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Dark Matter Arcade Fighting Stick Review


2023 has been a stellar year for fighting games: Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1 are the big hitters (pun intended) but there were also strong entries from Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 and God of Rock. And, Tekken 8 is just around the corner too.

So what better time than now to look into an arcade stick? The Dark Matter Arcade Fighting Stick has been out for a while, but its mid-range price makes it an ideal choice. But how does it actually perform?

Dark Matter Arcade Fight Stick review 1
Should you buy the Dark Matter Fight Stick?

Priced at $89.99, the Dark Matter Arcade Stick works on all consoles including the Nintendo Switch, PC and even Android and iPhone devices. However, setting up on the PlayStation and Xbox can be a tricky beast, and that is only the start of the issues.

The instruction manual will get you so far, in as much as wiring it up correctly. It comes with three wires: one from the stick itself to a regular USB port, a USB to USB Type-C and finally, USB to Micro USB. These can all be slotted in the compartment, along with a hex screwdriver that can open up the stick for modular upgrades. Or, if necessary, some re-wiring. More on that later.

The stick plugs into the console of your choice as you would expect. I don’t need to tell you how important reducing the latency via wired controllers is in fighting games. Then, the stick needs to be put into console mode by pressing and holding the switch button for two seconds. Then, the controller needs plugging into the stick itself via the USB cable. And finally, according to the instruction manual, the key lock lights should light for three seconds to indicate the stick is now available for use. If not successful, they will flash together three times. Finally, press the home button to confirm all is correct.

In theory.

Whilst it isn’t stated, in use the arcade stick would only work when the controller was unplugged from it. And even then, it wasn’t a guarantee. I simply had to try the process over and over again if it didn’t work, all until it did.

But why is the controller bit necessary in the first place? The arcade stick has all the buttons a regular controller does. That means the thumbstick buttons, options, Share, home and more. But when loading up Tekken 7 – and the console finally recognising the arcade stick – it came up with a notification stating that it was a legacy controller. And as such, functions such as the share and home buttons then do not work properly.

But as I soon discovered, very few other buttons worked as intended either.

Dark Matter Arcade Fight Stick review 2
Cable included!

Printed on the top plate of the arcade stick is the requisite button labelled next to the eight big buttons. However, it was quickly apparent that these weren’t exactly true. And, after diving into the configuration menu in Tekken 7, it turned out that none of these were correct, with the LT/L2 button not working at all.

Ever the optimist, I used this as an opportunity to test out another major feature. The Dark Matter Arcade Fighting Stick also advertises itself as modular, hence the screwdriver it comes with. After removing the seven screws off the back plate, I was into the innards, and could attempt to fix what was going wrong.

Each of the eight big buttons are accessible this way, with coloured coded wiring and a key to show you what colour should be matched with which button. It is designed this way so that more experienced stick users can add different button types that they prefer. Or in my case, attempt to correctly wire it up.

Also of note, the front plate can also be removed to allow you to add a design of your choice on the top. I’ll admit though, the stock one is very fitting for the Dark Matter name, giving a pretty space scape.

Dark Matter Arcade Fight Stick review 3
You may want to get this one opened up

After working out via a little table which wire was where and where it should be, I reached in to try and correct things. It is very, very fiddly though. What I was expecting to be fairly easy due to the modular nature ended up costing me a few fingertips trying to remove the wire connection to the button. After a time, I called it a day and thought to myself “I shouldn’t really have to be doing this in the first place”. And honestly, I shouldn’t.

Maybe it’s the fact that the Dark Matter Arcade Fighting Stick isn’t really designed for current-gen consoles as advertised. Or, maybe it’s the fact that it’s a pain in the arse to actually set it up for use. Or, it could even be that once finally connected the buttons fail to match up to what is displayed on the top of the stick, or even beneath with the colour coded wires.

The reality is that all three of these reasons make the Dark Matter Arcade Fighting Stick a massive disappointment. With the fighting game genre in a bit of a purple patch, I was looking to take my game to the next level. Instead, I was given a fundamentally broken arcade stick. There may be those out there interested in the modular approach and willing to fix it as part of this process anyways. Good luck to those of you. For first-timers though, simply avoid this stick at all costs.

Thanks go out to Monoprice for providing the Dark Matter Arcade Fighting Stick for review. Pick one up for yourself from Monoprice direct.

Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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