A killer stick with one game to play on it
Mad Catz and I have a rather interesting history. One fine summer day, I had rented the PlayStation One game Ninja: Shadow of Darkness, and decided to try out my brand new Mad Catz controllers. Halfway into the final level the adhesive on the d-pad gave out, causing me to lose my last life and rub some of the skin off of my thumb. I threw the controller against the wall and didn't use another Catz controller for years. I even went so far as to occasionally gift friends licensed controllers if they didn't have any.
But the Catz has come a very long way since then, and has forged a reputable bond with the fighting game community with a long line of sturdy and dependable arcade sticks. The newest of which is the Killer Instinct Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2 for the Xbox One.
Product: Killer Instinct Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2
To get things out of the way -- yes, Killer Instinct is the only fighting game for the Xbox One, so you would in fact be buying it for one title. But thankfully that one game is actually pretty good, and I've been heartily enjoying my time with its accompanying arcade stick (for reference, I couldn't get the stick working on a PC). Before I even turned it on, my impression of the Tournament Edition 2 was positive, especially given how comfortable it was.
The stick rested easily on any surface or my legs, as the base is very durable, and complete with a foam padding. Even during some of the more intense fights, the stick still stayed locked in a perfect position, and it didn't grind on me at all. It's great because the stick feels weighty so it won't go anywhere while you're using it, but it's not so heavy that it can't be easily transported.
The Tournament Edition 2 uses a Sanwa Japanese arcade cabinet rated joystick and collection of buttons, and they legitimately feel high in quality. The layout of the stick is eight buttons, allowing for your standard light, medium, and heavy kick scheme as well as two extra buttons for "3x Punch" and "3x Kick" -- both of which come in real handy when popping off Ultras and Shadow combos in Killer Instinct.
They're set in a Vewlix configuration (as you can see here), which is one of my preferred layouts. The stick is wired, and comes with a hefty 9.8ft cable (which is actually a "procable" that screws in tightly into the stick), a decent length for any size room. If you're looking for a place to actually plug it in, the Xbox One has an easy-to-reach USB port on its left side, in addition to some in the back.
In terms of the bells and whistles beyond the button and joystick functionality, there are a few extras that I used often. The stick has a Lock and Unlock switch that disables the View and Menu Xbox One buttons (and thus, removes the ability of disqualification by pausing the game), and the ability to turn the LED light functionality on or off. There's also a fun "haptic" setting that allows the buttons to light up while syncing with the controller's rumble data. Most of the time I had the LEDs turned off, but I enjoyed the option, and it's a neat way to show off your new stick.
For all the hardcore stick fans out there, you'll find solace in the fact that the Tournament Edition 2 is easily moddable. All you have to do is pop the case with the front-facing button, and you're good to go. The stick comes with a screwdriver as well which is convenient, as it's basically all you need to start tinkering away.
If you hate the default design insert on the stick (which oddly only features the four male fighters), you can pop it out and replace it with any picture you want (Mad Catz has some great samples here) -- and thankfully, you don't need to re-wire anything to change the art, because it's just eight screws to get to it. In terms of storage space there isn't a whole lot (it's all internal), but you can at least fit a few nicknacks in there and still close the stick.
So what are the problems with the Tournament Edition 2? Well, mostly the price, and the limited library you're facing at the launch of the Xbox One. For $199.99, it's odd that the stick comes with a handy tab for a shoulder strap, but not the strap itself (which is sold separately). Mad Catz also missed an opportunity to pack in some sort of voucher in the package for existing in-game content, which would have made it a bit more enticing for those who don't already own the game.
As it stands though, you really know what you're getting into when you buy the FightStick Tournament Edition 2. You're buying into the promise of more fighting games, with the ability to only play one right now. As long as you're fully willing the make that commitment, the stick itself works exact how it should, and I'm actually using it daily during my lab visits. It might be the only option on the Xbox One currently, but thankfully, it's a great one.
The good thing about this stick is that it's really easy to put into perspective. If you find yourself playing Killer Instinct weekly, and you're excited for the upcoming additions of Spinal and Fulgore, you'll most likely want this stick. If you're only practicing sparingly and don't really dig the game -- you can pass. It's as simple as that.