Is the Fighting Commander the best choice for pad-preferring warriors?
I had the dual experience of growing up playing fighting games on both arcade sticks (in their “natural habitat”) and on pads, when they started making their way onto home consoles — starting with Street Fighter II: The World Warrior on the SNES, of course. That said, once arcade sticks made their big comeback to home consoles via MadCatz and Street Fighter IV, I was happy to switch back to the “original” way to play fighters.
But there are many players — and many at the highest levels of professional competition — that prefer a pad to the fightstick. For those players, and those thinking of sampling the other side, HORI sent us the latest models of their Fighting Commander pads to try out. You’ll typically see pad players using a Dual Shock 4 for Street Fighter V — Method|Luffy’s preferences aside — so how do HORI’s alternatives compare?
The pads feature compatibility with the most recent consoles in their respective families: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, or Xbox 360 and Xbox One. That’s certainly handy for some cross-compatibility at events, or at home. Both pads are PC compatible through XInput as well.
Between the two platforms, the shape and functions are mostly identical; the only cosmetic differences are button shape/markings and color schemes to match their respective consoles. Functionally, the PlayStation model allows switching the directional pad input between digital and either analog stick, while the Xbox version can only switch between digital and the left analog. Curiously, the PlayStation model has a turbo feature, while the Xbox version has button reassignment instead. The PlayStation pad also allows you to switch the top shoulder buttons between two configurations, allowing access to the the L3/R3 buttons if desired.
A nice inclusion on the Xbox model — and missing from the PlayStation pad — is a breakaway plug on the USB cord. I think this should be included on all HORI controllers, I think it’s a great feature.
So, how do they perform? The controller feels comfortable to hold, and the directional pad is a single cross segment with some concave curvature, making the up/down/left/right points feel slightly more prominent. It’s fairly stiff, and I found it very responsive to the touch — the thumb slides a little more easily on this d-pad than on a DS4’s, in my opinion. I found some inputs, like SPD or double-SPD, a little easier on the HORI. I found it very responsive to DPs; shoto players should do just fine. Multi-tapping for dashes, etc., was a breeze.
The buttons are fairly large and flat — considering there’s six of ’em crammed into the face of the controller, taking the Street Fighter six-button system off of the shoulders. This six-button placement is certainly a selling feature for the Fighting Commander, and if Street Fighters are your games, it makes a difference. The positioning of the buttons makes dual-pressing buttons with your thumb (for SFV’s V-Skills and V-Triggers, for example) very easy. However, the buttons are quite shallow and “soft” — only light presses are needed, which is great for quick inputs, but also increases the likelihood of input errors as you brush against the wrong button. This will be a concern for some, considering how close together the buttons are. Practice with the pad should mitigate that issue, and I found I could reliably get what I wanted out of it using either my thumb, or by flipping and using my fingertips fightstick-style.
Even if you don’t really hate using the shoulder buttons in Street Fighter, there are a few more significant pluses to this pad over your console’s pack-in controller. Being a wired pad, it eliminates issues related to battery life, or having to pair/unpair the pad from a console — both big advantages for a tournament environment! A side benefit to lacking a battery (or vibration functions, for that matter) is that the controller is considerably lighter than a standard pad, thus more comfortable to use for extended play, and a bit easier to lug around. The pad is also much less expensive than a standard Xbox or PlayStation controller, at $39.99 for the PS4 pad and $41.75 for the XB1 version (according to Amazon‘s current pricing).
Taking those advantages into consideration, this is definitely a controller pad players will want to consider trying out. Players that use the Hit Box, and those that have sworn their loyalty to arcade sticks, however… I don’t see this converting them to the other side.
- Six-button configuration may suit Street Fighter players more than other pads
- Comfortable grip
- Comfortable and responsive d-pad and buttons
- Wired connection means no battery/wireless pairing issues, and lighter to hold/carry
- Lower cost to purchase than consoles’ regular controllers
- Six-button layout may be too cramped for some hands/thumbs
- No vibration feature
- No breakaway cable or button assignment on the PlayStation-compatible model
- No turbo feature on the Xbox-compatible model