Shoryuken review: The PowerA FUSION Wireless Arcade Stick for Nintendo Switch checks off the basics but has plenty of room to grow

By on January 27, 2021 at 11:51 am
PowerA FUSION Wireless Arcade Stick Featured Image

A number of quirks keep this stick from being a top contender even with few other wireless sticks on the market

The PowerA FUSION line has expanded beyond its initial offerings of the FUSION Pro Wired Controller and the Wired FightPad with a full dive into arcade stick territory. The PowerA FUSION Wireless Arcade Stick fulfills a need many stick manufacturers have abandoned as of late, being wireless. Whether other stick makers have done so to cut costs or since most who would buy an arcade stick would want it wired for the best possible connection, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect reason to open back up this seemingly forgotten market. While you’ve got your console on the go, why not have an arcade stick with that same kind of convenience? While the PowerA FUSION Wireless Arcade Stick is a capable device, there are a few glaring missteps that keep it from realizing its potential.

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Design:

The PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick has a simple but bold design. With its default panel art, the stick pops with its vibrant candy reds against the solid black casing. This design is right in line with Nintendo’s red and black aesthetic and even without the Switch logo in the top right-hand corner, it screams “Nintendo Switch”. The only things that deviate from the red and black motif are the gray Nintendo Switch function buttons, but this actually makes them easier to see so that’s a welcome choice.

The stick also includes an alternate “FUSION” focused art panel if you’d prefer something a bit more experimental. PowerA has the template for the panel art available on their website, so you can either print your own or have one commissioned that better suits your fancy. All you have to do is remove the ball top and plexi and bam, you’ve got a fresh feeling fight stick. (Word to the wise, just be sure to keep those six screws somewhere safe and that you work somewhere free from cat hair.)

The case has a great weight to it, with a solid metal base that provides durability and support. It has an ergonomic slope that aids with wrist support while playing that I greatly appreciate. The rubber stoppers on the bottom are well sized, well placed, and do a good job keeping your stick from sliding on a table.

There is also easy access to the screws on the bottom to pop off the metal panel to replace buttons, the stick, or swap out the board entirely. There is even a tiny compartment that holds an octagonal gate on top of the already installed square one. It holds the extra gate in place with a little piece of foam and plastic. While it is great they thought of this, it would have worked better with something to snap in place because, after only a couple of swaps, the foam appears to be nearly worn out entirely.

There’s a cable compartment built in where you can store the included 9.8 ft USB-C cable for wired mode. It’s a tight fit but it gets the job done. You can’t charge the stick with the cable though, since there’s no onboard battery. For this wireless arcade stick, you will be using tried and true AAs that can be quickly swapped in a dedicated compartment on the bottom of the stick.

The PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick has a great build with easy enough access to what’s important. It is just the right size, being large enough to comfortably fit all the necessary buttons and features, and compact enough to feel portable. The weight helps it feel grounded and premium when in use, but this same density might make it a bit tiring to carry for extended periods of time. If only the core components could excel in the same way its design does.

Function:

With all of the good design choices, the functionality is where this stick starts to falter. Instead of opting to use more traditional parts, like the widely used Sanwa Denshi arcade stick components, PowerA opted to provide their own. While there is always room for more variety, the joystick and buttons just aren’t up to snuff in comparison to other offerings.

The joystick activates through long registry points that perform the directional inputs. This is in opposition to the four buttons that are usually found in Sanwa joysticks that create a cleaner execution. Because of this, the square gate feels a little off. Inputs register okay, the direction you move the stick is reflected accurately in-game, but you can tell that there is a difference in quality in comparison to the arcade stick standard. Swapping out the default square gate for the provided octagonal one definitely makes the experience better, but not everyone prefers the eight-way input restrictor style. (I personally love the octagonal gate and am very appreciative that PowerA thought to include one.) This all said, the stick tension feels just right, not too loose and not too restricting.

The buttons offer an incredible amount of resistance. While I love a clicky keyboard, the same kind of chunky activation is definitely not ideal for fighting games or any other instance where every millisecond counts. There is an immense amount of feedback and you can actually hear the spring bounce back. This is an incredible shame because the two-toned buttons look so nice. If you have any extra buttons lying around, I’d highly recommend swapping them out. If not, at around $6 a button, that’s quite the investment for a fresh set.

The wireless functionality works fine most of the time, but there have been more than a few moments where I had to remove and reinsert the batteries to get it to wake up and search for my Switch. While only mildly inconvenient, this should not have to be done to get the core stick to wake up. Perhaps a firmware update could resolve this issue, but without it being recognized on PC, that might prove to be an issue. Still, the concept of a wireless arcade stick matches the Nintendo Switch philosophy very well, especially one that can also connect with a cable for minimal latency. If only this stick hit the mark to be a solid companion.

Requiring AA batteries is a bit of a mixed situation. While some may view this as being archaic, there are more devices nowadays that seem to have rechargeable batteries than ones that don’t, for a device that’s meant to be used while on the go, AAs make sense. If your stick dies while you are out and about, swapping out AAs is a much faster and more convenient option than waiting for it to recharge while plugged into an outlet or a console. That being said, you should always keep an extra pair of AAs handy in case your stick unexpectedly dies on you. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing just how much battery it has. The player LEDs will change to let you know the device is at low battery, but aside from that, there isn’t any onboard or on console indicator for how much percentage it has available. All you can do is be sure to switch the battery toggle off when not in use and have extra batteries handy in case the need arises.

The arcade stick works just fine in wired mode, plugging directly into the Nintendo Switch dock. The provided USB-C cable feels a little on the cheap side though, especially in comparison to the braided micro USB cables provided with other products in the FUSION line. You could always use your own USB-C cable, but you shouldn’t have to. It’s a tight fit for the USB-C cable with the cable door closed as well. There are two cutouts for the cable to potentially exit through but the internal port isn’t far away enough from either hole to let the stiff cable bend comfortably. You also can’t wake your Switch when connected through wired mode and while this is a minor inconvenience, it is still another on the list of things that unfortunately don’t work well with this stick.

The stick doesn’t have any kind of PC support either. Normally, you can plug in any Nintendo Switch peripheral while Steam’s Big Picture mode is open and you can use it just fine in nearly any game. Steam doesn’t recognize the PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick and at my first connection, my computer said there was an error recognizing the device, after that it never said anything. While PowerA doesn’t advertise the arcade stick being compatible with PC, you can usually at least connect a Switch controller and work out the functionality on your own. This is definitely an odd omission that might have lessened the impact of some of its shortcomings.

Conclusion:

The PowerA FUSION Wireless Arcade Stick is decent enough to get the job done, but when it comes down to the core components, there is a lot to be desired. To make this stick truly exceptional, it would need a refined joystick, buttons with quicker activations and less resistance, more reliable wireless connectivity, an internal battery, and native PC support. The stick itself looks very nice and has a solid enough of a build to where some of these issues can be fixed on your own with replacement parts, but for $129.99 that’s a high asking price for something that should be able to perform on par with other options out the gate. (As long as you don’t care about wireless functionality that is.) With all of these issues in mind, it makes it difficult to recommend the PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick in its current state. Hopefully, PowerA continues providing support for fighting game players, and this is just the start of its arcade stick ventures. Perhaps a future revision or new arcade stick model will bring them closer to the top of mind when it comes to professional fighting game accessories in the FGC.

[At the time of publishing this review, you can currently purchase the PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick for 50% off on Amazon, making it a cool $64.99, which might make it more worth your while and would certainly lessen the blow of getting replacement buttons.)

Pros:

  • Wireless arcade stick for Nintendo Switch that can connect via USB for competitively focused wired-mode.
  • Solid build quality with good weight and ergonomics.
  • Easy-to-remove top panel for customizable art. PowerA provides a file to create your own.
  • Includes both square and octagonal gates.
  • Last up to 30 hours on one pair of AA batteries.

Cons:

  • Wireless functionality can be finicky.
  • Buttons offer too much resistance.
  • Joystick feels off with square gate due to how it registers inputs. Feels better with the octagonal gate.
  • Requires AA batteries.
  • The cable compartment is a tight fit.
  • Does not work on PC.

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PowerA provided Shoryuken with the FUSION Wireless Arcade Stick for this review.


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Shoryuken.com Editor-in-Chief. Austyn James Roney began his gaming journey with Super Smash Bros. on the N64 but learned the ways of the fighting game genre with Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Loves all fighters, regardless of dimension or playstyle.