Whether it be a mouse and keyboard, a GameCube controller, or even a plastic guitar, choosing the right tool for the job can often be an essential requirement when it comes down to competitive play. Take Street Fighter II, for example. The classic genre-defining fighting game birthed for competition from the shadows of the arcades eventually came to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Suddenly, the pool of competitors widened and best friends soon became lifelong rivals. Yet, as important and precious as those days were for the genre, the truth is that arcade 2D fighting games such as Street Fighter II were never really developed with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller in mind.
Then the six-button SEGA Mega Drive controller arrived on the scene, which was initially sold as a separate purchase to make to finally make it practical to play Street Fighter II: Champion Edition on the console. Soon after that, the much improved SEGA Saturn controller turned out to be the next best thing to an actual arcade stick for fighting games based on its sleek design, button placement, and superior floating d-pad. In fact, that controller turned out to be so good for fighting games, that standard controllers for future gaming systems began to somewhat hinder the experience – despite arcade-perfect ports becoming more commonplace on home consoles.
What finally killed it for me personally as a pad player was the official Xbox 360 controller. While the inconvenience of the shoulder and trigger buttons being used as heavy attacks was manageable, the d-pad itself was just completely unforgivable. This was at a time where online play was really beginning to take shape for the genre and the internet had started to connect players to a vast global fighting game community. MadCatz started to manufacture cabinet quality premium fight sticks, and also made an attempt to create their own six-button fight pad. Unfortunately, the d-pad was still inferior to the SEGA Saturn’s ever-increasingly vintage controller and its incredible lack of weight made it seem much cheaper than it cost. As a result, I was one of those who would finally be forced to move towards purchasing an arcade stick and, to be honest, I have never really looked back since.
However, third-party fight pads have gotten a lot better since that time and PowerA’s latest product is poised to be a top-tier contender. Weighing in at 0.39lb (178g) with a wingspan of 6.09 inches, the FUSION Wired FightPad for Nintendo Switch is heavily inspired by the great original Japanese model of the SEGA Saturn controller – those that were bundled with the console in Europe and North America were much bulkier before they were thankfully replaced with a much more similar second model.
Because the FUSION Wired FightPad for Nintendo Switch is tailored specifically for fighting games, the controller doesn’t have wireless connectivity. Instead, it uses a lengthy but detachable three-meter cable to keep the all-important input latency to an absolute minimum. The lead itself is tightly wrapped in nylon fabric and has a micro-USB plug with a snap-lock to keep it securely connected to the FUSION Wired FightPad. Toward the main USB plug, the inline release cable ensures that you are at less risk of dragging your Nintendo Switch dock across the room during an act of celebration or quite possibly an explosion of rage.
Despite not having a battery installed, PowerA’s FUSION Wired FightPad is surprisingly quite weighty and provides a rather satisfying mould and feel to it when cradled in the palms. Weight has clearly been added to balance out comfort as there is no rumble functionality or gyroscope built into the controller. While such privileges would certainly make the product a bit more comprehensive, it is worth remembering that this is a very well built controller designed for a specific cause.
Along with the plus, minus, HOME, and capture buttons that are usually found on Nintendo Switch hardware, the face of the controller has six sizeable buttons that feel easy enough to find during the heat of the moment. While all wonderfully responsive, they can tend to feel a tad stiff on the thumb. This only became a bit of an issue when trying to hit more than two buttons simultaneously. Given that the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection doesn’t allow for multiple-attack assignment to a single button in the configuration options, executing Akuma’s teleport or Zangeif’s lariat suddenly became a more difficult task for me to perform without an arcade stick. This isn’t really down to the FUSION Wired FightPad as such as the buttons themselves are still lovely to press overall, but the thought did steer me towards noticing the peripheral’s biggest blunder.
The four shoulder and trigger buttons feel and work comfortably well. However, the small switch next to the R and ZR buttons has a peculiar function. PowerA markets it specifically as a tool for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to change the R button into a C-stick. The problem is, this particular function isn’t really practical at all considering it acts more as a useless click of the Right Stick – as opposed to the multi-directional lean of a tilt or Smash Attack performed in the mascot brawler. It would have made far more sense to be able to flip the shoulder functions from right-to-left to enable accessibility to every button under the control of the right hand – especially when considering the two end face buttons already act as R and ZR.
With that said, the floating d-pad is of high quality and works exceptionally well for back-dashing, shimmying, charge attacks, and executing special moves found in general fighting games. It’s so good in fact, it transitions over to 2D platforming games perfectly. I tested the FUSION Wired FightPad across several different fighting games as well as classic collections from Konami, Capcom, SEGA, and both of Nintendo’s Switch Online retro apps to end up feeling very satisfied with the result. There’s even a switch placed centrally on the FUSION Wired FightPad that can toggle between d-pad to left or right analogue stick in providing more variety for its use. This feature can be very handy for games such as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening which doesn’t have a d-pad option despite natively being played with one when it was first released on the Game Boy.
It is the £54.99 ($59.99) price tag that may come across as a bit pricey when compared against PowerA’s wired GameCube controller. However, I did find it extremely comfortable and, overall, a great tool for both 2D fighters and games that play best with a d-pad. The three swappable magnetic faceplates are a cool addition to fashion out the mood and the added headphone jack and PC support is a nice touch. Not being able to swap shoulder button actions is an unfortunate setback, but, on the whole, the PowerA FUSION Wired FightPad for Nintendo Switch is a solid weapon of choice for the fighting game enthusiast.