Hori Fighting Stick Alpha – Design and Features
The Fighting Stick Alpha is a tournament-grade fighting stick – meaning that it’s designed with durable components that allow for precise inputs without succumbing to the abuse associated with continuous, high-level play. That’s a feat that’s achieved thanks partially to the Hayabusa line of levers, buttons, and switches.
The Alpha’s eight-directional joystick sits low, quickly registering the slightest of movements. Light clicks inform you that your inputs are being read. The buttons for punching and kicking are a little louder, though. Housed in rows of four with a slight curve, their ergonomic design is familiar; most fighting game fans will be comfortable with their placement. Like the joystick, they also sit low for quick inputs.Fast, reliable, and feeling great to the touch, Hori’s Hayabusa joystick and buttons are known for being responsive. The coolness of the metal joystick complements the softness of the matte finished buttons. Neither seem as though they were cheaply made; on the contrary, they seem to be designed to resist wear and tear. The matte finish and breathable spacing around the buttons, for instance, act as preventative measures against button sticking. That’s as opposed to the plastic, tightly housed buttons found on other sticks that sometimes struggle to move freely after some time has passed.
The Fighting Stick Alpha’s chassis is just as durable. Its 7.5lb frame is sturdy enough to endure reasonable bangs and bumps while in transport, and all but the glass that covers the main panel is resistant to fingerprints. And the hinges, which allow the chassis to be opened for maintenance with a simple release lever, are capable of holding in place regardless of angle. As for its size, the Alpha’s chassis is a bit bulky, but not overly cumbersome. With its length, width, and height sitting at 18.9, 14.37, and 6.5 inches respectively, the Alpha is large and heavy enough for tabletop play but small and light enough to sit comfortably on your lap on the couch. Of course, how you feel about its size and shape will be up to individual preference, but personally, I felt that it was perfect for competitive scenes.
On the inside is a color-coded diagram that shows the button/cable layout, plastic holders to wrap the controller’s USB cord around when not in use, and access to the top panel’s screws. A few quick turns and they’ll pop out, making it easy to swap out the top panel artwork. Hori doesn’t offer custom panel work, but provides a template you can use to make or commission your own.
Because the Alpha is licensed by Microsoft for the Xbox Series S/X, Hori included a few console-specific niceties along the top of the stick. These include LSB and RSB (left and right stick), as well as the Xbox controller’s View, Menu, and Share buttons, and of course an Xbox button itself. There’s also a profile switcher, key lock toggle (which locks out certain buttons to prevent accidental inputs, like pause, that could disqualify tournament players) and onboard headset and mic audio controls, all of which are conveniently placed but out of the danger zone for unintentional presses.
By connecting a 9.5mm headset into the left side of the stick, I could chat with friends via Xbox Live without a controller nearby. The onboard audio controls made muting, raising, and lowering the volume a cinch. Basically, Hori made it so you won’t need to use an Xbox controller in conjunction with the Fighting Stick Alpha to perform basic functions.
Hori Fighting Stick Alpha – Performance
During my 20+ hours of testing, the Fighting Stick Alpha always performed splendidly. It didn’t matter if I was playing Street Fighter V on PC or Samurai Shodown on my Xbox Series X – I had an amazing time winning and losing to friends online. The responsiveness of the controls made difficult maneuvers like a counter-based punish in Tekken 7 or pro link combos in Street Fighter IV easier to execute, so much so that any time I failed to send out a fireball or dropped a combo it felt as though the fault landed squarely on my shoulders rather than the controls.
I did attribute some losses to how sensitive the buttons are, though. With my fingers hovering over the X and Y buttons, it was easy to accidentally graze one when trying to press the other. Instead of pressing “low punch” (to throw a Fireball), I’d press low and medium punch, tossing out an EX Fireball or perform a Super when I didn’t want to. This would of course, lead to me getting punished by my opponent when my attack missed.
To be clear, the Hayabusa buttons are meant to be this sensitive. The idea is to reduce the time it takes for a game to register inputs, allowing you to react faster. I was just surprised at how well everything worked and it took a little getting used to. After a few matches and a slight hand adjustment I learned to respect their sensitivity and things went back to normal.
The Alpha also includes the ability to customize the fight stick’s buttons. To do so, you’ll first need to download the Hori companion app from the Microsoft store on Xbox or the Windows app store on PC. Fire it up with the Alpha plugged in and it’ll register your inputs. From there, you’re able to do things such as swap joystick functionality – making it control like a D-pad, which locks the 8-directional movements in a way that requires very intentional inputs, or like a Left Analog Stick, which offers a looser feel – or change the inputs of the LB and LT buttons to any of the other face buttons.
On one level, this proved to be rather useful. Depending on the game you’re playing (and how many buttons it uses) swapping things around is an easy way to personalize the experience. And by using the profile toggle you can quickly switch between four different configurations. This is different from just changing the buttons in a game’s menu as the swapped buttons would persist when interacting with the console’s UI or when jumping into different games.
That said, I felt that limiting the button changes to just the Joystick and LB/LT buttons was a little odd. It’s possible to move the functions of any button to LB/LT buttons (and vice versa), but you can’t swap the other buttons among themselves – you can’t swap X and A, for instance. That limitation aside, being able to change anything in the first place is much better than nothing. If Hori is looking for things to address with upcoming firmware updates, this accessibility feature would be number one on my list of requests.
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