With Street Fighter V creeping nearer and EVO 2015 fresh on my mind, I decided to up my fighting “game” by purchasing an arcade stick to better emulate the old arcade experience I have been missing all these years using a controller. A quick search in stores and online proved fruitless as they were all sold out (thanks, EVO), so I dug a little deeper and finally found one on the Mad Catz website: the newly released little brother of the TE2, the Tournament Edition S+.
The TES+ is an all new version of the original Tournament Edition S which was released in 2010 and more closely resembles the updated, “streamlined” version which was released in 2012. The functionality obviously mirrors the TES (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), but with resales of the original controller hitting over two hundred dollars (more than the TE2), perhaps a redesign was in order. With the Xbox One controllers having issues working properly on PC – playing PC games being the main reason I was purchasing mine – the 360 version was a necessary find. Even though it took more than plug-and-play to setup, I troubleshot it and it works flawlessly now.
One thing I can say with certainty is the Mad Catz Arcade Fightstick Tournament Edition S+ for Xbox 360 is absolutely gorgeous. From the red and black paint job and paneling to the matching buttons and joystick, this arcade stick is the epitome of beautiful. No, it doesn’t have your favorite characters gracing the cover plate, but I have no doubt you will be able to get alternate plates (and other parts) in the near future (or you can make your own). What it does have is a hard red matte plastic base very similar, if not the same as, the original flanked by two glossy black plastic side panels (I wonder if the original side panels will work with it?).
Unlike the original but similar to the later revisions of the S, is the top plate which is a smaller set-off region secured by six allen head screws. Inside, of course, are the brains of the controller providing you with easy access if you need to replace anything. Unlike its larger relatives, this controller doesn’t have a lot of room inside for storage. In my case, this isn’t a huge deal. I don’t even know what I would store in there anyway.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A true gamer knows it’s about how it handles, and this joystick and buttons combo feels amazing. As with all Mad Catz controllers, these pieces are made with parts by Sanwa Denshi, a leading manufacturer of Japanese arcade machine parts, and it shows. These buttons are smooth operators. The “Start” and “Select” buttons on the back are the standard 30mm solid white plastic buttons, the 8 top buttons laid out in standard Vewlix layout are a translucent red and and black matching the case. Not only do they look top notch, but they are very responsive to your commands.
I’m sure the “newness” of the controller had something to do with it, but at times I wasn’t sure if I pushed the buttons or if the controller was reading my mind as it was so responsive. The same goes with the Sanwa JLF 8-way ball-handled competition style joystick. It responded fast, with little input on my part and with an auditory click as the joystick seamlessly fell into any of its 8 positions. That being said, it never felt like it was forcing me in any direction. I felt in control the whole time.
Hanging out unobtrusively in the top left corner is the control module which allows you to map “multi-speed turbo functionality” to any of the action buttons or turn it off altogether, and to monitor it via eight LED lights. The “LS, DP, RS” switch allows you to define whether the joystick operates like a left or right analog stick or a traditional D-pad. The lock switch turns off all but the eight buttons on the top until you need them again preventing accidental button presses, and of course the Xbox Guide button does everything it normally does.
On the front of the controller is an Xbox headset port. Mad Catz is gracious enough to provide an adapter for standard headphones so you won’t have to buy any extra pieces to get that to work. The bottom of the controller has a soft spongy material to make it more comfortable while resting it on your legs, and four feet to keep it from skidding off your desk during intense matches (and it does that quite well). On the back is a hinged flip-up door to house the hardwired 13 foot USB cable which is definitely long enough for most gaming occasions.
If you do take this controller with you to a friend’s house or a tournament, you’ll definitely appreciate how compact the TES+ is. Measuring at about 14.5 x 10 x 2.5 inches, it is much smaller than its bigger brother, the Tournament Edition 2, which measures a whopping 18.8 x 13 x 6 inches. All this compactness comes in the form of lost room: inside to store… whatever you store inside these cases (I’m still not sure of that), and outside in the form of area to rest your arms. I’ve already mentioned the inside space is not problematic for me, and neither is the compact outside space either. The TES+ has enough space to rest your hands on comfortably while you play, although I suppose having a bit more of an arm rest would be welcome for extended plays.
This compactness does have a downside, however. The USB storage in the back is tight – very tight. There are times I am literally cramming the cord in this space just to get it to fit. It’s not a huge deal, but partner that with the flimsy plastic door on a simple hinge and I’m afraid it will break off. In fact, I would bet money on the hinge breaking before any other piece (barring a drop or some other misfortunate event). Also, it seems that cramming everything this rightly causes the TES+ to weigh more? According to Amazon.com, the TE2 weighs in at only 4.6 pounds. I weighed my TES+ on my scale (and I know my scale is accurate) and it weighs in at just under 5.75 pounds. It’s only about one pound heavier, but I’m curious how a smaller controller that’s smaller by 4 x 3 x 3.5 inches actually weighs more. Science, I guess.
Despite those small caveats, the Tournament Edition S+ is an amazing controller to own. Its benefits far outweigh any negatives I’ve found or that seemingly may crop up in the future. Coming in at $150.00, which is fifty dollars less than its bigger brother and over fifty less than the original TES, not to mention beating out many of its competitors in the “price vs functionality” department, the TES+ price point sits just fine with me. The quality of craftsmanship and the responsiveness of the controls are well worth it.
[UPDATE: 08/03/2015] I’ve gotten some feedback from some of the great players and modders over at the Shoryuken forums, and they have informed me that the original side panels that Mad Catz sells for the TES do work on the TES+ and that the empty space, on this board at least, is mainly for when you modify the arcade stick with larger parts. The larger sticks, which have ample room, can be used for spare parts, games, etc.
If you are in the mood to learn a bit more about modding or just want to know your arcade stick more in depth, I couldn’t recommend the Shoryuken.com forums enough as they have a ton of members who are very experienced in modding who can answer your questions along with tutorials on modifying controllers or even making your own from scratch. Definitely check them out!