While I’ve had the Razer Panthera in my care for a little while now, it’s an oddly appropriate time to talk about it now, since Mad Catz is sadly going the way of the dodo. For fighting game enthusiasts, the Mad Catz Tournament Edition Fight Stick has been a staple of the scene for years, with few rivals coming close to the build quality expected off a high-end fight stick. Now that Mad Catz has filed for bankruptcy, there’s room for a new company to become the king of premium fight sticks.
This is Razer’s second attempt at capturing a slice of the fight stick market, with the Xbox oriented Atrox having some major problems in terms of build quality and reliability. The Panthera on the other hand takes some inspiration from particularly the Mad Catz Tournament Edition 2, while at the same time making the structure sturdier and sacrificing some of the customisation with button layouts.
First and foremost, the shell of the Razer Panthera is gorgeous to look at with its outer layer. The solid construction of the exterior does have a few rough edges, though they weren’t in places that are frequently brushed with an arm either during play or carrying it around. It’s somewhat on the heavy side given the amount of components, though in this case that heaviness indicates a level of quality.
At a recommended retail price of £199, you’d expect this fight stick to have components of the highest quality, so Razer have used the now industry standard Sanwa Denshi components. Buttons are laid out in the optimal way, including start and select buttons on the side, and can take a surprising amount of force for when things are particularly tense, while the ball topped stick has a satisfying click to it when you move it around.
One thing I wasn’t particularly sure about with Mad Catz sticks was the switchers for enabling/disabling the non-essential buttons and for switching what part of the PS3/PS4 pad the stick emulates. The Razer Panthera uses analogue switches to easily determine what setting you want, which gives me a degree of certainty that what I set it to is what I get. It’s a minor point, but possibly one of the few notable differences between the two.
As with the higher end Mad Catz sticks, the Panthera can be opened up easily. Inside you’ll find not only a double headed screw that fits into a purpose built slot, but also a compartment for the extended USB cable (complete with cap), as well as an alternative head should the ball top not suit you. The instructions also easily let you know what should and shouldn’t be touched, as well as colour coding so you connect the right cables to the right buttons.
One point of contention with the Atrox was the USB connector which used a multi-pin audio jack internally. The Panthera abandons this in favour of the 5-pin aviation connector found in the Mad Catz stick, which provides a higher degree of reliability.
Actually playing with the Panthera is a joy. With no noticeable input lag that I was able to find, I was able to input combos about as well as I normally would. It’s compatible with PS3 and PS4 at the flick of a switch, as well as PC fighting games with relative ease and minimal setup, running just as well on all devices.
It’s important to have a stick that’s not only sturdy and reliable, but also one that is easy to replace parts for when they break. Most high-end arcade sticks have this down, but there seems to be so many improvements with the Panthera over the Atrox at the expense of some customisation. This is a remarkably similar device to the Tournament Edition 2 from Mad Catz, which will likely remain the go-to stick for some time yet, but should those become scarce, the Panthera is a great alternative.