My history with Hori fightsticks has been spotty at best. I’ve owned four of their entry-level level controllers; two of which broke within a matter of hours, and a third where the joystick wore down with no easy way of fixing it. That being said, durability is not a strong suit of any cheap fightstick from any manufacturer.
Though I have noodled with one of their higher-end fightsticks in the past, the Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai is my first extensive experience with a high-end Hori product. Does this have what it takes to wash away my negative perceptions of the brand? Better yet, can this stick hold its own against the TE line of Mad Catz products?
One of the biggest differences between an entry-level stick and high-end one is size. Cheap fightsticks have small form factors that have just enough surface area to accommodate for the buttons and joystick. The RAP 4 might not be as big or as heavy as a TE, but its weight, form factor and cushioning on the bottom should help it sit comfortably on most players’ laps. Another nice touch to this controller is that the sides of the face protrude farther out than the base itself. This makes it easy to grab it from the sides and adjust its position if need be.
One of my biggest apprehensions going into this was the location of the Options button. Placed just to the right of the main action buttons, accidentally hitting that button in the heat of the moment can get you disqualified in tournament. Thankfully, the controller has an assign feature that allows you to re-map or disable certain buttons on the fly. It took a few minutes to figure out exactly how to do that, but once you have the routine down it’s easy to toggle on and off.
At the back of the controller is the slot for the cord and the PS4 touch pad. Unlike the original TE, the cable compartment is huge, making it easier to store the cable away when you’re done playing. The entire lip of the flap locks into place, securely keeping the door shut. I do have concerns with this possibly wearing with time, causing the door to stay flopped out, but it has the benefit of not having a locking mechanism that can break.
Though its seldom used, having the touch pad on the controller is a nice touch. It does serve a purpose in Street Fighter V training mode, so it’s helpful to have it here. Some might debate its placement on the back versus on the front with the face buttons, but I’m okay with where it currently resides. I also like the inclusion of L3 and R3 buttons on the right hand side, ensuring that you have full control.
Besides those, you also get access to an assign mode, which allows you to remap the L1, L2 and Options buttons or disable them, a turbo switch, and a switch that allows the fightstick to work on PS3 and PS4. One feature that is notably absent however, is a headphone jack. Talking to strangers online while I play a fighter is usually the last thing I want to do, but its exclusion really hurts when I’m in a lobby with friends and have no way of speaking to them.
When it comes to joysticks and buttons, Sawna parts are considered the best-in-class. This fightstick does not feature those. Instead, it comes with Hori’s own high-end Hayabusa joystick and Kuro buttons. I’m generally wary of any parts that aren’t Sanwa, but Hori’s parts here feel great. I love the Hayabusa joystick, as the throw feels a touch smoother than the already-excellent Sanwa stick. As for the buttons, these require a smidgen more of an effort to strike, but they feel good and durable. I will be swapping these buttons out for my silent Sanwas, but only so the clacking of my buttons doesn’t drive my fiancee nuts.
For modders, this fightstick is hit-and-miss. Unlike the highest-end Mad Catz fightsticks that simply pop open without the need for tools, you’re going to need a screwdriver to get at the guts of this thing. It’s simple enough to do, though a sticker covering one of the screws indicates that removing it will void the warranty. Odds are, you’ll be fine once you open it, though it stinks that you can’t get in there without voiding the warranty. Another minus here is that you can’t swap out the art. I never had any interest in changing the art on my fightsticks, though it’s worth noting if you were looking for a canvas.
Most of my previous experiences with Hori fightsticks haven’t been great, but the Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai is a quality product. Built on a solid base and great parts, this fightstick is a competitive alternative to the Mad Catz TE line. Based on my experiences with the current TE 2, I still think the Mad Catz high-end fightsticks are a bit better overall. However, the Hori fightstick is generally cheaper, especially for Canadian consumers, where the price gap is a staggering $100. If you want to save a few bucks and still get a great fightstick, put this one on your short list.