Qanba Q4 RAF Thorough Review From An Arcade Stick Newbie!

The Qanba Q4 RAF Ice Red Limited Edition (with frosted finish)

This is a thorough review of the Qanba Q4 RAF arcade sticks (and a partial comparison writeups with the X-Arcade TankStick) from someone with little to no arcade playing experience. I pretty much live my childhood and teenage life with a Sony Playstation controller, either on console or PC. Yes I played ALL PC games using my trusty PS controller using the MotionInJoy software, or DS3Tool! It's very natural for me to pick up a controller and start playing virtually any games possible. Using the arcade sticks ought to be a very unique gaming experience to me, to say the very least!

Some Arcade History Of Mine

Before reading this review I think it's best if I would clarify one thing - I'm NOT a frequent visitor to arcade shop. I don't spend my childhood in arcade shops because I don't have the luxury to do so. Going to arcade shop would means skipping schools and taking a bus to the city, which requires $$ and I don't have much as a child. Most of the $$ I have are spent on lunch and there's that.

Having said that, my experience with arcade sticks and buttons is minimal to say the least. So please take the following experience that I had with a grain of salt.

So you might be guessing then why am I getting an arcade stick in the first place? The answer is pretty simple: To play it on various consoles using the emulators that I had setup.

In fact, surveying the arcade sticks had exposed me with a lot more information that I never thought possible! From understanding the parts and mechanism of the joysticks (actuation force, deadzone, springs, restrictor gates), types of push buttons, arcade cabinet types (bartop, full-sized), buttons layout, and so much more!

Transitioning from controller to arcade sticks

Having getting accustomed to controllers ever since the Playstation and Nintendo Wii, I found transitioning to use arcade sticks to be pretty easy unlike what others had felt. In fact, it felt just right and if not, more comfortable than the controllers since you can rest your wrist on the arcade controller itself.

The Qanba Q4 RAF

Qanba Q4 RAF is released in two editions, the regular ones with opaque/solid body and the limited one with frosted or semi transparent body such as the Ice Red Limited Edition that I got. The only thing that is different with the limited edition ones is that they came with OBSC (with translucent rim and clear) push buttons instead of the OBSF which features a solid rim color. Both buttons should have the same 'pressing' experience since their internal hardware is the same. The joystick is a Sanwa JLF, which is reviewed to be very good for fighting games.

Size Comparison

If you think the Qanba Q4 RAF is huge, think again when you see it pitted against the TankStick. Look at how small it is.









Ergonomics

Qanba really thinks of ergonomics when they launch this amazing product. They really hope that you would use it for long gaming sessions. The slanted top panel that you use to rest your arms is very comfortable. Most other arcade sticks that I find usually have a flat top with a curvature bezel. I can't say whether such bezel will help, but I can testify that the slanted panel is simply comfortable!

The slanted bottom panel helps to rest your wrist for long gaming session without any discomfort.


In my experience, I had rest my palms on it for an hour and feel no pain or traces of line/marks on my wrist. The opposite is true when using the TankStick. In fact, I started to felt discomfort by resting my wrist on the TankStick for even 10 minutes!

The Arkward 'Start' Button?

This is an issue raised many times for any potential buyer when considering the Qanba Q4 and its counterpart, the EightArc Fusion, which is only released in the US. The later removes the top carrying handle and moves the Start Button to the top right panel, resting alongside the Select buttons. Not to mention the EightArc Fusion is slightly expensive too. The reason for concern is pretty obvious since many afraid that they might accidentally hit the Start button during gameplay, especially in any fighting games. From what I know, the player that does that during a fighting games tournament will be immediately disqualified since pressing it will essentially pausing the game.

Distance between the fourth push button and the rightmost 'Start' button. The SanDisk memory stick fits just right.
Frankly speaking, I don't find it to be a problem AT ALL. In my first hour of Street Fighter IV gaming session, I didn't even hit it. In fact, it is impossible for me to hit it due to the spacing between it and the rest of the 8 push buttons. Perhaps that is because I always rest all my four fingers on the push buttons without lifting them up. Just like when I'm touch typing on a keyboard. Unless you keep on lifting your fingers up and down the push buttons such as button mashing, then there just *MIGHT* be a chance for the accidental hit.

Smaller Button Spacing

It is very obvious that the Qanba buttons have a much smaller spacing between each buttons compared to the TankStick. Don't get it wrong though. My fingers doesn't feel cramped at all when resting all my four fingers on them. In fact, I find it to be very comfortable to place my fingers on. When using the TankStick, I tend to only rest one finger at at time.

Switching between Digital (D-Pad) and Analog Control

Perhaps not mentioned by much (since majority are using the Qanba for fighting games), the Mode button on the Qanba allows you to switch the joystick between Digital (directional pad) and Analog Control. This mode is very useful when using the Qanba in emulators such as ePSXe, Dolphin, and DEmul. Some games in this system requires analog inputs.

Connecting Qanba to the PC

Initially I thought the Qanba will be detected as a Keyboard, pretty much like the TankStick would. However it turned out that it is recognized as a Joystick instead. I believe that makes sense since it supports XBox360 or PS4. The PC support is perhaps rerouting the joystick control to the PC joystick driver.

Qanba is automatically detected as a Joystick while the TankStick as a keyboard device.

Game controller settings for the Qanba Q4 RAF joystick.


Note that X-Padder doesn't recognize the HOME button even though it is recognized in Windows Game Controller Settings. 

How Qanba Fit In My Gaming System

As mentioned, I'm not really a fan of fighting games. In other words, I sucked at fighting games. My game genre is more on the RPG and Rhythm genre which doesn't require triggering multiple buttons in a particular order within a specific time frame.

Right now I'm having a HyperSpin front end setup with almost all the arcade, computer and console systems setup dated from 197x until 2004. (The most recent ones being Nintendo GameCube/Sega Dreamcast era). This is combined with RocketLauncher which served as the emulator manager and a whole lot more features like controller profiles, bezels, HyperPause, etc. You would have guessed as much if you read my previous post on how I set things up using those programs. Fast forward to almost 3 months now and I'm glad that I had finally done it!

Using a utility called X-Padder, I then started to map the Qanba Joystick with my favorite system at all time, the SNES using RetroArch emulator! Previously I had written a autohotkey (AHK) script that maps the TankStick keys into different emulators. The same script cannot be used here since the Qanba is recognized as a JoyStick instead of keyboard. So using joystick remapping tools such as X-Padder is the only choice here. And the best thing is setting it up is pretty straight-forward!


I used the first set as the 'in-game' mode and the second set as the 'hotkey' mode. In 'in-game' mode, the buttons are mapped to the exact buttons found on each controller. The 'hotkey' mode, however, have the buttons mapped to emulator specific functions such as save state, rewind, capturing screen shots, etc. In addition to mapping the hotkeys to the emulator functions, I also map some of them to RocketLauncher Bezel selection. Pretty cool huh?

Default set (in-game mode) mapping for Qanba in SNES using X-Padder.

Set #2 (hotkey mode) mapping for Qanba in SNES using X-Padder.

Notice in the pictures how I use the Start button as the set selector (while-held) to switch to 'hotkey mode' when it is held. So I then map the Select button to the Start button, with the Select button still usable while pressing the Start button.
 
Read here for more details on how I map the Qanba to various emulators using X-Padder.

What Games Did I Use the Qanba (or Arcade Sticks in General) For?

Players, or fighting fans in particular would choose an arcade fight stick over a controller any day simply because using the stick will gives them a more accurate and responsive control when executing fighting moves that requires hitting the exact directional buttons at the specific moment in time. For them, the sound feedback when activating the switch on the joystick is helpful to determine the hitting directions. Not to say that the D-Pad in the controller doesn't work, but the feeling is totally different.

Not for me though, I choose it because I would like to try using it on various gaming genres. As mentioned, I'm not really a fighting games fans.

So far I've tested playing a wide genre of games such as platformers, RPGs, Action, Adventure across multiple gaming system ever possible. Just to name a few, PS1, N64, SNES, NES, GB, and even DOS! To play these games using an arcade stick is definitely a refreshing and thrilling experience compared to using the controller.

With the exception of arcade style games which is where the sticks are meant to play with, even game genres such as platformers, RPG, puzzle, to name a few is executed well using the sticks. In fact, I found it to be much more comfortable than using a controller. Reason being I can rest my wrist on them instead of hanging in the air when using a controller. Of course for long gaming sessions you might have a pillow resting on your lap and just rest your controller on them but that's another story. After playing on the stick for an hour and trying on the controller again, I actually find it very awkward to hold the controller! It's simply amazing on how fast my muscle memory kicks in :-P

I just can't stress out how unique it is to play games like Ghost and Goblin, Donkey Kong Country, Super BomberMan, and even Pokémon using the Arcade Stick! I've always been wanting to do that and boy, I've finally did it! I found controlling the character in those games to be very natural too, even though they are designed for controller in mind.

Just like real world, not all games played just right, or felt at home using the stick. Some games are still better executed or played using controller such as FPS games which commonly uses the RT (Right Trigger) buttons to aim and another button (either X or Left Trigger) to fire. For example, I've tried playing Resident Evil series using the Arcade Stick and the control is horrible on the stick. Well I can eventually get used to it but it is definitely not a natural way that is meant to play these types of games.

So my verdict is, arcade sticks for all games except FPS.

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Extras

Following are just some of my experience comparing the Japanese arcade parts such as the Sanwas found on Qanba with American/European arcade parts like the Suzo-Happ or Euro IL. In particular, I compare the Qanba Q4 with the X-Arcade TankStick. I might be writing a dedicated blog post mentioned about these too. In the meantime, I'll simply mentioned them here.

Sanwa Push Buttons

Others had claimed that the Sanwa buttons is very sensitive to activation (i.e. before the input is registered). I have to say that I found it to be the perfect sweet spot for me. Having getting used to controller such as PS3 and PS4 controllers for many years now, the one thing that I get accustomed to is I don't really press or hit the buttons hard. So that might explain why I found the senstivity to be just right.

If the Sanwa sensitivity is really a concern for you, then you can opt for the Seimitsu ones as it is reported to be less sensitive that the Sanwas.

Sanwa vs Euro IL Buttons (Japanese vs American/Asian Push Buttons)

Comparing the Japanese buttons such as Sanwa to the American/European style buttons such as Euro IL Convex is like comparing apples to oranges. It's not really a matter of which one is better as it's all boils down to your personal preference. If you're growing up in the American/European country then perhaps you would prefer the Euro IL buttons which is the best quality buttons you can get for your money right now for American/European arcade experience. For Asian players, no doubt that either Sanwa or Seimitsu buttons will make you feel just right at home, or arcade station.

So which one would you prefer? To quickly sum it out, the Euro IL buttons requires a slightly larger effort to press and it has a kind of 'musshy' sound compared to the Sanwas. The best analogy that I could put in words is like seeing the moveset performed by WWF SuperStar with Jackie Chan or Jet Li. More strength/power for the American/European buttons while less strength/more speed is needed for the Japanese buttons.

JoyStick

The Sanwa JLW and EuroStick that I ordered is not yet arrived, so I'm going to compare these using the one I got at hand now, which is the stock TankStick Joystick (Suzo-Happ) with the Sanwa JLF in the Qanba Q4.

First off, the feeling experience. I really like the round candy balltop compared to the bat-top. The way you grip these two different joystick is totally different. With the JLF, you simply place all your fingers at the circular ball whereas you will grab the bat-top with all your fingers from the left.

The clicking switch sound in the JLF is also significantly clearer than the Suzo Happ, which sounds very mudded. While some might found the clicking sound annoying, I actually like it as it provides me with the feedback and I know how many directions that I had activated when executing a move in a fighting games.

TankStick vs. Qanba

I guess I'm just fortunate to have both sticks for different occasion. Of course that cost me some premium for that. The TankStick whenever I crave for American/European arcade experience or having friends over or the Qanba Q4 for personal gaming session where I can simply lay it on top of my lap.

What's Next?

Modding the artwork and LED buttons. The Qanba Q4 is meant to be easily modded by users. More on this perhaps after I got my parts from ParadiseArcade!

Summary

With the acquisition of the Qanba I might be retiring my TankStick unless I have friends coming over. Until then, so long TankStick!

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2 comments

Where did you get the image file for XPadder ? I recently got a Q4 and have been ( very ) unsuccessfully trying to set it up to work with MAME / HyperSpin.

Reply

I simply downloaded it somewhere from Google Image and cropped it to fit the X-Padder resolution.

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