Can this smaller budget stick hold its own in a fight?
Players looking to try out an arcade stick — but not wanting to invest $150-$300 in an arcade-quality product — may turn their attention to low-cost “budget” sticks that utilize components of lesser quality than Sanwa Denshi, Seimitsu, or HORI’s more durable offerings. The HORI Fighting Stick MINI 4 falls into this category, but with the edge of being manufactured by a company that also produces arcade-spec parts for its higher-end products. How does this budget stick compare? HORI provided SRK a sample so we could find out for ourselves.
The “MINI” in the name is the operative word — this stick’s primary feature (and arguable selling point) is being small. And small it is. It is only just over eight inches wide, and the case is barely over an inch deep. The face pushbuttons are only 20mm across — while 30mm is the usual standard size for full-size pushbuttons, or 24mm for start/select versions. Even the balltop is slightly smaller than a usual arcade balltop. The result is truly MINI — it’s almost kinda cute, looking like “it’ll be a real fightstick when it grows up.”
The functions and features on this stick are bare-bones. It’s got the PS button, OPTIONS/SHARE (START/SELECT), and a switch to shift between PS3/PS4 compatibility (it is not advertised as PC compatible, but my PC did recognize it, and it worked fine). There is no turbo, or button reassignment — a shame on the latter, as that leaves the R3/L3 buttons completely inaccessible.
While in use, the lever and buttons actually feel pretty good. Not as good as Hayabusa or Sanwa Denshi stuff of course, but the buttons aren’t spongy, they have a quick, short throw and good snap. The square-gated lever feels almost identical to a Hayabusa or JLF — and even sounds the same — and I found both to be about as responsive in-game as their larger arcade-spec counterparts. (Upon closer inspection of the insides, it looks like the microswitches in the lever are the same type used in full-size sticks, just set in a much shallower base.) I could play and perform combos in Street Fighter V almost as well as usual; with time and practice, one could adjust to using this.
The issue, when it comes to gameplay, comes back to the unit’s size and weight. It’s tiny, so your hands are closer together; it’s very light, so if you put this on your lap you need to be very controlled and careful with your inputs, or the stick is just going to take off with you. The base has small, flat rubber feet, so on a tabletop that’s somewhat less of an issue. But if you play with the stick on your lap — which is clearly the most common — there’s a problem. This is too bad, as the small size and low weight make this little stick ideal to transport to events, or to a friend/rival’s house.
The size of the buttons themselves will prove a hindrance to some as well. If you have big hands, you’ll find everything here much too close together. On the other side: if you have small hands, it’s possible that the size of this stick and its lever/buttons may actually suit you more than a full-size fightstick. So: comfort will vary. Important to note: this is definitely not a mod-friendly product; unlike something like the slightly pricier Mad Catz FightStick Alpha, the case is so shallow that swapping buttons isn’t even a consideration — added to the fact that, as you can see below, the pushbuttons are soldered directly into a single board.
At $39.99-$49.99 USD, it seems pretty clear that the market for this stick isn’t hardcore fightstick warriors, but the casual market. And casual players may indeed find this controller entertaining, as it does essentially emulate the arcade “experience” for a reasonable price. If you just like mashing buttons in a fighter now and then, and want something a bit closer to an arcade configuration, you should get your money’s worth. I found it somewhat fun, but I would definitely prefer to use an arcade stick, or a pad. This stick’s design drawbacks don’t make it a practical substitute for a full-size fightstick, even if the idea of a portable fightstick seems appealing. Serious players — or even players looking get that arcade “feel” — will get more mileage and a better experience out of one of HORI’s larger products, such as the Real Arcade Pro line.
- Got small hands? This tiny stick may be more comfortable for you
- Compact and light, easy to transport
- Lever and buttons perform to nearly arcade-level specifications
- Low price
- Got big hands? This tiny stick will be really uncomfortable for you
- Too light to hold effectively on your lap during a fight
- Compact integrated components rule out modding/repair
- No turbo/button reassignment features