Full disclosure: TopStep sent me this product for review purposes. This is not a paid ad and my thoughts and opinions about this product have not been pre-screened. With that out of the way, let’s start the review.
I have been playing video games and stand-up arcade machines since the mid-80s. My first home console was the Atari 2600 which included a controller that had a joystick and 1 button. The next console I owned was the NES and this came with a D-pad with 2 buttons. After a couple of hours of playing, I wanted to unplug the controller and throw it out the window. Why? Because my gaming experience started with a joystick and buttons. The arcade machines had a joystick + buttons, My Atari 2600 had a joystick + 1 whack button BUT that was fine since it still had a joystick.
So here I am holding this lame flat gamepad that’s failing at producing the arcade experience. Eventually, my dad got me the NES Advantage controller which was pretty much an arcade control deck. It had a joystick, A + B buttons, start, select, and 2 turbo buttons, 1 for each A+B to give you the ADVANTAGE! I bring all this up because as a middle-aged man, I still prefer to play my games with a joystick whenever possible. I own an unhealthy amount of fight sticks and Arcade1Up machines which are scattered all over the house. When my 7-year-old son’s friends come over to play video games, I bust out 2 Street Fighter 4 MAD CATZ tournament fight sticks, place them on the coffee table, and demand they be used for any fighting or beat’em up games played.
I personally feel that there is no better feeling than playing a game with a fight stick controller. I do have my favorites, however, to get them to work on modern consoles (Xbox Series X, PS5) I need adapters, which I have purchased just so I can use them. So, when TopStep reached out claiming they had multiple types of fight sticks that are fully customizable, including the ability to add any artwork of my choosing and a board that is fully compatible with said consoles with no adapters needed, I was very excited.
I turned away from my computer screen and looked to the heavens asking myself is this possible? Is there finally a fight stick available that I don’t have to mod in some way to produce the experience that I want? I checked out their website and was thoroughly surprised. Could this be the badass controller that I always wanted but never thought possible?
As the website states, you can fully customize your controller like you’re ordering a PC from Micro Center.
They have 2 models
- Podium V2 Controller – Leverless 12 Button Controller (The idea of someone using a leverless controller upsets me)
- Podium V2 Controller – Fight Stick
There is also a Podium V2 DIY KIT which applies to both models.
It should come as no surprise that I went with the Podium V2 Controller – Fight Stick.
My build contained the following:
- Universal Brook Fight Board – this board is compatible with Xbox Series X, PS5, PC, and all older-gen consoles
- Sanwa Denshi 24mm green buttons for all top-facing buttons along with the back buttons (start, select P1 + P2, etc.)
- Sanwa JLF-TP-8YT stick with green ball top – This is what we Brooklynites call “The Butta Stick”. Yeah, there are some other great joysticks out in the world like the Seimitsu LS-32, but I personally will always go with Sanwa joysticks and buttons.
- Main body color – Black
- Podium wings – black (these are the left & right sides of the controller)
There’s a good assortment of colors for all these parts mentioned above which is great for producing the exact look and feel for your fight stick. However, now it was time for the best part of them all, which was to upload my artwork. As mentioned, the website gets straight to the point and offers a seamless process for building your fight stick. Once you access the artwork section, there is a drag-and-drop function. Simply drag any image you want and it will display on your fight stick preview window. This allows you to see how the controller will look with all your selections and custom artwork.
As you may have guessed, I went with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. It’s an amazing beat’em up game that also supports fight sticks. Oh! And I just love TMNT. These Podium V2 controllers can be fully customized which also applies to the artwork. If you would like to have a couple of other designs there is a section to create/order additional artwork for your controller of choice. There are 6 screws on the top deck which once unscrewed will allow you to remove the sheet of plexiglass that protects your artwork. You can then swap out the artwork with a new one. As shown in the image below, the plexiglass is completely flush with the base of the controller.
The controller has smooth rounded corners and 4 sturdy rubber feet. I tend to get a bit “aggressive” with my fight sticks. I had it placed on my coffee table and really went overboard on my joystick flicks along with button mashing to see if it would slide around a bit. Thankfully it didn’t budge an inch.
I used the fight stick on the following devices
- PlayStation 5
- Xbox Series X
- Windows 11 PC
- Steam Deck (via official Steam Deck Dock)
The Podium V2 Controller – Fight Stick worked like a champ on all these devices, however, the PS5 requires you to first turn the console on with a PS5 controller. Once you plug in the fight stick, you can press the 2nd to last rear button to link the controller to your active profile. After this point, the fight stick will function like a normal PS5 controller. Unfortunately, once you turn off or put the PS5 to sleep, you will have to repeat the process every time you want to use the fight stick. I’ve experienced this before with 3rd party controllers on the PS5 so this is just how the console handles these controllers.
The same cannot be said for the Xbox Series X. Once you plug in the fight stick, it fully functions as an Xbox Series X controller including the screenshot/clip button and Xbox jewel button. So, you can turn on and off your console without the need for an Xbox controller.
The main face buttons are extremely responsive, which is expected from Sanwa. They offer less travel with the switch therefore producing a quicker input. This in turn means you don’t have to two-finger mash each button, but you still can too if that’s your style even though it’s not necessary.
They are also a bit on the quieter side compared to standard 30mm buttons. Below is a sound comparison with an 8Bitdo N30 Arcade Stick which uses standard joystick and buttons. I am by no means comparing their performance, just the sounds of the controls.
I’ve played and owned many fight sticks. Some are better than others and some focus more on style and design rather than performance. The Podium V2 Controller – Fight Stick does a great job combining all of the features that fight stick enthusiasts would want for casual or competitive play.
- High-end joystick and buttons – Check
- Lightweight with detachable USB cable for easy portability and low latency – Check
- The ability to swap out the artwork with a custom image of your choosing – Check
- Full customizable parts, so if you are completely bored with your design you can swap out all the buttons and joystick with whatever makes you happy – Check
On that note, I will say this fight stick makes me happy. It looks fantastic because I designed it and it feels comfortable resting on my lap while I get destroyed online in Street Fighter 6. I even still feel great rage quitting knowing that I can use this stick to play some of my other favorite games like Streets of Rage 4 and of course TMNT Shredder’s Revenge. If you are in the market for a fight stick, then I highly recommend checking this one out.
This review was based on the Podium V2 Controller Fight Stick provided by TopStep.