While the plentiful arcades of the past have all but disappeared in North America, players of arcade classics and modern fighting games continue to desire a joystick and buttons as their preferred control method. Arcade sticks have been around for decades to satisfy these player’s needs, but like all forms of technology, even these controllers have seen massive jumps in the quality and features of their hardware. Mad Catz used to be the leading manufacturer of these peripherals, but after their bankruptcy occurred in 2017 a hole in the market was left for other members of the industry to fill. What a perfect time to introduce the latest official Arcade Stick of the Capcom Pro Tour, the Razer Panthera.
Retailing for $260 CAD, the Razer Panthera is an arcade stick built with premium components and designed for competitive players of modern fighting games. While this stick is only compatible with the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC, Xbox One players can purchase the latest model of the Razer Atrox instead, which is its green-team equivalent. Included inside the box is the Panthera itself, a 3m screw-lock braided USB cable, two types of ball tops and a handy screwdriver if the user wishes to mod the stick. All of these components fit nice and snug within the large internal storage compartment of the Razer Panthera for easy portability.
This kind of internal system was quite popular in the previous Mad Catz TE2 sticks because it also allowed the user to get their hands on their buttons and sticks if they needed to be replaced. Another nice touch Razer personally added into the internal compartment is its honeycomb designed base, which includes multiple screw mounts for new PCBs. It’s a shame, however, that one major mod friendly gesture has been left out of the Razer Panthera and that’s the ability to easily change out the artwork. The acrylic glass and Razer logo artwork of the Panthera has been glued down by Razer’s design and while it’s still possible to mod this stick to get new artwork, this a much more tedious process than an old TE2. For safety’s sake, I recommend looking at guides online to make sure you don’t damage any internals.
That being said, a majority of players will be plenty satisfied just playing with the premium Sanwa Denshi components, which are the industry standard used in today’s arcades in Japan. Simply put, these buttons and ball tops are the best on the market and are used by nearly every manufacturer worth their salt who builds an Arcade Stick in this price range. The only notable company exempt from this rule being Hori, which produces their own style of buttons. Players of all skill levels swear by Sanwa parts due to their reliable performance and their satisfying feel, and I’m no different. Sure users can buy an arcade stick for about $50, but those buttons and sticks are off-brand, prone to breaking within weeks of use and are near impossible to replace without buying an entirely new arcade stick. Buy a stick worth the level of investment and time you want to put in.
It should be noted that arcade sticks, including the Razer Panthera, are a premium optional purchase. These are not controllers that suddenly increase your skill level or gameplay potential in fighting games, they are purely a preferred control method. Pad players can do just as well in tournaments. It all depends on the user, not the equipment. The advantage I personally saw from transitioning to stick as a previous pad player was that it felt easier for me to accurately control my characters and input combos using buttons and a ball top, but that won’t be the same case for others. While I can still use pads in a pinch, I love the feel of using an arcade stick and how they replicate the control style of classic arcades in a more compact form factor.
To test the performance and longevity of the Razer Panthera I have used it as my main controller for Dragon Ball FighterZ since I finished writing the games review. Compared to my previous Mad Catz TE2, I would say the quality of the PCB is right on par. Inputs read correctly, responsiveness is top notch and I never feel like I’ve lost control of my characters except when online connections get choppy. A concern that many users have with Razer arcade sticks is that they believe they are low quality after an Atrox stick broke live on stream during the middle of a match. However, after playing with the Razer Panthera for over two weeks, I believe Razer has stepped up their quality control since partnering with Capcom for the Pro Tour and that they have successfully crafted a great product for fighting game enthusiasts to enjoy.
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