Mad Catz Soul Calibur V Soul Edition Fight Stick review – Stick it to me, baby.

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Soul Calibur V got released last week – and it’s pretty damned good. It might have a laughable story, filled with the sort of stalwart clichés that permeate the genre – but you don’t buy fighting games for story. No, you buy them for the fighting – and there’s no better way to play a fighting game than with a good arcade fight stick. But you already know that.

What you might not know is that there’s a Soul Calibur V branded Arcade fight stick from Mad Catz – and that it’s (finally!) available locally.

When Mad Catz released their admittedly expensive Tournament Edition arcade-quality fight sticks alongside Street Fighter IV, they quickly became a phenomenon – with “core” fighting gamer picking them up en masse, and even frugal and more casual gamers shelling out for them. Unfortunately for us in South Africa, the only way to get hold of one was by importing, generally increasing the cost of the already expensive thing twofold – but that’s changed.

We’ve gotten our hands on the new Soul Calibur V Soul Edition fight stick courtesy of the local distributors – and it’s an object of remarkable beauty and quality, something that’s evident right from the moment you see the box.  It’s is a seriously good-looking bit of kit. The Soul Calibur artwork that embellishes the front of the stick depicts the Soul Calibur xword on the one half, with the Soul Edge sword on the other, with their respective colours bleeding over into the stick’s coloured, translucent side panels.

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The weighty, exceedingly high quality  cabinet features everything from the legendary Street Fighter Tournament Edition stick. An 8 way ball-topped joystick, 8 friction-free buttons on the face with two at the rear (out of the way of misplaced presses) for start and select (or back) make the standard inputs, all made by Japanese manufacturer Sanwa, renowned for their quality arcade parts. What you’re getting, essentially, is the front of a genuine arcade machine. Featuring Multi-speed Turbo functionality, allowing for two distinct turbo speeds individually mapabble to any of the input buttons, the same internal cord storage to stow away the monster, 4 metre-long USB cable and the same switch that allows you to switch the ball between left and right analogue sticks and the d-pad. With all those features present and accounted for,  it’d be easy to imagine that it’s exactly the same thing as the Street Fighter one, just rebranded – but there are a few differences.

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The first, and most noticeable is that the ball is spaced a little further from the buttons, and the buttons themselves are laid out a little differently – more in an arc than the straighter orientation of the Street Fighter stick, peefectly recreating Namco’s “Noir” arcade cabinet layout. A smaller difference – but a big one for those who’ve had TE sticks for a long time – is that the base screws of the Soul Edition are made from stainless steel – so won’t be subject to rust. Even the screw off, customiseable perspex faceplate has been redesigned, and coupled with a new bezel that improves upon the design, making it even more comfortable for long periods of use. Though it’s obviously tailored towards Soul Calibur, that doesn’t mean the stick isn’t suitable for other fighting games, and will serve you well with other fighting games like Super Street Fighter IV, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, King of Fighters XIII, Mortal Kombat and the upcoming Street Fighter X Tekken. Some people might scoff, but it’s also a fantastic buy for retro gamers who like to dabble with the re-releases of arcade games that litter Xbox Live Arcade and the PSN.

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The question is, will it make you a better player? From my experiences, indubitably so. Though it won’t be apparent at first – A stick not’s going to magically increase your skill level  – the immediacy of the stick’s input ensures that, with a bit of practice, you’ll be a better player – and you’ll never be able to play a fighting game with a standard pad again. Besides, it’s just more fun.

If you even have half an interest in fighting games, I can’t recommend this stick from Mad Catz enough. They’re going to have to pry this review unit from my dead, cold hands.

Last Updated: February 6, 2012

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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