One of the major trends taking the FGC by storm is the notion of ditching the stick part of an arcade or fightstick. We've seen it rise in adoption over the years, not just by casuals looking for an edge at a local tournament, but also with some of the biggest names in the scene. So while other brands have released their own versions of the design, it was only a matter of time till Victrix did the same. Is it worth the high price tag, though?
- Body: Aircraft-grade aluminum
- Buttons: Sanwa Denshi buttons and switches
- Connectivity: 3M USB C to USB A cable
- Compatibility: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
- Customizable? Yes
- Weight: 7.8 lbs
- Colors: Purple, White
- Price: $399 on Victrix website
Announced at EVO 2022, the Victrix Pro FS-12 is a 12-button stickless fightstick that replaces the joystick usually reserved for movement with four directional buttons. Taking the lessons learned with the original incarnation of the Pro FS, the Pro FS-12 uses the same high-quality single-body aluminum and creates a durable and attractive chassis to hold everything. The chassis itself is still sloped near the bottom, giving a comfortable curve to rest your arms during long sessions.
The one thing to note is that this is a heavy fightstick. And for good reason: you really don't want it moving on you during tense moments. To help reinforce this, the underside of the Victrix Pro FS-12 has a rubberized bottom to help it stick in place, whether on a tabletop, your lap, or the floor underneath you.
Immediately my eyes were drawn to the obvious: this is an arcade stick, without the stick. This stickless design has been taken up in recent years thanks to the adoption of another product, the Hit Box. Here with my local group, the stickless format has started to overtake us all, so it was only a matter of time for me to try one out. With pros like Daigo "The Beast" Umehara and Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi both switching to the stickless format, as well as Kawano's victory this year at Evo 2022 using a Hit Box, I can only assume adoption rates will soar even more.
Victrix feels primed to capitalize on that here with the Pro FS-12, especially as the company has already built a solid reputation in the FGC for building some of the best-performing and most beautiful sticks on the market.
The Pro FS-12 has the same eight fact buttons that make up the majority of inputs on a controller while adding four directional buttons. One notable design decision was to reverse the placement of Up and Down, with the top three directional buttons being "Left, Down, Right" while a larger "Up" button is towards the bottom of the stick. This is meant to replicate the feel of using Spacebar to jump, but as with most things these are adjustable in-game settings to match your liking.
The top bar has your Options button, as well as host of other options, from the ability to lock the bar to stop inadvertent pauses during a match, or change the color scheme of the built-in RGB on the sides. In the middle is a trackpad similar to the one found on the DualSense controllers, giving that level of control when using the pad with a PlayStation.
Visually, the Victrix Pro FS-12 is beautiful, the purple finish on our review unit incredibly striking. While at EVO 2022 I was also able to go hands-on with the white finish, which is beautiful itself too, the Victrix purple looks so good. The Victrix Pro FS-12 can also be laser engraved (something Victrix tends to do at events as well if you bring yours to their booth). While I'm sure it would look good (the White Tree of Gondor on my original stick still looks amazing four years later), I'm not sure I want to disrupt the look of the Pro FS-12's purple finish. It's just too pretty.
The underside itself opens up to reveal the wiring of the Victrix Pro FS-12. Like its predecessor, the Pro FS-12 is fully customizable, so players who prefer a different feeling switch or button can easily get at it and swap the Sanwa Denshi parts that come standard out. Given the fact that the Sanwa Denshi parts are considered to be among the best, it's a fair bet that many won't swap them entirely, but the option is there should you choose to.
The Victrix Pro FS-12 also comes with a high-quality sleeved USB C to USB A cable for connectivity. This is a wired controller, meaning regardless of where you use it you'll need to be somewhat close, despite the 3-meter-long cord. Additionally, the Pro FS-12 is usable on both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 (natively), as well as the PC thanks to the inclusion of XInput. There's even a little switch inside the Pro FS-12 to let you set the mode of the PCB.
Using the Victrix Pro FS-12
I'll admit: I'm not the best at fighting games, but the few I'm decent at (Soul Calibur, Melty Blood: Type Lumina) I found sitting down with the Pro FS-12 to be rather familiar. This is partly due to the fact that my main driver is already a Victrix stick: the original incarnation of the Pro FS. Given the fact that the stickless variant uses the same body and build materials, it felt like coming home when I sat down for that first match.
From a performance standpoint, the Pro FS-12 is incredibly responsive and satisfying to use. In my first few matches of Melty Blood on PlayStation 5, the buttons sang as I'd expect. Sanwa Denshi buttons feel incredible to use, much like a satisfying mechanical keyboard.
However, the learning curve here is huge as I had to adjust to moving around without the stick. The biggest hurdle is the reversed placement of Up and Down. Despite telling myself it was just a space bar, I found it difficult to get over the hump initially of using the right button to jump with, oftentimes losing me matches.
However, standard fighting game maneuvers, such as a half-circle sweep or the Dragon Punch motions were a bit easier and even faster with just the buttons. I could fire off fireballs with ease, and my anti-air game immediately improved. Learning combos were also lot easier, especially once I got the hang of the Up/Down swap. This is mainly due to the fact that it feels like I'm learning a cheat code or combo on a controller as I did as a kid versus an arcade stick I would maybe use once a month growing up.
However, it does come with some drawbacks. When in practice and training modes it was easy to pull off in motion, but it took me a fair bit to remember how to control my character fluidly when playing other people. During an FGC night at a friend's house earlier this month to put the stick through its paces, I ended up going a glorious 3-26, mostly because I would find myself floundering during tense moments and reversing the Up/Down switch again.
This isn't a knock against the stick itself, but moreso the layout being so foreign to me that it's going to take weeks to get as fluent with it as I am with the stick itself.
Another aspect I was surprised to find myself not liking was the ergonimics of the stick during long sessions. With the fightstick itself, being able to rest my forearms and just move my wrist to manipulate the stick felt amazing. However, with the 12-button layout, my wrists tend to relax, causing the sloping curve of the body to be a liability at times. Instead of my fingers being in a prime position to react, I found myself relaxing my hands more, putting me a step behind. Compare this with the Hit Box, which is smaller and less ergonomic, but as a result, it forces your hands to be in prime position all the time.
That said, I love the fact that regardless of how hectic a match turns out to be, or how animated I become when reacting to a whiff or a punish on screen, the Victrix Pro FS-12 isn't going anywhere. I've used lighter sticks like the Qanba Drone or the Hori Real Arcade Edition sticks and while they are nice, they just don't feel solid when in use. The Victrix is immobile, sticking to my lap or tabletop during the height of the game, keeping my inputs where they belong: at my fingertips.
Crucially, too, one of the major flaws of the original Pro FS was its spotty PC support. While at tournaments you're not going to find PCs at each table, at home many of us play fighting games there as they perform better, while also ensuring a wired connection for most combatants. But the older Pro FS wasn't always natively supported, making it a struggle to get it to work in games, especially when the developer hadn't programmed for the Victrix stick.
Thanks to XInput support on the Pro FS and Pro FS-12's that just released this year, this was a thing of the past. Every single game I tested it on, from Street Fighter V, Dragon Ball FighterZ to Final Fantasy XIV (Yes. Yes I did - more to come on that front), the Pro FS-12 worked right out of the gate. It's such a great improvement that just makes it more appealing to a wider audience.
The Victrix Pro FS-12 made it easier to pull off fighting game motions I would struggle to do consistently with the regular arcade sticks that have dominated the scene, something I was hoping for when I first laid eyes on the layout. However, with this level of accuracy came a higher learning curve. As someone who is more casual than anything else, I could understand if someone decided to just forgo the all-button layout for the familiar arcade stick setup (which Victrix also has launched a new version of the Pro FS for those users). However, as someone who has always struggled for consistency with the stick itself, the Pro FS-12 is a breath of fresh air.
Yes, it's kind of a mind-bender learning to use the new layout and swapping your Up and Down inputs. Getting that down to second nature after decades of using a stick is the hardest point here for me, but the stick itself performs admirably under pressure. From the precise and satisfying actuation of each of the buttons to the heft of the stick, the Pro FS-12 takes everything I throw at it in each heated match. While the ergonomics of the stick are comfortable, I can't help but feel they are too comfortable, at least for me, with this layout. Forcing my wrists off the stick is a struggle, especially as it's so well built that I just naturally want to rest them on the body of the stick. However, your mileage here might vary - hours and hours of muscle memory will take hours and hours to unlearn.
Despite this, I felt more precise and was able to pull off complicated combos I never could on the regular arcade stick with relative ease once I got used to the button layout. The Victrix Pro FS-12 made me a better, more consistent player. And for $399, that should be the case. This isn't a stick your casual fan is going to buy lightly, nor should they. Victrix products are typically sold with the idea that this is a premium device, and honestly, it shows in the design and performance. $399 is a lot of money, but if you're looking for the best you're not going to find much better than the Victrix pad.
All in all, the Victrix Pro FS-12 is a fantastic stickless fightstick, capable of competing against the other names by building 12-button layouts in the scene. It takes a bit of re-learning, but once I got the hang of it I felt like a better player when armed with Vicrix Pro FS-12. And that alone is a triumph of design. While it's a bit more expensive than the others, Victrix more than makes up for this with its premium build quality, high-quality buttons and switches, as well as its exceptional performance.
Full Disclosure: The product described here was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.