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Hori Fighting Commander, the best retro controller ever?

CrashPrime

Member
Sep 25, 2007
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I will be the first to admit, I am a bit of a d-pad snob. A lot of folks on neogaf seem to have their particular quirks when it comes to this. Some folks need native 4k, some need 60fps, some are the breed of folk who need 120hz monitors and ultra-high framerates. For me it is the controller.

I primarily enjoy playing classic (and modern) 2D games that often require very precise directional inputs. Contra 3: Alien Wars is one of my all-time favorite games, and a game I often use to benchmark controllers for accuracy. I have spent hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours testing and using a LOT of gaming controllers with a specific focus on the d-pad performance. I also play a crazy amount of other classic games because Contra 3 does get boring for me, like anything will, but it always seems to be able to quickly expose bad controllers.

For me, Nintendo has always held the majority of top spots in my rankings for d-pad accuracy. My previous list looked something like:

S Tier: Wii U Pro Controller, Sega Saturn (Japanese, US 2nd revision), Neo Geo CD, Playstation Vita

A Tier: SNES, Wii Classic Controller, iBuffalo SNES clone (best bang for your buck classic controller!), N64 which has the same d-pad as SNES but it really kind of sucks to hold.

B Tier: Sega Genesis 3-button & 6-button, NES, Xbox One (S and Elite), Playstation 4

C Tier: 8bitdo Controllers (NES30, SNES30, NES30 Pro), Xbox 360 (transforming d-pad model), Playstation 1-3 controllers.

F Tier: Most all Chinese clone controllers including brands like Tomee, Retrolink, Retro-Bit. Xbox 360, Xbox OG, Gamecube, Dreamcast, 3DO, Jaguar, Sega Master System.

*note my f tier contains controllers that are perfectly useable but really not worth adapting to other systems. there is a lot to be said about using authentic controllers with classic systems. i would take a gamecube controller to play the majority of its games.

I have a reasonable amount of time using all controllers I listed (other than very brief encounters with the no-name clones when trying to find a diamond in the rough, these do not need extensive audition time to demonstrate their incompetence.)

But after the last few months I have now found myself the ultimate SS Tier controller. Above anything I have used before!

The Hori Fighting Commander.



This model has 2 variants that I am aware of being sold to the US which would be the black Playstation 3/4/PC compatible (my recommendation), and the white Xbox One/Xbox 360/PC compatible. I have not owned the white one but I am sure it is identical. Keep in mind there have been other Fighting Commanders but I haven't had a chance to try the others like the Fighting Commander 3 which featured a gimmicky rotating dpad (discontinued and now expensive).

As I write this I feel like a straight up Hori shill. Trust me, Hori hasn't gotten nearly the amount of money from me as other brands in terms of controllers I have purchased. That would go to Nintendo, and they straight up ripped me off with their latest offering.

So what does this thing have that others don't?

First of all, it is wired and lag free. That may turn some of you away, as wireless convenience is really paramount for folks. It is a major advantage to me due to the 100% compatability with PS3, PS4, and PC, and the comfort of knowing I have the best possible lag free solution for a HUGE spread of software. I have also tested this on my PS3 when using PS2 software and it does indeed work. The same could be said for the Xbox eco-system which also has a wonderful catalog of games that will benifit from a great d-pad. At $40 a pop, you can justify one of each if you are invested on both platforms.

Second is the build quality and size. This is really just what a quality gamepad should feel like. The cable is thick, shielded, and long. The controller itself is sturdy and confidence inspiring in my large hands. It feels like it is designed for adult hands. Again, not going to be a pro for everyone but for me, oh yes.

Third would be the button layout. The d-pad is the star of the show for me, but having 6 face buttons means wonderful options when playing games like Street Fighter II where ackward shoulder buttons aren't a great substitute. It does have 2 shoulder buttons if you do need them for games like F-Zero.

Fourth is the price. You can get the Playstation or Xbox version all day long from amazon at around $40. I have spent WELL above that for controller *converters* to allow me to hook up a good controller like the Saturn pad to other consoles.

Now it isn't perfect and nothing really ever is.

It lacks analog sticks so if you are needing those, well, too bad.

The shoulder buttons are admittedly crap for anything outside of simple SNES/Saturn style implementation. Luckily, as mentioned, you don't need to rely on them as button substitutes. You won't be playing first person games that require "triggers" with this controller. Remember, no analogs.

Not compatible with Nintendo hardware. I can't use this on my Wii which is my favorite way to play classics (true 240p to Sony Trinitron via component). Can't use this for Ultra Street Fighter II or Neo-Geo classics on Switch.

Finally I have personally read people with reliability complaints. I have owned and used my controller for a little over 6 months now and the d-pad is still very accurate if maybe a little bit looser after extensive use. It still functions better than any other controller in my collection.

Now I don't really write this to sell the controller because, well, it doesn't do shit for me. I did want to share my love because I see so many people proclaiming their love for various other controllers like 8bitdo's offerings which I have found to be average at best. I feel like this controller deserved a spot light and shout out. I also wanted to maybe see what other controllers are the weapons of choice out there. Is there another Luffy out there rocking a Playstation 1 controller + converter winning thousands in competitive play?
 

BiggNife

Member
Aug 15, 2007
9,511
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I only have the old asymmetrical fighting commander and I'm just not a fan. The buttons feel mushy and the d-pad keeps tilting even when I lock it. Maybe the later model is better, dunno.

The Pokken controller is secretly one of the best emulator/retro controllers. I love using it with my Pi. It's comfortable, the d pad feels precise, and the buttons are nice and snappy.
 

CrashPrime

Member
Sep 25, 2007
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how on earth do you have the N64 as an A-tier

Because it has basically the same d-pad as the SNES, but please note the ranking is more so based on d-pad than overall controller ranking. It sucks to hold and as a retro controller its pretty trash outside actual n64 games (and even then..).
 

Neptonic

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Apr 29, 2016
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I never saw the appeal of these retro style pads. Like if I'm going to play a fighting game it's gonna be with a stiick, and if I want to play a retro game the Xbone Pad feels clicky and responsive to me, or i'll use my Wii u pro controller.
 

JusDoIt

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Jun 18, 2016
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I never saw the appeal of these retro style pads. Like if I'm going to play a fighting game it's gonna be with a stiick, and if I want to play a retro game the Xbone Pad feels clicky and responsive to me.

Xbone pad is trash. I play most arcade games with a HRAP stick, but I'm going to buy a Xbone Fighting Commander for Cuphead if the game doesn't require analogue sticks.
 

vg260

Member
Jun 9, 2004
13,133
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I'm a pretty big pad fan as I used to use them for fighters for a long time.

I think this one is decent, but I might not go that far. It's just a bit too quirky ergonomically (if it's the same as the Xbox One model in shape). I thought the original Mad Catz SF4 pad was way more comfortable ergonomically, not considering the d-pad & button performance. This was my take on the Xbox One version of this controller:

Some quick first impressions.

Works with KI (w/ W10 creator's update) in 360/PC mode.

It's very light, somewhat hollow, but that was expected. Some might call it "cheap", but it feels sturdy enough for me.

The d-pad and buttons feel pretty good to me. They have a little bit of resistance/click so not too mushy. Closer to the stiffer side, but with decent tactile feedback. It felt better out of the gate than from when I tried the first revision of the PS4 pad with the locking d-pad rotation thing. It feels petty comfortable for using the d-pad and buttons in a standard grip. No real issues there. It should do the job nicely.

The only oddity is that the upper shoulder buttons are pretty uncomfortable to try and reach with your index finger. The way I naturally grip it, my fingers rest over the lower/bigger of the shoulder buttons, and it's awkward to raise your fingers up to reach them. They seem too high up to easily reach quickly. It's kind of how your fingers would rest naturally on an Xbox controller's triggers, but you can easily shift them up to the bumpers, except here they're too high up so you can't shift them up as easily. It's almost like I have to un-grip the controller to move my fingers up to hit them. If I keep my grip and just move up my fingers, they hit their max about right between the buttons. It's bizarre. I don't know if finger length matters, as it seems more due to the placement of the buttons vertically and the angle it's designed to be gripped. It kinda takes away from the point of having the extra buttons. That could be a huge negative.

The lower shoulder buttons are also a bit louder and more clacky than the upper ones.

Also, the left side buttons are the LSB and RSB. There's no switch to change, between how the shoulder buttons are laid out, but instead, there's an assign button that lets you remap buttons around. I just haven't figured out how that works yet.

Overall, I'm a tad disappointed on the shoulder button thing, but If you mostly wanted the 3x3 layout on front and a shoulder button on each side, it should do the job, so I'm at least content with that.

EDIT: After a little bit more use I found if I hold the controller further up toward my fingertips, it's less of an issue. Perhaps I was just letting it ride lower with the base resting in my palms initially like the PS4/XO pad does. It doesn't have long "handles" so I think it's not meant to drift down into you palms as much. Maybe I was better not posting immediately, but wanted to put something up in case anyone was waiting for it to come out

EDIT 2: The assign button feature is pretty nice. More flexible than a switch. You can assign one of the left buttons for example to work as an extra X, Y, A or B, which is nice to have on the side if there are buttons you might want to hold to charge while still being able to freely hit buttons with your right hand. You can't seem to program multiple button presses, though.
 

CrashPrime

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Sep 25, 2007
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I never saw the appeal of these retro style pads. Like if I'm going to play a fighting game it's gonna be with a stiick, and if I want to play a retro game the Xbone Pad feels clicky and responsive to me.

Arcade sticks are wonderful and I have owned many over the years. Hard to argue against them really other than their size.

The Xbox One is indeed a great controller and an understandable choice too!

For me the appeal is a more simplified controller, and the fact that the performance of the d-pad is top notch. No sloppy, inaccurate, or otherwise misguided inputs. You won't get poor performance from a Xbox One controller (the S or Elite models anyways), but it doesn't have quite as tight of accuracy.
 

MCD250

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Nov 28, 2016
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I've had like three of them, all purchased to play Street Fighter. My experience has been that they feel good to use but wear out quite easily. Eventually I just started using a PlayStation controller even though I preferred the Hori's dpad.

If Hori came out with a controller that had a disc-shaped dpad I'd buy it in a heartbeat though.
 

CrashPrime

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Sep 25, 2007
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Lol at the OP's "tier list of controllers"

8bitdo is waaaaaaaaay higher.

In build quality and overall feel, yes, but their PCB is fundamentally flawed across their product line and directional inputs will consistently register incorrectly. Performance is decidedly average due to this.

I have attempted a few different mods to raise the d-pad slightly off the PCB and also have taped off sections of the contact points. I have a pretty serviceable SNES30 that I modded myself but it still isn't quite as good as the hori's performance, and you really shouldn't need to MacGyver a damn video game controller.

They feel BETTER than most 20-year old vintage nintendo controllers out there but the PCB kills them.

I really am pulling for a PCB revision for their upcoming SNES30 Pro controller but I am not holding my breath, as they refuse to acknowledge the problem as it stands on their entire current line-up.
 

SpScarecrow0

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Aug 21, 2015
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Reading, PA
I only have the old asymmetrical fighting commander and I'm just not a fan. The buttons feel mushy and the d-pad keeps tilting even when I lock it. Maybe the later model is better, dunno.

The Pokken controller is secretly one of the best emulator/retro controllers. I love using it with my Pi. It's comfortable, the d pad feels precise, and the buttons are nice and snappy.
There's a fix that uses superglue to lock the dpad as the constant rotating is an issue. The latter model dpad doesnt rotate and the overall shape is symmetrical unlike the older one which is more shaped for cross handed play.

Edit: No mention of the god awful psp dpad? Its more like buttons and it's hard to get diagonal inputs consistently. It was more of an issue on the 1000 than the slim models. I had to get that dpad cover to play sf alpha 3 and the blazblue ports.
 

Rell

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Aug 15, 2008
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Orygun
I use this as a PC controller for 2D titles, and use my Xbox 360 controller for 3D hack n slash type stuff. Mouse and keyboard for shooters 100%.

I get a lot of versatility out of the Dualshock on PS4, though. The usable d-pad doesn't put me in the same situation I was with 2D games and fighters on the Xbox 360 where I was paying for those PDP microswitch controllers that would have to be rebuilt every two months.

The fighting commander is a great controller. I don't really get all the love for the Saturn controller though. It's a good layout, but other than d-pad versus no d-pad nothing really sticks out to me.
 

daxy

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Nov 28, 2011
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I've been on the lookout for a good pad to use for 2D games on the PC and I think you just sold me on this one.

Too bad I can't use the Vita as a controller on PC. Its D-pad is absolutely sublime and I love the clicky face buttons. Shame about how mushy the R/L buttons are. So close to perfection.
 

OrbitalBeard

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Jun 2, 2013
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The SNES controller is my favorite ever, so I am in love with this:



It's my new best buddy on the Switch.

I do love the Fighting Commander though and am glad I bought one for my PS4. I have the older version though:

 

Substandard

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Oct 20, 2011
405
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I bought some Wii U pokken tournament controllers when gamestop was clearing them out for like $12 each. The dpads seem pretty great to me, althought they also have no analog sticks. I'd like something with a 6 button layout for genesis games though at some point.

Sadly at the moment, another $40 for a controller I'll use very rarely is questionable, even if it's great (I probably wouldn't use it for anything outside of sega games)
 

jett

D-Member
Jun 6, 2004
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I was interested in these things until I read that they tend to break down after a while. I wonder how true is that.
 

EricB

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Apr 8, 2012
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Out of the twenty-some controllers I own, the Hori Fighting Commander is the only one that I cannot get to work with my PC.

Hori Fighting Commander 3 on PC—no problem.

Original Hori Fighting Commander 4 on PC—no problem.

(Symmetrical) Hori Fighting Commander 4 with dedicated PC mode via a special switch—doesn't work on my PC at all.
 
Mar 25, 2014
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I know your controllers are console only, but I have to interject and say that you should include some handhelds' d-pads. All of the New 3DS / 2DS have such heavenly, clicky d-pads. It makes me cringe whenever I'm on the go with my 3DS, then when I'm chilling back home, I have to use the Switch Pro's faulty d-pad (which btw has already been tape fix'd).

I don't own any 8bitdo controllers, but I mostly agree with your list.
 

Fancolors

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Jan 21, 2016
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Nope. This is the GOAT.
I love my FC30 pro for everything it can do, but the list is mainly about the D-Pad and I completely agree on its placement.

The main issue with it is wonky inputs. It does good in most games, but playing a charge character can be a nightmare on the 8bitdo since repeating most charge motions can give you wrong directions. Repeating left and right (or up and down) a few times can give you some unintended diagonals, which is fine for most games since they don't require it, but good luck with fighting games.
 

SquirrelSoup

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Nov 19, 2013
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I have one but i think it's just okay.

Feels too chunky for my (small) hands and the dpad is too stiff. Some directions take a lot more force to register than others too for some reason, and i don't like the shoulder buttons.

Still use it for shmups on PC though.
 

Veal

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Dec 5, 2008
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I would use this almost exclusively to play Sega Genesis games. Gotta love that six button layout.
 

CrashPrime

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Sep 25, 2007
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Nope. This is the GOAT.

I actually own the controller, phone clip, and even that bluetooth speaker because I was a sucker for its aesthetic.

I love my FC30 pro for everything it can do, but the list is mainly about the D-Pad and I completely agree on its placement.

The main issue with it is wonky inputs. It does good in most games, but playing a charge character can be a nightmare on the 8bitdo since repeating most charge motions can give you wrong directions. Repeating left and right (or up and down) a few times can give you some unintended diagonals, which is fine for most games since they don't require it, but good luck with fighting games.

Astute observation about charge characters. 100% agreed. I am not that great of a pad player for fighting games but the same issues arise in a game like Contra 3: Alien Wars due to needing accurate diagonal inputs for aiming.
 

zenspider

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May 9, 2016
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I do like the FC3 and FC4 but compared to the Japanese Saturn pad, Genesis/MD 6-button,or even a SNES controller, it feels cheap and on the FC4 in particular it's to easy to hit a a button adjacent to the one you want.

Hori made an SNES style controller for the Gamecube that is fantastic. I know this is OP's list but I think it's worth mentioning.
 

CrashPrime

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Sep 25, 2007
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I do like the FC3 and FC4 but compared to the Japanese Saturn pad, Genesis/MD 6-button,or even a SNES controller, it feels cheap and on the FC4 in particular it's to easy to hit a a button adjacent to the one you want.

Hori made an SNES style controller for the Gamecube that is fantastic. I know this is OP's list but I think it's worth mentioning.

I totally forgot about the hori nintendo gamecube controller! Easily A Tier. I really enjoyed it when I had it. Granted its not worth the price it commands and is why I parted ways with mine.
 

petran79

Banned
Sep 17, 2012
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I prefer pads similar to Saturns circle layout instead of the cross shaped ones.

For fighting games especially 8-way does not feel right on cross.
 
Jan 24, 2012
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I have one and the pad is alright, but it takes a bit more pressure than I feel it should to register directions. Diagonals are adequate, but not quite as reliable as SNES or Model 2 Saturn d-pads.

The exclusion of analogue sticks isn't too bad, considering that a flip of a switch will map either to the pad. The missing touch pad can be an issue however. I recently completed Wonder Boy with the HFC and it worked pretty well. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse was a no-go though, as the touch pad acts as your menu button (thanks Share button).

I don't know if I would trust this thing for serious fighting game play, but it makes a good retro controller for PC and the console it's specific to.
 

funroll-loops

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Sep 6, 2014
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360
I have one of the older symmetrical versions and the d-pad and certain buttons feel kind of mushy and imprecise.. I bought it for playing shmups and Mame things so it doesn't have to be perfect, but if I'm buying a controller just for a large d-pad and 6 face buttons I want something with nicer build quality. It doesn't seem like it should be that hard
 

muzzymate

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Nov 10, 2011
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The SNES controller is my favorite ever, so I am in love with this:



It's my new best buddy on the Switch.

I have the North American-colored SNES version of the 8bitdo and absolutely adore it. They really nailed the look and feel of what I remember it to be, without the wire. It pairs nicely with my Retropie console.
 

gelf

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Apr 10, 2014
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I've always wanted to try these though I always preferred a good disc shaped dpad to a plus one.
 

CrashPrime

Member
Sep 25, 2007
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Nope, don't like the dpad sorry

I don't like how the dpad feels on mine at all.

Interesting. Do you both prefer the circle d-pads like the Saturn?

I know a few commentators said that the pad felt stiff, and that does loosen up with some play. Break-in does help with that.

Interesting also to hear that others have said the FC3 is mushy. Hori likely went the other direction with stiffness to prevent that mushy feel, which has put some folks off.

It's strange how we all seem to have our preference on d-pad feel. Main competitors being circle vs. cross.