Today in the SRK Labs, we’re taking a look at the newly released Hori Hayabusa joystick and Kuro buttons. The Hayabusa, a Japanese-style microswitch joystick, and the Kuro, a 30mm pushbutton that is available in an 8-pack, are both in-house HORI creations that were first featured in the Fighting Edge joystick and now available for individual purchase. Let’s take a look.
Ever since Street Fighter II was introduced over two decades ago, standards in fighting games have been extremely important to tournament-goers. Early on, it went something like this: The software? Arcade, or a damn-close “Arcade-Perfect” port. The hardware? Bat-shaped Happ/Wico-based sticks for U.S. players, and ball-topped “lollipop” sticks and buttons for Japanese players. Basically, if you weren’t already playing on an arcade setup with arcade parts, then you were trying your damn best to recreate the arcade perfect experience, all the way down to your joystick and buttons.
Post Street Fighter IV, things have obviously changed. Tournaments are almost exclusively on console. User customization is now a huge aspect of fighting games. Custom artwork, plexi upgrades, led button mods, shit – you even have a community created controller that exists that doesn’t have a joystick. Some of it is user preference, some of it is potentially gain an edge in a tournament setting. One thing’s for certain: take those standards and throw them out the window.
In spite of these changes, the joystick and button choices have always remained constant. In the Japanese stick department, you get one of just a few choices: a Sanwa JLF or a Seimitsu, and neither company hasn’t had much incentive to innovate on their longstanding designs.
That’s where HORI comes in. With the Hayabusa and Kuro, their vision is to shake things up with an arguably better product, and give you a much needed fresh choice when choosing your next joystick and buttons.
A quick look at the box, it’s pretty clear that HORI is digging the murdered-out black on black color scheme. Opening the box reveals the stick, bubble wrapped with documentation, dust washer and ball topper.
Taking a tour of the stick, the very first impression is that it’s quite a beast. The mounting plate has the same holes as a standard Sanwa mounting plate, but it’s wider to match the larger base. At first glance, it almost looks like the love-child of a Seimitsu and a Sanwa, but further disassembly quickly dispells that.
Many of the pieces are nearly identical to their Sanwa JLF counterparts, just in a darker shade of gun-metal black. The balltop, shaft, shaft cover, dust covers (2 are included), base plastic washer, spring, actuator, and e-ring. In fact, the square gate appears to be exactly the same in size and shape. Additionally, a lot of the mounting holes, including the four screw holes for the mounting plate at the two horizontal mounting holes match a JLF as well – nearly an identical experience to the Sanwa counterpart so far.
Now, time for the good stuff – the differentiators. HORI’s documentation and marketing touts the Hayabusa’s “V Cut Cam Housing” which offers a 5%-15% reduction in load input. This is achieved by reducing the contact area between the shaft and the base and also changing the design of the surface as well.
The other big difference, which HORI doesn’t actually call out as a feature, is the construction and design of the base unit itself. After removing the bottom plate, four black microswitches are exposed with wiring that connects to a small pcb that contains the 5-pin header. The most obvious change here is that the switches are not mounted directly onto a PCB and instead are connected with wires, which offers an unexpected set of options for customization for the Hayabusa. This is the type of “sleeper” feature that makes stick modders like me salivate.
It might not seem like that big of a deal, but the upsides to this are awesome. First off, with a little bit of work, you can replace a single switch that’s acting up rather than sourcing an entire JLF pcb, and secondly, you can install pretty much any microswitch you want in there. Say you want a microswitch with more or less operating force (force applied to activate). No problem – just find one that fits and pop that shit in.
You can replace the switches with easily attainable Cherry switches or any other standard microswitch that will fit. In fact, the guys over at Tech Talk have done a great job disassembling the Hayabusa and even tried installing lever-based switches, alternate springs, and more to achieve a truly customized experience. Definitely check it out. (Shoutouts to Tech Talk and Moonchilde – they have a lot of awesome information here. Check the thread out here.)
Quick note: The stock switches that come in the Hayabusa appear to be Matsushita/Panasonic microswitches with the part number AM51630A53N, which is actually different than the original batch that came with Omron-branded switches that come in a JLF. Looking at the tech specs of the 16A microswitches, it appears that they both have 1.96N (200gf) operating force, so while HORI did make a switch (no pun intended), you probably wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.
The accompanying buttons for the Hayabusa come as the Kuro. Unboxing the Kuro shows a similar packaging design to the Hayabusa, with Kuro buttons packaged in four sets of two, each protected with its own bubble wrap. Bonus points for HORI here for obviously paying attention to packaging buttons – no one likes receiving scratched buttons and that’s well taken care of here.
The Kuro buttons are standard 30mm buttons and are snap-in style. The switch is HORI branded, which indicates it’s a design developed in house. HORI’s documentation shows the biggest benefit of the Kuro is that it cuts “60% of wear and tear”. The switch is enclosed in a standard button two-piece housing – plunger and base.
One word: Easy. Very, very easy in fact. The Hayabusa and Kuro are designed to be drop-in replacements for your arcade stick or arcade cabinet. HORI obviously spent a lot of time on compatibility, especially with the Hayabusa, making sure that if you can fit a JLF, you can almost definitely fit a Hayabusa.
Initially, I installed HORI’s offerings into a Mad Catz Fightstick Pro. This literally took less than 30 minutes
to complete as I was able to mount the Hayabusa with the mounting plate using the existing screws, and popping the Sanwas out and replacing them with Kuros was extremely easy since they share the same .187” quick disconnect spec. (Edit: SRKer RunningWild1984 had fitment issues getting the Hayabusa to fit in the Qanba Q1 Cut, and iNENDOi in the forums reports that getting it to fit in a Mad Catz TE stick will require a minor mod.)
I also tested installing the Hayabusa in my Capcom Impress and Sega Blast City arcade cabinets with no fuss either. I did have to remove the mounting plate and four screws, but after that it was nearly an instant swap to install. One thing to note though is that HORI’s documentation says that the 5-pin connector needs to be on the right side during mounting. In most cases this will work, but in the case of my older Sega Blast City and Capcom Impress cabinets, the horizontal mounting holes on the plastic base force the 5-pin to have a north (up) or south (down) orientation as opposed to having it go to the right. Even though this was the case, the cabinet wiring was compatible right off the bat so there was no drama or rewiring required. Even if there was a problem with the orientation, you could custom wire the switches to fit your needs, though it may be a little bit of work. (I’m telling you, the customization feature is awesome.)
Play test with the Hayabusa and Kuro
After spending a good amount of time with the Hayabusa and Kuro in different installation settings, there are a few initial findings. First, objectively, it’s clear that HORI has created two products that easily match the quality of any other top-tier arcade component offering out there. Everything is there – build quality, installation, feel, response – you name it. HORI’s research and development have paid off.
Taking a deeper dive, there are two big advantages that I’ve noticed. First, the Hayabusa straight feels like butter. The pivoting and joystick action feels more consistent when moving from center outwards and smoother overall than a JLF. The V Cam design definitely has an impact – you feel less resistance from the pivot and feel more of the tactile click from activating the directional switches. I’ll say it straight out – it’s a better, more responsive stick than the JLF.
Secondly, the Kuro buttons. While they look very similar to Sanwa OBSF buttons, they have a more tactile feel when pressed than Sanwas. Objectively, it’s hard to argue which would be “better” – it would seem that it’s more a matter of preference in feel, however in my opinion, I really enjoy the fact that I can get better feedback when applying action to the button. I feel like I know exactly when I’m activating the switch, and I like it. Shoryuken’s Kineda also commented that he felt the buttons were slightly bigger and flatter compared to OBSFs, though I did not notice it as much of a difference in my testing.
The real value add for the Kuro buttons is HORI’s claim of 60% reduction in wear and tear. This will be determined over time, and if it holds true, then the Kuro will be the new king of the hill to beat in the pushbutton arena.
I’ve always been a sucker for standards, and when it comes to Street Fighter, Sanwa was always the de facto choice for an arcade joystick. Because of this, I was initially skeptical with HORI’s Hayabusa and Kuro. Who could make a better joystick and button than the standard that’s been set for 20 years?
Now, I’ve gone from skeptic to believer. HORI’s put together two products that not only meets the standard but exceeds it. And with HORI’s recent collaboration with Taito to put Hayabusa and Kuro parts into arcade cabinets in Japan, it’s clear that they believe it, too.
What’s the damage? The Hayabusa comes in at $29.99, complete with base, mounting plate, black balltop, dust washers and shaft cover. There is a price premium over a JLF – currently about $23.95 at Focus Attack and $19.99 direct from Mad Catz. As for the Kuro set, you get 8 buttons for $19.99, which breaks down to about $2.50 a piece, which is directly in line with the best price you’ll find for OBSFs.
The Hayabusa joystick and Kuro buttons currently only come in one color: black. However there may be a possibility that HORI will release additional colors in the future. Can’t wait? You can install a different balltop on the Hayabusa no problem.
So, should you consider buying the Hayabusa and Kuro?
If you’re looking to replace parts for your HORI Fighting Edge, then it’s an obvious yes.
If you’re looking to replicate the HORI Fighting Edge experience on your stick or cabinet, then yes – though check for compatibility first.
If you’re looking to try something new that isn’t Sanwa or Seimitsu, then I’d personally recommend it.
Disclosure: This review was written independently of HORI or any third party. HORI supplied the Hayabusa and Kuro to test and also supplied a Fighting Edge for comparison purposes. The Fighting Edge was returned to HORI after the review was complete.