Razer is restarting its controller offensive, with the release of the Razer Panthera arcade stick and the Razer Raiju controller. Designed for esports, the Raiju sports a $170 price tag–enough to make anyone think twice about trading in their trusty DualShock 4 or fight pad to something that costs as much as an arcade stick. Does the Razer Raiju’s pedigree and customization options make up for its ludicrous price? Let’s give it a thorough inspection, courtesy of Razer.
As with the Panthera, the Raiju ditches the old green-and-black styling of previous Razer products for the PlayStation 4’s blue-and-black color scheme. The blue is certainly easier on the eyes than the neon-green of older Razer peripherals and the actual Razer branding is subtle, limited to the logo embossed on the touch pad. The actual shape is almost identical to that of an Xbox One controller, if you ignore the customization bar at the bottom of the controller.
You’re certainly not going to get any remarks on the beautiful design of the Raiju, thanks to the bulky customization bar. However, the bright blue stick caps and back grips means that you won’t mistake it for someone else’s DualShock at a dimly-lit tournament venue.
The blue styling is needed for visibility, as the Raiju does not have a lightbar–or any wireless functionality built into it. While most tournaments require controllers to be plugged in to avoid any connectivity issues, the lack of wireless is not ideal for playing at home, where you may already have a mess of wires coming out of your system.
The Raiju is very comfortable to hold for long play sessions, with the hair triggers and shallow face buttons requiring the slightest bit of force to activate. There is a satisfying click whenever you press a button, successfully emulating the feel of a mechanical keyboard. You can even lock the triggers in place, meaning that you only need to tap them gently rather than press them all the way down. While the additional back bumpers don’t get in the way, I was prone to accidentally hitting the additional triggers on the back of the Raiju in the heat of battle. Their placement is not fantastic, especially when it can lead to you dropping a combo due to an input flub.
Luckily, you can rebind the button mapping for the back triggers or remove them all together, if they are causing you trouble. The Raiju comes with a special screwdriver inside its carrying case to help you screw and unscrew the additional triggers. During my Street Fighter V testing, I had them set as dedicated V-Skill and V-Trigger buttons by mapping them to duplicate the button input of clicking in the analog sticks. You can remap the triggers to duplicate any button input on the Raiju, which is helpful if you want a dedicated trigger to help you tech throws, or pop X-Factor.
Those silver triggers can become a nuisance, but they are easy to remove should you wish to.
If you’re someone who uses the analog stick to control your character in a fighting game, the Raiju has you covered. The sticks are durable, with special rubber stick caps to stop your thumbs slipping off during high-intensity sessions. Compared to the DualShock 4, where the rubber on the sticks seems to wear off within a few hours of play, the Raiju stayed firm even when the stick caps were removed.
While the sticks are definitely up-to-snuff, the Raiju’s D-Pad will be a polarizing feature for many. Unlike the vast majority of D-Pads out there, the Raiju’s D-Pad is not a single rocking pad; it’s made up of four separate buttons. As such, it is hard to hit down-forward, up-forward, and other inputs, making it problematic for playing fighters which require rolling inputs. Due to the angular nature of the D-Pad buttons, it is not an easy task to slide your thumb between different directions, making it needlessly difficult to perform simple inputs like dragon punches and quarter-circle-forward motions. However, if you are a charge character user, the stiff buttons and clicks from the D-Pad do make it easier to perform those direct back-forward, up-down inputs. For NetherRealm fighters, where inputs are focused more around the four cardinal directions, the separate buttons of the Raiju’s D-Pad may be beneficial, but it will require retraining your muscle memory.
While this may be more efficient for shooters, the lack of a singular connected D-Pad—a feature that has existed since the NES—makes the Raiju difficult to recommend for someone who mainly plays fighters with Street Fighter-style input rolls. If–like Liquid|NuckleDu–you play by switching between the analog stick and the D-Pad depending on your character, the Raiju may be for you, but dedicated pad players will find there is quite the learning curve switching to this D-Pad setup.
With all this in mind, the Raiju is a difficult one to give a solid recommendation for. While its tactility and customizable triggers are a bonus, its alternative D-Pad design and price tag are two massive black marks against it. It is a definite hard sell for dedicated pad players, as the non-rolling D-Pad does feel alien to use upon the first few hours of play. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool charge character user, you may find the mechanical D-Pad easier for guaranteeing cleaner charge motions. However, you could very easily buy multiple fight pads–like the HORI Fighting Commander–with the money it takes to buy a single Raiju.
If, like me, you do switch between the analog stick and the D-Pad depending on your situation, the Raiju may be worth your money at a lower price point. While its ergonomics are certainly a bonus, the $170 price tag is simply too much to gamble on.