If there’s one genre of gaming where players are incredibly picky about their controllers, it’s fighting games. So to appeal to as many gamers as possible, 8BitDo has made its new arcade stick completely upgradeable with software that changes how the controller behaves and hardware that can be easily modded with joysticks and buttons for other companies.
The 8BitDo Arcade Stick for Switch and PC appears to be a follow-up to the company’s previous fighting controller, the NES-themed N30 Arcade Stick, and while it carries forward the modular design allowing the joystick and buttons to be physically modded and swapped, it also introduces support for 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software which allows for an almost obsessive level of customisability.
The $US90 ($122) Arcade Stick (available for pre-order now on Amazon U.S. and shipping to select regions on October 20) includes support for the Nintendo and Switch and PCs using either Bluetooth or a wireless 2.4Ghz connection for players wanting to cut the cord with as little lag as possible. Stashed in a secret compartment underneath the Arcade Stick is an included USB 2.4Ghz receiver that can be plugged into a computer, but there’s also a USB-C port for gamers who prefer a lag-free cable connection to their gaming machines.
Like the N30 Arcade Stick, 8BitDo’s new upgrade includes the ability to quickly switch between PC and Nintendo Switch button mapping using a small dial in the corner, but now the labels for the eight different action buttons dynamically change as you switch back and forth between the modes so it’s much easier to see what each one does if you don’t already have muscle memory for your fighting game of choice.
8BitDo continues to expand its selection of controllers and gamepads that work with its Ultimate Software running on a computer. Once a controller is connected to a USB port gamers can use the software to tweak its performance, such as reducing the sensitivity of the joystick, re-arrange the button mapping, or in the case of the new Arcade Stick, program custom macros that are easily accessible using two dedicated macro buttons that have been introduced.
Popping off the bottom of the 8BitDo Arcade Stick reveals not only a rechargeable 1,000 mAh battery, but a neat and tidy wiring harness that makes swapping in upgraded hardware relatively easy, and a universal joystick plate that 8BitDo promises supports “Sanwa JLF, Sanwa JLW, Seimitsu LS33, 55, 56, 58, Seimitsu LS 32, 40, Happ arcade sticks, IL arcade sticks” in addition to “Sanwa/Seimitsu 30mm/24mm buttons.” That probably doesn’t mean much to players who only occasionally dabble in fighting games, but these represent the various types of joysticks that have been used in arcade cabinets for years, and they not only feel great, they’re also designed and engineered to survive thousands of hours of intense gameplay and abuse.
Just be mindful that 8BitDo’s arcade stick probably isn’t going to shrug off a spilled soda like the Street Fighter cabinet you honed your skills on could.