Thursday, March 30, 2023

8BitDo’s second arcade stick is moddable, stylish and versatile

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The design is a clear evolution of the Arcade stick N30, another retro-inspired accessory developed by 8BitDo. It is also similar to NES Advantage, an arcade-style controller released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. Both peripherals tilt upward and have a circular indentation around the black joystick, for example. If you’ve ever owned Nintendo’s eight-bit system, or have a fondness for this era of video game hardware, these visual nods will fill you with childish joy.


The visual direction is not a huge surprise. All 8BitDo activity relies on well-designed accessories that reference iconic gaming hardware. Sega Genesis. TurboGrafx-16. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The company has already proven that it can update classic designs for the modern era.

The 8BitDo Arcade Stick is another brilliant blend of Nintendo heritage and modern video game sensibilities. The device has eight primary buttons, for example, rather than the two that come with the NES Advantage. They are arranged in a Vewlix layout, whose first column is slightly lower than the other three. The set covers all the face buttons, bumpers, and triggers normally found on an Xbox or Switch Pro controller. The Arcade Stick also has two additional buttons, P1 and P2, which are mainly used for custom macros.

Repairable parts

I like the joystick and the buttons that 8BitDo has opted for. They aren’t the best money can buy – fighting game enthusiasts will no doubt prefer coins from Happ, Sanwa, or Hori. For the average person, however, they are perfectly respectable. The joystick is big enough to hold with a classic “ broom ” handle or a cradled “ wine glass ”. It’s durable and makes a nice click when you roll it around the hidden door under the top panel. Buttons, on the other hand, are a lot of fun to mash. Of course, they have a glossy finish that won’t suit everyone. However, my fingers never slipped and every button press was recorded correctly, regardless of the game and platform.

The arcade stick is heavy too. It would be a review in almost every other product category. A fighting stick, however, should be heavy so that it does not slip over your lap, desk, or table. The latest accessory from 8BitDo weighs 2.1 kg, which is only 100 grams less than Hori’s Real Arcade Pro V Hayabusa Hockey Stick, which also supports PC and Switch. It’s narrower than most alternatives, including the Mayflash F500, but wide enough that you can comfortably balance it on two legs. The base is also equipped with four rubber feet which give it extra grip. This means you can be sure that the stick will not move while you are in the middle of a beat Smash Bros. meet.

8BitDo Arcade Stick


In the upper left corner you’ll find a neatly organized panel with two physical switches. The first one switches the controller between its Nintendo Switch and XInput (PC) profiles. When you do this, the red button labels – which are actually LEDs built into the machine – will switch to the correct game. It’s an incredibly stylish feature that’s also useful for casual gamers like My Girlfriend, who rarely plays video games and has to look down to make sure she is pressing the correct buttons. The second physical switch tells your console or PC that the joystick is serving as a D-pad, left or right analog stick. This means that if you have patience and very nimble fingers, you can play any 3D game that relies on a right joystick for camera control.


Next to the switches are three colored buttons for pairing, returning home, and switching any other button to turbo mode. Underneath are dedicated start and select buttons, as well as a wireless connectivity toggle. That’s right – 8BitDo Arcade Stick can be used wirelessly. Serious gamers will want to use the detachable 3 meter cable included in the box, since it offers the lowest latency connection. If you want a cleaner setup, however, the Arcade Stick also supports Bluetooth and a 2.4G wireless receiver that connects to your tower PC, laptop, or Nintendo Switch dock. Better yet, there’s a compartment on the back of the Stick to store the dongle when traveling or using some other form of connectivity.

I love having these options. For comparison, Hori’s Real Arcade Pro V Hayabusa key has no wireless options and a non-detachable USB cable that lives in a huge compartment on the front of the key. For many fighting game fans, that’s no problem – they just want a wired connection anyway. But there are a lot of arcade games that don’t require such precision. You can use the arcade stick to play Overcooked, for example, or even a top-down strategy title like Wargroove. In these cases, it’s nice to relax and not wonder if someone is going to trip over the cable between your sofa and the Switch dock.

8BitDo Arcade Stick


Connectivity varies, however, if you start experimenting with platforms that are not officially supported. The Stick worked great with my Android phone, for example. With a USB-C to USB-A adapter, I was able to plug in the Stick’s dongle and, for a fully wired connection, the included USB cable. The device also appeared in my phone’s bluetooth settings after pressing and holding the pairing button. So far, so good. If you prefer Apple hardware, however, that’s another story. The Stick only connected to my iMac and iPad Pro via Bluetooth – wired and 2.4G wireless was prohibited. I also had no luck using the arcade stick with my base PS4.

Software adjustments

Still, it’s a versatile little machine. This flexibility is even more extensive once you start delving into the customization options. With the 8BitDo Ultimate software, you can remap any of the 10 circular buttons located next to the joystick. The Turbo button can also be configured to act as the switch’s capture button or a shortcut that quickly swaps two buttons. Remapping is also mode specific. If you change B to R3 in Switch profile, for example, it won’t affect the behavior of that button on PC.

If you want to cheat a bit, there is also a tab that lets you assign macros to the P1 and P2 buttons. Within seconds, I had two shortcuts that allowed me to launch Hadoukens and Shoryukens in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. (Please don’t judge me.) This isn’t a feature serious fighting game enthusiasts will want to use. But if you know someone who is struggling with a specific combo, this is a great way to give them a hand.


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