How does the latest version of the Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai hold up?
The HORI Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai sits in that price range where it isn’t a “budget” stick, but at $150 USD, still a solid $50 USD cheaper than most other sticks that utilize brand-name buttons or levers. Prior versions of this stick are already commonplace for this reason; how does the latest iteration compare? Let’s have a closer look at one, courtesy of Arcade Shock!
It’s all about style.
This new RAP4 Kai feautures a very specific selling point: color. This new stick is available in unique red, white, or blue versions, featuring colored cases and buttons (at least for HORI) that you won’t find elsewhere. A gimmick? Yep. But they do look good, and these colored cases open up new possibilities for customizing your own stick’s look.
Have a look at what Arcade Shock built around the blue variant:
I chose a white one–not because of the season–but because it looked the most strikingly different from the RAP4’s classic appearance. And how!
The color scheme is indeed an eye-catcher, and the light use of metallic elements to the surface graphics adds some extra style that pictures don’t really do justice. As appearances go: this stick is very slick.
Evolution of the Kai.
This stick is mostly the same, in terms of components and design, to the previous models of the Kai. The lever is a standard square-gated HORI Hayabusa–this will be good or bad news according to your preference. It’s a fairly noisy stick, and just a tiny bit looser to the touch than I prefer. Not my favorite lever, but it works.
The face buttons are new, however–instead of the HORI Kuro buttons from prior models, this one comes with the new Hayabusa 30mm pushbuttons. At first touch I wasn’t sold–I thought they felt kinda “spongy” compared to the Kuro and Sanwa OBSF buttons. But in play, that tiny bit of extra firmness actually felt quite good. The matte finish these buttons sport also helps a little bit, feeling slightly more “grippy” to the fingertips. I like these buttons.
The OPTIONS button on prior models also suffered from HORI’s strange 24mm button-quirk, in which the plunger sinks below the button edge–kinda weird to the touch, and a common complaint. I was happy to see that with the 24mm button on this stick, that issue is no more.
The RAP design places a PS4 touchpad on the upper back edge of the case–that’s still there. The “extra” buttons (R3/L3, the PS button, SHARE, and the control switches for the stick) are all on the right side panel of the case, tucked under the flaring lip of the RAP’s trademark shape. This lip made these controls a bit more annoying to access during use, as they’re hidden from view. It looks like HORI took a step to address that by adding a reference strip to the panel artwork pointing to the buttons in question–it’s a small touch that I found actually made a handy difference.
This RAP4 Kai is compatible with the PlayStation 4 and 3, and supports X-Input for PC. A minor change on the side panel is that the PS4/PS3 switch now includes a PC setting for this purpose–this would have been handy when I was playing on my old Kai at Mixed Virtual Arts in Montréal–an all-PC venue–and running into stick recognition problems. This model still includes programmable rapid-fire settings, and the ability to remap the face buttons through Assign Mode.
The USB cable for the Kai is a comfortable length at almost 10 feet long, and can be tucked up into a storage compartment in the upper left of the case. The plastic door of this compartment is notoriously easy to pop off, and this one is no different than prior models. The plastic case is mounted on a metal base, giving the stick a decent bit of weight (nearly 5 pounds). The base features two rubbery patches to help keep the stick from sliding around–in my experience, they aren’t that effective on your lap, but work well on wood or glass tabletops.
In play: the stick performs great. This is a comfortable, well-established stick/button layout, and I experienced no issues with its in-game performance. There’s a good reason these are everywhere–they are quite reliable.
The hidden feature: it’s mod-friendly.
The only reason anyone that already has a fight stick might consider grabbing one of these: with the new color selection, it’s a great opportunity to customize a stick unique to your own personality. And fortunately, this new Kai shares a a distinct trait with its predecessors: it is so easy to mod these with new parts. How easy? Let’s tear off that warranty sticker and look inside.
All you need to modify a Kai is a Philips screwdriver, a flat-head screwdriver (to help remove the joystick balltop), and maybe a plastic pry-tool to help get at some of the buttons, if you feel inclined. The rubberized connectors on the HORI wiring can be popped off the buttons more easily than anything I’ve worked on before, and Sanwa 30mm snap-in buttons can be substituted instantly. (Some of the buttons sit very close to case elements that make them tricky to snap out/in, hence why a pry-tool might help. This also means screw-in buttons won’t fit into some positions.) The Hayabusa can be easily removed from its mounting bracket to make way for a Sanwa JLF–if that’s your stick of choice–or another stick.
The PCB is also fairly easy-access, so if you’re intrepid, you can take the modding even further with this one. The case is a little cramped, though, limiting some options. The top panel artwork is also a permanent fixture–meaning for full customization, you’d need to pry off the plexi cover and artwork, and replace–tougher than on some higher-end sticks out there.
The final verdict?
The HORI RAP4 Kai is hard to beat for the price. It’s only slightly more expensive than some budget sticks, that require fairly work-intensive modding to replace their inferior switches with HORI or Sanwa parts. On the other hand, $50 USD more can get you a Razer Panthera, a MadCatz TES+, or the upcoming Qanba Obsidian–which already sport Sanwa Denshi parts, and in some cases very nice additional features–so if you are already a Sanwa fan, you’re going to have to pay extra to add the parts you prefer. But many players are happy with HORI parts–these Hayabusa buttons are very nice–and $150 USD is still easier on the wallet if you’re looking to jump into the fight stick game, or maybe thinking of a new customization project. For that, the Kai works just fine. I expect to keep seeing it at events for years to come.