The fighting game scene is in rude health right now, and while Smash Bros. is sat on top of the pile (who could have seen that coming a few years ago?) there’s a whole host of fantastic titles for fight fans to get their teeth into. The EVO finals this past weekend have showcased some of the greatest players out there, and whether it’s been Dragon Ball FighterZ or Street Fighter V it’s proven that if you really want to hit the top you’re going to need a Fight Stick to help get you there. With the loss of Mad Catz from the fight stick arena, there’s been a distinct reduction in reliable manufacturers to choose from, but Nacon are making a big play to fill that gap with the Daija Fight Stick.
Nacon have quietly become a real force to be reckoned with when it comes to the manufacture of controllers, and the Daija doubles down on that as a peripheral that immediately feels like a premium piece of kit. Once removed from its lovely packaging the first thing that hits you is the sheer weight of the thing. Thanks to a solid metal plate in the rubberised bottom panel, it clocks in a 3.7kg and you can be fairly certain that if you set it down on a table it isn’t going anywhere. That solidity means it’s easier to pull off moves, though some might find it a little fatiguing to have it sat on your knees for an extended period of time.
The majority of the stick’s body is built from solid black plastic, with a thick textured panel below the controls for you to rest your wrists on. While I wasn’t originally convinced aesthetically, it’s an addition that really adds to the stick’s comfort level. Besides the obvious main controls all of those crucial secondary buttons – Options, Share and the touchpad – are lined up along the right hand side of the unit so there’s absolutely no chance of you catching any of them in the heat of battle. I had some concerns that I would catch the wrong one on a blind search for the all-important Options button, but I found it sits just where you’d expect it to be and I never had any issue finding it.
There’s also a pair of switches, one to change between PS4, PS3 or PC connectivity and another to select which movement controls you want the stick to mirror. Importantly – for me at least – there’s also a headphone input in the front of the unit. The absence of one would be an absolute deal-breaker at this point and it really bumps the Nacon’s desirability up a notch over some of the slightly cheaper sticks out there.
The main buttons meanwhile are laid out in the common Vewlix pattern so they should suit almost everybody. As with any new stick, once you’ve got accustomed to where everything is it feels satisfyingly natural to play with. I had no trouble stringing combos together either way, and the Sanwa branded button’s short amount of travel made inputs feel snappy and precise. Whether I was being particularly precise or not is another matter!
The Daija’s Sanwa stick – again, more or less the industry standard – feels appropriately robust, and each motion elicits that lovely clicking sound that all good gated sticks should have. There’s also a choice between two stick heads, a Bal top and a Bat top, and you’re provided with the on-board tools to make changing it an absolute breeze.
For those looking to customise the Daija themselves there are two red catch buttons on either side of the casing that allow you to open it up and mess around with the innards, and Nacon have really made it as simple as possible, with colour coded wiring and a key to make sure you don’t mess it up (disclaimer: I’m sure you can still mess it up).
Serious tech-heads will be disappointed to discover that the PCB board isn’t really removable though, and the fairly ordinary-looking USB cable is hardwired into the board. There’s a handy little cubby hole for the cable when you’re packing it away so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it’s odd that it’s not a stronger fabric cable that can be detached when Nacon’s Revolution Pro Controller features one and other decent fight sticks do as well.
One of the key questions that has been raised about the Daija is the issue of input lag, and I was able to test it against my Mad Catz TE2+ with some fairly mixed results. Using King of Fighters XIV, and a pair of Gang-Il’s, I tracked the number of trades and counter hits, with the TE2+ winning out over the Daija, though ultimately the number of trades far outweighed the counters on either side.
Input lag is ultimately a personal issue, and primarily it’s going to come down to whether or not you’re intending to use your stick for online, local and single-player gaming or whether you’re about to step out into the world of big money tournaments. The chances of it being a real factor at any level is virtually none – you’d have to have superhuman sensitivity to pick it up, and a very specific set of conditions for it to matter – but if you think it might cost you a few bob you may want to check out the slightly more expensive Razer Panthera Evo.