttons are laid out in an arc formation, and in the case of this controller, stacked in 2 rows of four. This is a very ergonomic layout that matches up nearly perfectly with the natural alignment of your fingertips. The buttons also utilize a spacing between them that corresponds naturally with the spread of your fingers. Needless to say, it all feels very comfortable.
Just because it was designed for SCV doesn’t mean that you can’t use it with your other games though, it is compatible with any and all fighting games, and most games in general. Don’t be afraid to plus it in and fire up the likes of Street Fighter IV, BlazBlue, or Mortal Kombat. Just know that when you do play it with one of these games, you are going to have to do a bit of configuration in terms of the buttons; the default button assignments for the controller don’t really match up with default button assignments for those games. This sort of thing is to be expected when you have a stick designed specifically for a single title.
The compatibility with other games is helped by the inclusion of a toggle switch for the joystick; with a simple slide of a button you can change it from acting as the directional pad to either the left or right analog sticks. This means that your favorite XBLA (or PSN) platformers and other arcade classics can easily be played with true arcade accuracy. If you want to get the edge in your game, regardless of the genre, Mad Catz has included turbo functionality in the controller. You can turn on the function for any of the stick’s pushbuttons; serious fighting game fans know that this is a complete no-no when it comes to competitive play. As a result, Mad Catz has included the ability to completely shut off the turbo feature with a simple flick of a switch, keeping the controller within competition standards.
Those looking to chat with the competition online will find an integrated headset port for plugging in wired headsets. The stick includes a short adapter to make connections easy since the port isn’t contoured like the bottom of a standard 360 controller. This isn’t the most convenient set up in the world so I hope that you have a wireless headset; depending on the length of your headset, I found myself feeling tied down to the controller, forced to hover over top of it more than I cared to in order to chat with other gamers during usage. While I do have some gripes about this, I am not sure that there is a better solution in terms of supporting wired headsets. The issue exists more with the wire than it does with the stick.
The Soul Edition stick also features the now traditional heavy, metal base which gives the entire unit quite a bit of weight and helps ensure it won’t be moving around on you while using it on a table or flat surface. This is one heavy piece of hardware, clocking in at about 10.6 pounds. If you still have concerns about movement during usage, the included rubber feet can be unscrewed from the stick’s base and you can actually mount the stick to the surface using small bolts. Needless to say, this thing is built like a tank. It is built to last and will do just that.
The casing around the outer edge of this controller is crafted from a translucent plastic which gives the controller a bit of a visual “pop” It is nice to see the technical innards of the controller, even with the various hues used on each side. This really gives the stick a more hi-tech look than the previous offerings, which were simply solid pieces of mass.
And of course, what Mad Catz fightstick would be complete without the presence of gorgeous artwork on the play surface. The Soul Edition stick definitely brings that to the table with a gorgeous depiction of both the Soul Blade and the Soul Edge. The duality of the Soul Calibur universe is reflected in the art as half of the face is consumed by the dark energy of the Soul Edge and the light energy of the Soul Calibur. The two swords are shown side-by-side, encompassing nearly the entire surface. It is a subtle, yet effective look. I am really glad that the artwork used depicts the swords from the franchise rather than any specific characters, as they are the true stars of the story.
In order to ensure the effectiveness and responsiveness of the controller, Mad Catz has once again elected to go the wired route with the Soul Edition stick. This is a no-brainer when it comes to the competitive level of fight games as every single frame and millisecond matters; you don’t have time to worry about latency in this world, and the wired connection ensures that you won’t. The cord for the stick is 13 feet long, giving you quite a bit of range for usage, so you never really feel tethered down. As with most wired Xbox-controllers, the Xbox 360 version of the stick also features the break away connection cable which should help trips and falls as well as unwanted wear and tear on the cord from people passing by. The cord, thankfully, is stored in an enclosed compartment on rear of the stick, keeping things nice and neat when it isn’t in use. Granted, it is a very tight fit and getting it in there perfectly is something that takes some time to master, the fact is it is a very convenient feature.
The packaging of the stick also serves as a display case for those wanting to show off their hardware. Much like the controller itself, the box is covered in beautiful artowrk from the Soul Calibur universe. It is made of a solid, cardboard material that is very rigid to the touch and glossy (visually). There are two cover flaps that are held in the closed position by magnets which are enclosed in their tips. Opening them up reveals the stick in all its beautiful glory behind a window of plastic. This thing will look great sitting on top of your desk or entertainment center, just as the previous display boxes do.
As far as complaints go, I can’t say that I have many with this stick. While I am not a fan of the feel that comes with loose-buttons, I can’t argue with their performance. This stick is spot on, even after intense usage for some extended periods of time. There is absolutely zero lag on any of the inputs, pushbutton or joystick. Button presses are super short and it is ultra-responsive. Being a product designed for home use, I would like to have seen it be a little more “lap-friendly”, which is a complaint that I have with the MvC3 stick as well. These sticks just aren’t comfortable when using them on your lap; then again, they aren’t really designed for that and are meant to be used on a flat surface.
The Soul Calibur V Arcade Fightstick Soul Edition is everything that it is billed to be: the ultimate tournament level arcade stick for the home market. Don’t balk at the price; considering that quality of the build and the performance of the product, this is a super cheap stick for the competitive scene. If you are looking to take your (fighting) game to the next level, and happen to be a major Soul Calibur fan, this is definitely a stick you will want to consider.