Shoryuken Review: Qanba Obsidian Fight Stick for PlayStation 4

By on January 3, 2017 at 10:00 am
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Is the Obsidian another jewel in Qanba’s crown?

Following hot on the heels of the Qanba Dragon, the Qanba Obsidian is targeted at the mid-range fight stick market: not as pricey as premium, but offering some some greater value and more features than entry-level sticks–ideally. How does this new challenger fare in the fight stick arena? Let’s check one out, courtesy of eightarc.

So very shiny!

The Dragon is certainly a good-lookin’ stick, and Qanba follows that tradition with another stick that–while having a very different design aesthetic than the Dragon–also looks really good. Check out the black glossy top panel, black pushbuttons, metallic balltop, and aluminum panels… shaped into this sleek, angular case, it just oozes class.

I find the directional-design motif around the lever to be a bit odd, but it still compliments the color scheme overall, as does the sharp Qanba seal on the back of the case. Almost all of the controls are on the top panel, reserving the aircraft-reminiscent side panels on the case for the LED accents.

The LED lights are controlled by a button on the top panel (see below) that switches them between a constant ambient glow, flashing to respond to either stick/button inputs, or flashing in response to a “vibration” controller signal from software. (I tested the third setting thoroughly by assigning the Obsidian as the player 2 “trance vibrator” in Rez Infinite, which provided a good laugh as it essentially became a music-synced strobe light as I played through a level.)

Aside from the LED accents, the Qanba offers a 3.5mm headphone jack, tucked into the lower front-left of the case. A handy feature that is only just starting to appear on PlayStation sticks.

Ergonomically, despite the metal panels the Obsidian is essentially shaped just like the Dragon, in respect to where your hands and wrists are going to be sitting; I found the shape and layout quite comfortable. It’s a hefty stick, at 3 kg (almost 7 pounds), giving it some definite lap presence. Four shaped strips of rubber (see image above) do a good job of keeping the stick from sliding around, too. Overall, I found it’s shape and weight perfectly comfortable for extended play sessions.

The USB cable isn’t braided like the Dragon’s fancy cable, but that’s “premium” for you. It can be stuffed into a storage compartment on the back of the case (see image above) very similar to the kind of compartment you’d see on the back of a HORI stick; I was actually impressed that the compartment door allows you to pass the cable out on either side, either towards the center of the case or off to the left. It’s a nice touch. Unlike the notoriously loose doors on HORI RAPs, this door was very stiff and snug–maybe a little too much so. The cable length proved a small problem for me personally–it’s a bit under 3 meters, which made it a tad short for my living room–but that’ll be a non-issue in a tournament environment, or a smaller practice space.

While not a luggage-destroyer like the Dragon, this stick is still a bit on the heavy and more awkward side of tournament ideal, despite its many tourney-positive points. It’s maybe a good thing that pre-orders include a backpack! This stick would not be my first choice for taking on the road, though–it feels more suited to a home-based showpiece.

Taking control.

The Obsidian features Sanwa Denshi OBSF 30mm pushbuttons, and a Sanwa JLF lever, square-gated as usual. These are my favorite parts to play fighters on, so I’m naturally feeling very at-home with them. The layout is the now-industry-standard Vewlix positioning–while the lever is ever-so-slightly closer to the buttons, as is the norm for MadCatz, Razer, and other Qanba sticks (as opposed to the original HORI layout).

The upper control panel has all the stick’s functions packed into one little strip, as you can see above. It has a tournament lock switch to lock the OPTIONS and SHARE buttons (as well as the turbo function), and you can switch the lever between the D-pad and the two analog sticks with the “mode” button. The “LED” button toggles the lights between their three modes (or off entirely), and as this stick is also PlayStation 3 and PC compatible, it of course has a slider here to select your output. Again like a HORI stick, there’s a PS4 touchpad on the back of the case–the only input/control aspect not on the top panel.

While I found the upper control panel generally comfortable to use–the inclusion of the touchpad and R3/L3 buttons in this area is very handy for Street Fighter V’s Training mode shortcuts–I prefer my OPTIONS/START button to be a more robust 24mm pushbutton, rather than the tiny one in the control panel here–it just feels more satisfying to use as a “start” button. That said, for tournament practicality, making OPTIONS hard to hit is a good call.

In gameplay I found the Obsidian to be very responsive and reliable. In terms of in-game peformance, it’s solid.

Is beauty only skin deep?

After the annoying removal of the sticky-but-brittle warranty tag, I opened it up for the other side of the story. This is where the Obsidian most clearly differs from its reptilian cousin: it doesn’t include built-in mod/maintenance access. You’ll need a screwdriver.

Still, it’s easy to get into–although the bottom panel can be a bit finicky to get on and off, and you’ll want to watch out for the cable that runs from the PCB to the headphone jack, which is mounted in the bottom panel itself.

There aren’t any real surprises inside; these are Sanwa parts, and thus quite easy to remove and replace as needed/desired. The button connectors are standard Sanwa clips–without an easy-release tab, you may need pliers to pop them off. Note the cables running from the PCB to the LEDs as well. Basically, in terms of the lever and buttons you can expect no concerns swapping between the usual Japanese suspects–though mounting a different joystick might prove problematic if it doesn’t match up to the Sanwa-dedicated bracket spacing here. And like the Razer Panthera, I wouldn’t get too eager to swap in panel art–by all appearances that top plexi panel is glued down tight here, too.

An unearthed gem.

It’s very apparent that the Obsidian takes a lot of design cues from the HORI RAP4, but that isn’t a bad reference model. Priced at about $200 USD, it’s set to compete with the MadCatz TES+ and the new Razer Panthera; while it beats the TES+ hands-down in features, if you like easy access to the guts of your stick, you’ll want to consider the Panthera instead–as it offers the same Sanwa Denshi parts and comparable build quality to the Obsidian, but with an easy-open top panel. But if you like your fight sticks sleek, shiny, and outfitted with pulsing blue lights: the Obsidian offers a lot of style and performance for its price–a solid $100 less than the Dragon, to boot.

It’s no Dragon-slayer, but still a keen weapon, indeed.

Shoryuken.com Editor-in-Chief and performing member of Kita no Taiko. Street Fighterin' since there was only a "II" in the name.