Just five years ago, the idea of paying big bucks for what’s essentially a glorified controller was absurd for anyone except for only the hardest of the hardcore gamers. However, with the explosive resurgence of competitive fighting games like Street Fighter IV, a new market for premium, tournament-grade joysticks was born, and now we’re witnessing new manufacturers throw their hats into the ring to get in on a profitable console accessory industry.
Today, we here at SRK Labs are taking an in-depth look at a new tournament joystick known as the “Fusion” by new U.S.-based EightArc, which is currently the only PS3, PC, and Xbox 360 compatible joystick straight out of the box available in the U.S. – that’s right, no fussing with dual modding, pcbs, wiring, soldering irons or any of that nonsense.
EightArc has teamed up with Qanba, a player in the Asian joystick market for some time now, to distribute their offerings to U.S. gamers as an additional option when choosing a tournament-grade joystick. Those of you that have run across Qanba sticks already, much of this will be familiar to you, however, there are a few small differences that EightArc has made to the design for its entry into the U.S. market. Additionally, I make many comparisons to the Mad Catz Tournament Edition FightStick as it’s the most popular arcade stick and many people already own one or have used one before.
Warning: Since we’re an enthusiast crowd of Street Fighter players, this review is extremely long, in-depth and very detailed. Use these links below to jump to different parts of the review if you’re saying to yourself “tl;dr”.
The EightArc Fusion joystick comes fully equipped with all of the features you’ve come to expect in a tournament-grade joystick, including a Sanwa JLF joystick and mounting plate, 8 Sanwa OBSF-30 30mm snap-in buttons (replaceable with Seimitsu if you swing that way), ABS plastic construction (similar to many other Japanese-style joysticks), headphone jack, lengthy 8-foot 2-inch USB cable, turbo (PS3 only), and LED indicators for player identification.
The Fusion also throws several less common features into the mix, like a felt-based bottom side with rubber feet for stability and comfort on your lap or flat surface, roomy storage compartment, an actual headset and button plugs in the box if you want to replace excess buttons. It tips the scale at about 9.5 pounds, has dimensions of 16” x 10” x 2.5”, high-gloss art with a matte plastic exterior, and carries a retail price of $189.99.
I reached out to EightArc with a few questions about the stick. Here’s what they had to say:
Why are you entering the market in the US and what is the ultimate value you are trying to provide for consumers?
Players in most of the world have been in a stagnant joystick market for quite some time. Meanwhile in Asia, Qanba has been providing a premium product. We would like players everywhere to get the best joystick anywhere. We will soon be adding Qanba products to our Eightarc line via pre-order.
What are your key differentiators that EightArc and the Fusion stick specifically are trying to provide? (Aside from the dual-mod)
Ergonomics – We feature more space on our top panel than some other joysticks. The curvature at the bottom of the joystick rests comfortably for players’ palms while playing.
Aethestics – All of our faceplates include high gloss finishes and graphics use mirror finishes. In addition to traditional plastic joysticks, we also make mass produced, hand-made MDF wood joysticks with a piano finish for the Pearl and Onyx joystick models.
Function - weight (heavier than the TE joysticks and lighter than the Hori VLX joysticks) and felt bottom. Both premium arcade components are offered: Sanwa and Seimitsu. Some models feature a detachable 10′ cord.
Ease of modification - You can take apart any of our joysticks with a Phillips and Flathead screwdriver. Other manufacturers use special screws to discourage players from modifying your joystick. Some other manufacturers even go as far as melting plastic over their screw heads to prevent modification. We also sell buttons, balltops, clear panels, and sticks all on the same site for easy one stop shopping.
Price - Our extensive product line caters to casual players up to hardcore veterans. For example, our ISO PS3 Ebony joysticks uses all Sanwa parts and is only $109.99. On the other hand, our Limited Edition Fusion Sapphire uses the latest Seimitsu clear components, is triple modded for PC/PS3/360, has a translucent blue case, special mirrored faceplate graphics, and is priced at $199.99. Custom MDF wood joysticks are usually over $300. Our Pearl and Onyx MDF models offer similar aesthetics at much more affordable prices.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a peek inside…
For the Fusion joystick, getting into the joystick to perform a few modifications is best from the bottom side. There are 8 Phillips screws that need to be removed before getting your tinker on – as a matter of fact, all screws on this joystick, both top and bottom, are Phillips, which means dealing with fewer tools – a nice touch. (As a quick reminder, opening your joystick will void the warranty.) Additionally, you’ll notice the felt bottom and rubber feet, good for both flat surface play and also saving your lap from what feels like crotchbite on a cold day.
Once inside, you’ll immediately notice a few things: First, the wiring is extremely clean and tight, and all wires are connected to their respective parts through quick disconnects and molex adapters. This means no soldering is required to replace a joystick or button, which can be a lifesaver in the midst of a tournament competition.
The second thing you’ll probably notice with a “?” over your head is the location of the USB cord and compartment. The Fusion joystick takes a unique approach and places the USB cord and compartment on the left-hand joystick side of the stick. I’m not entirely sure why they would place it on the side – possibly some sort of design or manufacturing reason – but it may be an annoyance to some users as the USB cord comes out from the left hand side rather than the top that we’re typically used to.
However for me personally, the length of the USB cord combined with the larger-than-average compartment storage more than make up for it.You can easily fit an additional cable for other systems, spare buttons, or small tools to bring with you to tournaments, making it a small touch that makes a big impact.
Looking further into the stick, you’ll notice that the PCB is broken down into two pieces, one being the main controller board on the bottom side and the other as a daughter card for the Start, Select, Turbo, Home and system selector functions. Both PCBs are larger than what you would find in an Xbox 360 Mad Catz TE, but ultimately that has no major impact in the actual usage of the stick.
Calling all Tech Talkers: Interestingly, to achieve dual compatibility, the controller PCB itself looks to be a two-piece solution soldered together with a common ground and slider switch. What this probably means is that adding more systems through something like Toodles’ MC Cthulhu is probably very possible since the stick is common ground. I also noticed multiple solder points to tap into for additional mods, which gets my nerdy joystick-modding heart a flutter since soldering wires to points the size of a grain of sand pisses me off since I suck a soldering.
When comparing this with several other sticks, you’ll notice that there’s more room internally to work with and less plastic “structure” as some sticks like the TE and the VSHG have an additional layer of plastic frame in between the top and the bottom.
This can be seen as a pro, con or neither depending on your perspective. On one hand, you have simpler, easier access to perform modifications and far more room to work with. On the other hand, some may notice a more “hollow” sound and argue a less rigid feel when playing on it. For me personally, I did not find any huge adjustment necessary from any of my other sticks, and the brain-dead simplicity of opening and changing parts was appreciated, however fellow SRKer Kineda played on the stick and said the feeling was an adjustment but definitely enjoyed playing on it.
Going back to the outside and looking from the top, you’ll be greeted with a sharp, high-gloss, minimalist design – the classic white on black artwork on a matte black joystick frame. While I honestly don’t give damn how many Blaz Blu characters my stick has on the front so long as the thing works, but some users do take their artwork seriously. EightArc’s clean and simple design comes in as a nice alternative to some of the busier sticks on the market.
However, the real story on the top side is behind the high-gloss art. First, its mounting screws are recessed, meaning that you get a smooth flat surface edge to edge on the glossy surface – no bulging screw heads or carriage bolts here.
If you want to get in from the top side, you’ll find the Phillips screws underneath 6 circular glossy stickers on the top side. You’ll need to remove those stickers and place them somewhere safe so you don’t lose them. Fortunately, you do not need to open the stick from the top side ever unless you are looking to change the art up.
Removing the six screws on the top, you’ll notice that the top panel is divided into two sections – a lexan/plastic-type panel and a steel metal plate underneath, both of which are recessed into the actual case of the stick. You can also easily score a clear plexi top from EightArc, so you can easily print out and replace your artwork without adding any additional bulk to the stick, since it’s all recessed into the case. They even throw in replacement stickers and have templates for you to make your own custom art on their website – find out more here.
Typically on other sticks that I’ve owned, like the TE and VSHG, the artwork is basically a sticker directly on top of the steel plate, so adding a lexan layer adds additional bulk to the stick. However, since there is already an additional panel, it does change the shaft height of the stick a small amount, but it’s barely noticeable, but it’s worth noting you’re a stickler for that kind of thing.
The steel panel also shows its Qanba roots as it still has the cutout for the Start button, which used to reside uncomfortably close to the fierce and roundhouse buttons. Nice decision by EightArc to move that to the top mini panel, however you can still utilize it with some basic drilling or a custom lexan top if you need an additional button on the top side.
From a pure hardware perspective, EightArc has a lot going for it. But how does it stack up in real-world performance?
With Sanwa parts just like its MadCatz and Hori counterparts, it’s natural to expect a very similar performance. However, the key part to test in an arcade joystick is its brain – the PCB. Check out this video below.
I’ve hooked up a single button to two PCBs – one on a Cthulhu by Toodles and the other on the EightArc Fusion – to test out the reaction time performance of each stick. Both sticks are connected to the same system. Footage is then recorded and then played back in slow motion to see if there are any differences in the number of frames required for a move to start up. Two buttons are tested: Jab and Roundhouse.
I received some very interesting results. The EightArc actually performed either as well as the MC Cthulhu or even faster in some instances. In some cases, the EightArc and the MC Cthulhu (I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly) activated at the same time, and in some cases the EightArc activated slightly faster – never the other way around. These are promising results for the Fusion stick and Qanba’s PCB. Keep in mind that the video footage I shot was only at 30 FPS, so it’s difficult to calculate the exact frame difference between the two, however, you can clearly tell that there is a difference. I will try to add a Mad Catz PS3 PCB in the near future as an update. (I could not perform an Xbox 360 version of this test since it would freak out every time I tried to hook a button up to two sticks. If anyone has any insight on how to fix this, let me know.)
A few minor notes here to add: The Turbo function, as mentioned before, only works on the PS3 and there is only one speed setting and one LED indicator for it. To most fighting gamers, this makes absolutely no difference, but SHMUPers and other gamers might find this a bit of a letdown.
In terms of usability, the EightArc Fusion does have a more top-side real estate than its MadCatz TE counterpart. You can definitely notice this on the right hand side past the last two left trigger buttons. The left hand side is about the same as the MadCatz in terms of the distance from the left to the joystick mount, and in terms of height, there’s a slight slope to the stick with the highest point being about 4 or 5mm higher than the MadCatz TE with the lowest point being about the same, making it a slightly taller stick overall.
EightArc and Qanba have teamed up to bring an extremely fierce competitor into the world of tournament-grade arcade fighting sticks. While it does carry a higher-than-average MSRP of $189.99 and a few negligible oddities, the fact that it’s PS3/PC/Xbox 360 compatible out of the box is a huge, huge plus going for the Fusion joystick. Keep in mind, a tournament grade joystick + dual-system modification already runs in the $200 range, plus you run the risk of damaging your stick and voiding your warranty, so the EightArc Fusion is without a doubt the simplest, most cost-effective and hassle-free way to get a dual-system compatible tournament-grade stick.
Aside from that, there’s plenty of other reasons to enjoy the Fusion – button plugs included with in the box, roomy USB cord compartment and stick interior, recessed lexan and steel panel top side, simple single-tool modifications with a Phillips screwdriver, clean wiring, and solid performance just to name a few. And while this may not be considered groundbreaking in any way, it’s refreshing to see new ideas, features and designs in the U.S. market with a new competitor. After all, isn’t that what the fighting spirit is all about?
The only PS3/Xbox 360/PC stick available in the U.S.
Recessed screws and top plates for a smooth top
Roomy compartment to store buttons, cords, etc.
Button plugs and headset included in box
Clean interior wiring
All-Phillips screw design with easy moddability
USB cord on the left side may be annoying
Top-side screw stickers could easily be lost
A more “hollow” feel than some other sticks
Own an EightArc or Qanba stick? Share your thoughts in the comments below!