Fighting Without Sticks: Hit Box Review

Over the last few years, arcade sticks have increased in popularity due to the resurgence of the fighting game genre. The Street Fighter IV Tournament Edition Fight Sticks from Mad Catz are easily in a league of their own. If you ever go to a tournament, the overwhelming majority of players use a TE stick. Of course, that hasn’t stopped companies like Hori from making their own products.

Last month, I attended ReveLAtions, a fighting game tournament in Los Angeles that took place the weekend after E3. That’s when I was introduced to a new peripheral for fighting games from a new company called Hit Box. The product promises to innovate the way you play games, but I really had no idea what to expect. And then I saw it in person.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –
[drop]This was no ordinary arcade stick. In fact, it doesn’t even have a stick at all. Instead, buttons are used for every input, including directions. The Hit Box is a little smaller than half the size of a Mad Catz TE stick and weights considerably less.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

It’s a lot more portable in that sense, and it can easily fit inside most bags. If you’re the type of gamer that likes to travel, you’ll appreciate its portability. The USB cord is 15 feet long, which is more than most people will ever need.

At ReveLAtions, I messed around with the Hit Box for a few hours. At first, I was very confused. I didn’t know how to move my characters around and I was still lost after being told what each button does. I’m a slow learner, so that’s probably why.

However, after about 30 minutes I started getting the hang of it, and that’s when I noticed that I was able to do certain techniques with little to no thought at all. After a couple of hours, I was hitting combos somewhat reliably. It works a lot better than I ever could have imagined.

What’s great about the Hit Box is that it feels natural to hold, despite how intimidating it looks. That’s because the layout is ergonomically correct. You rarely ever need to move you hand to a better position since your fingers have access to every button at all times.

The Hit Box uses the same authentic Sanwa parts you’d find on a Mad Catz TE stick, but smaller. The only exception is the Up button, which is your standard size. The buttons are incredibly responsive and are activated with even the slightest bit of pressure. It’s a quality product that’s up there with the rest of the high tier arcade sticks in the market. You can just hear the quality each time you press a button. That’s when you know you have a great product.

The image above shows you what the button layout would look like for a game like Super Street Fighter IV. The right side of the Hit Box uses the standard eight button layout you’d find on most sticks. That hasn’t changed. The difference comes from the left side since that’s where the directional inputs are at.

Since you’re not moving a stick around as you play, the Hit Box always stays in place. You can have it sitting on your lap, on a bed, or on a table; it won’t budge an inch since there isn’t a reason for it to. It’s also comfortable to play in any position since you’re just pressing buttons. With an arcade stick I always felt like I had to be in a certain position to perform motions to the best of my ability.

With the Hit Box, you can do every technique you could do on a stick or pad but with far more efficiency. For example, it’s practically impossible to mess up charge moves since you don’t have to worry about accidentally jumping. It’s as straight to the point as possible. You hold back for a few seconds, press forward and hit an attack button. It works the same for moves like Guile’s Flash Kick that require you to hold down. It’s actually easier to do reliably since the Up command is a button press. Even Zangief’s full circle motion Spinning Piledriver is a cinch. You’ll be able to utilize advanced techniques like triangle jumping in MvC3 with very little effort.

[drop2]That’s what really sets the Hit Box apart from other peripherals. You can do moves almost immediately in situations that would require motions on a stick. I’ve made so many mistakes in the past for basic moves, especially when under pressure. That’s not a problem for me anymore.

Of course, that’s not to say that the Hit Box will make you automatically win. You still need to be precise, you still need to know what you’re doing, and you still have to be a good player. You can’t do cheap things like block in both directions, even though you can physically press both buttons at the same time. Your character simply stays in a neutral position.

There’s also a bit of a learning curve. I’ve been using the Hit Box with Mortal Kombat for the past month and I have it down to muscle memory at this point. It took about a week for me to do things without having to think about it. When I jump into a game like SSFIV or MvC3, however, I basically have to relearn how to play those games for a couple of hours before I can get the hang of it again.

Here’s a video I made showing how I use the Hit Box with Mortal Kombat:

The developers of the Hit Box have a series of helpful guides on YouTube that will teach you everything you need to know. You can see all the lessons released so far in the playlist below.

Pros

  • Authentic, high quality Sanwa buttons.
  • Innovative ergonomic design.
  • Works on both PS3 and PC.
  • Lightweight and easy to carry around.
  • Allows for more efficient gameplay techniques.

Cons

  • The price is pretty steep unless you’re a hardcore fighting game player.
  • There is no place to put the cord.

While initially confusing, the Hit Box is a great product for fighting game fans. It doesn’t matter what your skill level is. I was previously a pad player and I switched to using the Hit Box after just a few weeks. I’m a far more efficient player as a result. Like all good arcade sticks, you can mod the buttons to your liking since it’s easy to open. The only real downside is that there’s no place to hide the cord. The plexiglass also gets dirty rather quickly.

The Hit Box is currently available for the PS3/PC for $159.99. The cost of shipping depends on where you live. It’s $15 if you’re in the US, $35 for Canada and Mexico, and $50 for international shipping. There’s also a 360 model but it’s not available yet. It should be noted that there’s a waiting list for the PS3 version due to high demand. You can join the waiting list and you’ll be contacted once one can be made for you. There is no obligation for signing up.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

14 Comments

  1. Cant imagine EVER getting to grips with it…

    • Haha, yeah, that’s what I thought at first. I was pleasantly surprised after about 30 minutes.

      • I mean popping off a big combo with ryu with a pad or stick is poetry in motion. I would love a try, just to see if my brain could indeed adapt to after years of fluid fireballs and dragon punches…..

      • Which is actually a very good point – How the hell do you do something like a dragon punch on this thing?

        Is it like; press ‘right button’, ‘down button’, ‘down & right buttons together’ (if you are on the left of course)??

      • Heeyyy, whaddya know, i still got it! :D

        Although i would probably still get pwned!!

  2. Brilliant stuff!
    Obviously not for me (I can barely throw a fireball with a regular controller) but it seems really great for hardcore fighting fans. Obviously, it requires a bit of adjusting to but it seems to open new possibilities and make some things a bit quicker to pull off.

    • You can do fireballs really easy with the hit box. You might be a pro ;P

  3. 50 bucks to ship it????

    • Yeah, if you’re outside of the US it’s going to cost you $50. It sucks, I know ;(

  4. Great stuff, enjoyed watching the demonstration video thing you did. I’m not a fighting game player at all really but I think it’s something i’ll give a go, i’m thinking i’d start with the soulcaliber game that’s due to come out at some point in the relatively near future :)

  5. Not for me at all

  6. Looks great. Would love to try it, but I’ll have to stick to my fight pad for now

  7. “Or not. He doesn’t want to play me again …”

    LOL!

    Also, did you throw that dude with your HAIR?

Comments are now closed for this post.