Learning to use a fightstick in Street Fighter 5


In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it’s brilliant. Today, Tom has a new favourite toy.

Street Fighter 5 has had a problematic launch, particularly for new players hoping to learn the game from scratch. This is particularly unfortunate if you happen to have publicly declared that you would do so as your 2016 gaming resolution on a website read by about 10 million people. Whoops.

There’s no time to gripe. All I know about Street Fighter is that fireballs look cool, so my first objective was to learn how to do that. I’ve played a few fighting games before, so a quarter turn toward and punch proved no bother. My problems began with Ryu’s spiralling uppercut: the shoryuken. I simply wasn’t consistent enough. If I’m going to get anywhere, I have to be able to hit these simple moves with muscle memory 100% of the time.

I feared the problem might be my idiot fingers, but I couldn’t give up yet. On a dusty shelf in the office I found an old, boxy Hori VX Fighting Stick. This changed everything. Suddenly the idea of wrangling a shoryuken out of a gummy old Xbox 360 D-pad seemed like madness. On the stick this awkward toward -> down -> down+toward motion becomes an elegant zig-zag that feels even better on Vega, where the same motion with a kick causes him to ping off a wall to attack the enemy from a new angle.

At first I waggled the stick as though changing gears in a car. It was quickly obvious that this is not the way to do things. I turned to Gootek’s guide on YouTube, which advises calm, quiet, carefully directed movements. I like this idea, that you conserve energy and execute decisively, like Mace Windu.

I don’t love the stick because it’s necessarily better than a pad (though it is definitely better than a 360 pad)—frankly I know too little to be able to tell. It’s great because it adds a tactile element to a game about physical contact. The stick clicks mechanically when it accepts a directional command, the buttons “clack” decisively as you hurl some blue plasma from Ryu’s palm. Moving across a wider panel of buttons encourages fast movement of the whole hand. I’m more bodily involved in fights.

It feels more frantic than a pad, to my untrained fingers, but I look forward to mastering it. That’s my next move: drills. I need some time in the dojo. Ten hadoukens, ten shoryukens, then jump over and practice from the right side. Then, time to study ‘bread and butter’ videos on Youtube get some combos down, and settle on a main character to properly learn. I have no idea what style of play I’ll enjoy most, so at the moment any of SFV’s 16 characters could become my new obsession—exciting times. Whoever it ends up being, I’ll be playing them with the chunky, reassuring weight of a fightstick on my lap.