The Fusion FightPad Controller Helps Me Finally Perform a Proper Hadouken

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $60
The PowerA Fusion FightPad, with an Amiibo
Michael Crider

Looking at the primary controllers for the three major consoles today, you might think that there’s not a lot else to be done to perfect a controller. And, you’d be right! The current dual-stick design has served us well for nigh on to two decades. But fighting game fans long for a simpler time.

Here's What We Like

  • Classic layout 
  • Wonderful D-pad and face buttons 
  • Great wire with breakaway

And What We Don't

  • C-stick switch doesn't work right
  • Expensive
  • Less comfy than modern controllers

Enter PowerA’s Fusion FightPad. This simplified wired controller is a shameless callback to the days of the long-lost SEGA Saturn and its six-button pad long considered the best ever by some 2D fighting fans. PowerA’s modern revival copies the look and feel of the original, with the SEGA-style circular D-pad, a wired-only build to cut input lag, and some wonderfully snappy buttons from well-known switch supplier ALPS.

We’re reviewing the Switch version of this controller. It’s also available for PS4 and Xbox One, with the only big difference being the central control cluster (the start, select, home area) customized for each console.

Though it makes a few concessions to modern sensibilities, such as a full set of four shoulder buttons and a few extras in the central control area for console functions, this is an excellent resurrection of a classic design. It’s a pricey option considering its limited capabilities, and if you’re not into fighting games, there’s not a lot here for you. But if you are, it’s well worth the investment.

Hit Me Baby

In its standard layout, the FightPad ditches both analog sticks and doubles up on the R and R2 (or ZR) buttons, placing them above and to the right of the four normal buttons handled by your left thumb. This gives you six buttons in the classic 2D fighter layout: soft, regular, and hard punches, ditto for kicks. If you’ve ever played Street Fighter 2 in the arcade, you’ll know how it goes—most new and rereleased fighters work with this configuration without any extra tinkering.

But what about the ones that don’t? While the FightPad doesn’t offer true programming, it does have a few settings you can change via on-the-fly switches. The left D-Pad can be switched from the regular D-pad input to a stick. This means that the console will detect stick your D-pad input as if it were an analog stick. So, for example, in Super Smash Bros. where the regular D-pad is reserved for taunts, you can set it to the right stick instead (which leaves you without taunts but full standard moves).

The FightPad's D-pad.
It’s squishy. Michael Crider

This can be applied for either the left or the right stick, though the latter won’t be useful very often. This still leaves you out of luck with most games that need dual-stick input (any kind of 3D shooter or third-person action game), but covers at least some of the bases that would otherwise be empty.

There’s a switch on the top of the pad, too: it changes the top-right shoulder button into a C-stick activator, so you can hold it and toggle the D-pad into C-stick functionality. Or, at least, that’s what PowerA’s marketing indicates, saying explicitly that you can use this button for dedicated smash attacks in Smash Bros. When I tested it, it didn’t work—this button didn’t appear to do anything.

FightPad shoulder buttons.
This switch doesn’t appear to work as intended. Michael Crider

I had to do quite a bit of testing (on my PC, in fact!) before I figured out what was happening: switching the shoulder switch to its alternate position actually turns the R button into R3, which is pressing the right analog stick down and “clicking” it. That’s neat, but it’s useless in Smash Bros. and most other fighting games. It’s a pretty big miss in the Switch version of the controller, and I can’t see how it would be useful on the PS4 or Xbox One controllers, either.

Look and Feel

Actually using this controller was like stepping into a time machine and picking up the classic six-button pad I remember from the Genesis. The main six buttons have plenty of cushion and give, and the spring-loaded D-pad floats around. If that doesn’t sound good to you, then you probably had a Super Nintendo—the Genesis/Saturn D-pad was much more “floaty.”

That’s a desirable trait if you’re playing a 2D fighter, with its controls designed with old-school arcade cabinets in mind. And, indeed, it was a lot easier to input the complex combinations of punches, kicks, and directional commands than on a more conventional controller. Using the FightPad with my PC, I was finally able to nail some combos in the training modes of Soul Calibur 6 and Fight N Rage that I could never nail with a standard controller. The clicky ALPS buttons hyped by PowerA are the real deal.

Breakaway cable on the FightPad.
A breakaway cable keeps your controller and console safe.

However, there are a few other touches worth praising. This is a wired controller, the better to banish input lag, but there’s been some thought put into the wire itself. The USB cable can detach from the controller, the better to travel with, and it’s a handy 10 feet of nylon braid. Even better, there’s a breakaway cable at the head, so you won’t destroy your controller or your console in the heat of battle.

Other nice features include full Switch console controls (+, -, Home, and Capture) that are replicated for their respective consoles on the PS4 and Xbox versions of the pad. An in-line headphone jack rounds things out. Note that the FightPad does not include rumble, nor NFC or motion controls for the Switch’s more esoteric inputs.

Playing with the FightPad was satisfying for more old-fashioned 2D games. But my joy at finally being able to correctly use fighting combos without touching the shoulder buttons was somewhat hampered by cramps in my palms, which came on faster than usual. Turns out those big, chunky handles from more modern controllers are there for a reason, and their absence on this one makes it notably less comfortable to use.

Swap It Out

There’s one feature that’s entirely cosmetic: removable faceplaces. This is a little odd, but it does allow the user to quickly identify whose controller is whose, assuming you’ve got a lot of identical ones going at the same party. There are three (red, white, grey) in the package, and they come on and off with a satisfying magnetic snap.

The controller, bare, with its three colors.
Michael Crider

It’s a nice touch. Note particularly the deep depression around the D-pad, so the faceplate stays out of the way of your thumb as you’re punishing this thing. If you’re wondering, multiple faceplates are also available on the the PS4 (black, white, blue) and Xbox (black, white, grey) versions, though the different button arrangements mean you can’t swap across consoles.

A Very Particular Set of Skills

The Fusion FightPad goes for $60, as much as PowerA’s much more modern controllers, with full button layouts and wireless options. For that kind of scratch (and with a little searching), you can get an official Dual Shock 4 or Xbox One controller, both of which have full control layouts. In terms of value, the FightPad is undeniably lacking.

 

the FightPad with the Switch Pro controller.
Michael Crider

But this isn’t about value, it’s about replicating the feel of playing 2D fighting games on classic consoles. And, considering that a quality arcade-style fighting stick costs at least this much, and up into the hundreds, the high price is an easier pill to swallow. It helps that, while the three console versions of this controller aren’t cross-compatible, they should all work on the PC.

I wish the FightPad was comfier, and that its C-button worked for proper Smash Bros. inputs. But if you saw the look of the button layout and instantly started drooling, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy it quite a lot. Go get your hadouken on.

Rating: 8/10
Price: $60

Here’s What We Like

  • Classic layout 
  • Wonderful D-pad and face buttons 
  • Great wire with breakaway

And What We Don't

  • C-stick switch doesn't work right
  • Expensive
  • Less comfy than modern controllers

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »

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