There’s something instantly staggering about the Qanba Dragon. First impressions matter, and the Dragon makes one quite unlike any other. Appropriate to its namesake, Qanba’s entry into the premium tier of arcade sticks is a beast, weighing a whopping five kilos and measuring nearly 20 inches across.
Yet somehow, with a glossy black finish to go with a silver stick and black buttons, the Dragon still manages to look sleek and menacing, although you’ll have to be ready to regularly wipe fingerprints from the mirrored top panel. The red LEDs that flank the center control panel only reinforce that impression, even when they’re not actively on. And they can be tweaked to suit your needs with a variety of modes on offer, including a solid red light and flashing to reflect your inputs.
Combine these factors with the solid weightiness of the Dragon and its braided USB cable, and there’s an undeniable air of quality to it. That weight also helps it feel comfortably stable on both tables and your lap, even when you’re churning a full circle input or buffering a super to catch a whiff.
Like its literary counterparts, this Dragon is built to last the ages.
More than the sum of its parts
To complement the excellent build quality of its body, Qanba have chosen to move away from their own brand of buttons and instead chosen to furnish the Dragon with a full set of Sanwa parts. All eight buttons on the face on the stick are Sanwa’s OBSF-30s, which are at this point the competitive standard for many players across the world. Glossy black is the name of the game here, and these buttons deliver.
Likewise, the stick is the trusty old JLF, which may as well be renamed to “Old Faithful,” since for much of the FGC, it is the stick of choice. With a silver balltop giving a new look to the classic piece of equipment, it adds a bit of pop to an otherwise uniformly black top panel.
Another nice addition is the control panel in the center of the Dragon’s LED bar, which finds a home for a few seldom used buttons–like L3 and R3–and allows for simple and quick control over the LEDs. This is also where you will find the Share, Options and Home buttons. All are comfortably located and work as you might expect–though if you have big hands, you might find yourself pressing the wrong button by mistake in your hurry to share that awesome combo you just pulled off.
These parts are some of the best available, and in action the Dragon takes full advantage. Inputs are crisp and immediate, and though the sheer size of the Dragon can take some getting used to, once you find a comfortable position for your hands you can go ham to your hearts content. Don’t worry, the Dragon will keep up.
In the Dragon’s maw
One of the nicest aspects of the Dragon is how friendly it is to modding. The top panel flips open, revealing a a set of Dragon scales and a clearly labelled and well-protected little box of goodies. The buttons and stick are protected by a plastic cover, which means that you’ll never dislodge your wiring by mistake, but it’s simple enough to take off.
That simplicity extends to your buttons and stick too – all the inner workings of the Dragon are wired with Quick Disconnects, which means that replacing a button–or subbing in a more colorful one–is as simple as unplugging the old one and plugging the new one in. No need to worry about soldering or rewiring.
And since the Dragon is so large, there’s a bit of space leftover for all those useful little things you need when you’re out and about–like a copy of your favorite fighting game, or perhaps a small snack!
Stepping back from all the excitement for a minute, it should be mentioned that this is likely not an ideal stick for the determined world warrior. The sheer size and weight of the Dragon means that it can be difficult to transport. It is too large to fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane, and most backpacks are likely to come up a little short.
Even if you do find a bag that can accommodate the Dragon, its bulk continues to be an issue. It’s likely to be bumped or knocked even when you’re keeping a close eye on it, and though the the excellent build quality means that it weathers the bumps admirably, it’s still not ideal on such a lovely bit of kit.
I speak from harsh experience here, having hauled the Dragon with me on my Christmas travels. As much as I enjoyed having the Dragon with me, and used it to good effect while visiting friends and family, carrying it around was a tiring and consistently awkward task.
And the Dragon’s weight can wear out more than just your shoulders–the duffel bag that I used to carry it across the country eventually fell victim too; the shoulder strap snapped, and the carry handles ended their journeys considerably worse for wear.
This certainly isn’t a dealbreaker, but it’s something you should keep in mind, especially if you plan to make a splash on next year’s CPT.
More like a chameleon
If you do plan to travel for your game of choice, the Dragon does an excellent job of adapting to your platform of choice, with options to play on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PC. Changing platforms is as simple as flicking a switch, and the Dragon performed well on each. In fact, it is one of the most PC-friendly sticks I have come across, and was ready to play on less than a minute after it was first plugged in.
You can also use the Dragon for more than just fighting games, if you wish. There is a slider that switches the stick’s inputs from that of a directional pad to either the left or right analog stick, depending on what you need.
The Dragon, a treasure
In the end, it’s simple. Qanba set out to deliver a premium product, and they have done just that. Sizable, weighty, and furnished with the best quality parts, the Dragon is a superb piece of kit. It has a hefty price tag, but the quality of the Dragon and the sheer pleasure of playing on it goes a long way towards making it feel worthwhile.
For the rest, time is going to be the great test. At $300 USD, the Dragon should be the only stick you need for a good while. Even if you play with a heavy hand, the ease of replacing the Sanwa parts should limit your costs to top ups over the years–as long as the case is as well constructed as it appears to be–for the initial impressions at least, are excellent.
So the question is, does the Dragon soar, or does it waddle? For my money at least, it wouldn’t be out of place in a Dragon’s hoard. It’s a truly excellent, high-quality arcade stick, and I doubt it will be long before we start seeing our favorite players wielding Dragons in battle–as long as they don’t have to travel too far to do so!
[Editor’s note: Qanba provided Shoryuken with a review unit for this article.]