Updated: June 08, 2021
The memory of a video game arcade is one of the packed rooms with people waiting with their tokens to try out their hand in Galaga and Street Fighter. Arcade malls and centers such as this are not that popular anymore. However, arcade fighting games still hold a very special place in the hearts of dedicated fans.
For those, gaming started with the use of fight sticks. Many prefer to play on their trusty keyboard and mouse of PS4 or Xbox controllers. But it is quite evident that these arcade fighting games are designed with the controls of fight sticks.
People who have used joysticks for a long time have got the basics down pretty well. Executing combos by doing “down back”, “Z”, “semi-circle” etc is easy for them. However, not everyone is like that. For a lot of people, it’s just simpler to press keys in the correct order and not have to worry about learning the controls of a joystick. Enter Hitbox, the mix between a fight stick and a keyboard.
What is a Hitbox Controller?
A Hitbox controller is essentially a fight stick but without a joystick. Instead of moving the joystick, which many find hard to do, you have buttons that act like the WASD keys on the keyboard. Therefore, you have the directional buttons on the left side and the normal 8 buttons on the right. In addition to that, there is also typically one larger-sized button that controls the jump.
If the placement and structure of these buttons seem odd to you, then that is because it is. The Hitbox-style controller is designed with the idea in mind that arcade fighting games are best experienced with fight sticks. However, not everyone can master the controls of that. Some just don’t want to have to sit through that time to learn an entirely new type of controller. To cater to such people, the Hitbox controller is there to save the day.
Another similar concept is used in the Mixbox controller which can be thought of as a Hitbox controller alternative. With the Mixbox, you have the normal fighting buttons on the right side and keyboard directional keys on the left. Of course, PC players might find it easy to switch on to that however, there aren’t many keyboard gamers who use directional keys.
For the keyboard directional keys, you must use your right hand and assign other main controls towards the right side. That is not the case in Mixbox. Deciding which one is the victor in Hitbox vs Mixbox is entirely subjective. If you do feel comfortable using the keyboard’s directional keys placed on the right side, then going for Mixbox might suit you better.
Is Hitbox Better than an Arcade Stick?
It is important to note that different controller types suit different types of play styles. A PS4 controller might seem impossible to use in an FPS game for someone who has used the keyboard and mouse their entire life. As I mentioned earlier, Hitbox-styled controllers are primarily designed for people who are just now switching to arcade sticks from the keyboard. But the question remains, is a Hitbox controller better than an arcade stick? Let’s find out.
With just button presses, you have to move your wrist around a lot less. In the case of a joystick, your wrist is constantly on the move which can get a little tiring after some time. However, with Hitbox controllers, your hands remain fixed and your fingers are just instantly registering the buttons.
Therefore, leaving you with faster response and reaction times. But these things do come at a cost too. For starters, Hitbox controllers do not come cheap. Budgeted Hori arcade sticks can come at around $100 whereas most Hitbox styles controllers start with a $200 price tag. In addition to that, these Hitbox controllers have also given rise to controversies in the fighting game community.
Why are Hitbox Controllers so Controversial?
Since pressing buttons is a little faster than moving around a joystick, many have argued that that’s essentially cheating the game. You are not playing the game as the developers have intended and are beating the controls. And if that’s not enough, many are pushing towards banning Hitbox controllers in professional tournaments altogether.
A part of the fighting game community believes that keyboards and Hitbox-styled controllers can have macros assigned to them. Via the use of macros, pulling off difficult moves can be made easy since there is less button input required. Given all of that, should you be worried?
There has been no official ruling regarding the banning of Hitbox controllers. While it is true that a part of the fighting game community believes that Hitbox-styled controllers should be banned, another very vocal portion argues against that. Hitbox controllers are there to give everyone a chance and push towards an even bigger rise of the arcade fighting games.
As for the macros, they can be done with normal fight sticks as well. In a 6-button fighting game, the two extra buttons in an 8-button fight stick can be used to assign macros. There really is no need to worry about the controversy around Hitbox controllers and you should go for what suits you better.
Should I get a Hitbox Controller?
Transitioning from one controller type to another is the most challenging thing for a gamer. It requires you to rebuild the years of practice and muscle memory you already have developed. If you’re a PC gamer and want to experience the fighting game by playing with the type of controllers they are intended for, then going for a Hitbox rather than a normal fight stick is a good choice. So, what can you go for?
There aren’t as many Hitbox-styled controllers are there as there are normal arcade fight sticks. HORI has its name known among the arcade fighting game community as being one of the best arcade stick manufacturers.
Part of the charm of a fight stick is its ability to be customized. HORI lets the people do that with their fight sticks. HORI Hitbox controllers are available and they are just different variants of their joystick counterparts. When looking for these, you want to make sure that your Hitbox’s enclosure is one of high quality too.
There are many manufacturers and custom fight stick enthusiasts that sell Hitbox enclosures with different designs. Taking a look at them might prove beneficial to you. Similarly, the artwork for a Hitbox enclosure is different too since the case is different. However, you can still find them.
Disadvantages of Hitbox Controllers
The biggest Two disadvantages that come with a Hitbox controller are the price and the learning curve.
1- As mentioned earlier, Hitbox-styled controllers do not come cheap. And modding them can add on to the cost. However, given that there are manufactures like HORI selling Hitbox controllers, you should not worry too much.
Sanwa buttons, high-quality chassis and enclosure, and otherwise durable design are what these Hitbox controllers are comprised of. Therefore, justifying the price is not that difficult.
2- The second disadvantage that I talked about was the learning curve. The layout of the buttons and therefore, finger and hand placement can take some getting used to. Even if you’re a keyboard player, chances are you still will need to adjust your finger positioning because WASD is the most common way of gaming via keyboard.
Advantages of Hitbox Controllers
1- The main advantage people can get right off the bat with Hitbox controllers is that it is easy for those switching with the keyboard.
2- Pressing buttons and registering inputs, especially if you’re using high-grade Sanwa buttons, is faster compared to joysticks.
3- Add that to a bunch of little tricks and shortcuts you can use to buffer your inputs and you can generally pull off combos and move faster.
4- 360 degrees move wave dashing, etc are all quicker on Hitbox controllers, provided you can learn them.
Getting used to the layout of the Hitbox buttons is going to take some getting used to. However, it surely is going to be rewarding. If you truly want to improve and dedicate your time to arcade fighting games, then investing in Hitbox controllers is a smart choice.
Just like any other type of controller, there are certain drawbacks and certain benefits to owning a Hitbox controller. I have talked about them and addressed any questions that you might have. However, the decision to switch ultimately falls on you. Do you feel like learning to control a joystick and making Z-pattern movements is going to be difficult? Look over at a Hitbox. These are designed for players such as yourself and are here to assist you.